Negative tactics has drowned any excitement out of all Evertonians, however in the dark tunnel we’ve dug ourselves in, there’s always a glimmer of light burning ever so slightly… the light of the future. Our under 23’s have displayed fantastic ability over the last 18 months, winning the Premier League 2 trophy and retaining a strong presence in the division, despite a number of players being loaned out. Everton have a rich history of producing young players, fielding more minutes for teenagers than any other Premier League team last season and have gone over a thousand games with at least 1 youth product in the side. Here I look at a few of our youngsters that have the potential to grow into class players for the club.
Age: 17, Position: Centre-Forward, Nationality: English/DR Congo
Everton’s Under-18s currently sit fourth of the North Premier League division and contained two of the top goal-scorers in both divisions. One of them is Congolese striker, Manasse Mampala. The Toffees already have one very highly rated youngster from the DR Congo in the ranks already, Beni Baningime making a couple of appearances for the first-team this season. We could be seeing Mampala within the next few years based on his current form, already having 10 goals to his name already.
The striker has a lot in his locker, quick, skilful and brings a physical attendance to the Everton offence, similar to his idol Yannick Bolasie, only with the ability to finish and uses his electric pace to make forward runs to stretch defenders and eventually end behind them. Facing Sunderland’s Under-18s last October, Mampala showcased his strength and pace versus opposition, earning himself an impressive hat-trick within 23 minutes of scoring his first goal of the game.
As well as scoring goals, Mampala has also registered 5 assists in the U-18’s league this season. The 17-year-old has also displayed brilliant hold-up ability and link-up play with his fellow attacking players around him. If he continues the form he is under, then the chances of grabbing a loan move to a lower-league club can increase and will benefit him massively if he gets the chance within the next 8/9 months. Mampala has already been knocking on the door for U-23 football at Everton, if he gets the opportunity to play alongside the likes of Sambou and Henen, it can increase his progress even more. He is one to look out for throughout the Everton ranks.
2. Alex Denny
Age: 17, Position: Defensive-Midfield, Nationality: English
Everton’s second-youngest player to feature in the Europa League this season, Alex Denny has been in the Everton ranks since he was 9 years old. Alex was the youngest member of the Under-19s squad that won the Dallas Cup back in 2016 and has been training with Everton’s first-team throughout the season.
Alex has made 10 appearances for England’s Under 17 side, making his debut back in September 2016 against Croatia. Denny played in the European Championship for England’s U17s, starting in both the semi-final and final of the tournament. Denny is a key player in possession, he knows how to shield the ball away from attacking players and can create a link from midfield to attack.
His recycling of the ball can be a game changer, not afraid of a 50/50 and positioning often just in front of the centre-backs. With the amount of ageing/injury-prone holding-midfielders we already have in the club – Schneiderlin, Besic, McCarthy etc. it could be an idea to give this lad an opportunity in a couple of years’ time. He looks built enough to fit in, and with the ability he’s shown with the Under-18s, he could be featuring in Unsworth’s team sooner rather than later.
3. Morgan Feeney
Age: 18, Position: Centre-Back, Nationality: English
The Gwladys Street season ticket holder is Everton Under 23’s Captain and has recently signed a new contract at the club. Born in Bootle, Feeney won the U23’s Premier League alongside the likes of Dowell, Kenny and Lookman. Morgan has made his Everton debut, coming off the bench at home to Atalanta and played the entire game away to Apollon Limassol.
Feeney’s strong in the air, being 6ft2 and fairly strong for his age-group, which has helped him score twice for England’s U18s against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Unsworth has described the centre-back as “from the Dave Watson school of defending.” He’s been a fantastic leader throughout his time in the Academy, which has helped make Everton one of the best defensive teams in the Under-23 leagues – only Leicester have conceded less than we have in both divisions.
Morgan impressed a lot of Evertonians for his performance in Cyprus. Our defence has been looking dreadful all season and has lacked a leader in the team for quite some time. I think Feeney can 100% be that leader in the team, especially partnered with the ball-playing Mason Holgate, which can create one mouth-watering partnership.
4. Dennis Adeniran
Age: 19, Position: Centre-Midfield, Nationality: English/Nigerian
Born in London, Adeniran signed for Everton from Fulham for a fee of around £4.3m. Dennis was a regular for England’s U17s, making 13 caps (his debut in September 2015) and scoring once. He also played for England at the European Under-17 Championship back in 2016 as they made the quarter-finals. Adeniran has made a few appearances for England’s U19s alongside teammate Morgan Feeney. The youngster also made five appearances for the Cottager’s first team, scoring on his professional debut in a League Cup match versus Leyton Orient.
Adeniran is good at keeping possession, using his speed and strength to hold the ball in midfield. Previously a striker, he still has a keen eye for goal and has scored some belters in that time. He is well capable of playing in numerous positions, including moving forward to a more number 10 role or even playing as a left-winger.
With the money paid for him in the summer, Everton have clear confidence in the lad and could be given a chance in the future for The Toffees.
5. Anthony Gordon
Age: 16, Position: Attacking-Midfield, Nationality: English
Gordon is Everton’s sixth-youngster ever player to ever play for Everton’s first-team when he came on against Apollon in the Europa League. Anthony has lit up the U18 Premier League, scoring 14 goals and assisting 3 in 13 matches. Gordon has scored a goal every 79 minutes this season in the division and has formed a lethal partnership with Mampala.
The 16-year-old is clinical in front of goal, scoring four against West Brom back in August and has braces against Sunderland and Man City. Gordon’s natural role is as the playmaker, with quick feet and brilliant link-up play. With a burst of pace, he’s in behind the defender and facing the goal. Near the box or far, he’s a very dangerous player when he’s on the ball.
I’m very confident that one day he’ll be a regular first-team player and potentially the player that Barkley couldn’t become. Creativity and support for our striker has been a major problem over the last few years at Goodison. With the likes of Dowell, Lookman and Gordon flourishing through the youth ranks, this long-term problem can be resolved.
Up the Toffees.