Our latest Bred A Blue podcast guest is Keith Southern, who joined Everton as a teenager but had to leave to fulfil his football ambitions.
While he may have not represented Everton at senior level during his time at the Club, Southern went on to have a fine career, that included promotions all the way through to the Premier League, playing alongside Seamus Coleman at Wembley, and recovering from cancer before returning to Merseyside as a coach at USM Finch Farm.
One of the players Southern has helped develop during his time at the Club is none other than Anthony Gordon.
“I haven’t been surprised at how well he’s done because I know how good he is,” Southern says of the Blues' young sensation.
Lured away from his native North East to sign for Everton as a teenager, Southern is honest enough to admit that, at the time, he fell short of the standard required to play at the highest level.
“I scored twice for the reserves at Bradford City on the day that David Moyes came to the Club, but I was realistic, and I wasn’t going to play for the First Team,” he says.
“I knew I was going to have to move to be a footballer. David Moyes was brilliant with me and we had a really honest chat about my career.”
Southern left Everton in 2002 to join League One Blackpool and eventually made his way back to the Premier League under the unique tutelage of Ian Holloway.
“Completely mad! But an incredible human being and the first manager I ever had who took a personal interest in me,” is how Southern describes his former boss. “I’ve got a lot to be thankful to him for.”
Blackpool’s long-awaited return to the top tier of English football was rubber-stamped at Wembley in May 2010 when they defeated Cardiff City. One of Southern’s teammates that day was current Everton captain Seamus Coleman.
“I’ve never seen a loanee at any club in my career do as well as he did. Without Seamus I don’t think we would have been promoted because he was that good. Not just his ability, he is just an outstanding man. Fame and fortune can change people, but that was never going to happen with Seamus Coleman.”
Southern’s world was then turned upside down when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011. His treatment and subsequent recovery changed his outlook on football and life in general.
“I used to be a worrier. Little things would keep me awake but when you have a period in your life like I did you realise the little things aren’t worth worrying about any more. I didn’t come back a better footballer, but I was a more resilient individual.”
The now 40-year-old is loving life at Everton but he does have long-term ambitions to one day be a manager.
“Yes, but I’m no hurry. I’m learning and developing at a fantastic football club.”
Listen to Keith Southern’s Bred a Blue story here or in the player below.
To catch up on other episodes of Bred A Blue, featuring guests including Scott Brown, Peter Clarke and Shane Duffy, click here.