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    Everton's Academy Graduates: Can Tom Davies be the Next Success Story?

    No other side in the Premier League has had as many teenage goal scorers as Everton (17) after goals from academy graduate Tom Davies and January signing Ademola Lookman this weekend. Davies in particular shone in the Toffee’s 4-0 humbling of Manchester City and has been a real positive addition to the senior squad this season. He’ll be looking to follow in the footsteps of several of these former Everton youth teamers, whilst also being mindful that being touted as “the next big thing” can also be a curse.

    James Vaughan:

    The Birmingham born striker still holds the record as the Premier League’s youngest ever scorer following his strike against Crystal Palace at the tender age of 16 years and 271 days. However, despite the dream start, Vaughan featured just 60 times for Everton in over 7 seasons due to a string of serious injuries. He missed the entire 2005-06 season with a knee ligament injury and severed an artery in his foot following a collision with Bolton’s Abdoulaye Faye in 2007. After leaving Everton in 2011, Vaughan signed for Norwich City before a successful spell at Huddersfield Town saw him average a goal every 3 games. Now at Bury in League One, he is enjoying a personally successful campaign despite his side’s struggles, with 14 goals in 20 games. This weekend, Vaughan was integral in Bury grabbing their first win since September, scoring 4 goals within the opening 30 minutes. A move to a bigger club surely beckons once again and he will hope to finally put his injury problems behind him.

    Francis Jeffers:

    The original ‘Fox in the Box’, Jeffers’ career was tarnished by a string of injuries and an ill-fated move to Arsenal in 2001. The striker was consistently among the goals for Everton during his 3 full seasons at the club before a further loan spell in 2003-04. Both Everton and Jeffers struggled for consistency in his second stint, with the team finishing in 17th and the forward notching only 2 goals all season. Jeffers was sold to Charlton in 2004 before further spells in England with Blackburn, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and, in 2013, a brief spell with Accrington Stanley. He also featured for Rangers and Motherwell in Scotland, Newcastle Jets in Australia and for Maltese outfit Floriana. The striker is an example of how seriously a string of injuries can affect a promising career. Now an academy coach at Everton, Jeffers is part of a unique bunch of English players to have scored on their only appearance for the senior national side, something he achieved when he scored against Australia in 2003.

    Ross Barkley:

    The only player on this list that still at Everton, Barkley’s progress was initially stalled by a serious leg break while on England Under-19 duty, colliding with team mate Andre Wisdom. After loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, 2013-14 was his breakthrough season for the Toffees and, since then, he has become a regular for both club and country. Capable of playing with either foot, direct, quick and powerful, Barkley is always capable of the spectacular. Questions have been raised over his consistency, he tends to disappear for large periods of matches, but a player of his talent is always a potential asset. His performance against Newcastle United in 2014 typifies this. Barkley had been quiet for the opening 25 minutes of the match but proceeded to dribble the length of the pitch before finishing with his weaker left foot high into the net. It’s moments like that that remind you of the natural talent Barkley possesses and, at 23, he will without doubt go on to enjoy a successful career.

    Jose Baxter:

    Jose Baxter became Everton’s youngest ever player on the opening day of the 2008-09 season at just 16 years and 191 days. This is a record that still stands but, after featuring several times from the bench and being loaned out to Tranmere Rovers, Baxter rejected a new contract in 2012 and signed for League One side Oldham Athletic. The Liverpudlian enjoyed a successful spell in Greater Manchester, playing a major role in Oldham’s FA Cup victory over Liverpool in 2013. After less than 12 months at Oldham, Baxter signed for Sheffield United, initially proving his worth with regular game time and goals. Despite this, he was suspended by the club after failing a drugs test in May 2015. The FA handed Baxter a 5 month ban and, at just 24, Baxter currently finds himself a free-agent after being released by Sheffield United in May 2016.

    Jack Rodwell:

    After becoming a regular in the heart of the Everton midfield and earning an England call up in November 2011, Rodwell was snapped up by Manchester City for a £12 million fee. He was touted as a future star given his dominant physique and versatility but, after initial success, he couldn’t cement a regular place in the side following injuries. By 2014, he had joined Sunderland and had begun to find slightly more regular football once again. Rodwell is still at Sunderland, reunited with his old Everton manager David Moyes but has the unwanted record of famously never being on the winning side for the Black Cats when starting. At the time of writing, Rodwell hasn't tasted victory without being subbed on since Manchester City’s 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on 7th May 2013. With patchy form in a struggling side, Rodwell’s early promise has stagnated.

    Shkodran Mustafi:

    It is easy to forget that Mustafi was in the Everton youth team from 2009-2012 having signed from Hamburg and making just one senior appearance before joining Sampdoria on a free transfer. Since then, Mustafi has gained many admirers after a successful stint at the Italian outfit and at Valencia from 2014-2016. In the summer, Arsenal acquired his services in a £35 million move. Still only 24, Mustafi has settled in to the Premier League relatively comfortably and should feature regularly at the highest level for a number of years. He is also a German international, featuring at Euro 2016 and picking up a World Cup winners medal in 2014. How Everton must wish that they had spotted the Centre Back’s promise whilst they had him on their books. He certainly would have helped to solve their defensive problems from the past few years.

    Wayne Rooney:

    Without question Everton’s most famous academy graduate in the Premier League era, Rooney burst onto the scene for his boyhood club as a 16 year old in the 2002. Following his stoppage time winner against Arsenal, his stock continued to rise throughout his two seasons at Goodison Park. After an excellent Euro 2004, Manchester United acquired an 18 year old Rooney for just under £30 million. He has gone on to both captain England and become his national team’s record goalscorer and is also likely to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record at United as well. The manner of his departure left a sour taste in the mouths for Evertonians, forcing through the move by handing in a transfer request. However, it appears that Rooney’s tenure as Goodison Park’s regular pantomime villain is slowly coming to an end after almost 13 years. Despite several controversies, Rooney is unquestionably one of the greatest English players of his generation and one of the greatest Everton academy graduates of all time.

    George Kelsey
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