Everton’s under-23s brought their season to an end this week with a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. It was not the campaign they would have wanted, after the brilliant PL2 title-winning season of 2016-17. But with David Unsworth stepping up to first-team duties earlier in the season and plenty of their stars from that season sent out on loan or joining the Everton first-team is what always going to be a tough one.
But in the final weeks of the campaign one player who has really stood out as an exceptional talent is 17-year-old defender Lewis Gibson.
His signature may have slipped by some Everton fans in the summer. The Toffees brought the England under-18 international to Finch Farm from Newcastle United. The fee for the player, according to the Liverpool Echo, could eventually rise to £6 million, so he was clearly identified as a top investment for the future.
He has certainly looked the part this season.
Gibson has played 16 times for Everton’s under-23s this campaign, playing at both his preferred centre-back position and left-back. The talented defender was a member of the England under-17 team that won the World Cup last summer and he now looks like he could be the next great hope from the Everton youth system.
This summer he turns 18 and, given the standard he has showcased in the under-23s, he could genuinely start pushing for first-team football at Everton from next term.
With the defence still an issue for Everton, improvements are likely in the summer. But Gibson should not be simply overlooked just because of his tender years.
Whilst he should not be a Premier League regular it would be great to see Gibson get game time in the League Cup and maybe find his way into the matchday squad on occasions next term.
Everton should not rush the defender, but if you are good enough then you are old enough. Gibson is starting to look like he could be the future of Everton’s defence and should get some reward from next season.