Carl Howarth is very much a part of the Everton Senior Men's set-up at Finch Farm.
He’s a physiotherapist and his story is a fascinating one.
Howarth is the latest podcast guest on our Bred a Blue series, having started his professional career at Everton before being released without playing a senior game.
As a team-mate of Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert, Francis Jeffers and Kevin McLeod he was part of the squads that reached consecutive FA Youth Cup finals in 1998 and 1999.
He recalls being on the pitch when Hibbert actually scored a goal!
However, competition for striking berths, even in the reserves, was fierce and Howarth was up against Phil Jevons, Danny Cadamarteri, Nick Chadick and Jeffers.
“There were no agents for us then so I would see Colin Harvey every week,” he says. “I’d had a two-year YTS and a one-year pro deal and I was playing in the reserves and it got to the end of April and I was told they still hadn’t decided on my future.
“We played Newcastle at Widnes and all their back-four had played in the first team, but I scored and we drew 1-1. After the game Taff (Andy Holden) told me that Walter Smith wanted to see me the next day. I was buzzing because I thought I was getting a new contract, but Walter told me they didn’t think I was good enough and that I was being released.”
It was the first of a series of setbacks. Chester wanted to sign him but after suffering relegation from the Football League they couldn’t afford any new players and a subsequent trial with Morecambe was cancelled a matter of hours before it was due to start.
Undeterred, Howarth moved into non-league football and studied to become a physiotherapist.
He got a break at the Bolton Wanderers Academy and combined it with part-time work for the NHS. Building up his knowledge and experience all the time, he then got a full-time opening at Birmingham City before moving to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The dream was always to return to where it had started and that golden opportunity duly came when Roberto Martinez was the Blues manager. Howarth was back at Everton!
His football journey has turned full circle and his story is an inspirational one – a tale of bouncing back time and again.