Everton FC: 5 Youngsters with a Chance to Shine Under Roberto Martinez

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IJune 16, 2013

DONCASTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: John Lundstram of Doncaster in action during the npower League One match between Doncaster Rovers and Notts County at the Keepmoat Stadium on April 20, 2013 in Doncaster, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

One area that Roberto Martinez is sure to be impressed with as he settles into life at Everton is his new club's impressive academy structure.

The Toffees focus a lot of time, energy and resources on their production line, and the new manager has already spoken of his desire to capitalise on this.

Speaking to Everton's official website, EvertonFC.com, he recently said:

I will be working very closely with the Academy. It is important. Alan Irvine has played a tremendous part in that and what he has done so far has been really impressive. We need to work together and as a football club we need to put a lot of focus on trying to give youngsters opportunities.

This will no doubt be music to the ears of many Evertonians who have been frustrated with the lack of opportunities for recent graduates under David Moyes.

In the same interview, Martinez went on to say:

Any football club, it doesn't matter where you are looking, relies on the home-grown talent and probably the biggest example in football now is Barcelona. I do feel that the talent we have in our football club is phenomenal and we need to make sure that we help that talent to develop and reach the levels that the modern game needs.

Therefore, in connection with these words, here are five youngsters with the best chance of breaking through under Martinez.

John Stones—Defender

Seamus Coleman's post-January consistency is the main reason Premier League audiences are as yet unfamiliar with John Stones.

The former Barnsley right-back signed in the January transfer window, and aside from a slightly shaky performance in the Under-21 Premier League semifinal, he's impressed many at the club during his short time on Merseyside.

Stones made Everton's bench several times towards the end of the season, but with Coleman arguably the Toffees' form player of 2013, the England Under-20 international found it impossible to get a look in.

Back in January, the other side vying for his signature was, ironically, Martinez's Wigan, as the Mirror reported, so the Spaniard is clearly a fan of Stones. His potential at centre-back and right wing-back, as well as right-back, makes it highly likely he'll see first-team action in some form next season.

Ross Barkley—Attacking Midfielder

Ross Barkley has clearly suffered from the considerable hype surrounding him ever since he made Everton's match-day squad as a 16-year-old.

A serious injury, excessive time on the bench and some unconvincing cameos have slowed his development, but the youngster showed signs of his undoubted promise towards the end of last season, especially in a crunch game against Arsenal.

If the constant speculation around Marouane Fellaini proves accurate and the Belgian departs the Toffees this summer, there could realistically be a starting spot for Barkley to compete for straight away next season.

If not, it would still be a big surprise if he didn't feature far more frequently. As much as the last couple of years have frustrated him, he seems just a run of games away from fully establishing himself in the English top flight.

John Lundstram—Midfielder

John Lundstram is perhaps a surprise name to compete for selection, but with Phil Neville retiring and Fellaini continually linked away from the club, Everton are currently a few bodies light in midfield.

The former England Under-19 captain impressed on loan at Doncaster last season, moving in February and helping them earn promotion to the Championship.

A tidy player with an uncomplicated all-around game, Lundstram's quietly efficient approach often sees others steal the limelight, but he possesses all of the traits Martinez craves in his midfielders.

In truth, he perhaps needs another spell away from the club, this time at Championship level, to further hone his game the way only competitive football can.

A return to Doncaster would make a lot of sense for all parties, but don't be surprised if he continues his rapid rise and features for Everton at some stage.

Matthew Kennedy—Winger

Kennedy was brought in during last season's summer transfer window and has impressed playing for Everton's Under-18s and Under-21s.

Still only 18, the Scottish Under-21 international clearly caught the eye of Moyes, who put him on the bench for a couple of Premier League games despite his inexperience.

Slight in stature, Kennedy brings pace and a large array of tricks to the wide areas of the field, adding the kind of flair that Martinez has always been keen to use on his flanks.

He can be a little frustrating at times and is very much a raw prospect, but he has that rare ability to win a game with a flash of individual brilliance. It would not be at all surprising to see him continue his swift progression and make his debut this season.

Shane Duffy—Defender

Everton's Under-21 captain, Shane Duffy, has suffered from the club's lack of depth in their squad, which meant he was unable to go out on loan last season to find competitive action.

Instead, he took his place on the first team's bench 31 times, making just three very brief substitute appearances and certainly not furthering his game. 

However, the Irish international may finally have a chance of more action this season, especially if John Heitinga is granted his wish to leave over the summer, as Sky Sports have reported.

With finances short, Everton have other priorities to fill before their defence, which could leave the 21-year-old in line to compete with Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka.


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