Paul Tait says he wants to shape a dynamic Everton Under-21s team where players have the freedom to express themselves – and has revealed the encouraging conversations he’s had with Frank Lampard and his coaching staff about the Club’s Academy pathway.
Tait is set to embark on his maiden season as Under-21s Head Coach, having stepped up from his role as Under-18s boss, where he held the reins for the past five years.
He was appointed into his new position following a rigorous recruitment process led by Director of Football Kevin Thelwell – a man Tait describes as “very, very professional and someone who wants to get things done”.
Speaking to evertontv, Tait opened up on the sense of responsibility he feels working with Everton’s talented young players at such a vital stage in their careers.
“I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to be given the opportunity to be the Under-21s coach,” he said.
“In terms of the job, it’s important for us to treat every player individually and not just think of the team.
“Every player will have their own development plan and it is about where they are in their particular journey. You might have some 19-year-olds who are ready to go out on loan, while others might not be quite ready to make that step.
“We have to think of the pathway which is going to give us the best chance of players transitioning through to the First Team, as ultimately that’s what we want to do.
“And if boys don’t go all the way to our First Team, we want them to have a good career in the game.”
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INSIDE INTENSE UNDER-21S AND UNDER-18S TRAINING CAMP
Asked how he would like to see his Everton Under-21s side play, Tait explained: “First of all, we have to show our Everton identity without the ball – to hunt in packs, press when we can, to be dynamic and physical. And, if we can’t press, we need to make sure we’re in a good solid shape.
“With the ball, we want the boys to express themselves and show what they can bring to the table. We want to try to play through the thirds and to play attacking football.
“We don’t just want to have possession for the sake of it. We want to have the ball as much as possible, but it’s got to have an end product. It’s got to have a meaning."
First-Team manager Lampard has shown his willingness to give young players opportunities throughout his managerial career and, since his appointment in January, has already handed senior competitive debuts to Academy talents Reece Welch and Isaac Price.
Tait says he and his coaching staff have already developed a positive relationship with Lampard and his backroom team, explaining how he has been given the green light to observe and learn from First-Team training sessions.
“That door is open,” he said. “I’ve had some really good conversations [with the First-Team coaching staff]. Joe Edwards, in particular, has been a really good contact for me.
“And the manager has been fantastic with the younger players.
“I think just being in and around the First Team sessions will be very beneficial – seeing the intensity they train at and the quality they have – and then getting into the detail of what the coaching staff and the manager want from certain positions, as well as learning about their principles of play, as a team and individuals.
“That will help us all in the Academy to try to produce players for the First Team.”
Tait added: “Any which way I can keep learning, I will do. As a coach, you have to have that desire to get better every day.
“And hopefully, that can help the players get better.”
Many young Everton players – including current First-Team star Anthony Gordon ¬– have highlighted Tait’s influence in helping to elevate their games to a higher level.
As well his coaching expertise, Tait’s approachable nature and desire to learn about the person as well as the footballer is often cited.
“If you want to get the best out of someone, you need to find out what they’re about individually,” says Tait.
“That means taking an interest in them – and not just thinking of them as a keeper, defender, midfielder or forward.
“You need to invest time and get to know each boy as an individual. That’s really important to me and to the other staff in the Academy.
“That’s the way forward, definitely, to have those relationships with the boys where they feel comfortable telling you what they think. We want feedback.
“We don’t just want it to be one-way, where the coach is king.
“We need the players to feedback, and we need to know how they’re feeling. The only way you’re going to do that is with good communication.”