David Unsworth has revealed how Rafa Benitez has taken a keen interest in Everton’s Academy talents – and says the Blues have a manager eager to continue the Club’s rich history of producing homegrown First-Team players.
Unsworth, Everton’s Director of Academy and Under-23s manager, has been hugely encouraged by the “great conversations” he has had with Benitez since the Spaniard’s appointment.
Several of the Blues’ young players have had the chance to train with the First Team during pre-season, with teenage forward Charlie Whitaker and Under-23s defender Joe Anderson in the squad that travelled to the United States for the recent Florida Cup.
“I’m so delighted Rafa has taken the opportunity to regularly come to the Academy,” said Unsworth, who is preparing his Under-23s team for a pre-season friendly at National League North side Chorley on Tuesday evening.
“He is interested in who could be good enough to make that step and who we are looking at for the future.
“He’s only been here a short time, but I’ve already had great conversations with him about the young players.
“It’s fantastic for the players, they’ve got a new manager whose experience is unbelievable.
“He’s a top manager and he’s won the top trophies.
“When the young lads are training with the First Team, they need to thrive off that environment. They need to listen and learn from Rafa and his staff when they get that opportunity.”
Unsworth explained how he and his Under-23s coaching staff strive to prepare Everton’s young players for the physical and tactical demands required at First-Team level.
He stressed the responsibility is, ultimately, on the individuals themselves to seize their opportunities to shine when they get their chance with the senior side.
During the Premier League era, a total of 52 Everton Academy players have come through the ranks to play in the Blues’ First Team.
A significant number of players who learned their trade in the Club's youth system have also forged successful careers in the Football League, which Unsworth says represents a further source of pride.
“We [the Academy and Under-23s coaching staff] can get the lads so far, but when they cross that threshold of being with the First Team, it’s how quickly they adapt and learn – and how much they impress – that enables them to stay there,” he added.
“It takes different players different lengths of time to be ready for the First Team – and some won’t be ready [to make that step].
“Then, it’s about those players finding themselves a career in the Football League. A lot of our players are doing that, which we’re very proud of.
“The remit is to produce players for the First Team, but not every player will. It’s about us making them as good as they can so they can have a career in the game. That’s the second remit of our job, that sometimes people don’t see.
“Of course, though, we’re really eager to produce the next batch of players and hopefully they take those opportunities with the First Team.
“As when they get those chances, we’ll watch them with just as much pride as we’ve watched all the other ones over the years.”