After failing to show up for pre-season training with the U23s at Finch Farm last month, Thierry Small appears to have rejected all approaches from Everton to persuade him to sign a professional contract at the club.
The young left-back burst into prominence with some fine displays for both U18 and U23 sides last season, culminating in an appearance near the end of Everton’s FA Cup ties with Sheffield Wednesday last March, when he became the youngest player in Everton history at the age of 16 years and 176 days, breaking Jose Baxter’s 2008 record by 15 days.
But the promise of a quick path to the first team for the exciting left-back didn’t seem to convince the youngster who apparently sees both Lucas Digne and Niels Nkounkou ahead of him in the pecking order for his preferred position.
With his 17th birthday on 1 August, he would have been able to sign a lucrative professional contract with the Blues but all hopes have faded with the latest indications online claiming he will become a free agent.
When he does sign up with another club, they will become liable to pay compensation to Everton for their part in his development. Such sums are usually small in comparison to the value of such a promising player on the open market, contingent of course on his contractual commitments.
The loss of one of the best prospects to come through the Everton Academy in recent years represents a huge blow to the Academy ethos, and would appear to confirm serious concerns about Everton’s ability to nurture and develop promising young players, and bring them on to become successful members of the first-team.
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The lad is clearly poorly advised but arguably we’ve just lost our best youngster.
I think the club needs some positive news on the playing front soon or I can see Goodison being toxic this year.
A real pity. The lad is exciting as an attacking left-back.
But I doubt many blues will notice this or that it will add to any toxicity.
Yes this is bad news. I don’t think things are as bad at Everton as sometimes depicted on here but did it have to play out like this? It seems a real waste of time and talent but who knows the whole story.
EFC are good at glossing over everything and keeping us in the dark. A real chasm between the fans and the suits. Unless it’s the stadium, I think they’ve done well on that front.
Once again in relation to Small, what could the club have done to keep him at Everton, if he or his advisers believe that he’d be better off elsewhere?
Due to his family background, it looks likely that the lad will end up at Villa Park to add to the evidence that Villa is such a better club than Everton – well in some people’s eyes they are.
Some good points there, Paul. I responded to that lovely survey from Denise Barrett-Baxendale the other week about their secrecy and lack of transparency, their inability to be honest with the fans when it comes to something like this.
It’s illustrated rather poignantly with this from a wonderful puff-piece on Small that appeared on the official website back in January:
The England Under-15 international says his impressive progress has been underpinned by the first-class coaching and the supportive atmosphere at Everton Academy.
“Ive loved every minute of it here,” he says. “Everton is one of the best academies in England.
“Its great to play with the players Ive grew up with since I was 11 and try to get better together every day.
“The coaching is top quality.
“The detail they provide is brilliant. Were fortunate weve got technology – training and matches are filmed – so anything that needs improvement, the coaches will pick up on and create a little playlist or a few clips and point it out to me. Its really helpful.
“Everyone is supportive at Everton and its like a family environment. Its a great club to be a part of.”
A skilful, dynamic footballer who boasts impressive ball-striking ability and stamina, Small believes his attributes are ideally suited to the left-back position.
“I love both attacking and defending,” Small says.
“I like one-v-one battles with the opposition. I never like to let my opponent get the better of me.
“Because Im quite fast, I think left-back is good for me because I can get up and down the pitch quite well.
“I think my pace and power are really good attributes because Im able to get myself in good positions.
“Now its about developing the technical aspects, like my crossing. I need to keep working hard on that.”
Based on our poor track record of bringing youngsters through the ranks and into the first team, I don’t really blame him for leaving. Otherwise, he will probably endure loan and after loan which never seems to work for either the player or the club.
I think it’s he’s been poorly advised… if he wants to go and play for Villa, the team he supports, fair enough. If it’s anything other than that, he’s been poorly advised.
I don’t think this can be blamed on Everton. Remember Dan Gosling? Bet he’s after regretting listening to his agent that time.
I’m assuming he’s been tapped up by a bigger club than Villa. Wherever he goes, he’s going to remain low in the pecking order for left back (unless he drops down a division, in which case he could have stayed at Everton and gone out on loan), so one has to assume that he’d rather be third choice at, say, Man Utd than at Everton. More money, more kudos, maybe even a bit of reflected glory if they win a trophy.
Players like Small are particularly desirable post-Brexit, I assume, because clubs can’t harvest the best youngsters from across Europe anymore.
Shame, but bearing in mind the club made him our youngest ever first team player, I’m not sure there’s much more we could have done to show our love for him. Maybe not be so shit, but that’s true of all our problems.
I dont see that this reflects on the club other than that we have an excellent left back in Digne and an exciting young understudy in Nkounkou who is rated ahead of Small. If only Small played on the other flank!
From what Brent and Phil say he still has a lot to learn and we wouldnt expect him to be happy as third choice.
He may develop, he may crash and burn. Hopefully we will get a million or so in compo.
When Jadon Sancho did similar to Man City at the same age, leaving to Borussia Dortmund, did that also ‘reflect badly’ on City?
Given Michael’s attributed quotes to Small about the top quality football education he received at Everton’s academy, it rather negates the less than favourable views expressed by some about what goes on at Finch Farm.
Everton wanted him to sign a professional contract and were not passive to his rejection, continuing to pursue him.
He has taken up his right to be become a free agent on the pretext he wants a clear path to first team football.
I consider, given his still young age, if he is sincere in that claim that Everton offers as good an opportunity to achieve that than any number of alternative suitors.
I fancy family ties and other voices whispering in his ear is the bigger influence on his decision than the ‘he’s rejected Everton ‘cos we’re shite at everything we do’ line some may want to run with.
My son is a blue and an awesome talent. I doubt he’ll make it but, if he did, I wouldn’t push for him to join our club.
Yes, the facilities are fabulous but the coaches are not world class, and there’s no progression. What (other than money and blind loyalty) will make youth players stay at the club?
It needs a clean-out top to bottom. We’re awful at managing their progression. May as well give up and just buy ready-made players and risk signing them in their late teens.
More clubs are going to ditch their youth teams. It’s expensive with little reward unless well managed.
He’ll be playing non-league in 5 years.
For me, he’s a talented youngster who’s been badly advised as a 16-year-old, now 17; shame he’s going, shrug shoulders, move on.
I wouldn’t agree he’s our best youngster, certainly our best young left-back: outstanding energy levels to get up the pitch into goal scoring positions and finish well, but still a lot to learn defensively. His strength and speed are a big asset for him and mark him out at youth level but will it still be the case when he plays against men?
I briefly saw Chelsea’s outgoing players on Sky Sports News, 3 of their top young defenders have left this summer: Fiko Tomori, Marc Guehi and Tino Livramento, all have achieved more than Small so far and I’d have taken any of them in a swap deal and paid Chelsea money.
Time to concentrate on the ones we’ve got rather than the one who’s gone.
Jeffers springs to mind also. It does however, for whatever reason, question why the Academy isn’t producing enough players for years for the first team. We need talent from the Academy in abundance at the moment. The Academy will have running costs with all the coaches too, so it really needs to up the ante.
I’m not a big fan of our academy in recent times but not sure this is on them. He was promoted to U23s and given training time with first team. Offered a good contract with only one senior left-back obviously ahead of him. Clear-ish pathway.
He just didn’t fancy it. Or had his head turned. Shame, but he’s a way to go before being a first-team player – even for a lower Premier League team.
I think Michael’s piece about Small’s opinion of how he was treated by the Blues suggests he couldn’t have been better treated at any other club. I go along with Jay (10) that he has been got at and he’s had better offers which are possibly closer to where his family live. I doubt if Everton could have done any more than they have done to keep him here.
As Phill (13) says, he has good potential, let’s see where it takes him. My own opinion is that he’s nowhere as good as he thinks he is, and that would have applied if he had stayed here.
Joe (7), Kenwright cocked that deal up and allowed Gosling to be a free agent and get a very good signing-on fee off Newcastle Utd.
Maybe similar to Garbutt but saves us a lot of wasted money over many frustrating years.
Nkounkou didn’t even get on when we made about 10 subs in the Man Utd friendly, and Small is even further down in the order… no wonder he wants to go.
Our academy comes up with a few decent players every season but they just hang around, never get in the first team, and leave for peanuts when they reach 22 or 23. The game today wants players who can instantly deliver at Premier League level. There isn’t the time to give them a run of games to bed in.
Small is just a prospect, full stop. He shows lots of energy and physicality in bombing up and down the wing but, as a defender, still has lots to learn.
Many big youngsters struggle when their peers catch up to them and this may well be the case with Small. Like lots of ‘next great things’, he could well disappear without trace; most do.
I won’t be losing any sleep over this one.
If they’re good enough, they are old enough, but Small seems to have been tapped up and, at his young age, still has a lot to learn and not only about football.
He is nowhere near a regular Premier League place so I don’t understand why he does not see the opportunity at Everton but, these days, money and impatience does a lot to their ego.
Dave@16 didn’t Dan string us along for about 6 months saying yes don’t worry I’m going to sign that contract.. you’ve got nothing to worry about… while the whole time.. having no intention of signing.
Yes.. maybe it was Kenwright being nieve.. but from what I remember the club were well screwed over by gosling and his agent at the time.
Agents.. though are needed.. they’re the scurge of football. Money greedy snakes.
Bag’s of potential traded in for bags of money.
As long as we get compensated appropriately, £2M ish, nothing else we can do.
Now, it will be interestingly to see where he goes and if the FA, UEFA investigate the whole thing.
We had a ban not long ago for signing young player’s, this is surely in the same category of wrong doing by someone.
Yes, agents are a curse and obviously Gosling’s agent got his spoke in, but if Kenwright hadn’t waited and got Gosling to sign by a certain date, then the deal would have been done.
But Kenwright was trying to save money by waiting and trusted Gosling to sign the contract. Gosling or his agent saw the chance to make money and took advantage. That cost Everton about £3M that Newcastle would have had to pay for him.
Hes a good player for his age, but not great.
If he wants out l et him go.
Raises questions about Everton coaching staff and player management, was he being mentored by Everton, Villa or some other team?
Phil (13) – Agree with you on the three academy graduates that Chelsea have lost, although Chelsea have recouped £50 million for them, and that is the big difference – especially for a trio that were unlikely to ever become first-choice first-team players for them.
Livramento impressed me hugely when we beat their Under 18s in the Youth Cup – far more than their captain Lewis Bate (who has now joined Leeds); I think Southampton have made an excellent signing who I expect will be a Premier League regular within two seasons.
the next Luke Garbutt or the next Leighton Baines, only time will tell.
Think his advisors are shortsighted. Digne is going to have time out and he had every chance of replacing Nkounkou.
Hope Niels makes it; if not, Godfrey can step in very well in a worst case.
I do think we are becoming known as a club that no longer lets youngsters breakthrough, and that’s so dangerous for mid-term prospects. Hopefully Whitaker or Dobbin proves me wrong (as well as Branthwaite and Gordon please!)
Nkounkou will be the next to leave there is no progression at this club to the seniors, because it doesn’t seem to matter who ever is in charge they would rather play a so called experienced player instead even if they are playing crap no wonder no young players want to stay at Everton this is what Everton have to sort out before its to late.
Michael, speaking like that as a 15 year old, then he was way better educated than I ever was at that age as well as being a much better footballer.
There are clearly many factors in this. He, his family, or his advisors don’t see his future at Everton.
The Evertonian could argue he is being impatient. At 17 and with the current first choice left back being 28, he would probably have to got his chance soon if rated as some claim.
But then, with a bit of balance, If, as some have said above, his preference is his boyhood club, who could deny him that? But then he has to dislodge Matt Targett. A current on form 25 year old. So an equal risk.
Would we have Digne or Targett? I like both, but know my preference. And do they have a Nkounkou behind Targett? Maybe he fancies his chances better there or even elsewhere.
The other factor is back to the system. A kid taken out of his natural surroundings, separated from his friends and left home at 11 years old. No wonder he is homesick and been denied a natural upbringing. He could arguably just want to go home. I struggled at 16 and believe me I couldn’t wait to get away at the time. But within months, and for years later when sent to shitty places, couldn’t wait to get back.
We often ignore or choose to forget the human factor.
That aside, time will tell whether we have lost a future left back or let go of another “could have been”. Too early to tell, but I’m not going to slate the youngster regardless of whether it is his personal choice or those advising him. We all make choices in life. At the time we always think they are the right ones. Sometimes they are, often they are not. But you live and learn and have to make those decisions for yourself.
Thierry Small will look back at this as a career changing decision either way. Good look son.
Danny ONeill talking sense as usual.
No need to slate either the club or the kid.
“Badly advised” bit premature for that assessment. We dont know what his future holds. Maybe this will prove to be a brilliant decision : or a terrible one. Time will tell but it is what it is and I dont see it as a reason to beat the academy up.
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