EPL: The 10 Best Players Everton Academy Has Ever Produced

Jordan LynnContributor IIIAugust 16, 2011

EPL: The 10 Best Players Everton Academy Has Ever Produced

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    With a new season already upon the rest of the English Premier League, Everton must wait to begin their campaign with yet another young starlet as the focus of many fans' attention.

    Step forward Ross Barkley, 17-year-old midfielder and wunderkind, the latest in a long line of Everton Academy products. 

    Barkley would have broken into the Everton lineup last year but for an horrific leg-break that saw him sidelined for the season.

    An England U-17 international, Barkley helped his nation secure the U-17 European Championship in 2010 and heads a stellar Everton Academy class that also includes forward Hallam Hope and midfielder John Lundstram, other names to watch out for.

    With Barkley, the latest Academy starlet tipped by players, press and fans alike, here we look back at the 10 best modern Everton Academy graduates.

1) Wayne Rooney

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    Who else?!

    Rooney is one of the finest footballers this nation has ever produced and rightly headlines our list of Everton Academy graduates.

    Making his debut for the Blues in 2002, Rooney made less than 80 appearances for the senior side and scored less than 20 goals but his world-class ability shone through.

    Scoring the now infamous goal in Everton's Youth Cup Final loss to Aston Villa, it was Rooney's goal against an unbeaten Arsenal side that secured his place in the folklore of the sporting world—never has a young player announced his arrival so emphatically.

    Leaving for Manchester United in 2004, Rooney felt the wrath of the Everton faithful and still does every time he makes the short journey along the East Lancs Road to Goodison Park.

    Everton fans knew that they could not keep hold of such a phenomenal talent for long but the way the love affair ended spoiled the beauty of the relationship.

    "Remember the name Wayne Rooney?" We're still trying to forget it.

2) Francis Jeffers

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    He was the Rooney before Rooney.

    Jeffers broke Everton hearts when he made his big-money move to Arsenal in 2001 and his name is still greeted with sneers by the Everton faithful.

    Making his first-team debut at the tender age of 16 at Old Trafford, Jeffers went on to make 49 appearances for the club, scoring 18 goals in his original spell with the Blues.

    England's joint record goal-scorer at the U-21 level, Jeffers caught the eye of Arsene Wenger and made an £8 million move but never recaptured his Goodison glory.

    Returning in the 2003-04 season for an unsuccessful loan, Jeffers' career has faltered ever since his Arsenal move.

    A combination of injuries and attitude has seen Jeffers bounce from club to club and even take a deal for the Newcastle Jets in the Australian A League.

    Jeffers now plays for Motherwell

3) Richard Dunne

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    Irishman Dunne joined Everton's Academy in 1994 and made over 70 appearances for the first team, never scoring.

    Centre-back Dunne was part of the 1998 Everton FA Youth Cup winning side but it was his performances out of the royal blue of Everton that saw him cement his place as a top central defender.

    Dunne joined Manchester City for £3 million in 2000 and his career took off as he made nearly 300 appearances for City, earning Player of the Year honours four times and becoming club captain.

    As City's bank balance grew, Dunne was squeezed out and sold to Aston Villa in 2009 for £5 million and is still one of the most well respected central defenders in the Premier League, having earned a place in the PFA Team of the Year in 2010.

    Dunne has been capped by the Republic of Ireland over 60 times and played in the 2002 World Cup.

4) Leon Osman

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    Another member of Everton's FA Youth Cup winning side of 1998, midfielder Leon Osman has played over 200 games for the Toffees since his goal-scoring debut against Wolves at the end of the 2003-04 season.

    Osman suffered a severe knee injury at the beginning of his time at Everton that almost finished his career before it had begun.

    After a year out, Osman was loaned to Carlisle United and Derby County before breaking into the Everton first team.

    Osman scored just three minutes into his first ever start for the Blues and has now scored nearly 40 goals for Everton.

    Yet to break into the England squad, Osman's performances at the end of last season saw his name mentioned for a possible Capello call-up.

    A solid, consistent midfielder, Osman has been a great servant to Everton and has recently signed a new deal that will see him remain an Everton favourite for years to come.

5) Michael Ball

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    Left-back Michael Ball began his career with Liverpool School Boys before making the switch to Everton's Academy.

    Making his debut at 17, Ball played over 100 games for the Toffees and earned an England call-up whilst at the Blues thanks to his strong defensive performances.

    Financial constraints saw Ball leave Everton for Rangers in 2001 in a deal worth over £6 million.

    His time in Glasgow saw him suffer a serious knee injury that sidelined him for 18 months.

    A stipulation in his deal signed with Rangers would have paid Everton an extra £500 000 after Ball made more than 60 appearances.

    As this threshold approached, Ball found himself out of action due to the frugal nature of those north of the border.

    After winning a Scottish title, Ball moved to PSV Eindhoven but again struggled with injury before his move back to England to Manchester City in 2007.

    Ball now plays for Championship side Leicester City

6) Jack Rodwell

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    Rodwell joined Everton as a seven-year-old and has continually impressed at all levels for the club.

    An England U-21 International who began his career as a centre-back but now plays in midfield, Rodwell is still yet to reach the his full potential due to injury problems.

    Rodwell became Everton's youngest ever player in European competition in 2007 and made his Premier League debut the next year.

    Deployed either in defensive or attacking midfield, Rodwell's fantastic solo goal against Manchester United in 2010 shows the potential of this young player.

    This season, Rodwell will be looking to secure his place in the Everton starting lineup as each of his previous campaigns with the first team has been disrupted by injury.

    Everton fans expect big things from Rodwell and with Manchester United apparently chasing him, this is a big season for Rodwell as it is time to turn potential into performance. 

7) Tony Hibbert

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    If Hibbert scores, we riot.

    Since making his first-team debut in 2001, Tony Hibbert has made over 250 appearances for the Blues and is yet to score a senior goal, the longest streak of its kind in English football.

    The right-back was another member of Everton's FA Youth Cup winning side in 1998 and is now the longest-serving player at Everton, having made more European appearances than any player in the club's illustrious history.

    Hibbert's slide tackle is a thing of beauty, perhaps the best in the Premier League, as his defensive skills have seen him earn the respect of Everton fans and players alike.

    Now sharing the right-back role with captain Phil Neville, Hibbert's first-team chances appear to be limited but after more than a decade at the club, Hibbert is going nowhere.

8) James Vaughan

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    Oh, what might have been!?

    James Vaughan burst onto the scene with a goal against Crystal Palace in 2005, becoming the youngest goal-scorer in club and Premiership history, eclipsing both Wayne Rooney and James Milner respectively.

    Vaughan's lightning pace and tenacious attitude saw him become somewhat of a fan favourite during his time at Everton as he filled the 'great young striker' void that Rooney had left.

    Sadly, Vaughan made less than 50 appearances for his boyhood club as injuries ravaged his early career.

    Knee ligament damage, a dislocated shoulder and a severed artery in his foot saw Vaughan as a near-permanent fixture on the physio table at Finch Farm.

    After loan spells at Derby County, Crystal Palace and Leicester City, Vaughan made a permanent switch to newly promoted Norwich City earlier this summer.

9) Victor Anichebe

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    The jury is still out on Big Vic.

    Originally born in Nigeria but moving to Liverpool as a youngster, Anichebe rose through the Everton ranks before his first-team debut in 2006.

    A 'traditional' centre forward, which means he is a strong lad, Anichebe has seen more playing time in midfield recently and has only scored seven goals in nearly 100 appearances for Everton.

    Anichebe is a bit of an enigma for Everton fans, no one quite knows which player will turn up each weekend.

    With his physical strength and power, Anichebe could be a one-man wrecking ball as a centre forward but it has just never clicked for him.

    He makes silly mistakes and lets his natural ability down as he seems to over-think during the game. 

    Like Jack Rodwell, Anichebe needs to have a big season in order to quiet the now vociferous critics that seem to be mounting against him. 

10) Gavin McCann

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    McCann played so few games for Everton that the image search here on B/R cannot find a picture of him in a blue shirt.

    Having risen through Everton's youth system, McCann only made six first-team appearances for Everton before making the switch to Sunderland in 1997.

    There, McCann won promotion to the Premier League and helped Sunderland finish in the top half of the table twice in a row.

    After this early success, Sunderland faltered but McCann's stock continued to rise, peaking with an England cap in 2001.

    Following Sunderland's relegation, McCann left for Aston Villa but suffered an injury-riddled time at Villa Park before moving to Bolton in 2007.

    A severe injury forced McCann to end his playing career but he is still involved in the Youth set-up at Bolton Wanderers.

Honourable Mentions

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    There was no room on the list for other players that have played well at Everton over the years including Danny Cadamatri, John Oster, Nick Chadwick and Peter Clarke.

    Also David Unsworth an Academy graduate of the highest order who played well at Everton early in his career but never pushed on as we would have hoped.