6 Everton Youngsters Who Could Star for the Toffees in Years to Come
Everton have one of the most respected youth systems in the English Premier League.
Not only have the Toffees helped nurture the best English footballer of his generation, Wayne Rooney, but they have also been responsible for a handful of first-teamers and squad players throughout the English leagues.
A cash-strapped team like Everton needs a solid youth foundation to stay relevant and the Blues have demonstrated over the years, with their often above-expectation league finishes, the importance of youth development.
Some of the players on this list have already experienced first-team action for the Toffees whilst others are waiting in the wings, and some may get their chance this season as they are listed in Everton's first-team squad.
With the re-vamp of the youth game in England underway, thanks to the launch of the Barclays Under 21 Premier League in place of the reserve system, Everton hopes they can continue their strong history of player development by bringing these 6 players into the first-team fold.
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Any list of Everton youngsters-in-waiting must start with midfielder Ross Barkley.
Barkley has already made a handful of appearances for the Toffees after recovering from an horrific leg injury in 2010.
The 18-year-old has represented England at all levels up to Under 21 and is tipped by many to be a future star.
He is comfortable on the ball, has great vision and passing ability and has been with the Blues since he was 11 years old.
Everton manager David Moyes has suggested getting Barkley on loan to a championship side to gain some first-team football experience, which would be no bad thing.
The Toffees midfield has started well this season, but if injuries occur, do not be surprised if Barkley breaks into the squad.
I remember seeing Barkley play against Villarreal in a friendly match at the beginning of last season and he was a cut above. It is surely only a matter of time before he becomes the focal point of Everton's—and England's—midfield.
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Another lock for the list, central defender Shane Duffy is another Everton youngster with first-team experience.
Barkley has better reviews than the Irish defender, but Duffy could develop into a solid pro for Everton in the seasons to come.
Central defense is another position of strength in the Everton squad at the moment, and Duffy would do well to break into the squad in the immediate future, but strong showings in his past appearances have Duffy in good stead for a shot at the first team.
At 20 years old, Duffy may need another loan spell to stay match-fit as he sits fourth in the central defense pecking order at Goodison Park.
Learning behind the likes of Slyvain Distin and Phil Jagielka would be no bad thing for Duffy's development, but if the Irishman doesn't break into the squad in the next couple of seasons, his time may have passed.
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Portugese Under-21 international midfielder Francisco Junior was the talk of the town in Everton's offseason.
Seen as a ball-hungry midfielder, Junior impressed David Moyes throughout the preseason and will surely be handed a chance at some point this season, whether it be in the Cup or the Premier League.
Described on the official Everton website as an energetic, box-to-box midfielder, footed and comfortable on the ball in both attack and defense, Junior sounds like a player that has a big future at Goodison Park.
As a graduate of the Benfica youth academy, 20-year-old Junior had a spell at Manchester City before being signed by Everton on a free transfer last January.
Alongside Barkley, Junior could form the spine of Everton's midfield in the future and the Guinea-Bissau-born youngster is one to watch for years to come.
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Greek striker Apostolos Vellios has already shown in a handful of Everton games that he could be the critical-goal-scorer Everton have craved since Gary Lineker.
With the arrival of Nikica Jelavic, this role has been filled, but a football club can never have too many goal-scorers.
The forward position at Everton has been rejuvenated by Jelavic, fellow Rangers exile Steven Naismith and Belgian International Kevin Mirallas but Vellios can still have a place at the club.
Brought to Everton in January 2011 by scouting oracle Mick Docherty, Vellios scored three goals in 16 Premier League appearances.
Now that Everton have more depth at the striker position, Vellios will have to struggle to break into the first team and will have to impress in the newly named Barclays Under 21 Premier League if he wants another opportunity in the first team.
His aerial prowess and finishing could see him earn that chance sooner rather than later, and Vellios has the quality to stake his claim for a regular first-team birth in the future.
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Left-back Luke Garbutt has the toughest job of breaking into the Everton first team in the near future, thanks to the dominance of England International Leighton Baines.
Garbutt has the best mentor in Baines, a full-back of the highest order who has demonstrated all the attributes a left-back needs to become a crucial part of a Premier League side.
Like many Everton youngsters, Garbutt has had a loan spell away from the club and he may be sent out again in order to advance his development, but the new Under-21 Premier League may render such loans superfluous.
Garbutt has represented England at youth levels below U19 as he, alongside Ross Barkley, helped England Under 17s to the European Championship in 2010. Both players were highlighted in the team of the tournament-style, technical team selection.
While Garbutt's opportunities at left-back will be limited, thanks to Baines, the youngster can play in central defense and left midfield.
Expect to see Garbutt feature in Everton's cup games as manager David Moyes seeks to further develop this highly rated young player.
Every Everton academy class needs a Wayne Rooney comparison, and 16-year-old George Green may be the closest thing for the next few years.
One of English football's hottest properties when he was leaving Bradford City last year, Green looked bound for Tottenham Hotspur before Everton poached the young, aggressive midfielder.
Green will probably not get a look at the Everton first team for a few seasons. The side that 16-year-old Rooney broke into was a much weaker one than today's is, but he is definitely one to watch for the future.
The youngster has been gaining admirers across the board for a few years now and starred in his England U16 debut, scoring the winning goal against Spain earlier this year.
In those now-immortal words: Remember the name, George Green.