Everton Lewis Gibson decision explained as Bristol Rovers offered transfer alternatives
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The 22-year-old was considered someone that could rejoin the Gas this summer following a positive season-long loan at the Memorial Stadium. Gibson played 33 times for Rovers last season, the most he has played in his career, and Joey Barton, who he also worked under at Fleetwood Town, was open to the idea of signing him on a permanent deal.
Barton, did admit that it was Everton who held all the cards, given that they are Gibson's parent club, and suggested he was capable of playing at a higher level on the back of his season with Rovers. The 40-year-old also added he'd give Sean Dyche - his coaching mentor and former manager at Burnley, a glowing reference about Gibson, who will run the rule over him, should Gibson decide to pen new terms.
Everton's survival in the Premier League makes on the face of it, the decision to offer a soon to be 23-year-old, who has yet to make a competitive appearance for the club, a strange one. Gibson could reject the contract offer, in search of finding a permanent home in what is a crucial time in his career, but his decision is yet undecided. To get an idea of the decision process behind Everton's contract offer to Gibson, we chat to LiverpoolWorld football writer Will Rooney. Will has covered the Toffees for the past few seasons, and has also suggested some realistic targets for Rovers this summer from the Goodsion Park outfit.
Lewis Gibson's been offered a new contract by Everton, how much of a surprise is that to you?
Not a massive one, in truth. Now, that's not to say that I think that Gibson has a future at Goodison Park. He's going on 23 now and it's difficult to see him breaking into the first team having never made a Premier League outing - and the majority of his senior career spent in League One.
But given Everton's precarious financial situation, they need to maximise every pound possible.
Gibson is yet to make a competitive appearance for the Toffees, can you see him making a breakthrough at all?
Unfortunately, I can't. There was obviously a lot of expectation when he signed from Newcastle United but, like so many transfers, it just hasn't worked out. Injuries have been the main problem. Sean Dyche is all too aware that Everton have a lot of work to do after avoiding narrowly relegation for two successive seasons. It's certainly not the time to start trying out untested players in the most competitive league in the world.
Everton have had a bottom-heavy squad, with six centre-backs on the books last season. Yerry Mina has been released and Conor Coady's loan from Wolves has expired but they still have James Tarkowski, Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane and Mason Holgate, while the highly-rated Jarrad Branthwaite is returning from a fruitful spell at PSV Eindhoven. That makes Gibson's task even more difficult
It was suggested that Everton paid up to £6m to bring Gibson to Goodison Park, do you think offering him a new contract was a way of trying to get compensation should he choose to depart?
That is definitely a possibility. As previously mentioned, the Toffees are in a perilous financial position, having posted combined losses of more than £300 million over the past three years. Any sort of cash that they can squeeze can all help towards the coffers.
Everton made a similar decision with Nathan Broadhead last summer. The striker had enjoyed a fine season to help Sunderland to League One play-off glory, scoring 13 goals in 28 appearances. Broadhead signed the contract but was sold to Ipswich Town for a reported fee that could reach £1.5 million in the January transfer window. It proved prudent on Everton's behalf.
Is there anyone at Everton's academy that you feel would benefit from a loan in League One with Rovers, and would be more than ready to step up?
There is a decent crop of youngsters coming through the ranks. Stanley Mills is someone who fans are really excited about. He's the son of former England international Danny Mills and is a real athlete capable of playing in several positions and scored nine goals for the under-23s. Plenty will think the 19-year-old now needs to go and get some regular senior minutes under his belt.
Lewis Dobbin spent the campaign at Derby County but it didn't quite go as many hoped, with the forward scoring four goals in 49 games. But a lot of those outings came from the bench in a very experienced Rams outfit and more minutes could yield more success.
If Rovers are looking for another centre-back to fill the void of Gibson then Reece Welch could be someone of interest. He's an England youth international who featured on the bench for Everton under Dyche and was reportedly set to join MK Dons in January on loan before the plug was pulled.