Everton Under-18s assistant coach Kieran Driscoll believes the Blues’ youngsters will have gained invaluable experience while competing in India at the Premier League’s Next Gen Cup.
An Under-19s squad travelled home on Saturday after spending 12 days and playing four matches in Mumbai.
Speaking after their final game – a third-place playoff defeat to West Ham United – Driscoll, who led the squad on the tour, reflected on the lasting impact of the trip on Everton’s young prospects.
“I think the learnings will be massive,” said Driscoll. “We’ve had so many really positive experiences and the learnings that the lads will take away from it will be crucial for their longer-term development – that’s the most important part for us.
“It's been everyone’s first trip to India – the players and the staff, and it’s been a really memorable trip. On and off the pitch, we’ve had some really great experiences. We thank the Premier League, the Indian Super League, and the Reliance Foundation for the invite to the competition.
“The lads have made memories that’ll stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
Despite playing at night, games were played in temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius – and Driscoll believes that experience could be beneficial in the future for the young Blues.
“The opportunity to play in the climate has been a big one,” Driscoll mentioned when identifying the positives of the tour. “We’re not fortunate enough in the UK to have the weather that we’ve had here. The opportunity for the lads to play in those temperatures will be great for them moving forwards.
“In the Premier League, clubs will have pre-season tours in destinations such as this, so this is great preparation for those opportunities.”
Accompanying their footballing exerts, the Everton squad and staff took part in various activities to explore the Mumbai area.
Questioned on his favourite moment from the tour, Driscoll revealed: “An accumulation of the football, together with the cultural experiences.
“We visited the slums, we went to an IPL cricket game, we then had an opportunity with the Oscar Foundation to give something back to local communities. All those aspects have certainly enriched the trip for our lads.
“We’ve all tried new food. We’ve experienced a different culture and that’s a big part of it. We wanted to try different things, but the food has been lovely.”
For Everton’s young players, the trip followed another productive season for the Club's Academy.
And, despite the impressive fourth-place finishes in both the Next Gen Cup and the Under-18s Premier League North, Driscoll was keen to reiterate the primary focus of player development.
“As I’ve said all the way through, it’s not all about results at this level," he added.
“If they’re good enough, they will get opportunities and we’ve had some successes this season. A number of our Under-18s have played in the Under-21s. Players like Jenson Metcalfe and Francis Okoronkwo have been in there frequently.
“Some of our Under-18s have had opportunities to train with the First Team when required. We had Ishe Samuels-Smith on the First-Team bench for the Fulham game. That was a great opportunity for him, to be involved for that game, and to be involved in First-Team training.
“I think Everton Football Club has always had the Academy as part of its heartbeat. It’s got a really good tradition and a clear pathway for young players to progress."