Matthew Pennington has been thrust into the limelight in the last week or so after two of Everton’s backline succumbed to injuries, but do you really know who he is?
It’s easy to think of the Warrington-born defender as a ‘kid’ considering Tuesday was just his eighth game for the senior side, but at 22 his window for making it in the Premier League is closing fast.
After Ashley Williams’ sending off against Manchester United, the Wales captain is suspended for Sunday’s clash against Leicester City. This leaves Ronald Koeman almost bereft of choices for his backline.
Pennington has struggled in the 90 minutes he’s played so far over two games, caught out for pace and poorly positioned in the Derby against Liverpool and then mismatched often against Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United.
A Toffee since the age of 11, Pennington is a graduate of the Everton Academy and has one cap for the England Under 19 side. He has a total of 45 appearances for the Blues youth sides where he has played primarily at the right center half spot.
During the 2013-14 season, he went out on two month-long loan spells to crosstown Tranmere Rovers for whom he made a total of 17 appearances. He spent the most of the next season at Coventry City playing in 25 games total and picked up the Sky Blues’ Young Player of the Year award.
Having signed a new three-year contract in the summer of 2015, he made his debut for the Blues playing in the first half of the 5-3 away win at Barnsley in the League Cup. Pennington then suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for some time and he was back with the Everton juniors. He got another half in for the Toffees in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup before he went out on loan in March 2016 to Walsall in League One to assist their march towards promotion.
However, with Everton seeking injury reinforcements towards the campaign, he was recalled to Finch Farm and started the last three games of Roberto Martinez’s tenure, and the one game under caretaker manager David Unsworth. He unfortunately picked up a serious hamstring injury over the summer that kept him out of whole first half of this season and he only returned to match fitness recently.
Can Matthew Pennington cut it as a Premier League level defender with Everton? #EFC— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) April 6, 2017
While Pennington did pick up a goal in the Derby over the weekend, his primary role remains as a central defender but it’s difficult to see him making the vast improvements necessary to make the step up to Premier League calibre.
His inability to assert himself physically as well as showing a poor touch with making upfield passes makes it difficult to see a future for him under Koeman, though there remains a chance that a spell in the Championship or League One could help his development.