Now the dust has settled on a frustrating, controversial and, at times, unseemly, transfer window, David Moyes can focus on the task at hand, namely taking an Everton squad that is the smallest in the Premier League towards the Europa League qualification places. To do so, he will have to rely on the club’s productive academy even more heavily than before.
Having named only 18 players in his registered squad of 25, Moyes is facing a season spent juggling the fitness of some important but ageing stars, such as Louis Saha, Tim Cahill and Phil Neville, and blooding more youngsters, including imports Apostolos Vellios and Magaye Gueye, players with potential but in need of further development.
As well as the promising players brought in from foreign climbs, Moyes will increasingly turn to players who learnt their trade much closer to home. Ross Barkley is the name that first springs to mind, for the 17-year-old has started each of Everton’s three games so far this season – and looked impressive in doing so – but some of Barkley’s fellow academy graduates, Jose Baxter, Adam Forshaw, James Wallace and Conor McAleny, all with shirt numbers this season, will find themselves at least on the substitutes’ bench as the season wears on.
Even more vital than the youngsters on the fringes of the squad, however, are the players well established in Moyes’ plans having graduated from the academy in recent years. Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, Jack Rodwell and Victor Anichebe are all firmly entrenched at Everton, the former pair having broken into the first team in the early 2000s. Hibbert and Osman go back so long at Goodison Park that they won the FA Youth Cup in 1998, when their new teammate Barkley was seven months shy of his fifth birthday.
The shape of things to come was perhaps seen in late August, when Everton dispatched Sheffield United 3-1 at Goodison Park in the Carling Cup. Starting the game for the Toffees was Hibbert, Barkley, Rodwell, Osman and Anichebe, while on the bench sat Baxter, a 77th minute replacement for Barkley, and the unused duo of Wallace and Vellios. Of the 18-man squad, seven came through Everton’s academy, while Vellios, 19, is something of an advanced student transferred in from another school.
Seamus Coleman, the exciting Irish full-back-cum-winger, is another in the Vellios-Gueye mould. Coleman, 22, joined Everton in 2009 for a fee less than the wages that were paid weekly to Mikel Arteta, and has become one of the Toffees’ most reliable attacking outlets, his surges down the right flank enrapturing the crowd and terrifying defenders. Ruled out for the first month of the season through injury, Coleman is another to have had his youthful rough edges smoothed off by the Everton coaching staff.
Having used only 20 players in the league last season, the fewest of any top flight manager, Moyes will be forced into a similar situation this campaign. The success of the manager and his coaches, both at senior and youth level, however, suggests this is less of a problem for him than it would be for less skilful and resourceful bosses.
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