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Man Utd jeers can propel ‘sensational’ Everton starlet into first-team plans

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Hearing the boos of Manchester United fans when taking to the pitch at Old Trafford earlier this month might well have been music to the ears of Charlie Whitaker.

Just over a year ago, the youngster signed his first professional contract with Everton and was still mainly a part of the under-18s setup with the club.

After a whirlwind 12 months, the midfielder was heading out to warm up with the senior side in what was Rafa Benitez’s biggest match of the season so far.

The 18-year-old might not have got on the pitch for the Blues against Manchester United, but that experience just adds to the crucial time he spent with the first team during their pre-season tour in the United States in the summer.

This represents quite the rise through the ranks for a player who many might not have been fully aware of just a short time ago.

In fact, it was only in April that he made his bow into David Unsworth’s under-23s side, scoring a hat trick in a 4-0 win over Southampton just a month later.

Even after bagging that treble, there was a modest outlook from the youngster that is seemingly apparent when you look across the board at the club’s academy right now.

Not in a bad sense at all, they believe in their talent. But, at the same time, they don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves.

Speaking after that game against the Saints, Whitaker remarked: “Next season, I just want to help the team as much as I can and get more goals and assists.”

No eyes immediately on the first team, no lofty targets to try and hit. It’s level-headed and grounded.

Now, of course, this did all come before what was arguably the biggest moment of the youngster’s fledgling career – being selected to travel with the first team squad out to the US tour.

With Everton taking part in the Florida Cup against Millonarios and, eventually, Pumas – a surprise selection for Whitaker was something that not many supporters would have been expecting.

In fact, it led to a huge moment for the midfielder as he came on for Nathan Broadhead with around nine minutes of normal time left as the Blues played out their second match in the States.

That little taste of the senior squad would have paled in comparison to walking out onto the pitch at Old Trafford just before the international break, even if it was just to warm up.

A volley of boos greeted the Everton squad as they made their way out onto the pitch that day, but that’s what being part of the senior side is all about.



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Those big occasions could well be in the future for Whitaker, as opportunities have already similarly presented themselves to Lewis Dobbin so far this term.

It’s clear to see why the forward has been plucked from the selection of U23s to get his opportunity to train with the senior side.

His performances over recent months have shown a lot of quality in patches. He’s got great close control, an eye for a pass and a great technique to score a goal too.

And words of encouragement from Unsworth back in May will certainly stand the youngster in good stead for whenever that potential senior debut does rear up.

The U23s boss told the ECHO at the time: “He has played out wide, he has played up-front….but we have tried to play him as a second striker, not a number 10, a second-striker, because his game is naturally dropping into spaces where you want a number 10.

“We have tried to get someone up there with him and he has been sensational. He is a great trainer, great to work with and a great lad.

“He does the hardest thing in the game, which is score goals, and he makes it look really easy. For the size of him, he is good in the air, he is brave, we just need him to link play and the future is bright for him.

“I’m not getting over-excited, because you can’t, it is too early. But the signs are very, very good.”

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Being a “great trainer” is something that stands out as part of that discussion.

Benitez has been keen to reward those who have caught his eye in sessions at Finch Farm over the last few weeks, with Dobbin and Anthony Gordon particularly being highlighted in that sense.

Because of that, it’s safe to assume that Whitaker could well have been rewarded in a similar sense – taking his experience from the summer and carrying that through into this season.

As with the club’s other youngsters right now, staying grounded is the key. As both the player himself and Unsworth hinted towards, it’s not the time to get carried away.

Instead, it’s a time to keep working hard for the U23s, who need to work together to get out something of an early-season slump in form.

Whitaker has the quality to be a big player for their campaign. And, potentially, he will hope that earns him a few more shots at the first team.

Getting booed at Old Trafford could be the first of many big occasions if the youngster plays his cards right.



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