Ross Barkley joined Everton’s Academy at age ten and has never looked back. A regular for England and a key player for the club since his debut in 2011, he graduated to the first team via the Premier League U18s and U21s Games Programmes.
Francis Jeffers is a former Everton player and England international and current Everton Academy coach. He explains how the club's Finch Farm training ground has helped numerous players including himself and Ross, excel on the pitch.
“Finch Farm is a fantastic place to be. A great place to be brought up as a footballer – going down the corridors you see all the graduates who’ve ended up playing for the first team. Ross Barkley – going to the Euros with England. The England captain [Wayne Rooney] came through this place.
“ Everton’s investment in Finch Farm has been really important to me. It’s helped me become the player I am today.”Ross Barkley, Everton and England
“When you can see where you want to be in any walk of life, it helps. At Finch Farm and Everton, with the first team 100 yards away from you and the under 21s next to you – sometimes they’d have the first teamers training with them – you’ve always got the aim to get there, it’s in your vision.
“The younger you are it’s all about age groups, but as you start to get towards becoming a young professional it’s so important that you can see where you want to be.
“When you’re a coach in the Academy, people don’t ask you how you went on at the weekend - they ask 'Who’s next?' People want to know who the next Academy graduate is. Ross was always spoken about as a top talent and in these surroundings it’s definitely contributed to him being accelerated into the first team and accelerated into the England squad.
“I just think that by having a first team and an Academy together it gives you that sense of ‘that’s where you can be’ – if you do it right and if your life’s the right way and you work hard, then you’ve got a right chance of walking through them doors there and getting in the first team.”
Ross added, “Everton’s investment in Finch Farm has been really important to me. It’s helped me become the player I am today.”