Every footballer supporter thinks their club has a fine crop of young players bubbling underneath the senior setup. Ask any fan of any team about a prospect in the youth setup and there’ll be one in particular that has everyone excited.
Investing down the rungs of the club hierarchy can be a crutch when times are bad, cultivating a hope that there’s a brighter dawn to come. But often a dash of fledgling talent and enthusiasm can have a short-term impact too.
It’s a pertinent point for Everton at the moment. As aforementioned, ask anyone who frequents Goodison Park about the youngsters working their way through the setup and they’ll rattle off some names that should go on to achieve big things in the game. But while some fans may put blind faith in rising stars, for Evertonians it’s an assessment not without credence.
This season, under the stewardship of former Toffees defender David Unsworth, Everton’s Under-23 team have marched to the summit of the Premier League 2. In doing so, they’ve played some fine football and catered for many players who are a long way short of the age cutoff.
By contrast, the first-team have floundered as of late. After a positive start to life at Goodison Park, the plans of new manager Ronald Koeman have started to unravel. Everton have won just one of their last nine games and have been devoid of energy and incision during that testing spell.
Things look unlikely to get any easier either; before Christmas, Everton head to Watford, a game which is followed by back-to-back home clashes against equally impressive Arsenal and Liverpool teams.
Going into this treacherous sequence, the Toffees need a spark. For much of the campaign, the same faces have been turning in the same uneven displays and while Koeman has tinkered with the setup often, it’s yet to align. Needless to say, Everton supporters have become weary of the likes of Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu underperforming.
During runs of tough form flippant shouts from the stands of “get the kids” are frequent. But it’s hard to shake the sense that this team would benefit massively from an injection of youthful tenacity.
After all, there’s been a Dad’s Army look to the Toffees back four and goalkeeper in recent weeks; the age of those five combined was 153 in the recent 1-0 loss to Southampton and was shielded by a 35-year-old Gareth Barry. For the opposition, 19-year-old Josh Sims, making his debut for Saints, brought a much needed effervescence to their play.