The new season may only be a matter of a few weeks old but already some themes have developed around Everton that are sure to recur from now until May. The spectre of supporter unrest is not going to go away until something changes at boardroom level, the decision not to award a penalty after Leighton Baines was tripped against Aston Villa on Saturday is just the first of many to infuriate David Moyes, and Tim Cahill’s latest proclamation that the Toffees’ youngsters, such as Apostolos Vellios, are ready to step into the first team will not be his last.
The talismanic Australian midfielder echoed his manager’s compliments for Vellios by acknowledging that Everton is “creating
It should be remembered that Cahill arrived at Goodison Park in the same summer Wayne Rooney left, but Barkley’s initial offerings have been the most encouraging of any Everton youth product since the early days of the England striker. Perhaps more impressively, Barkley is starring in a midfield position that arguably requires greater maturity than that of centre-forward.
Barkley and Vellios, then, in their own way, represent the future for Everton not just on the pitch but also in their strategy off it. Developing players through the academy has been an Everton tradition for generations, going back to the debut of Colin Harvey against Inter in the San Siro as an 18-year-old, nearly 50 years ago. Fast-forward to the modern day and Moyes’s squad contains half a dozen players who have progressed through the youth ranks – Tony Hibbert, Jack Rodwell, Leon Osman, Barkley, Jose Baxter and Victor Anichebe, with a handful more on the fringe.
Combined with these locally sourced players, however, is a recent trend for buying in emerging youngsters at relatively low prices and hoping to mature them on Merseyside. Vellios is perhaps the most prominent although Magaye Gueye – another who tasted first team football last season and impressed – will soon return from injury, while Shkrodan Mustafi, a German centre-back, is waiting in the wings and was wanted by Palermo of Italy over the summer.
The well-worn tale of Everton’s finances is what has brought this two-pronged approach into such importance, but the quality of Barkley, for example, would have shone through regardless of the state of the club’s bank balance. The manager did reveal that, ordinarily, the likes of Vellios would spend this season on loan in the Championship but Everton’s thin squad renders that impossible. Nonetheless, when introduced on Saturday, Vellios performed admirably, was a handful for the Villa defence and not only had a half-chance cleared off the line but stung the palms of Shay Given in the visitors’ goal. Vellios, Gueye, Barkley and their ilk all have a bright future, intertwined with Everton’s own.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton v Wigan