Within hours of running out with the first team in Bolton on Tuesday night, two of Everton’s brightest prospects, midfielder Lewis Warrington and winger Stan Mills, were on the road again, this time to the south of the UK, finalising moves to Plymouth Argyle and Oxford United respectively.
For Warrington it is the third season he has spent away from Everton. Each loan has seen him pit his skills in progressively higher divisions of the Football League starting with Tranmere Rovers (League Two), Fleetwood Town (League One) and now, newly promoted to the Championship, Plymouth Argyle.
It’ll be interesting to see how he develops under the guidance of Argyle manager Steven Schumacher, a manager that, as a young Everton player, was in a remarkably similar position 20 years ago. Schumacher had been part of the 2002 FA Youth cup team that featured a certain Wayne Rooney and as a promising central midfielder found himself unable to break into David Moyes’ first team. He himself had loan spells at a similar age with Carlisle United and Oldham Athletic in the lower divisions, so he is very well-placed to understand the stage at which Warrington finds himself.
In theory, Warrington will be out of contract at Goodison by the end of his loan at the South coast club but we all know those things can change and you do get the impression that the next 12 months will shape his Everton future.
Director of Football, Kevin Thelwell, had this to say as Warrington departed:
“Lewis has benefitted greatly from his previous loan spells and we believe his move to Plymouth in a competitive league like the Championship will provide him with further key experience to support his development and help him continue the impressive progress he has made at Everton.”
Good luck Lewis, we hope to see him back in 2024 to continue that upward trajectory in divisions of the English League, but in the blue of the club he supports rather than the green of the Devon club!
I guess with Stan Mills there’s a mixture of disappointment and anticipation as he signed on a 12-month loan deal for League One Oxford United on Thursday. Unlike Warrington this is the 19 year-old’s first spell away from Goodison since he arrived as a youngster from Leeds United.
Disappointment because at a time when Everton have found goals hard to come by at senior level, Mills proved himself to be a free-scoring right winger for the Under 21s last season, bagging himself 14 goals across all competitions. His athleticism, stamina, pace and directness seemed tailor-made for a Sean Dyche team yet the call has never really arrived in earnest for the son of ex England international Danny Mills.
The anticipation is in seeing whether he can take his skills into the hurly burly of men’s football at a club which was only two places off relegation last term. He absolutely needs not to be playing Under 21s football next season as he simply has nothing left to prove; a further season consolidating what he already knows would not develop him one iota.
There is a positive to be taken though with the choice of Oxford, where Liam Manning is in charge. The 37-year-old has been widely credited for nurturing England international midfielder Declan Rice and for the great job he did with a limited squad at MK Dons not that long ago. His high-possession, high-pressing style is one that Mills is not familiar with from his time at Everton and could be a great talent to nurture given his pace and workrate.
Director of Football, Kevin Thelwell, said this about young Mills:
“Stan has made encouraging progress through our Academy, resulting in competitive action and training sessions with our Men’s Senior Team.
“His move to Oxford United is his first loan switch and will provide him with vital experience in League One to support the next phase of his development.”
Having seen a lot of Mills over the last two seasons I think, on reflection, this is absolutely the best call for him. At a new club where we can expect them to be playing on the counter- attack for a lot of the time it should play to his strengths in stretching the game and getting to the opposition box quickly. Stan is contracted to the Blues for a further season after this loan so we should see him back in 12 months’ time, hopefully a more experienced and proven senior player. Good luck Stan!