When you look at the way Thierry Small, Mohamed-Ali Cho and Dan Rose have all left Everton over the last year, you’d suggest the Toffees have a problem with their academy.

Goodison Park has always been a breeding ground for exceptional young footballers but you can’t help but feel there will be a sense of regret over the trio if they thrive elsewhere.

Cho has already hit the ground running in French football where he is shining with Angers and that kind of impact serves as a lesson to not only Marcel Brands but also the first-team manager.

Rafa Benitez has been keen to involve the younger players in his plans with Anthony Gordon earning minutes in the early stages of the campaign. Jarrad Branthwaite also earned a start in the Carabao Cup but he has competition rising through the academy.

That comes courtesy of Reece Welch, a 17-year-old who has been impressing Brands and youth coaches for a while now.

In standing at 6 foot 4, his heading ability is akin to Yerry Mina but his overall playstyle is much more comparable to Ben Godfrey.

After being named in the Guardian’s Next-Gen list for 2020, journalist Andy Hunter wrote: “Welch is a composed, skilful central defender.”

Meanwhile, the Echo describes him with the following words: “His athleticism is similarly equipped to the modern game. Fast, strong and broad-shouldered, he will look even more imposing when he naturally begins to fill out.”

Athletic qualities are what Godfrey has in abundance, particularly speed and power.

Although the centre-back’s reading of the game is also first class, it’s his ability to recover quickly that makes him such a valuable asset to the Toffees.

Fortunately, Welch also possesses traits like that.

He starred for Everton U21s as they beat Morecambe in the EFL Trophy last week and via The Athletic’s Patrick Boyland, was their man of the match.

During that clash, the teenager won six of the eight defensive duels he was involved in, demonstrating he can battle well against senior professionals.

Ultimately, that is the biggest test for a youth player when they attempt to make the grade in the first-team.

He passed the test with flying colours as David Unsworth told official club channels at full-time: “I thought the back three (Astley, Welch and Anderson) were superb – and they had to be. You can’t fault anybody tonight.”

Luckily, Welch has not only gained experience in that competition but he’s also trained with the senior players at Finch Farm, something that will prove invaluable if he is to work his way into Benitez’s plans.

He’s certainly one for Everton supporters to keep tabs on.

AND in other news, Richarlison 2.0: Teen “revelation” sees his value soar by 400% after leaving Everton…


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