Neil Dewsnip - Loans are Vital
The high quality facilities at Finch Farm mean the youngsters there are in a wonderful place to begin their journey in football, one that will hopefully end with regular first team football at Everton and international recognition.
But Academy life can only take a player’s development so far. Games at Finch Farm or elsewhere against other Academy players, or the appearances for the reserves that many Academy boys make are no substitute for regular, first team football.
Many players have found their progression accelerated once they got a taste of first team football. But at the top level, it is a big gamble to ask a player to learn on-the-job in the hurly-burly of a Premier League game.
Academy Head Coach Neil Dewsnip says a loan move can be vital to the future career of a youngster, and points to one Academy player in the Everton first team who benefited from a spell at another club.
“I think a loan move is definitely a positive route forward and Leon Osman would be a great example of that.
“He was struggling to progress and went out on loan at Carlisle and then Derby and did really well. Now he’s in the manager’s thoughts quite strongly."
For some players, a loan move is their first step away from the club and onto a career elsewhere. There are over 30 former Academy players now at other League clubs in England, and Neil tries to keep a watch on all of them.
“Every Saturday evening, one of the things I do is look on the Internet and see where they’ve all played.
“We have had upwards of 28 players playing from the Premier League down to League Two and I look to see have they played? Are they still playing? The boys play across all the divisions as well, and I think 28 is quite a healthy number and something to be proud of.”
With so many players passing through the Academy, there is always the possibility of missing out on one who goes on to become a top player.
Former Academy defender Daniel Fox, who left the club in 2005, has played for Coventry City and Celtic and is now with Burnley.
Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines both spent time at Everton as youngsters, while Manchester City’s Michael Johnson also had a year on Merseyside. But Neil believes releasing a player who goes on to great things is not the end of the world. As in the case of Jags and Bainesy, they may even return one day.
“It’s so hard for young players to go straight into the top end of the Premier League, which is where we are right now, so it is possible that player will be just short of our first team at the time he’s released, go to another club, gain some experience and kick on again.
“It’s possible that we might even buy him back. Football being football, these things happen.”
A trend that has pleased Neil in recent years is former players returning to Everton not as players, but looking to work as coaches with the Academy. Tony Grant, who made his first team debut in 1995 before leaving four years later has expressed an interest in working at Finch Farm.
Many experienced players also keep an eye out on the youth system with a view to the future. Alan Stubbs, former Blue and now reserve team coach, has an even bigger reason to monitor the progress of the youngsters under Neil.
“Alan’s son is in the academy system here so he took a great interest and it worked really nicely. Over the years a number of players have gotten involved. It tends to be the ones that are coming to the end of their playing careers and then want to have a look into the coaching side of things. A good starting point for them tends to be with us and it’s nice because that turns it full circle.”
Despite the success of the Academy, David Moyes dips into the transfer market. While Neil admits he does sometimes wish more of his youngsters got a chance instead of big money signings coming in from elsewhere, he also acknowledges that the manager examines every possibility before splashing the cash.
“There is always that little feeling of ‘Is he as good as…’, but I think you have to respect that the manager is very thorough. He would know the standard of the young players and he would know if they were ready for the first team or if he needs to buy from a distance.”
By Andrew Tuft