Everton Under-14s lifted the Premier League National Tournament last weekend as a season of success for the Toffees’ young age-group teams continued.
The Blues' Under-15 side also won their Premier League National Tournament earlier in the season, with the Under-16s finalists in their edition of competition.
The Under-14s qualified for the national finals of the prestigious tournament by beating Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City.
In their opening match of the finals – which were held at Warwick – Everton showed impressive character to come from behind to beat Brighton & Hove Albion.
A defeat to West Bromwich Albion meant Everton had to register a comprehensive victory over Derby County to qualify for the final – and the Toffees duly delivered with a 5-0 success.
Arsenal awaited in the final and, after a hard-fought 0-0 draw, Everton won a thrilling penalty shootout to emerge triumphant.
Speaking to evertonfc.com, Under-14s coach Scott Phelan spoke of his immense pride in his players' efforts and reflected on valuable learning experience for the Blues' emerging talents.
“It was an action-packed two days,” Phelan expressed.
“Despite it only being four games, the squad have had so many different experiences, which is the most important thing for us as coaches.
“While the trophy is nice and the medal is brilliant, from a football development perspective this tournament has been so important.”
On that dramatic final with the Gunners, Phelan added: “Initially, you’re managing the nerves, excitement and pressure that any final can bring.
“We picked up a lot of injuries over the two days of the tournament, so we had some of our boys playing out of position.
“The last 10 minutes we were down to 10 men, which was another experience for this squad that they usually don’t get at this age.
“I’m so proud of the players. At the end of the two days, that’s the main point the coaching staff expressed to the squad.
“The way we won the final was satisfying as well.
“Arsenal have a lot of talented players. The fact we went down to 10 men, with players in areas of the pitch that they aren’t familiar with, but were still confident and had opportunities to win the game was really impressive.
“That was a massive takeaway for me, the personality that the players showed – they displayed character, resilience and determination to get over the line.”
The trophy success follows on from the Under-15s winning their Premier League National Tournament – beating Sunderland in the final – while the Under-16s reached their final, too, before falling to a narrow defeat to Chelsea.
“The Under-15s did brilliantly, as did the Under-16s,” Phelan added.
“You don’t get to three consecutive age group finals without having players of high potential in the building, and that’s certainly the case.
“Our job is to ensure that by the time they are progressing to an age that first-team football is realistic, is that they are ready, prepared and have had enough education that will stand them in good stead in that environment.
“We, of course, see players from the Academy in the Everton First Team at the moment, with a number making their debuts despite it being a difficult season.
“The combination of the coaching the players receive helps but, more importantly, the determination and the quality that the players show day-to-day is ultimately what will get them their opportunity for where they want to be.
“When those days arrive, there’s no better feeling as an Academy and a group of coaches to see a player run out at Goodison that you’ve worked with and helped develop.”