(l-r) Jack Graham, Todd Blayney, Ashley Stott

(l-r) Jack Graham, Todd Blayney, Ashley Stott

Students from Edge Hill University are using their talent-spotting skills to help identify the future stars of Everton Football Club.

Sports Studies students Jack Graham and Todd Blayney, and Sports Development students Ashley Stott and Alex Owen have been working with Everton Academy to run open coaching sessions for local school children – with a view to finding the next Ross Barkley or Wayne Rooney.

Jimmy O’Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Sports Development, said: “Everton approached us to discuss ways of widening their recruitment area and getting more talented young players into their Academy.”

As a result, third years Jack, Todd and Ashley were offered a prestigious internship with Everton Academy. They came up with the idea of ‘Fun Nights’ where children could come to Edge Hill and take part in informal training sessions with Everton Academy coaches and potentially showcase their football skills to talent scouts. They are supported by first year student Alex to ensure the project can continue once the others have graduated.

Jimmy added:

It’s a great learning experience for them as they are involved in everything from marketing the idea to schools, to delivering the events, to coaching the children on the night. They have to liaise with professionals from the Academy, as well as managing the expectations of the children, and more importantly, their parents!”

During the events, the students have to keep their eyes open for children who show potential and give feedback to the Academy.

Todd Blayney said: “We’ve all got our coaching badges so we know what to look for – speed, footwork, passing skills and attitude. If we think someone could be what the Academy is looking for, we can suggest they are assessed by an Everton talent scout. The ones that show real potential will have a trial at Finch Farm, Everton’s development centre.

“If we find one promising player that gets picked up by the Academy that will be a real achievement as their standards are so high. It’s strange to think that our input could completely change someone’s life.”

Ray Redmond, Everton’s Academy Development Officer, praised the students’ skills and professionalism. He said:

From the start the students have shown excellent qualities that have enabled them to progress quickly during their placement. These qualities mean they can be left alone to use their own initiative to run events in line with some of our Academy projects.

They’ve set the standard very high for future Edge Hill students coming to the Academy. They may not find a future star for Everton but, through their hard work and commitment, they have helped to increase participation in football locally and supported our community outreach programme.”

“We were delighted to give them their own Everton kit to wear during the events, as they really became part of the Academy team.”

Todd added:

The whole experience of working at the Academy, training with them and learning how the academy system works has been amazing. We’re all doing things now that we couldn’t have done ten weeks ago when we started. I feel much more confident about graduation now I’ve got Everton on my CV.”

The project builds on Edge Hill’s flourishing partnership with Everton in the Community, the Club’s official charity, which provides opportunities for staff and students to get involved in community engagement, volunteering and research projects.

“Academy football is a very tough area to get into so this is a unique opportunity for Edge Hill students to get an insight into the realities of the profession and make valuable industry contacts.

“As well as improving their coaching and talent identification skills, they have also gained key transferable skills, such as planning, organisation, marketing and promotional skills, that will help them when applying for jobs in any industry.

“We’re hoping to continue these events next year, and also work with Everton to introduce a schools tournament on campus. The hard work these lads have put in will be a great legacy for future cohorts of Edge Hill Sports students.”