On Friday, Everton announced 23-year-old defender Matthew Pennington had signed a three-year deal for the club, extending his contract until June 2021.
The defender had spent the season on loan at Leeds United but had failed to seriously impress at Elland Road, leading many to question the seemingly nonsensical contract extension.
Pennington has shown very little to suggest he can play at the Premier League level, let alone excel in the Championship, leaving Leeds and Everton supporters alike shaking their heads at the news.
The centre-back moved to Everton as an 11-year-old, progressing through the academy until making his first-team debut in a 2015 League Cup tie.
Subsequent loans to Tranmere, Coventry City, and Walsall followed before Pennington played his first Premier League match in April 2016.
An injury suffered in preseason kept the Englishman out until the spring of 2017 when Pennington famously scored an equaliser in his Merseyside derby debut.
Yet, that moment has marked the high point of the defender’s Everton career.
At the start of the 2017/18 season, Pennington was deemed surplus to requirements at Goodison Park and was sent on loan to Leeds in search of first-team action.
The loanee notched 15 starts and nine substitute appearances for the Championship side, as Leeds finished a disappointing 13th in the league.
In all of Pennington’s starts, United kept a clean sheet in just one match: October’s 3-0 win over Bristol City.
Leeds went on to concede 64 goals in the league this season; only nine Championship sides let in more goals all year.
In all, the fact that Pennington failed to establish himself as a consistent starter on a middling second-division club points to a loan spell that was mediocre at best.
Everton’s decision to hand the defender a renewed contract looks to be an odd reward for a player who has yet to prove himself at either the Championship or top-flight level.
These concerns were also shared by Leeds United fans, who expressed their bemusement on Twitter after hearing news of Pennington’s deal.
Worst defender i've ever seen at Leeds, What are Everton thinking
— Danny Robinson (@danny_robinson2) May 11, 2018
Not really excelled at #lufc, very error prone. (Tbh that applies to the whole squad)
— Dirty Leeds Scum (@DirtyLeedsFC) May 11, 2018
I’m glad, think Leeds have dodged a bullet with this one woeful every time I’ve seen him this season.
— Ross Connolly (@RossConnolly79) May 11, 2018
I’m surprised , I expected good things from him this season but he was at best average and his passing is shocking ( saying that our team has been shocking), but don’t think he’s premier league quality , can’t see him breaking into your first team anytime soon
— Lee Scott (@LeeScott321) May 11, 2018
Everton fans also joined in, similarly confused as to why the youngster had been handed a lengthy contract.
Nowhere near good enough. Shows how poor we are really!
— Andrew Pickering (@ajpickering80) May 11, 2018
What's the point? He won't sniff the first team and if he does Everton are in even more trouble than before. He will most likely go on loan. Pretty pointless to resign him imo.
— Daylights (@DaylightsTV) May 11, 2018
Straight into the U23
— TheEvertonGamer (@Rdjnewton85) May 11, 2018
It will be fascinating to see what the future holds for Matthew Pennington, as the defender will be determined to prove his doubters wrong and excel at Everton.