Everton Under-21s Head Coach Paul Tait expects a strong intensity from his team during their season opener against Liverpool, insisting his side must “battle hard” during the Merseyside derby clash.
The young Blues will make the short trip to take on their local rivals this Monday 14 August at LFC Academy in Kirkby for their Premier League 2 curtain-raiser (7pm BST kick-off).
The previous meeting between the sides took place in mid-April, when a feisty affair ended in a 1-1 draw after a late Liverpool equaliser.
Despite a disappointing conclusion to the game, Tait recalls a pleasing performance for the young Blues, and hopes for more of the same intensity on Monday.
“I really enjoyed the battle last time out and hopefully we’ll see some more of that this time,” said Tait to evertonfc.com. “Seeing the young Everton players against the young Liverpool players - it’s always good to watch.
“When the fixtures came out, I think all the boys look for the derby games. It was a bit of a surprise we got them for the first one of the season! They’ll be the same as us in terms of pre-season: not having everyone available and some players with the senior team, but it’s a derby game so everybody looks forward to it.
“You can’t get away from the competitiveness. We want the players to be competitive. If they’re not, then they’ve got no chance. When you go into a derby game, you need to be ready to fight, to battle hard and to win your individual duels.
“There’s also got to be some clarity in your thinking, and you have to try to play your football and impose your style on them.”
Tait has not had all of his squad to work with over the summer months, with some players training with Sean Dyche’s Men’s Senior Team while the likes of Stanley Mills, Reece Welch, Lewis Warrington and Zan-Luk Leban have all secured promising loan spells for the 2023/24 campaign.
🏆 | Our #PLInternationalCup group has been confirmed!— Everton Academy (@EvertonAcademy) August 10, 2023
That has seen talents from Leighton Baines’ Under-18s getting the chance to step up and impress which Tait hopes can benefit the Academy in the long-term.
“We’re looking forward to the season,” he added. “It’s Liverpool for the first one, and then we’ll have to quickly turn it around for Middlesbrough on the Friday. It’s going to be an exciting start, and that’s what we want.
“It’s been a strange pre-season because we haven’t really had the Under-21s’ squad, as such. A lot of them have been with the Senior Team.
“Because of that, and because we’ve had a lot of injuries over the summer, we’ve needed the Under-18s. It’s been good because the Under-18s have been playing Under-21s football in pre-season, while the Under-21s have been playing with the Senior Team. But in terms of getting the messages out and building a team - it’s been difficult.
“It’s been different but what it has allowed is a great opportunity for the players to be in and around the Senior-Team environment for most of pre-season.
“We’ve just been a bit short on players, but it normally settles down in around September because all the boys who need to get out on loan have gone, the Senior Team are more settled squad-wise because the transfer window will have closed. Our players will be ready for the new season, though.”