At the end of the season, I took a look at David Unsworth’s under-23 squad to see what lay in store for the players.
Without wishing to sound smug, I feel my predictions weren’t far off. That said, there were a couple of surprises - especially in the case of Antonee Robinson and Joe Williams who were sold to Wigan Athletic rather than being loaned out again, while a couple of the youngsters have stepped up and made a bit of a name for themselves with the Everton first-team during pre-season (namely Lewis Gibson and Nathan Broadhead).
So, let’s take a look at what’s happened to the young Blues and what’s next for them.
Who’s Left Permanently
As I already mentioned, Robinson has left the club permanently despite some impressive loan spells and even some senior international football under his belt. The Blues received a couple of million for Robinson, with Messrs Brands and Silva clearly feeling he wasn’t likely to be up to the Blues standard any time soon. It will be interesting to see if he continues to impress in the Championship and one would hope that the Blues left in some kind of buy-back option on the young left-back.
Similarly for Williams who had always been highly regarded by both Silva and David Unsworth, but has been sold outright to the Latics as well.
There had been plenty of transfer offers made for Williams from the Championship and you’d hope some sort of buy-back arrangement has been included for the tenacious midfielder.
Elsewhere, and somewhat less surprisingly, Mateusz Hewelt, Harry Charsley, Shayne Lavery, Boris Mathis, Jack Kiersey and Joe Hilton were released by the club, while Bassou Sambala (probably wisely) rejected a new contract in pursuit of first-team football in Belgium.
Brendan Galloway also moved on a free transfer to Luton Town in order to hopefully rekindle what was once looking like a promising career.
Who’s Left on Loan
Some of the lads who’ve impressed in the under-23s set up have now made the step-up to gain some senior football experience, with eye-catching moves for winger Josh Bowler (Hull City) and goalkeeper João Virginia (Reading FC). 18-year-old winger Korede Adedoyin has also gone to Hamilton Academicals in the Scottish Premiership.
Of the more “senior” youngsters, Jonjoe Kenny has made an exciting move on loan to Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga, while Kieran Dowell has gone to Derby County, but there’s still question marks over Mason Holgate and Tom Davies – both of whom need to be playing regularly in order to develop.
Who Might Still Go
Of course, with over a week to go in the transfer window (as well as Football League clubs being able to make loan moves until the end of the month), there will still surely be more outbound players leaving Goodison Park.
As mentioned earlier, 18-year-old centre-back Lewis Gibson has featured heavily for the first team in pre-season. It’s hard to see him getting much game time under Marco Silva this term, but he’s clearly well-rated and some more senior experience will do him the world of good.
The likes of Dennis Adeniran (20), Fraser Hornby (19), Nathan Markelo (20) and Morgan Feeney (20) have also had look-ins during pre-season, but they’re now all around the age where they need to go and make an impression at senior level. Another season at under-23 level for these guys would be wasted, so hopefully they’ll all be going out on loans to Championship or League One clubs.
The young star of pre-season, though, has been Nathan Broadhead. He has the best chance of featuring regularly in Marco Silva’s squad this season and I would certainly have no qualms about putting him above Theo Walcott in the pecking order. However, like the aforementioned players, he really needs to play at his age – so if he’s not going to get decent game time, many Championship clubs would be lucky to have him.