Ex-Everton prospects Apostolos Vellios, Luke Garbutt and Magaye Gueye have told their stories of where it went wrong for them at Everton, with Vellios revealing his ‘biggest mistake’… 

Greek striker Vellios signed a four-year contract at Goodison Park when he was 19 years old, moving from hometown club Iraklis for a fee of £250,000 back in January 2011.

“They showed me that they really wanted me in every way,” Vellios said of Everton’s initial interest in him. “They wanted to grab me the same day.” 

Although he was initially signed for the reserve team, David Moyes gave Vellios a first-team welcome at Finch Farm.

“Moyes was like a father to me. I remember the first day he just came and grabbed my hand and showed me everything. He really, really helped me.”  

It wasn’t long before the teenage striker was thrust into the limelight of the first team, but it wasn’t easy for Vellios.

“It was hard for me, those years. Since the day I played, everyone judged me as if I was like 30 years old.” 

Vellios managed just three goals in 24 appearances for Everton before he was told to go out on loan to benefit his development.

He instead demanded he stay and fight for his place. However, this ultimately proved to be his downfall at the club.  

“At that time I didn’t have an agent. I was young, I thought this was like a rejection to me, like they said to me, ‘You’re not good enough, you have to go on loan’. I didn’t know, I was very young. If I could change something, it is this. I would go on loan for sure.  

“That was my biggest mistake. One day the coach said, ‘I can’t put him in my squad because he doesn’t follow my rules, I said to him go on loan and he didn’t go’. That kind of destroyed my future there. 

“I still think about it sometimes, you know, because you never know what would have happened.

“It was me, Ross Barkley, John Stones, a couple of lads that are now playing in huge teams like Chelsea and Manchester City. I wonder sometimes if I went on loan that time, different future.” 

“From that moment on, I felt as though I was done at Everton Football Club.” 

Left-back Luke Garbutt signed for Everton from Leeds as a 16-year-old in a deal worth £600,000 in summer 2009.  

Unlike Vellios, he agreed to a loan move, but ultimately spent more time out on loan than he did with Everton’s first team, across six temporary moves.

His lowest moment came under Ronald Koeman in 2018, when the manager embarrassed him in front of his teammates. 

“We went to Austria in the first week of pre-season, and we were on our way back. We got off the coach at Finch Farm and he just basically told me, ‘All the internationals are coming back next week and you’re not part of my plans so you’re going to have to train with the reserves.’ 

“This is when the lads were getting off the bus, getting their bags, and I was just like, ‘This is crazy. You didn’t even have the courtesy to pull me privately into your office and have a conversation about it. 

“We’ve literally come off the bus, you’ve pulled me to one side and told me this’. I just felt a little bit disrespected.  

“Don’t get me wrong, managers make decisions all the time. I could have taken it if he went about it a different way but just the way he did it, I just felt was a bit muggy.  

“From that moment on, I felt as though I was done at Everton Football Club, which was a real shame really, and I was constantly just like a commodity, like someone who was there but not really there, not valued by the football club.” 

“I let myself down, to be honest.” 

Magaye Gueye joined Everton in 2010 from Strasbourg, signing a five-year contract for £1 million. Like Vellios, he was signed for the reserves, but soon made the step up to the first team.  

He had a similar experience of David Moyes as Vellios did, too.

“David Moyes, for me, was like a Dad. He was really strict with me, but at that time I didn’t realise why he was so strict with me. Now I know, because he trusted me, and this is the way he showed me his trust.

“I will be honest with you. When David Moyes left, everything changed. I was disappointed because when I came to Everton, it was because David Moyes wanted me. When he left, everything changed.  

“For me, he was a role model, and when he left it wasn’t the same Everton. Roberto Martinez told me straight away, I was not in his plans.  

“At that time, I was still young and it hurt me, it was hurting me really bad. I let myself down, to be honest.” 

After the interview, Magaye made a point of sending out a message to Evertonians, “I will always be a blue. I love Everton, I love you guys, you’ve been a pleasure.” 

Vellios returned to Greece after another three-year spell in England with Nottingham Forest. He recently moved to Italy’s second tier to play for Ascoli.

Garbutt was a free agent after leaving Everton last summer, and found it difficult to find a club as football felt the financial blows of the coronavirus pandemic. He eventually joined Blackpool in League One, where he is finally enjoying his football again. 

Magaye joined the reserve team of Romanian side Dinamo București, but didn’t take long to break into the first team after scoring twice on his debut. He recently scored his first goal for the senior side with a bicycle kick. 

Background image via Creative Commons

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