The 2017/18 Premier League is far from over with last round of games billed for Sunday. Yet Everton is already preparing for the next campaign by handing academy graduate Matthew Pennington a new deal.
Despite moving to Merseyside aged 11, the 23-year-old is still very much unknown in Finch Farm. Pennington has missed his way around the Toffees’ first-team squad since breaking through in 2015.
He’s managed less than 10 appearances after his debut. Due to limited game time, the Englishman has been reduced to a nomad four different times. First Tranmere Rovers, followed by spells at Coventry City and Walsall. Then Leeds United.
Of all, his time in Elland Road was the most prosperous. Pennington featured consistently for the Whites. He racked up an impressive 24 appearances in the heart of Paul Heckingbottom’s defence. Such that Sam Allardyce was forced to promptly return for him.
In Pennington, Everton may have the long-term solution to their centre-back woes. The Toffees haven’t been at their pitiless best this term, conceding 55 times – joint worst of any team in the top half.
After all, Everton isn’t blessed with youth at the back. Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams are far past their prime, with a combined age of 68. While Ramiro Funes Mori is rarely to be trusted owing to his injury records. Pennington could just become Michael Kane’s future cohort. He’s got all the traits to achieve that as long as he stays fit.
Intelligent, hardworking and astute, the 23-year-old is very much suited to the Goodison style.
Not your modern-day rearguard always on the lookout for goals, though, Pennington is content with defensive duties rather than storm forward for personal glory. His ability to slot into more than one role is a bonus.
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