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Sligo Rovers and Everton announced a “Strategic Partnership” between the two sides yesterday. The new agreement will see the two clubs partner on several initiatives. There will be information sharing between academy coaches and pre-season training link-ups. According to the formal statement “The clubs will exchange knowledge across both coaching and business operations.”
The best known link between the Merseyside club and the Bit O’Red was the 2009 signing of the then 20-year-old Seamus Coleman. The Killybegs native has went on to make over 300 first team appearances for the Premier League side. He has also captained both club and country during this time.
However, it is far from the first link between the two side. In 1939 Everton’s record goalscorer William Ralph “Dixie” Dean signed for Sligo Rovers. In his brief cameo at the club he scored ten goals in seven games. His five goals in a 7-1 win over Waterford is a club record that still remains to this day. He also picked up an FAI cup runners-up medal. Rovers losing out to Shelbourne 1-0 after a replay in that years cup final.
This formal partnership between Everton and a League of Ireland club is not a first by any means. In 1995 Home Farm agreed a deal wereby they were sponsored by the Merseyside giants. In return Home Farm Everton, as they were know for four seasons, gave Everton first refusal on their academy players. Future Irish international Richard Dunne was signed by the club as a result of this deal.
This partnership may pave the way for similar tie-ups between League of Ireland clubs and top flight English teams. New employment regulations resulting from Brexit preclude English sides from signing u-18 players. Ireland may act as a base for Premier league sides to train young talent. One would hope this would have a beneficial effect on opportunities for young Irish players and in the long run the national side.