Poundland Special

As the summer transfer window closes, what do we make of the Toffees’ business?

As the summer transfer window closes, what do we make of the Toffees’ business?


Dennis Adeniran

Now 22 years old, Adeniran was signed from Fulham in the summer of 2017. One of the better players for Unsworth’s Under-23 side, he made it on the first team bench a couple of times. But, as seems the case with Unsy, he is more bothered about keeping his best players turning out for him, instead of pushing them towards the first team. By the end of 2019-20 season, it was clear he was not going to make it with the blues and should have been moved on then, we may even have got a minimal fee. Instead, we sent him out on a season-long loan to Wycombe Wanderers. He has now joined Sheffield Wednesday as a free agent.

Beni Baningime

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I remember being at Chelsea for a League cup game when Unsy gave Baningime his first-team debut – and a great debut it was. All together, Baningime only made 12 first-team appearances for the Blues. Injuries and bad loan moves (and collapsed loan moves) totally stunted what was a promising talent. Like many others on the out list, he really should have been moved on as it had become clear at least 18 months ago that, for the above reasons, he was not going to make it with the Blues. With a bit of effort, he could have been moved on, probably for a minimal fee. Instead, we left him wasting his career with us. Baningime has moved on a free transfer to Hearts, signing a 3-year contract. He was unlucky with us and the club did not do its best by him. I really hope he gets his career back on track with his move North of the border.


Brought in on a free transfer by Marco Silva but with a hefty signing-on fee and big wages. Bernard was a tricky winger who had excelled at Shakhtar Donetsk. But the Premier League was just too physical for such a diminutive figure. He only showed in glimpses what he was capable of. I remember him having a great game at Leicester in a 2-1 win and the Bernard Joy Division classic rung out. But, in reality, he was not suited to the Premier League.

Mo Besic

Signed by Martinez after a classic man-marking performance for Bosnia against Lionel Messi in the 2014 World Cup, Besic gave a few good performances for the Blues, but never hit the heights which we hoped for. A bad injury set his Everton career onto a quick slide downwards and loan deals followed. Now off the wage bill after his contract has expired.

Yannick Bolasie

Signed from Crystal Palace for the ridiculous figure of £28 million in the Koeman era. How anyone could have thought his performances at Palace bracketed him as a £28 million player is still a mystery. Serious injury, as with Besic, curtailed his Everton career and underwhelming loan moves followed. Another hefty chunk of wages off the books but only after his contract was allowed to run its course. One big £28 million mistake.

Josh Bowler

Bowler was part of the Under-23s double-winning season. A tricky winger who signed from Queens Park Rangers in 2017, the question has to be asked: Was he ever good enough to be pushing for a first-team spot? The answer would be No, in my opinion. Which begs the question: Why was he given a contract extension in 2019 then sent out on loan to Hull City? A player who should have been released and never given a contract extension. Now 22, Bowler has signed a 1-year contract with Blackpool as a free agent.

Bobby Carroll

Carroll signed a professional contract at the start of 2019 and moved up from the Under-18s to the Under-23s that Summer. Unlucky with injury, he was released at the end of his contract in June.

Callum Conolly

Conolly was part of the first title-winning Under-23s team under David Unsworth. Now 23, he made just one first-team appearance, coming on as a substitute for Seamus Coleman in a 1-1 draw at Goodison with Southampton. A player who, like many others, has been kept around by Unsworth in his mismanagement of the Under-23s and the Academy. Instead of being moved on, he had loans at Barnsley, Blackpool, Wigan Athletic (twice), Bolton Wanderers, Ipswich Town and Fleetwood Town. That tells you all you need to know. Connolly should have been sold for a minimal fee or released a long time ago. He is an example of what is wrong with the youth set-up at Everton. He finally left this summer at the end of his contract and signed for Blackpool as a free agent.

Josh King

To say this was a weird signing is to put it mildly. Signed on a 6-month contract as a backup striker in January, King had hardly scored for Bournemouth over the last couple of seasons. He never got a look-in while with the Toffees and never shone in the few minutes he actually got on the pitch. An absolute waste of time, he was never good enough. He did stick the boot in to Mr Magnifico when his contract ended, which was good to see.

Nathangelo Markelo

Like many of the other Under-23s mentioned in this piece, Markelo was never going to make it at the club, yet inexplicably kept on for no great purpose. Finally moved to PSV Eindhoven's 2nd team this Summer.

Robin Olsen

A season-long loan from Roma, Olsen did a competent job when he came into the team last season. But he was never going to be a permanent signing with the money Roma would have wanted.

Con Ouzounidis

Centre-back Ouzounidis came through the Under-18s to become a mainstay for Unsworth in the Under-23s. But it was clear he was never good enough to get anywhere near the first-team squad which again begs the question, as with so many players in the academy: Why he was given a 1-year contract in 2020? All he did last season was block a place for younger players such as Reece Welch while wasting a year of his footballing career turning out for Unsworth and the Under-23s. A free agent this summer after finally being released, he has been picked up by Danish 2nd tier outfit Esbjerg FB.

Matthew Pennington

Centre-back Pennington is the gold standard for the ridiculous way the academy is run (in my opinion). At least he managed 9 games in all competitions for the first team. Pennington's loan journeys took him to Tranmere Rovers, Coventry City, Walsall, Leeds United, Ipswich Town, Hull City and Shrewsbury Town. It was clear that Pennington was never good enough to be a first-team player but, hyped up by David Unsworth, he was staggeringly given, at the age of 23, a new long-term contract in 2018. He then carried on his nomadic loan spells. Finally, at the age of 26 (which sums up so much of what is wrong with the academy set-up), he has left the Blues at the end of his contract and been signed on a free by Shrewsbury Town.

Thierry Small

Seen as one of the best players with a chance of coming through the academy to the first team, Small became the youngest first-team player ever for the club, when coming on as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup 4th Round last season. Small was offered his first professional contract at Everton when he turned 17 but rejected it and has moved on to Southampton. Small has still got an incredible lot to learn, but this must be a cautionary tale for the academy. Small did not go to Manchester United or Arsenal, who could have given him better contracts, but instead chose Southampton as the club to be the right fit to progress his future. But why not stay with the Blues? Just maybe he did not see the right pathway for him to progress, and he did not believe the ridiculous hype around the academy spouted by a number of ex-players and Academy Head, David Unsworth.

Theo Walcott

Walcott was one of the two (with Cenk Tosun being the other) disastrous January transfer window signings by Sam Allardyce. An incredibly injury-prone average Premier League player, Arsenal must have been laughing all the way to the bank, along with the £20 million Everton splashed out for his signature. he did absolutely nothing in his time with the Blues (except getting us all bouncing in the last minute at Watford). Loaned out to Southampton for the 2020-21 season, he has now left Everton and signed for Southampton at the end of his contract. Gone and quickly forgotten. Just one example, of many, of the wasted money we have shelled out since Moshiri bought into the club.

Outs (Loans)

Nathan Broadhead

Now 23, striker Broadhead really is not good enough to make an impact at the club. So why has the club given him another 2-year contract? He has now been sent out on a year-long loan to League One Sunderland. He will either come back next Summer and be moved on to another loan in 2022-23, or Sunderland may make a bid for him. But it will not be a large bid. So why not have tried to sell him this Summer? The club are just wasting their and Broadhead’s time. He is a shinning symbol of the lack of thought or strategy in the club’s academy and is well on the way to taking the Matthew Pennington mantle.

Lewis Gibson

It was seen as something of a coup when Everton signed centre-back Gibson, then aged 17, from Newcastle United in 2017. Since then, Gibson has had two season-long loan moves at League One Fleetwood Town (which went very well), followed by a less successful season in the Championship at Reading. Gibson has been part of the first team's pre-season for the last two campaigns without ever looking like he would still be around the first team when the actual action started. Now aged 21, Gibson has been sent out on loan to League One Sheffield Wednesday. This is another example of Everton wasting a young talent. Out of contract in June 2022, he will then more than likely move on for nothing. A good enough player at a lower league level, why have we just kept hold of him to inevitably lose him for nothing next Summer? We really should have tried to move him on for a small fee this window. The loan move to Wednesday is a waste of time.

Moise Kean

Kean is a talented player and a good striker. He never really settled in the country and I don’t think he was been particularly well managed. But it was clear that he wanted to leave, so it was best to cut our loses. He has gone back to Juventus on a 2-year loan and a €7M loan fee. €3M of the loan fee will be paid this season with €4M being paid next season. Juventus are obligated to buy Kean for €24M at the end of the 2-year loan.

Niels Nkounkou

Left full-back or more precisely wing-back, Nkounkou has moved to Belgium and Standard Liege on a season-long loan. Nkounkou has great potential, but his fleeting first-team appearances, and when he has turned out for the Under-23s, have shown that the defensive side of his game has a million miles of improvement to be made. His appearance this season at Huddersfield Town only emphasised this. Hopefully Nkounkou will get plenty of game time at Standard and will be able to hone his defensive skills. The penny needs to drop on this loan; if not, then I don’t think he will ever meet the necessary standards for the Everton first team.

Joao Virginia

At 21, Virginia is a keeper with great potential, who performed well in the couple of first-team games he played in last season. After a disastrous loan at Reading, which was cut short, he has been sent out on loan to Portuguese Champions, Sporting Lisbon, for the season. The club may feel going back to Portugal for a season will be good for him, but to the Champions? Will he be able to oust first-choice keeper Adan? I think that is very questionable. He may end up not getting much first-team football, which will be a big waste. I don’t think Sporting is the right choice for him to go on loan, but hope I’m wrong.


Joe Anderson

20-year-old defender Anderson played regularly for the Under-23s last season, and also got some game time during pre-season. But is he good enough to make a dent on the first team? No, not in my opinion. Rewarded with a new contract until next Summer, when in reality he should have moved on for his own career.

Ryan Astley

Actually, I saw Astley make his Under-23 debut when only 16 years old as the game at Sunderland on I think a Friday afternoon was being streamed. Now 19 years old, I really can’t say he has progressed the way he should have in the 3 years since that debut. But maybe that is more to do with our academy than Astley himself. He has signed a new contract until 2003. My own opinion is he will not make it at the club.

Asmir Begović

With the end of Robin Olsen’s loan deal, Everton have moved to sign Begovic from Bournemouth on a free. Now 34, he is a competent keeper. On a free transfer, it is mainly risk-free and he is probably the best we could get as a backup keeper for a free.

Demarai Gray

Gray has been signed from Bayer Leverkusen for £1.7 million. A breakout talent at Birmingham City, his move from Birmingham to Leicester City did not go to plan with rumoured attitude problems seeing him frozen out by Brendan Rodgers. A move to Bayer Leverkusen in January did not reignite Gray, who it seems did not settle in Germany and was not good enough to replace Leon Bailey or Moussa Diaby on a regular basis. Gray has wasted the years since his move to Leicester. His move to the Toffees is a final chance for him to show the early promise he had. As such, he is a player with a point to prove. At the price the club have paid, it is a gamble worth taking and he has started the season well. Will it last? Let’s see... but this could, and I emphasise could, turn out to be a bargain.

Andy Lonergan

Journeyman goalkeeper Lonergan has joined the club on a 1-year deal. This was done due to the loaning of Joao Virginia and the injury to Harry Tyrer.

Salomón Rondón

Venezuelan international striker Rondon signed a two year contract with the option for a third. He was signed from Chinese club Dalian Professional on a free transfer. Most blues will know Rondon for his time playing for West Brom Albion and Newcastle United. Although he has played for a number of other clubs including spells in Russia with Rubin Kazan, Zenit Saint Petersburg and CSKA Moscow. Rondon is a Benitez favourite who he has worked with before and whom Rondon has trust in. Not the most prolific of goalscorers he is an average Premier League player who is no more than a back-up for Calvert-Lewin.

Andros Townsend

30-year-old Townsend signed on a free from Crystal Palace on a 2-year contract. He made 185 appearances in all competitions for Palace, scoring 16 and assisting 2. Not exactly outstanding. The whiff of Theo Walcott is all over this signing. The only difference being we did not shell out £20 million on him. Will Townsend be any better than Walcott or Bernard? Slightly. Will he put in a shift defensively, which is something neither of the above-mentioned pair did? Yes, he will. But, when push comes to shove, he is a bang-average Premier League player.

The Manager

I have said my piece in other articles on Benitez. Did I want him at the Club? Most certainly not. Do I think it will all end in mid-table mediocrity? Yes, I do. Do I think he is a manager on a downward trajectory? Yes, I do. Be that as it may, Benitez is the club’s manager and as such deserves our support. Working under the financial restrictions the club has, he has started the season well. But the squad is threadbare; a few injuries will see us slide quickly down to our usual mid-table position.


The years of largesse under the bumbling Farhad Moshiri have led us to this transfer window. Financial Fair Play and Premier League Profit and Sustainability rules, not to mention the shinny bauble down in the docks, means that we are the bargain-basement Poundland club.

It can be argued that the number of players moved off the books this window is a success. I would argue instead that it is more an example of the failure of our Director of Football. Constant loans deals and never being able to permanently move on any of the players listed above is, in my opinion, a failure. All finally have gone, but only when their contracts expired and at great cost to the club. One exception being Bernard, who still had a year to run.

As for the Under-23 players who have been shipped out, all have gone when their contracts have run out. Decisions on these Under-23 players should have been made at least 18 months ago, if not sooner. That we are now letting so many go for nothing is a damning indictment of the club’s academy and the way it has been run, and is still run under the leadership of David Unsworth. Meanwhile we still give out contracts to players like Nathan Broadhead who will absurdly be 25 if he sees out his new contract.

The club has a number of promising talents who have now moved up to the Under-23s: Whitaker, Garcia etc, and at least with the disposal of the Under-23 players named above, there is room for them in the Under-23 squad, which is now very youthful. But without the removal of Czar Unsworth as the Head of the Academy, I only see a path of future loan moves with Unsworth never pushing any of them forward as first-team options.

As for the incoming, we will see how they work out. Gray, as I say, has a point to prove... so let’s hope his form in the first few games can continue, but it is a bit early to anoint him just yet. Begovic is a competent back-up, while Rondon and Townsend are average Premier League players. More alarming is the full-back situation. Not getting a right-back in is a dereliction of duty, while letting Nkounkou go out on loan leaves us just as bare on the left-side. I envision Godfrey and Holgate may well get game time as full-backs this season.

We started the window as a mid-table squad and we end it, in my opinion, as a mid-table squad. If Benitez gets a Top 8 position, he will certainly have over-achieved.

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Reader Comments (5)

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Paul Kernot
1 Posted 02/09/2021 at 00:49:28
Interesting to hear your opinion on some of the young guys who've been & gone. From a lay person's view, it certainly looks like we could do better with bringing younger players through.
Chris Gordon
2 Posted 02/09/2021 at 22:33:20
Can't disagree with any of the sentiment expressed in this piece. Fairly hits the nail on the head as regards all aspects of the farcical past 5 years.
Dale Rose
3 Posted 03/09/2021 at 13:05:03
Very interesting article. I've always found it curious that we seem to gather all these young players and never use them. The Under-23 set-up is a strange one. Surely at 23, it's apparent if someone is going to make the grade or not.
Don Alexander
4 Posted 11/09/2021 at 01:18:45
I've just read this piece and it encapsulates for me a lot of what's been wrong at the club before this century even began.

Everything at Finch Farm below first team is definitely 100% infected by Kenwright (as are a very great deal of first-team affairs too). His "old-boy" ass-kissers, very much including Unsworth, epitomize this.

These days, Tom Davies is the sole epitome of Unsworth's success in providing an actual first-team player, bog standard as he is to everyone outside Finch Farm, in the past 5 years.

In the meantime, we've signed or allegedly developed dozens of late teenagers – hardly any of whom have ever attracted a fee when they move on.

In the interim, they, like Kenwright's old-boy legion of alleged coaches, comfortably go on drawing salaries way above what the average fan can only dream of.

Want money for old rope, folks? Just get on the staff of Finch Farm!

Phil Wood
5 Posted 11/09/2021 at 13:33:14
Interesting view on the Academy workings Martin but I disagree on Rafa and his signings. The best and cheapest business conducted for a long time by the most professional Manager we have had for some time.

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