Matthew Pennington is embarking on the next phase of his career after being released by Everton.
The Warrington-born defender made his first-team debut in 2013 and looked at one stage to have a promising future at Goodison Park.
However, he was never quite able to solidify a place in the senior set-up and was sent out on a series of loans to Tranmere Rovers, Coventry City, Walsall, Leeds United, Ipswich Town, Hull City and this season to Shrewsbury Town.
Now 26, the defender’s contract has not been renewed by the Blues and he wrote a heartfelt farewell to the club and the fans on social media today:
My time at Everton has come to an end. It feels like it’s been over for a few years now with many a loan away but now is the time to officially close the chapter.
Pennington has signed a full-time contract with Shrewsbury.
I’ve spent over 15 years with the club, a place that has helped nurture me from a boy into a man and I have loved my time there. I can’t thank the people enough at the club for everything they have done, from the coaches to the players, to the physios to the chefs, to the kitman to the cleaners and of course, to the fans.
Thank you thank you for accepting me into the Everton family and for showing me the Everton way. Thank you for the journey you have taken me on and the experiences you have given me. Thank you for allowing a young boy to dream. I might be leaving the club but those values, relationships and memories will never leave me.
It’s been an honour to represent the club and wear the famous Blue jersey, from U11s all the way through to the first team. I can remember a quote that was dotted around the training ground. Some days I read it and other days I walk past it. The quote has never wrong so true: ‘Once Everton has touched you nothing will be the same.’
Can’t wait for the next stage of my journey, forever in debt it to everyone at Everton FC.
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Good luck Penno. Will always remember the Anfield goal.
An intelligent footballer but he just wasn’t fast enough or big enough to be a decent premier league defender. Hope he’ll now find himself a club to call his own, whether that be at Shrewsbury or another club.
I see we’re giving Nathan Broadhead a 2 year contract that will take him up to the age of 25. It’s worrying in one respect cos we were now meant to be more ruthless and making decisions on youth players more quickly. That said, Broadhead has been excellent in the U 23’s and has a lot of ability. He’s been unfortunate with injuries but his next loan has to be at a forward thinking Championship club that will play him each week.
Scored in the derby, which is more than many players can say. Good Luck lad.
Good luck Matthew
Good luck to the lad, hope he finds a decent club and doesnt come back to haunt us in a cup game!
He’s good enough to carry on playing and have a decent career at a lower level.
His disappointment at leaving Everton is far beyond my dreams of never having been good enough to be rejected as a kid… and scoring in the derby, always a fond hero memory.
Good luck Matthew, hope you have a great future.
However isn’t Matthew leaving at 26 a sign of the Clubs Academy system failing in its primary function?
Why did we keep a player who it was probably agreed by the age of 20 (my assumption of upper management views) was not going to make it into the first team as a regular.
Isn’t the primary function of the Academy to provide players to the first team, and secondary, if not, sell the prospect on for a decent fee.
At 26 Matthew, has spent nearly half of his playing career (say from 18) nowhere near being selected for the first team on a regular basis.
I would have thought that the Academy had basic working principles such as, if a player is not in the first team squad on a regular basis by the age of 21, then it’s time to sell or release and free the space for another prospect.
With the gaping holes in our first team bench this season something is wrong if we don’t have good enough talent to even consider throwing them on for a go – especially given the misfiring duds we already have as so called first team players.
It seems we have no joined-up thinking.
I don’t want to knock Pennington he’s a good lad and at 21/22 he seemed as if he might make it and was playing in the first team, albeit sparingly.
But to your point, we’ve offered a new deal to Broadhead who’s 23, going on 24. He’s done well at U23 level and on loan briefly but, barring a very brief cameo, he hasn’t (unlike Pennington) been in the first-team mix. So why the new deal? Do brands and Unsie rate him? Maybe but Carlo is the boss and clearly he doesn’t otherwise he’d have given him a go.
Likewise Joe Anderson, who’s 20, has had mixed reviews for U23, the Echo and some posters on here already wrote him off, but apparently he’s getting a new deal too. Meanwhile he’s been part of a U23 group that was mediocre this season, save a few U18 graduates, and Astley who hasn’t got near the first team and is also out of contract was “Player of the Year.”
It’s baffling and seems to me there’s a disconnect between Carlo, Unsworth and Brands with each having their own ideas that influence awards and contracts but no overall cohesion.
Dave, you voice what a lot of ToffeeWebbers feel about players like this, especially when you talk about ‘freeing space’ for younger players. However, the club clearly doesn’t see it like this. Unsworth himself has talked about how much better it is when the promising youngsters play against and alongside older, more experienced players. You may still disagree with the policy, but it isn’t a failure, it’s a deliberate choice to keep the odd player around with a bit more experience in order to help the development of the others.
The idea is that a bunch of 18-year-olds playing against and alongside each other aren’t going to learn much about first-team football. Sticking the odd fringe first teamer in, or someone with lower-league loan experience, like Pennington and Broadhead, exposes the youngsters to something they wouldn’t otherwise get.
So, a balancing act to be sure, but I see the sense in the policy and don’t really see that we are stifling a cohort of 18-year-olds by keeping a couple of older heads around. Unsworth certainly believes we’re helping them develop by doing it, and it would seem that Brands agrees – at least to an extent.
Really classy letter.
Hope he’s bought a McDonald’s franchise he can easily take £50k a year out and not take a step inside the place with a decent manager.
Just in case the footy peters out.
Good luck to him. He has obviously worked hard from a very young age to forge a career in the professional game. Good enough for Everton? I never thought so in terms of where I want to see us. But to even get to that standard and be considered good enough, and to play in the top tier of English football, commands the utmost respect.
On the academy thing, health warning as I’m beating my drum again. The grassroots system feeding the academy system isn’t good enough, so we end up with lots of okay players but few really good ones (in the context of top-flight football). We then start over-rating them. With good intent, I would add because we all desperately want our own to succeed; and succeed with us.
Because our grassroots system is obsessed with winning an under-10 match, many talented players get overlooked too often because they’re “too small” or “too lightweight” or “not quick enough”. As a non-English example, the next Tony Kroos won’t get scouted if he’s not on the pitch. Okay he is now 6 foot tall, but wasn’t at 12 years old. He’s not a powerhouse and was never particularly quick.
Meanwhile in Wavertree, little Johnny, the next English Messi, gets 5 minutes at the end once the game is in the bag just to keep his parents happy. Don’t want to risk playing him as we might get beat by a Mossley Hill. Never getting played, he leaves football aged 14.
Our grassroots has barely moved on since the 1970s and 1980s when I was a kid. Obviously it’s all down to judgement and opinion.
Anyway, I’ve gone off on one again. My apologies. Back to the point. Good luck Matthew.
Ive gone really anti-academy Danny, but nothing will change until people realize that it is just a business.
Id love to see a much better system put into grass-roots football, the first being that because of the lockdown and leagues running late, I think people can see that watching and playing in this slightly warmer weather is a much more enjoyable experience for both parents and kids.
This is also more productive in helping skill because sometimes in the winter I look at kids freezing and getting soaked to the skin, and ask myself what enjoyment are these kids actually getting?
It wont make them nesh, it will just improve technical ability imo, and going back to these academies for my proof that its just a business, how many professional footballers have you heard say they have been in the academies since they were seven, and yet they can still only kick the ball with one foot?
Pennington was a unique one. He had a bad injury at around 19/20 years old that kept him out for a while. When he came back, he was head and shoulders ahead of anyone else in the U23s and played a few times for the first team.
We then had a choice, let him go for free or offer him a new contract, send him on loan and hopefully end up with a player ready to push on for the first team or a player with top flight experience that we could sell for a fee. Sadly none of them happened.
I’d rather, in situations like this, take a gamble keeping a young player a season or 2 longer than bringing in an expensive senior pro who will also not get near the first team. Would Broadhead have done anything that King hasn’t done this season? Broadhead’s entire wages for the time that King has been here probably equal about 2 weeks worth of King’s wages and for the same net contribution.
Brendon Galloway, Tyias Browning, Matthew Pennington were all highly acclaimed young defenders at one time. They were unable to make it to the very top, just part of natural selection – the cream rises to the top, but these players provide the foundation and competition to enable the best to reach their potential.
All the best to Mathew – a very heartfelt letter (albeit, with a few grammatical errors!)
Tony, excellent point. I have always thought the same. Actually l remember myself shivering with my sleeves pulled down over my hands. Not that much fun.
I too have grave reservations about our academy set-up. Managers are usually only concerned with the first team which is understandable. But surely the role of a Director of Football is to look at all aspects of the coaching and, for me, the DOF should concentrate on everything but the first team and leave that to the manager.
I do think that Ancelotti has had an impact as he has looked at the age of our U23s and seen that, if 21-year-olds are playing having hardly made the first-team squad, they need moving out or on loan, which is what seems to be happening.
I also agree about the youngsters playing in the summer not only at grassroots but also up to Under-18 level in the professional game. One year, I was in Portugal overlooking a football ground and they had youngsters coming in at 5:00 pm and they just worked on technique with the ball for an hour. I wonder how much time our youngsters spend on technique? Seems apart from 1 or 2 exceptions, that English players generally have a worst first touch than many foreign players.
I think for too long the English game has been about energy and commitment, mind I think of the effect that Guardiola has had is changing that perception. Certainly when you look at Foden and Mount and Grealish they all have good technique.
Danny @ 11; spot on mate, I have my own similar tale from the 80s…too ‘small’ (a Vardy-esque 5ft 9???) etc, etc… but if you get a 6 footer like him let me know.
Owen, Fowler, MacManaman, none big and burly… but somehow missed.
Peter Withe, a big Speke lad, mad Evertonian, used to sell programs on the corner of the Gas showrooms and County Road, he was that keen… but somehow not good enough.
I’ve said it before; all our scouts should’ve gone to Spec Savers.
Can anyone justify this? It’s taken 15 years to work out if a junior is good enough for the 1st team? He’s made 9 appearances, the last one 4 years ago and on loan has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus. I believe that on loan there is only a very limited window to recall him, so it’s not like he can be used in an injury crisis.
I take it he’s leaving as a free agent so Everton will get diddly squat from his next club. Well at least Everton now don’t have to fork out for his gold carriage clock.
Did I miss his testimonial?
I think loads of English players have a good technique, in fact, the player I enjoyed watching the most in last night’s Europa League Final was Mason Greenwood, because he done most things early, usually with crisp forward passes, and it was obvious to see that this kid has been very well coached, imo.
I just think academies give to many parents and kids alike “stars in their eyes” and create a falseness way too early in these young children’s lives When kids get released, going back to grassroots is actually an alien culture for many of them, such is the difference between grassroots and academy football.
If the clubs helped to put more of their coaches into grassroots training sessions, and kept the younger children away from academy football, I don’t think the kids would lose out, but the clubs would though, such is the competition to find the next Premier League footballer, between them.
Good luck lad. If a few here had your heart we would be a better club for it.
Tony 19, I enjoyed watching Greenwood last night too, I wish we had him. There was a moment he was up against the left back near the 18yd box, the defender poised for him to come inside, then Greenwood accelerated past him like out wide, his burst of pace left the full back a yard behind, and fired a good cross in from the byline. I am looking forward to our new right sided forward bringing some of his directness next season.
Good luck to Pennington, always seemed an honest and determined player with a good attitude, but always came up short of being top class. I hope he has a great career in the the lower leagues.
Cavani’s look just after that play told me everything I needed to know about Greenwood, Tony, and that’s why I would be worried if I was Calvert-Lewin, because this young kid (Greenwood) is too good to be left out of the England squad imo, and I’m not sure it’s a foregone conclusion for Dominic, because England has a lot of talented footballers right now.
Really nice kid, though if there were anyone that the (incredibly overused) phrase “Championship level at best” is applicable to, it’s Pennington. Nothing wrong with that though, and as others have said, only a select few manage to score a derby goal in their careers.
Not a fan of the elite academy system either Tony. They’ve evolved into self-contained bubbles detached from the real world. I’m a big fan of natural development and feel many of these players miss out on real world natural development. Now, I know there’s a counter to that, but I would like to see them much more in touch with the grass roots that should feed them. But then we’d need to bring grass roots up to a better level to enable that. At the moment, they’re too far apart.
I like the idea of youth football in the warmer months. I’d also like to see us introduce what they have on the continent. Training and youth football on clay pitches. It promotes staying on your feet and passing the ball / keeping the ball.
Brian Harrison; can’t disagree with just about all of that. Some very good points.
I also like the analysis on Greenwood. Especially the bit about doing things early. You can beat a player with an early decision and quick change of pace, even if you can’t beat them in a 25 yard sprint. He is definitely a talent. In fairness, probably the one top tier English club that has used its academy to better effect than just about everyone over the years.
I’m sorry Danny but that’s just not true of kids football these days and probably hasn’t been for some time. ‘The next Messi’ isn’t going to be coming on with 5 minutes to go… he’d be spotted at 3 or 4 years of age.
There might be some genuine criticism of the academy system but I think it is more that the Premier League is the best in the world and only the very best from around the world are going to be able to play at the level needed to get into a Top 6 team, so, no matter what you do, there is going to be loads of academy players not making it at somewhere like Everton.
Mark, I totally agree on the point that many, many academy players won’t make it at Everton and elsewhere. That’s football, that’s any walk of professional life.
In honesty at least one thing the academy system does, as it has done for Matthew, is give them a profession and a career. Unfortunately, and in the main, that is not with Everton as much as we’d like.
My point about the next Messi is way down the football chain. On the parks across England and the unorganised system we have, the lad (next potential Messi) doesn’t get to play often so doesn’t get noticed. So will never make an academy. He gives up football. Like any walk of life, people grow and develop at different stages, so we shouldn’t discount or dismiss them too early.
We need to improve the grass roots and get it better connected to the academies and vice-versa. Maybe I’m not explaining myself well, but that’s where I’m coming from.
I wonder if he’s the only Blue player to have scored his one and only Everton goal in a derby? What a moment that was:
The following week was my first game ever at Goodison, and Matty was starting. He was timid, jittery and culpable for a goal in the first half — he and Robles together were a heart attack in cleats — but in the second 45, he calmed down nicely and contributed well to the victory. Made one particularly lovely tackle on Vardy, who is not easy to catch from two steps behind.
Nothing but the best wishes to the young man. May he have a long and healthy career wherever he lands.
Mike #9 appreciate your comments but surely the policy of keeping some “older heads” around purely to integrate some “younger heads” would by now have paid some dividends?
I see no proof whatsoever that this “balancing” has resulted in providing the first team with any substantive talent or indeed generated any significant transfer fees for any Academy player.
If the Academy player is good enough then he should be elevated to the first team squad ASAP and hell be guided by the older lags in the first team squad.
Alternatively we should have a number of lower league feeder clubs (who we financially support) and get our Academy players out into real competitive football with crowds and meaningful consequences of performance.
Then we have a “real world” picture of their capabilities but this process shouldnt go further than past the age of 20.
Statistically the number of players who leave the Academy and “come back to haunt us” is minuscule which suggests to me from a very early age (Id say 18) the Academy management should have an almost 100% success rate in deciding if the player will make it or not to the first team.
The only caveat being the player having been set back by a serious injury but this will also be the exception not the norm.
So yes I believe any Academy players still on our books in their mid 20s and nowhere near first team consideration is a signal of a disfunction of the Academy’s raison d’être.
Tony (19), Greenwood was excellent, a real talent, what about the other young player for United in midfield, not English but Scottish so near enough, McTominay, I thought he was the best for United in that position, up and down the field, carrying the ball, dribbling, passing the ball short and long, getting his tackles in, while Pogba did the same in fits and starts, like he always does, giving 70% instead of doing it for the full game like the young Scottish kid, who always plays ‘til he drops, yet Pogba has been and will be transferred for an over the top fee while this young lad is the better value for me, I wish Everton had this kid in midfield, he would improve us immediately.
Danny (26, and before) you make many good points. I coached my lads team from u7 on-and-off until u14 (last year, when the team disbanded during Covid). The winter matches were terrible – particularly for coaches and their kids who had to set up the pitches and pack away again at the end and could be there for twice as long as the other parents/kids. No fun for substitutes when they’re freezing on the sidelines on a Sunday morning, and no fun for anyone when matches could be cancelled for week after week due to unplayable pitches.
The team I coached were always in the bottom division, but the kids liked playing against teams of similar ability rather than playing the best teams and being thrashed. There was one kid at the club (different team) who stood out already at the age of 7, and the last I heard he was in the u15 England squad and playing for Man City. Any scouts would watch the top team from an age group rather than the bottom team from the age group above – I don’t think it was a coincidence that my team almost all had birthdays in the spring/summer (and were physically smaller than the top teams).
Despite my lad stopping with club football, he’s now started playing in a weekly game with me, which is a joy (and a similar standard to his previous team!).
Definitely Dave, I picked out Greenwood, because even at a very young age, his awareness and technical ability was as good as anyone on the pitch, but McTominay, and Cavani, were the only United players, constantly offering real drive imo, which is testament to the way theyve been brought through the ranks of United, at a club that has always brought great players through, throughout the decades.
I hope Everton can replicate having three homegrown players, playing in a European final in the future, because thats got to be the standard top academies, that are not cheap to operate, must be trying to reach, and I was also very surprised to see McTominay was brought up in Garstang, so not that that far from Old Trafford.
One thing I have noticed when watching young Everton teams, is that the players dont seem to really enjoy having the ball at their feet? Ive picked out Whitaker, he reminds me of a young Adrien Heath, but for all his natural movement and ability, he does look like he needs to be coached to stop being careless, especially when hes just made the game look easy, after doing something very good?
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