Where are they now? Everton’s 8 wonderkids from Football Manager 2014
Things were looking good at Everton when Football Manager 2014 was released almost a decade ago.
The Toffees played some lovely, if at times defensively questionable, football under Roberto Martinez in the 2013-14 campaign. They hit a club-record points tally for a 38-game season and weren’t far off qualifying for the Champions League with a fifth-place finish.
It was an optimistic time at Goodison Park, especially with a number of talented youngsters emerging. FM2014 actually earmarked eight wonderkids (via FMScout) as having great potential.
Everton fans don’t need reminding of how things have gone for the club, but what became of their highly-rated starlets? We’ve taken a closer look.
Signed from his boyhood club Barnsley for a modest £3million transfer fee, Stones soon established himself as one of the best young defenders in the country during his time on Merseyside.
Everton rebuffed Chelsea’s offers in the summer of 2015 but couldn’t resist the massive profit-making £47.5million bid from Manchester City a year later.
Stones hasn’t always been one of the first names on City’s teamsheet but he’s racked up over 200 appearances for the club and developed into one of Pep Guardiola’s most entrusted lieutenants. He was nothing short of immense in his new midfield(ish) role in their historic 2022-23 treble-winning campaign.
Cash-strapped Everton will take some consolation from reportedly netting an extra £2.5million add-on from his role in City’s Champions League win. Right?
John Stones completed all SIX of his dribbles against Inter Milan in the Champions League final.
That's the most completed dribbles in a UCL final since Lionel Messi in 2015.
… HE'S A CENTRE-BACK 😳 pic.twitter.com/bZrUXtIkvh
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 11, 2023
We could’ve sworn Kenny is still only 21. Where does the time go?
Football Manager 2014 identified Kenny as one to watch when he was just 16 years old and was yet to make his debut for his hometown club.
The right-back had been part of England Under-17s’ European Championship triumph in 2014 and would later feature in the Under-20s’ World Cup victory of 2017 and the Under-21s’ Toulon Tournament winners of 2018.
Kenny showed some flashes of quality as he racked up 50 Premier League appearances for Everton but never quite refined his game to become a first-team regular between intermittent loan spells away.
Everton reportedly offered him a contract extension but he turned it down to join Hertha Berlin on a free transfer last summer.
“At first, I had to get used to not being an Everton player anymore,” Kenny recalled in an interview with The Athletic.
“But it’s about thriving here now. I didn’t come here to sit on the couch and mope about the Premier League — it was to perform in the Bundesliga and be my own version of myself.
“I felt like I didn’t play freely at Everton. I felt like I had that stereotype when people can just talk about you as the homegrown lad who will ‘have a go’. I let it limit me a bit.
“That was on me, the idea I was just a Scouse kid who was made up to be there. But I felt I had more than that. I had knowledge and more in the locker than just running.”
The midfielder had caught the eye in Everton’s youth set-up and represented England from Under-16 to Under-20 level, but his first-team experience for the Blues amounted to one solitary appearance, a 1-0 defeat to FC Krasnodar in a Europa League dead rubber in December 2014.
Ledson left Goodison in 2016. He joined Oxford United for an undisclosed fee and has since found his feet at Championship outfit Preston North End, for whom he’s made over 150 appearances.
The Lilywhites are flying high in the second tier right now. An eventual Premier League debut is not unthinkable.
The Liverpudlian was loaned out by Everton no fewer than six times but never made a senior appearance for his parent club, who he’d been with since he was a nipper. Eventually he moved on permanently, signing for Oxford United in 2015, before making his name at Sheffield United.
Fondly remembered by Fantasy Football Managers everywhere for his regular heroics in the Blades’ stellar 2019-20 campaign, that year probably remains the high point of Lundstram’s career to date.
Having said that, he did start in the 2022 Europa League final – the one in which Rangers lost on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt. He remains at Ibrox today.
— Fantasy Premier League (@OfficialFPL) June 16, 2020
The Belfast-born winger joined Everton from Kilmarnock for a “nominal fee” believed to be in the region of £225,000 back in 2012.
Tipped as one for the future, it never arrived at Goodison after a series of loans away. Kennedy never made an appearance for Everton and was sold to Cardiff in 2015. But he struggled for gametime in Wales and was once again frequently loaned out before returning to Scotland with St. Johnstone in 2018.
He’s spent the last six seasons plying his trade in the Scottish Premiership and rejoined Kilmarnock in the summer.
Barkley had already been on the scene a couple of years and had spent a couple of forgettable loans with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United before returning to Everton and really breaking through in 2013-14 – he turned 20 that season and was already among the standout players in Martinez’s squad, undoubtedly the pick of their homegrown talent.
The midfielder kicked on and remained a regular for both England and Everton for another three seasons, eventually earning his big move to Chelsea in January 2018. He had one or two moments at Stamford Bridge but never fully convinced at that level.
He’s now turning out for newly-promoted Luton Town after underwhelming stints with Aston Villa and Nice.
A highly-rated prospect at Bradford City, Green joined Everton for a £300,000 in 2011 – but that early move set the tone for a career of lots of moves and very little action.
The 27-year-old never made a senior appearance for Everton and has been on the books of 16 different clubs, rarely playing over 10 games for any of them. Nowadays the non-league journeyman is turning out for Thackley, who compete in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division.
A local lad from Huyton, Long joined Everton as a five-year-old and progressed through the ranks before eventually making his first-team debut in the aforementioned Krasnodar dead rubber alongside Ledson.
That proved to be the forward’s only appearance for Everton and in 2015 he left for Burnley. But he only played 11 games for the Clarets and was constantly loaned out before his release at the end of his three-year contract.
Nowadays Long is leading the line for Crewe Alexandra, and he’s made a promising start to the 2023-24 campaign with five goals in nine League Two appearances.