We have to read article after article about how great the Southampton academy is or hear how West Ham call themselves "the Academy" or some such nonsense.
There is no doubt about it, we have the best academy of the last 30 years; however, you need to determine the criteria. In the 1980s, we provided the most England internationals for the decade.
Let's look at the last 15 years:
1. Michael Ball - capped in 2001, came through our youth system and was from Crosby.
2. Francis Jeffers - capped in 2003, came through our youth system and was from Liverpool.
3. Wayne Rooney - capped in 2003 for the first of many caps, came through our youth system and was from Croxteth.
4. Jack Rodwell - capped in 2011 twice, came through our youth system and was from Southport.
5. Leon Osman - capped in 2012 twice and came through our youth system and is from Billinge, near St Helens.
6. Ross Barkley - capped in 2013 to present, is from Wavertree and came through our youth system.
Now I could have included:
1. Joey Barton who came through our youth system before being cut at 14 and then going on to play for England in 2007, and of course, he's from Huyton.
2. Phil Jagielka who came through our youth system until the age of 14 or maybe younger and being cut. He comes from Sale in Cheshire and of course is a multi-capped player and current England Captain!
3. Leighton Baines another player we cut as a youth before the age of 16, who then fought his way back before rejoining us and then going on to win 30 caps.
What's my point? All of these 9 players come from no more than 35 miles of the ground (Google Maps distance from Goodison to Sale) or for the first six I named, no more than 15 miles of the ground. What this shows is that over the last 15 years we've produced 6 England Internationals and done so using the resources available. All of the other clubs, especially Southampton are producing on a combination of good coaching, poaching, and scouting. Everton are proven that we will produce no matter what.
In the last 15 years, Liverpool have produced no-one other than Carragher and Gerrard who both emerged just before the 15-year period and since then they've produced Raheem Sterling, Stephen Warnock and Martin Kelly, but note that Sterling was actually bought at the age of 16 and therefore cannot really be classed as a product of their academy.
Why are there no glowing articles about our academy, and looking hopefully at the next generation that won the U18s title twice in the last three years?
Another thing that is not being picked up on is the quality of the coaching. Barkley is two-footed with great control. Rodwell was a centre-half with two feet and so good on the ball he became a midfielder. Stones is great with both feet and on the ball. We all know about Rooney's technique. Ledson has great technique for a holding midfielder, with a lovely touch and control. Davies too. Even McAleny, who doesn't look like he'll be Premier League class, cannot be faulted for technique.
The proof here is in the coaching. All the criticisms of England over the last 40 years are being addressed by our academy churning out player after player in these moulds, and yet again, the press prefer to highlight the academies where they just go and poach the best player from a much smaller club or scout the width of the country to take the best kids they can find — not the academies making the best of what they have and producing decade after decade after decade.