A trio of dazzling youngsters help to lift the gloom around Goodison
Manager leaves. Team start to play well. They win impressively.
It has become a familiar routine, and the only regret for Everton – as it has been for countless others this season – is that they did not produce this form when a job was at stake.
Roberto Martínez, the champion of youth development, may come to lament allowing his successor to reap the rewards of a legacy below the first team. Whispers around Merseyside have said for a while that the Everton academy has a crop of youngsters who will invade the Premier League in the near future, and the performances of teenagers Kieran Dowell, Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny in a comfortable win provided compelling evidence.
Dowell was involved in two of the goals, and after a season of despair, Goodison acclaimed the promise of the future again. Dowell played 69 exquisite minutes, leaving to a standing ovation. Alongside him, Davies helped Gareth Barry run midfield. A timid opposition and the nature of this occasion will be taken into account – Norwich bid farewell to the Premier League with a whimper – but the teenagers showed bravery in possession so lacking late in Martínez’s reign.
David Unsworth, Everton’s caretaker manager, said on Friday that they were ready and his enterprising team selection was vindicated. “The young lads were terrific,” he said. “Kieran Dowell showed his quality – flashes of genius – and Davies was probably man of the match. It’s never an exact science when to put them in. I don’t mind if they’re made to wait, because it gives them even more desire.”
Dowell could claim an assist after neatly rolling the ball into the path of James McCarthy, who hit a brilliant opening goal. The lead doubled just before half-time when Leighton Baines, who has bizarrely abdicated responsibility for penalties for 18 months, stroked in a spot-kick after Romelu Lukaku had been dragged down by Robbie Brady.
The third goal followed shortly after half-time. Davies stole posses- sion, Dowell knitted the play in the midfield, McCarthy found the overlapping Kenny and the subsequent cross was tapped in by Kevin Mirallas.
Everton were at ease, discontent replaced by appreciation as Tim Howard said his goodbyes. Norwich have work to do if they are to mount a promotion challenge next season. Their consolation is that Alex Neil intends to oversee the revival. “It looks like I will be here for next season,” said the manager. “The powers-that-be will look at my contribution and have a judgment, it’s not about me making a decision. But since I’ve been here the club has shown me nothing but support.”
In the spotlight: Kieran Dowell contributed to two of Everton’s goals against Norwich