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.
Reader Comments (36)
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1 Posted 26/05/2021 at 20:13:19
2 Posted 26/05/2021 at 20:20:14
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.
3 Posted 26/05/2021 at 21:44:05
4 Posted 26/05/2021 at 21:54:39
5 Posted 26/05/2021 at 23:21:14
6 Posted 27/05/2021 at 00:22:31
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.
7 Posted 27/05/2021 at 03:29:44
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.
8 Posted 27/05/2021 at 03:41:31
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.
9 Posted 27/05/2021 at 07:30:34
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.
10 Posted 27/05/2021 at 07:51:45
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.
11 Posted 27/05/2021 at 08:18:35
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.
12 Posted 27/05/2021 at 09:00:08
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?
13 Posted 27/05/2021 at 09:10:49
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.
14 Posted 27/05/2021 at 09:56:40
All the best to Mathew – a very heartfelt letter (albeit, with a few grammatical errors!)
15 Posted 27/05/2021 at 09:56:47
16 Posted 27/05/2021 at 10:03:04
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.
17 Posted 27/05/2021 at 10:06:35
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.
18 Posted 27/05/2021 at 10:24:16
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?
19 Posted 27/05/2021 at 10:53:22
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.
20 Posted 27/05/2021 at 10:53:41
21 Posted 27/05/2021 at 11:20:46
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.
22 Posted 27/05/2021 at 11:52:02
23 Posted 27/05/2021 at 11:54:51
24 Posted 27/05/2021 at 13:30:59
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.
25 Posted 27/05/2021 at 18:17:11
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.
26 Posted 27/05/2021 at 18:31:13
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.
27 Posted 27/05/2021 at 18:57:36
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.
28 Posted 28/05/2021 at 08:22:04
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.
29 Posted 28/05/2021 at 09:02:29
30 Posted 28/05/2021 at 09:10:01
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!).
31 Posted 28/05/2021 at 09:55:07
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?
32 Posted 05/06/2021 at 15:28:21
I got the so called lowest talent group to build my team from. The club paid for all of the new coaches to do their Level 1,Safe Guarding and First Aid so we were qualified. After this you were left to your own devices other than a little help with the Admin. Their were no Coach Mentors to assist.
I struggled at first, getting beat most weeks and then the penny dropped - why should I assume these lads can play footy just because they have a ball thrown at them? Most kids that age are still tripping over themselves half the time! So I decided to focus on mobility and core strength with these boys in sessions, but including a ball at times. I also signed up to do my FA Youth Modules-it's titled Understanding the Player and doesn't really cover footy practice's but does the 4 Corners of football understanding, Psychological, Physical, Technical and Social. It completely transformed how I coached these kids and taught me so much. The tutor on the course told me that concentrating on mobility was key at this age so I was on the right path. He also told me he had worked in Cov City's academy from u 7s till u18s and his team were beaten frequently over the years but he refused to cave in to a more direct approach and kept his philosophy of ball retention and mobility. At age u 12s it all clicked for the team and they won everything up to u 18s. His side also produced 3 or 4 name players who went into the 1st team and had successful pro careers. The rest played at good levels for years.
My team clicked in u9s and surged through the leagues to reach the top league. And we played it on the grass, not lumped away, even in defence.
I continued on my coaching programme and finished my mentoring badges also so I could help other new coaches, because I knew they needed help to start off. The club decided to stream the the u10s for the following season which I had no objection too as by now the best players were ready to play with their peers. I knew it would mean me losing players but, who was I stop these lads progressing? However, at the coaches briefing on this matter the club was met with a maelstrom of complaints and over dramatic statements from the other coaches/assistants in my age group about breaking up friends etc, parent groups and 'my team'. This is the problem, 90% of coaches going into voluntary football only do it so they can be coach to their own son, have no intention of doing further badges and being better coaches, and can brag to their work mates on Monday that 'yeh, we hammered so and so yesterday'. Its called being self centered and playing football through their lads. It also may have had something to do with the fact that the club were going to instate the best qualified coach to the best players, which meant as I was the only one of 10 coaches to do further badges and help mentor their new coaches I was getting the cream of the crop. Envy, pure and simple. Funny how I offered myself up to these guys as a mentor
, in my own time, but everyone said 'what's wrong with the way I coach then?' You are never too old to learn my friends.
Consequently the scheme didn't go ahead, all of the teams suffered due to an in balance in the squads and now at age u14s the club has 2 rubbish teams who play hoof ball, argue with Refs, vulgar towards coaches and oppo players and disrespectful to linesman. Lack of leadership leads to a lack of discipline, desire and direction. Plus the parents talk rubbish and should leave the coaching to the coach.
That's grass roots football in a nutshell. Thousands of players left the game because of a plethora of
coaches doing it for the wrong reasons and not having any nerve at young age levels.
Me? I got out 2 years ago, still go to my kids games, u14s and Ladies and I still see the same lazy coaching and player's lacking in mobility! How the hell can you hope to play football if you have no core strength and poor mobility!!!! The clubs don't back you, just interested in money.
33 Posted 05/06/2021 at 15:44:06
34 Posted 05/06/2021 at 15:50:15
I really enjoyed reading that.
35 Posted 05/06/2021 at 19:54:49
We had a big discussion once on a Youth Module 2 about why players are so one footed and the question why. Almost to a man the response was because we all have a favoured side-I absolutely disagreed and countered that if we teach both feet when kids are starting out in football and never say the dreaded 'use your weaker foot' to them then it will be 2nd nature to them. This should be taught in the garden as soon as they kick a ball. I still force myself to play both sides even today and both my kids are 2 footed, so I know it's plausible. Just another of dozens of things not right at grass roots!
In Spain kids sessions don't even use goals till they are about 8/9,its more important they learn to keep the ball under pressure and be technically adept first. We are light years behind in our overall thinking, thus the best players in our league are predominantly foreign. I have coached lots of European kids who have moved and live here now, and there 1st touch is nearly always better than the British kids. It's not coincidence.
Ah well, enjoy your weekend fellas!
36 Posted 13/06/2021 at 08:30:18
Intends to become a doctor when he hangs up his boots.
He'll be fine and good luck to him.
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