Roberto Martinez has been left scratching his head by Everton’s pre-season form but one shining ray of light has been the emergence of 19-year-old striker Chris Long.
Everton’s manager is not afraid to give youth its chance and, in Long, he feels there is a young man who could become the latest distinguished graduate from the club’s thriving Academy.
Sportsmail’s Dominic King discusses the youngster’s upbringing and assesses his chances of making a first team impact next season.
VIDEO Scroll down for Chris Long and Everton youth teammates in changing room banter
Faith: Everton manager Roberto Martinez is not afraid to give the club’s young players a chance to shine
So he’s made significant strides this summer?
Yes. That was abundantly clear on Sunday in Germany against Bundesliga side Paderborn, when he scored Everton’s only goal in a 3-1 defeat. It was a thumping effort, too. After collecting a pass from Leighton Baines, he dragged the ball away from his marker before crashing a curling, right-footed drive that sped into the net. It was a strike reminiscent of some from Everton’s first team coach, Duncan Ferguson.
Does he have a chance of starting the season then?
Well, Martinez was certainly enthusiastic about how he has coped with being in the first team environment and believes he is ‘pushing’ to be included. Given that there are fitness issues concerning Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas and Arouna Kone, there is every reason to think that he could feature in the party that travels to the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Back of the net: Chris Long opens the scoring for Everton against Paderborn in a pre-season friendly
Instant impact: Long runs to celebrate his goal with veteran midfielder Gareth Barry
How long has he been at Everton?
All his life. He first set foot in the club’s Academy 14 years ago when he was just 5. He has stood out in recent years thanks to his speed, composure and agility. He has represented Everton at all age-groups, signed his first professional contract in July 2013 and has played for England at U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-20 level. He also had a brief loan spell at MK Dons last season, scoring once in four appearances.
Everton pride themselves on producing good, young players, don’t they?
With good reason. Long – who bases his game on former England striker Michael Owen – is not much younger than Ross Barkley and John Stones and he went to the Under-20 World Cup, which was staged in Turkey last summer, with those two. If he makes the anticipated progress, he one day could be tied down to a long-term contract and be part of the future Martinez is building for the club.
Homegrown: Long joined Everton’s academy at the age of five and has represented England at Under 20 level
In the frame: Long could make Everton’s squad for their opening Premier League game against Leicester City
What has he made of the big change?
As you can imagine, Long has embraced the extra responsibility, saying: ‘I’ve loved being with the first-team for the last two months. I was with the Under-21s for a week in pre-season and then the gaffer told me I was going to be with them. I’ve taken it in my stride and I’m loving it.’
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