Everton Club Focus – Weir return highlights Toffees excellent youth system

The transfer window may have shut but Everton this week completed a new signing, the free transfer of former Rangers defender David Weir. Weir, who served Everton with distinction between 1999 and 2007, will coach the club’s academy and reserve sides with former centre-back partner Alan Stubbs, as well as playing the occasional reserve fixture, as he did when the Toffees’ drew 1-1 with Liverpool’s second string on Tuesday afternoon.

Weir was originally brought to Merseyside from Hearts by Walter Smith for £250,000, and it is hard to imagine how such a small sum could have been better spent. For a quarter of a million pounds Everton got 10 goals, 268 appearances and eight years of the most professional service possible. Club captain for much of his time at Goodison Park, Weir, who kept a home in the North West even after joining Rangers, left Glasgow in January after playing only one first team game this season. After training with Sheffield United since escaping the financial meltdown on going at Ibrox, Weir started the reserve derby alongside on-loan England U-18 defender Eric Dier, one of a number of promising young players Weir will be expected to guide.

The return of Weir to the Everton set-up brings the number of former players of recent years working in a coaching role to five – the aforementioned Stubbs and Weir, as well as Duncan Ferguson, who worked with the youth teams pre-Christmas, as well as advising Apostolos Vellios, and ex-Everton players of a different generation, Kevin Sheedy and Alan Irvine. And the young players currently in the various levels of the youth set-up have plenty of encouragement in the first team. Players such as Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, Jack Rodwell and Victor Anichebe have all progressed through the youth ranks and into the first team, with the former pair Everton’s longest serving players. With Jose Baxter, Conor McAleney, Ross Barkley, Adam Forshaw and Shane Duffy each on the fringes of the senior squad too, the Everton conveyor belt shows no sign of slowing.

Like many Premier League teams Everton have also developed an extensive scouting network outside of their home turf, and that has reaped rewards as well. Vellios, Seamus Coleman and Magaye Gueye have all been transplanted from various parts of Europe to the Everton first team, while Portuguese striker Joao Silva has yet to break into the first team. Silva’s compatriot, midfielder Francisco Junior – previously of Benfica and Manchester City – signed in at Goodison this month as well, and, with a four-and-a-half year contract, is viewed very much as a player to be called upon in future. Much of Everton’s scouting abroad is a result of the need to make the most out of every penny spent, but an added positive is the connection developed between the likes of Vellios and the supporters who have seen him develop with their own eyes. Meanwhile, the return of the ever-popular Weir further strengthens that vital sense of identity around the club.

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