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How will Everton be boosted by the return of young loanees next season?

Younger Blues return to the fold with plenty of first team experience

AZ Alkmaar v PSV - Dutch Eredivisie Photo by Photo Prestige/Soccrates/Getty Images

As the dust begins to settle after a dramatic season finale which saw Everton maintain their Premier League status, there are bound to be some exits from the club as contracts expire at the end of June. Yerry Mina, for instance, has already announced his departure. A few other first team squad players like club captain Seamus Coleman, Tom Davies, Andros Townsend and goalkeepers Asmir Begovic and Andy Lonergan are yet to be offered or take up new terms. Loan terms for Conor Coady and Ruben Vinagre have expired also with both gone from the club. A raft of youngsters will also inevitably depart, the most high profile being Isaac Price who is reportedly joining Standard Liege of Belgium.

But what of the incomings? Speculation will grow and grow over the coming weeks but there is, of course, the small matter of the findings of the independent commission investigating alleged breach of Financial Fair Play to consider. Too early to predict what might happen but the obvious possibilities are a hefty fine, a points deduction for next season, the need to comply with even stricter spending controls, a transfer embargo or a combination of any or all of those. Then there’s the question as to whether the sanctions, assuming there are some, are imposed with immediate or suspended effect. Lots to worry about in spite of last weekend’s relief!

With all that to offer Evertonians yet more insomnia, we can at least look at a few certainties and they are the return of players we loaned out to various clubs over the last 12 months.

For the purpose of this discussion I have disregarded the returning senior players like Andre Gomes, Jean-Phillip Gbamin, Dele, goalkeeper Joao Virginia {who will be reviewed in a separate article] and a few players like former Under 21 captain Ryan Astley and Lewis Gibson whose contracts appear to expire without Everton offering new terms.

In total last season, the Toffees sanctioned 18 separate loan arrangements for players to join other clubs. Some of those were continuation of loan (Moise Kean), loan leading to permanent sale (Nathan Broadhead), loan recalled for Everton’s own squad (Ellis Simms) and repeat loans for two players (Niels Nkounkou and Tyler Onyango).

So how might the return of the younger players offer Sean Dyche a first glimpse of what he already has? It’s one of the few things we can do right now with any degree of confidence.

The younger players in question are:

Jarrad Branthwaite (loan to PSV in Dutch Eridivisie), Niels Nkounkou (initial loan to Cardiff City in the Championship then Saint-Etienne in French Ligue 2), Tom Cannon (loan to Preston North End in Championship), Lewis Dobbin (loan to Derby County in League One) Lewis Warrington (loan to Fleetwood Town in League One), Tyler Onyango (initial loan to Burton Albion then Duncan Ferguson’s Forest Green Rovers both League One teams) and finally Harry Tyrer (loan to Chester in National League North).

How did they fare and what might they offer Sean Dyche?

AZ Alkmaar v PSV - Dutch Eredivisie
Jarrad Branthwaite
Photo by Photo Prestige/Soccrates/Getty Images

Jarrad Branthwaite

Branthwaite, still only 20, enjoyed a great season for PSV as they won the major KNVB Cup, finished runners up in the top flight and earned a place in the Champions League next season. He featured in 37 games across competition and scored 4 goals, a healthy return for a centre back. Initially not starting all the games, he became a fixture in the team during the second half of the season and it was widely reported that then coach, Ruud van Nistelrooy, had wanted to sign Branthwaite permanently both during the January transfer window and at the end of the current season.

Van Nistelrooy’s resignation cited a “lack of support from the board” so Everton’s alleged refusal to sanction a permanent exit may have impacted that decision.

What can he offer Everton next season? An awful lot in my opinion. For me, he’s one of the standout young English centre backs in the Premier League. At 6’5” he’s commanding in the air yet assured on the ground. Not slow either, I think his biggest asset is his distribution from the backline. We saw a few signs of that calm intelligent passing in his time under Carlo Ancelotti in his first games for the Blues and although for me, it was a disappointment that Frank Lampard chose to release him on loan it may, with hindsight, turn out to be an excellent move all round. I think he can learn the professional and uglier side of the game from the perfect teacher in James Tarkowski. With Yerry Mina and now Conor Coady gone I believe we have a perfect replacement in the young Cumbrian.

England U21 v France U21 - International Friendly
Niels Nkounkou playing for France Under 21s
Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Niels Nkounkou

Nkounkou, now 22, has officially now activated a permanent transfer option in his loan contract with Saint-Etienne to become a permanent signing for them. This season, the young Marseille graduate’s time was equally divided between his 4 months in the Welsh capital with Cardiff where he made 18 appearances with 1 assist and his far more productive stint in Ligue 2 where he scored an outstanding 6 goals and contributed a massive 8 assists all from a left wing back position. He earned a call-up to the French Under 21 side and it is happily an upward trajectory for the talented full back.

What might he have offered Sean Dyche next season? Nothing now of course as he has officially left the club. Much would have depended upon what system we would see from the Blues in 2023/ 24, in other words would we see a repeat of the back 5 that helped Everton secure safety? As a wing back he had clearly made his mark albeit it not in the top tier. When I had seen him play for Everton his forward-thinking play was really good, remembering that great backheel lay-off for a goal against Fleetwood Town in his first season. In a back four however, his positional sense was found badly wanting. I doubt if he could have offered Dyche the defensive reliability he would insist on.

Republic of Ireland v Iceland - Under-21 International Friendly
Tom Cannon
Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Tom Cannon

Cannon, 20, had an outstanding half season for Everton Under 21s playing 17 times across competition and scoring 12 goals and registering 3 assists. He also got some first team minutes under previous manager Lampard. His January move to Preston got off to a slow burn but his manager Ryan Lowe had great faith in him and, as I’ve seen before with Cannon, once he starts scoring he doesn’t want to stop. He scored 8 goals and registered 1 assist in the Championship and earned a call up to the senior Ireland international squad.

What can he offer Sean Dyche next season? One word, goals. He’s unlikely to provide many assists because as all good strikers do, if he sees a chance at goal why would he pass it!! Goals were a precious commodity during the last season at first team level as we painfully know. There must be renewed confidence that Cannon could make an impact at senior level for the Blues. It’s exactly what loans are for, players to go out and prove themselves either for the first time like Cannon or for more senior players to regain confidence.

Personally, I can see Everton bringing in few strikers and then it will depend on whether Dyche is able to play his favoured “two up top” in either a 5-3-2 or his seemingly preferred 4-4-2. So Tom Cannon’s immediate Goodison future is more likely to be as back up unless of course there’s some kind of embargo on transfers in which case he might find himself in line for regular minutes. He has shown he can score at a better level than Under 21 which will serve him well regardless.

Peterborough United v Derby County - Sky Bet League One - Weston Homes Stadium
Lewis Dobbin (right) playing for Derby
Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

Dobbin, still only 20 despite having been on the Blues Under 21 scene for a few years, spent the season with newly relegated Derby County in League One. Statistically he featured in a massive 54 games for the Rams though only about half of those were in the starting X1. Featuring often as a winger rather than his striker role he scored 5 goals and registered 6 assists cross competition.

What can he offer Sean Dyche next season? I think a lot depends on Dobbin himself and how he looks to impress the first team manager in training with his obvious assets of pace, trickery and energy. On his day he can really explode into action. His spell at the Rams can look like an average achievement given the goals and assists return and it will be disappointing for him as well as Everton that he didn’t nail down a starting place. However, the experience of the physicality of that league should serve him well. Pre-season training and Everton’s restrictions in the transfer market will determine what next season holds.

Bolton Wanderers v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One
Lewis Warrington playing for Fleetwood
Photo by Mike Morese/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lewis Warrington

Warrington, another 20 year old, has really benefited from the loan system in the past 2 seasons, firstly at Tranmere Rovers and most recently for Fleetwood. He featured an impressive 46 times across all competitions for Fleetwood, scoring just the 1 goal and 2 assists. While statistically that appears a disappointing return he was a very regular name on the teamsheet for the League One outfit and his game is less about goals and assists in the same way as Idrissa Gana Gueye for Everton’s first team.

What can he offer Sean Dyche next season? His game is definitely about breaking up play, receiving and being “brave on the ball” (to use a Dyche expression) and being calm. They’re all attributes that Sean Dyche likes and I would not be surprised to see Warrington feature heavily in the early training sessions. Again, it is probably the system deployed that will determine whether he gets first team involvement. He’s not going to supply a great deal of goals or assists in the first team but that did not stop big signing Amadou Onana impressing in his first season at least initially under Lampard. Although Onana is a completely different sized and more athletic unit to Warrington, his record was 35 games with 1 goal and 2 assists (the same) yet few would doubt the Belgian’s value.

Shrewsbury Town v Forest Green Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Tyler Onyango playing for Forest Green Rovers
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Tyler Onyango

Onyango, yet another 20 year old, will feel the most disappointed of all the loanees we exported this season. His first loan spell in League One with Burton Albion saw him feature a healthy 24 games across competition registering just the one assist. He returned early from that loan to facilitate another this time at the specific request of former Everton legend Duncan Ferguson who made him his first signing for struggling Forest Green Rovers (FGR). Sadly, in his third game for FGR he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury, the second successive season that injury has hindered his progress. He returned back to Finch Farm for rehabilitation.

What can he offer Sean Dyche next season? Firstly, stating the obvious, he has to get himself fit and stay fit for a sustained period of time. It’s unlikely that will come in time for him to try to impress Dyche in pre-season training but if he keeps his chin up then he might look to get some training involvement once the season is underway. When fit, Onyango is a tall and athletic presence in centre midfield. He’s still young and has improvement in him so it’s a case of fingers crossed for better luck!

Everton Training Session
Harry Tyrer
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Harry Tyrer

Tyrer, now 21, had a simply stellar season in the 6th tier of English football with Chester. He kept goal every minute of 47 games and kept 18 clean sheets in that period. He was also named in National League North’s team of the season. Although there is no comparison skill-wise between that league and the Premier League you can be 100% sure that your physicality as a goalkeeper would be tested, possibly even more. With very positive reviews of his performance from the Cheshire club who finished 3rd and had the fewest goals conceded in the entire league, it was a great loan for the Crosby-born stopper who has a further year left on his current contract at Goodison.

What can he offer Sean Dyche next season? With Asmir Begovic and Andy Lonergan in the last weeks of their contract, speculation mounting about the future of Jordan Pickford, he can at the very least be back up at the top level. The experience of the last 9 months at Chester will have helped him enormously. Of the goalkeepers who will definitely be at the club next season, Pickford aside, Tyrer, for me, has got the most potential to go on and become a first team player. He has presence, agility, holds onto the ball when he can and now has that vital experience albeit in a lesser world.

Good luck to all the returning players, we might just need you!