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Everton Youth Players Destined for the First Team

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2013

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Ryan Ledson of England celebrates his goal during the International Friendly match between England U17 and Italy U17 at the Pirelli Stadium on September 1, 2013 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Identifying future stars from academy football is a popular subject. Fans revel in local prospects coming through the ranks while it provides clubs with additional value in their squad.

For the likes of Everton, continually battling against financially superior adversaries, the development of academy players is imperative.

The club have sensibly invested considerable time and wealth into their production line and have reaped the rewards.

Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell, Ross Barkley and Leon Osman are all former youth team players who have progressed on to represent England in recent times. Two of those have also fetched the club substantial income.

Therefore, who's next in line to follow in their footsteps?

These lists often focus on those just below the first team, but we're going to dive a little deeper than that and root out the very best prospects at Everton.

It's still tantalisingly early to guarantee success for any of the following, but these names seem the most likely to make the grade.

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Ryan Ledson

Current England Under-17 captain, Ryan Ledson seems the best of a talented wave of players around Everton's Under-18 bracket.

Only just 16, the commanding midfielder has already featured for Everton's Under-21s as a 15-year-old, following on from Barkley and Rodwell as a particularly youthful graduate.

Ledson's a natural leader, fierce in the tackle and armed with a strong shot. He's certainly one to keep tabs on over the next few seasons.

George Green

Everton created a fair amount of hype by winning the race for George Green. He was brought to the club as a 15-year-old back in 2011, per BBC Sport, but hasn't yet emerged as might have been expected.

Green plays as an attacking midfielder, capable on either flank or just behind the striker. He possesses flair, trickery and that beloved English trait of being able to take a game by the scruff of its neck.

Last season he seemed to feature more for England youth teams than Everton, but if he applies himself over the next few years and remains committed, he has the talent to excel.

Jonjoe Kenny

Just 16, Jonjoe Kenny is another fresh-faced youngster already featuring in Everton's Under-21s. In fact, he's started every game but one this season, playing either at right-back or in central defence. 

As with Ledson, he's already a key member of England's Under-17s, also appearing in both central and right-sided defensive roles. 

Kenny's strong in the tackle and anticipates attackers exceptionally well. If he continues to develop his game, he should become one of the Toffees' best defensive prospects.

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John Lundstram

John Lundstram's not always fetched the hype of some of his more explosive academy team-mates but has the technique to become a Premier League midfielder.

He demonstrated his potential in a successful loan spell at Doncaster last season, in which he helped them into the Championship. Now 19, he's at a key stage of his career and would benefit from another loan instead of potentially stagnating in reserve-team football.

Not always so prominent on the pitch, he plays a key role; similar to the way Gareth Barry and Darron Gibson operate for Everton's first team, doing the simple things well. His range of passing is excellent, he shoots well and tackles with aggression.

Hallam Hope

If there's one position Everton could do with creating a star player it's up front, where there's little firepower behind Romelu Lukaku.

Chris Long led the way last season, as Hallam Hope struggled with form and fitness, but Hope's progressed well this year, and seems to have found his confidence.

He's already scored four goals in eight games for the Under-21s—making him top scorer—and seems to have developed the physical side of his game, holding the ball up better than ever. If he maintains his form, he will re-establish himself as the Toffees' premier forward prospect.