Everton has appointed Gareth Prosser as the Club’s new Academy Director.
Prosser will work closely with Director of Football Kevin Thelwell in overseeing all aspects of Everton’s world-renowned Academy, implementing a strategy across age groups, developing talent and creating a clear pathway into the Blues’ First Team.
Meanwhile, Paul Tait has been named as the new Head Coach of Everton Under-21s, with former Blues defender Leighton Baines succeeding him as Under-18s Head Coach.
Prosser previously worked alongside Thelwell at both Derby County and Wolverhampton Wanderers, joining Wolves in 2008 and progressing to become Academy Manager in 2013 when Thelwell was the Molineux club’s Sporting Director.
Under their leadership, Wolves’ youth system became one of the most prestigious in England, achieving Category One status in 2012 and joining an elite group of only six clubs to achieve an unconditional three-year Category One licence in 2016.
Prosser also played a key role in the recruitment and development of a number of players who graduated from the West Midlands outfit’s academy to first team and other professional football clubs.
In March 2019, Prosser left Wolves to become General Manager of the Professional Game Academy Audit Company (PGAAC), set up by the Premier League, English Football League and Football Association to quality assure the youth development programmes of all professional clubs in the country.
Prosser holds a UEFA Pro Licence – the highest coaching qualification in professional football – and recently graduated from the University of Salford with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
On joining Everton, he said: “I am delighted and very proud with the opportunity to lead Everton Academy.
“Throughout the interview process, it was clear from our CEO Denise (Barrett-Baxendale) and Kevin the importance of the Academy moving forwards to support the ambitious aims of the Football Club.
“The target is clear: to create a best-in-class academy programme that will allow Everton to attract, recruit and develop top people; players and staff.
“I look forward to working with the Academy, Denise, Kevin, Frank and the wider Club staff to ensure the programme is the best it can be to provide players with opportunities to represent this great club. We all need to work together to make this happen.
“I would also like to thank the Professional Game Academy Audit Board, chaired by Jane Purdon, and the PGAAC team for their support. The PGAAC has made great progress over the past three years, working in collaboration with the Premier League, EFL and the Football Association to ensure the Academy system operates safely and to help raise standards. I wish the company well for the future.”
Director of Football Thelwell added: “Gareth is an outstanding Academy Director and his recent work as General Manager with the PGAAC has continued that development within the area of youth development.
“We want our Academy to operate at the highest possible standards and, after a rigorous and thorough recruitment process, felt Gareth - as the lead practitioner responsible for setting and developing these standards for all academies across the country in his previous role - was the standout candidate to support that development at Everton.”
Prosser’s arrival is part of an Academy restructure that sees Tait and Baines given new positions, with increased emphasis on placing player development as the key focus throughout the Club’s youth operation.
To support that, further Academy roles will be appointed including Player Development Lead Coach, Player Development Senior Coach, Loan Pathways Manager and Head of Performance Analysis and Insights.
Tait moves up to become Everton’s new Under-21s coach after five years overseeing the Club’s Under-18s and helping develop Academy talents including Anthony Gordon, Tom Davies, Ross Barkley and Lewis Dobbin.
Tait came through Everton Academy before going on to enjoy a successful professional career as a striker with clubs including Crewe Alexandra and Bristol Rovers. The UEFA Pro Licence coach joined Everton Academy 12 years ago, working his way up to become Under-18s Head Coach in 2017.
On taking charge of the Under-21s, which from next season will move from Under-23s as part of an ongoing review of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan, Tait said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to become Everton Under-21 Head Coach.
“I am excited by this new challenge and determined to use my experience and knowledge to help every player in our Professional Development phase realise their full potential.”
Baines is one of Everton’s greatest players of the modern era, making 420 appearances for the Club between 2007 to 2020 and earning 30 England caps.
After calling time on his impressive playing career, the former left-back was appointed Professional Development Coach of Everton Academy before becoming Tait’s Under-18s assistant in October last year.
On Tait and Baines’ new roles, Thelwell said: “Paul has been working within our Academy for more than a decade and has an excellent reputation as a coach. I am delighted that when benchmarked against other candidates, he was the outstanding choice to become our new Under-21 Head Coach.
“I am pleased to be able to give Paul the opportunity to lead at Under-21 level and I am certain he will do an excellent job in developing players for our First Team.
“Despite Leighton being at the very start of his coaching journey, he has already demonstrated a high level of coaching capability and awareness around what players need to progress through the pathway.
“These characteristics, among others, made him a standout candidate to become Under-18s Head Coach. Our young players will not only benefit from his outstanding experiences as a player but also his commitment to developing young players for the next stage of their careers.”