As we wind down our 2014-2015 season reviews we come to the bit players of the club, the squad. Typically squad players tend to be veterans on the bench for reinforcement and young players looking to gain some match experience. This season, Everton carried 28 players that saw the pitch at one point or another.
For the purposes of this article, we are considering the following players to be part of the Everton's squad as they were not part of the starting core: Tony Hibbert (9 appearances), Luke Garbutt (11), Christian Atsu (13). Due to the Toffee's bouts with the injury bug, several players who could be considered squad players missed significant parts of the campaign which limited their roles but did not qualify them as a "squad" player.
The group of squad players are often overlooked but when used at the right time, they can provide a much needed spark. This season, Everton had one reliable veteran player in Tony Hibbert and a couple of promising youngsters in Garbutt and Atsu.
Some may have expected Astu to have a larger role when he was brought in on loan from Chelsea at the start of the season. The hope was that he would flourish under manager Roberto Martinez just like another forward on loan from Chelsea had done the previous season. Things did not quite work out that way for Atsu though as his game time severely trailed off as the season went on. At the start, he was heavily used as a substitute in Europa League competitions but sparingly used in Premier League matches. He picked up a hamstring injury in December which, coupled with his national team duties caused him to be out of the Everton lineup until Feburay 19th.
Regarding Atsu's national team work, he was brilliant as Ghana won the Africa Cup of Nations. That form did not come back to England though as Martinez only played Atsu five more times the rest of the season after his return. During his time with the club he did not tally any goals but did notch two assists. At the end of his loan, Atsu returned to Chelsea only to be loaned out to Bournemouth for the 2015-2016 season.
Next up, defender Luke Garbutt. The 2014-2015 season saw the 22-year old left back called up to the senior squad as it was determined that he was ready for the top flight. The bulk of Garbutt's action came in the Europa League after injuries took down Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines. He was also part of the bench group or playing for the club's other cup ties. Due to his impressive play in Europe, he saw his bench appearances increase during the second half of the season and he gained some valuable league playing time in March.
As the season went on, the talk about Garbutt was focused less on his play than his looming contract expiration. There were concerns that he may be leaving Everton over the summer as he has yet to displace Leighton Baines in the starting eleven. We know now that it has been all sorted out with Garbutt signing a new deal and agreeing to go out on loan to newly promoted Bournemouth for the 2015-2016 season with plans to return after next year to once again challenge Baines.
In his eleven appearances this year, Garbutt nabbed one assist and picked up two yellow cards.
Finally, the reliable veteran, Tony Hibbert. Hibbert, 34 is an Everton lifer having joined the club's youth academy back in 1991; before Christian Atsu and Luke Garbutt were even born. He had been the Toffee's starting right back for years until age and injuries started catching up with him during the 2012-2013 season. The following year brought the emergence of Seamus Coleman who has now solidified his role in what was once Hibbert's spot. Ever the faithful servant Hibbert has remained with the club and though his the majority of the season he was once again hampered by injuries, he did make more appearances than he had in the past two years. In his nine appearances, he did not score any goals - not surprising as he has never scored a goal for Everton in his 314 appearances. Hibbert is under contact with Everton through next season.
Give us your thoughts below on how the squad players did this year. As with the other reviews, we are using the A+-F voting system with "A+" being excellent, "C" being average and "F" meaning that it's time to hang up their boots and start selling those soap sculptures they made while sitting on the bench.