Everton Under-18s return to league action at Stoke City on Saturday (11am GMT). Ahead of the game, we caught up with manager Paul Tait, who paid tribute to assistant boss Keith Southern's development and explained why he believes they have forged a strong bond...
Everton Under-18s boss Paul Tait believes the key values he shares with assistant manager Keith Southern have underpinned their successful working relationship.
Since Southern joined Tait’s coaching staff with Everton Under-18s in 2017, the young Blues have recorded three successive top-six finishes in the Under-18 Premier League (North) table (fifth, third and third).
The pair’s coaching expertise, motivational qualities and man-management skills have earned glowing praise from Everton Academy players including Blues forward Anthony Gordon, prolific Under-23s striker Ellis Simms – now on loan at Blackpool – and recent First-Team debutant Thierry Small.
Tait and Southern enjoyed productive professional playing careers and, while born on Tyneside, spent their formative years in Everton's Academy.
Asked by evertonfc.com why he believes they work so well together, Tait joked: “Probably because we’re both Geordies!
“But, no, I think the main thing is we share common beliefs on what development football should look like.
“We’ve both got good empathy, I believe. We’ve played professionally – Keith at a higher level than me – but we both came through Everton’s system and played, so we know that side of it well.
“What I would say is I believe we’ve both got a very good work ethic.
“We want to improve the players. Every player has got an individual development plan and we work tirelessly to try to improve each player every day.”
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HIGHLIGHTS: BLACKBURN U18S 1-2 EVERTON U18S
Tait paid tribute to Southern’s progression as a coach since his arrival at Everton just over three years ago, highlighting his desire to learn and his ability to forge strong connections with players.
“Keith has done really well,” Tait says. “He’s very receptive. From day one since he’s came in with me, he just wants to get better.
“In that time, he’s taken on more responsibility and his role has grown. He’s involved in everything I do with the Under-18s and he is a really big influence on the players.
“In terms of his development, he’s been here for three years and has been working hard day after day.
“You cannot help but improve in this environment we’ve created at USM Finch Farm.
“But it comes down to him personally – how much he wants to learn and improve.
"And he’s shown his hunger to do that.”