Everton youth teams now 'more direct, less sanitised'
Written by Simon Austin — February 19, 2018
EVERTON Under-18s coach Paul Tait says the club's Academy is at the forefront of a move away from 'sanitised' football towards a more direct style of play.
Tait, whose side are second in Premier League North, told the Liverpool Echo: “I’m doing my English Pro-Licence at the moment and there are a lot of U23s coaches on that who are talking about changing their philosophy to more direct play.
“There has definitely been a change in trend and a lot of teams are seeing the value in direct play, second balls, defending the back post, these type of things.
“We’ve been a little bit ahead of the game in that respect because we’ve always looked at the individuals. So [centre forward] Fraser Hornby, when he’s in the team, we hit diagonal balls and drop balls in; we put balls in the box wherever possible to develop him for the next level.
“Because if he never gets a cross or balls dropped in or never gets diagonals then he’s never going to develop. It’s difficult because you are trying to develop each individual but then you want the team to do well, it’s a balancing act, you’re spinning plates.
“Fraser can play - he’s handy with his feet and he was a midfield player until we moved him last season from a number six to a number nine - but if they are good players they will find a way to progress.
“In terms of the profile of players, I don’t think it’s changed from what we want. We still want a centre-back who can head it. We went to a time when our centre-backs had to be able to play but we’ve come back again to: ‘They’ve got to head it, block it, kick it’, and then if they play, great.
“The sanitisation of Academy football – everything played on a lovely pitch, on the grass – (has changed), so that when they go to League Two on loan and don’t see the ball for 10 minutes and say, ‘What’s going on here?’ they are ready because that’s English football at the lower levels so we have to prepare them for that.
“If you come and watch us I’m hoping you’ll see that we’re good going forward. I wouldn’t say we over-play, we try and play through the thirds without a shadow of a doubt because we want to develop the players and make sure they can play out from the back.
“But we’ve also got players upfront who have got to learn to win headers, who have got to learn to win flick-ons, like in the real world, so if we play out from the back all the time these centre-forwards aren’t getting that work.
“The wide players have got to come in and win headers, like in the real world of football so we try to broaden it a little bit so they are ready for the next level.”
Everton lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Premier League Cup on Saturday night, ending their chances of a league and cup double.