In the end the result matter little with Everton having already secured their passage into the knockout rounds after three wins and two draws. With the pressure removed, manager Roberto Martinez decided to rest some of his first team players in preparation for Monday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers. It also gave him the opportunity to give some of the clubs most promising youngster’s valuable playing time. Into the starting lineup came right back Tyias Browning, left back Luke Garbutt and striker Conor McAleny whilst Kieran Dowell, Gethin Jones and Chris Long all made appearances from the substitutes bench. It said a lot about Martinez approach that Long at 19 years old, was the oldest squad player on the Everton bench. And it almost paid off with his young team restricting their Russian opponents Krasnodar to only a handful of chances with only one trickling through under reserve goalkeeper Joel Robles to hand them the victory. The fans however did not leave Goodison disappointed as they were shown a glimpse into the clubs future with the unveiling of the latest youngsters from their youth system production line. They all gave a good account of themselves but one other youngster in particular stood out above all of them.
Defensive midfielder Ryan Ledson is seen by the club as one of the brightest prospects to have ever emerged at the club. He took up position at the heart of the midfield alongside seasoned veteran Gareth Barry and demonstrated exactly why the club rates him so highly. Ledson controlled the game with a maturity well beyond his 17 years and looked confident on the ball throughout. His passing both short and long was exceptional with 91% of the 56 passes he made hitting their mark whilst his superb positioning at all times help Everton to retain its shape especially when under pressure from the five man Krasnodar midfield. Having been at Everton since the age of five, Ledson is very much at home at the club and is pushing hard to get into the first team as a regular squad member. Progress has been quicker than expected with Everton keen to secure the player for the long run rather than lose him to potential suitors like Manchester City and Tottenham who have been rumoured to be interested. It would appear though that Ledson has no intentions of playing for anyone else by signing his first professional contract with Everton in August. This was swiftly followed by a first team bench appearance against Southampton, and although he didn’t make it on to the pitch it was a signal of intent by Martinez that he sees Ledson very much in his plans. England are also keen to ensure that Ledson is part of their long term plans having already watched him excel at Under 17 level. Ledson played a significant role as captain as he led the England Under 17 national team to European Championship success last season. Now very much part of Gareth Southgate’s Under 21 squad, it won’t be long until he follows in Ross Barkley’s footsteps into Roy Hodgson’s full team.
Before that happens, Ledson knows that he must establish himself as a regular starter at Everton. His performance against Krasnodar will go a long way to helping this transition with Roberto Martinez praising the way that he played. This won’t be the last time that we see him pull the strings for Everton at the heart of their midfield.