Everton signed up-and-coming central midfielder James Garner on the final day of the 2022 summer transfer window after agreeing a deal worth an initial £9m with Manchester United. The final fee had the potential to rise to £15.5m based on appearances for a player who had featured prominently in Nottingham Forest's successful promotion push in 2021-22 in what was his second season-long loan spell away from Old Trafford.
The Birkenhead-born player had spent the campaign before at Watford as a 19-year-old and only made eight appearances for the Hornets in what was their own push for promotion back to the Premier League.
"I spoke with the manager. He's got a real plan for the club and for me," Garner said when he signed. "Working with him on a daily basis is major for me and my development. I think that was the key reason."
It took a while for James to break into the side and establish himself at Everton, a situation not helped by a back injury sustained prior to the mid-season break for the World Cup that would sideline him for a few frustating weeks while Frank Lampard struggled to keep the team on an even keel.
Lampard was sacked in January 2023 and, once fit again, Garner started to make inroads under new boss, Sean Dyche. By the end of a campaign that saw the Blues avoid relegation once more by the skin of their teeth he had emerged as a key memberof the team, displaying his versatilty by filling in at right wing-back in the final couple of games as injury deprived Dyche of all of his available natural full-backs.
He would reprise the role for England U21s that summer playing throughout the Euopean Championships as England won the tournament for the first time in almost 40 years.
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