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Everton in a hurry to secure Jack Rodwell's future

16 February 2009 10:28
Negotiations are complete and Rodwell expects to sign his first long-term senior contract before his 18th birthday next month, capping a remarkable rise which saw the former England under-16 captain score his first senior goal in Sunday's 3-1 FA Cup win over Aston Villa.

Securing the long-term future of one of the country's brightest young stars is a major coup for Everton, especially with both Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson keenly tracking his progress. Sources at Goodison Park insist no formal bids were lodged but acknowledge Everton knew the game's giants would pounce if they stalled.

Rodwell's impact has been eye-catching in recent weeks, serving with distinction in both FA Cup derbies with Liverpool and now against Martin O'Neill's side. "We talk to the young players, try to help them because we know how much talent they have," his midfield partner Mikel Arteta said. "When you have got talent, the rest will come. Now Jack and Dan Gosling have got to keep producing great performances."

There seems no reason to suggest otherwise. Rodwell has shone for England's junior teams and further honours will surely follow. He has slotted seamlessly into the battleground that passes for a Premier League midfield, and his height, bravery and technique all suggest David Moyes might have been right when he suggested that Rodwell could follow Rio Ferdinand by moving into defence as he matures.

Should that be the case, he will become yet another household name churned out by Everton's seemingly endless production line. Wayne Rooney, of course, is the most famous recent graduate, but Tony Hibbert, James Vaughan, Victor Anichebe and Leon Osman have all been given their head under Moyes' regime.

It is a policy that has served Everton well in difficult times. Bill Kenwright's pockets are not as deep as many of his rivals', while outside investment in the club has not been forthcoming. Moyes has had to work on a shoestring and is reaping the rewards.

The side he has constructed, patiently and intelligently, is testament to his managerial skills. The backbone of the side is English, plucked from the lower leagues or discarded by bigger clubs and rehabilitated. No cheap, ill-considered foreign stopgaps, or at least not as many as elsewhere.

When Moyes does shop abroad, he tends to do so with great care. Arteta and Steven Pienaar were signed on loan at first, the moves made permanent when the manager was confident they had adapted to the frantic style of the game here. With such a deft touch with his limited budget, it is little wonder Moyes' net spend is a trifling £25 million in the six years he has been at the club.

But it is his trust in youth which makes him such a valuable commodity in straitened times. The stream of graduates gives Goodison Park claims to being the people's club on Merseyside some validity. It is the club the people of Liverpool might see their son play for, certainly more so than the club from across Stanley Park, whose youth policy increasingly relies on talented imports.

Only Arsenal have a better record at using young players as well, or as regularly. With transfer activity expected to nosedive because of the pound's collapse against the euro and the scarcity of credit, even for football clubs, Everton's financial weakness may prove their strength. When Rooney left Goodison Park, he did so to win medals. Rodwell may not need to.

Source: Telegraph