Everton Football Club has a proud tradition of bringing young players through its ranks.
From being signed up by the club’s academy at a young age, to working their way up to making their debuts for the senior set up, the Blues have produced a number of exciting, talented players that have gone on to achieve success at the highest levels of the footballing pyramid.
The current Roberto Martinez-led Toffees era has already seen the likes of John Stones and Ross Barkley propelled into the starting lineup as regulars in the past two seasons, and the Spaniard has further underlined his willingness to give youth a chance during the course of the 2015/16 pre-season schedule.
And with just 6 days to go until the new Premier League campaign kicks off, which of Martinez’s current crop of young proteges have impresed enough to be given more senior game time this season? Let’s take a look at the 5 academy stars who could make the breakthrough…
The 21 year old defender has featured the most out of all the potential nominees throughout pre-season, with 6 appearances, and 1 goal against Villareal in Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial, to his name.
He also featured twice from the substitutes’ bench during the 2014/15 Premier League season against Liverpool and Manchester United, and provided the cross in the Merseyside derby at Anfield that would eventually lead to captain Phil Jagielka’s thunderous equaliser in the dying seconds of that contest.
Quick across the turf, physically strong, tidy on the ball and able to play at both right back and centre back, Browning looks almost certain to break into Roberto Martinez’s first team squad in the upcoming campaign, most likely as a substitute from the bench to act as backup for centre halves Jagielka and Stones, as well as Seamus Coleman at right back.
Signed from MK Dons last summer, Galloway was highly rated by Martinez upon his arrival at Goodison Park, but the 19 year old had to wait until Everton’s final two league fixtures of last season to showcase his raw talent to Evertonians.
Deputising for the injured Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo against West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at left back, Galloway performed admirably alongside the rest of the Toffees’ first choice backline and drew praise for his lung bursting, dribbling runs from deep on occasions against the Hammers and Spurs.
The Zimbabwean has played 3 times for the Blues’ first team in pre-season and, despite clearly not being near the finished article by any stretch, conducted himself well on the field of play. Galloway might struggle for game time with Baines and Oviedo vying for the left back berth in the starting eleven, but he would not be daunted if handed any first team opportunities throughout the season, providing he is not sent out on loan by Martinez.
The 22 year old forward seemed to have missed his opportunity to forge a career at Goodison Park after making his first team debut for the Toffees over four years ago but, no doubt re-energised by a successful period on loan at Cardiff City towards the end of last season, McAleny has staked his claim for a greater first team role at Everton this season with some impressive showings during pre-season.
A hattrick of assists and a goal in the 4-0 victory over Swindon was followed up by further promising showings against Dundee – another match he scored in – Leeds United and Villareal.
With Martinez short of attacking options with just a month of summer transfer window left open, McAleny may be in with a shout of featuring more regularly for the Blues in the upcoming campaign.
Little was known of the 17 year old before he was handed his first team debut in last December’s Europa League match against FC Krasnodar, and many did not expect to see the England Under-18 international feature much, if at all, for Everton’s first team throughout the 2015/16 pre-season schedule.
But feature the youngster has – making appearances in each of the Blues’ last three friendly meetings with Hearts, Dundee and Leeds, with his eye for goal being picked up by eagle eyed Everton fans.
Not likely to figure in Martinez’s plans barring an injury crisis at Finch Farm, but one to keep an eye on over the coming nine months of the season.
17 year old Ledson has only featured once during pre-season for the senior side, but big things are expected of the midfielder in the coming seasons.
He made the bench for the Blues against Southampton towards the end of the 2013/14 season before, like Dowell, making his first senior appearance against FC Krasnodar in the Europa League.
A captain of the Toffees’ youth sides, and a mainstay of the current Under-21 team, Ledson is arguably the least likely of the five to figure for Martinez’s side this season, such is the plethora of midfield options available to the Catalan. Providing he continues to progress at a fair rate, however, Ledson could well feature from the bench if handed the opportunity to do so.