David Unsworth has revealed Matthew Pennington could go out on loan later this month to aid his long-term first-team chances at Everton.
Pennington is battling back to full fitness following hamstring surgery and made his first appearance of the season in Everton Under-23s’ 1-0 victory at Sunderland on Sunday.
Unsworth says the plan throughout January is to gradually increase the defender’s workload with more minutes for the Under-23s.
A decision will then be made towards the end of the transfer window whether it is in Pennington’s best interests to remain at the Club or head out on loan to get some competitive senior action.
Pennington made his Everton first-team team debut last season and, in total, featured six times, including a run of four straight Premier League appearances during April and May.
Before breaking through with the Blues, the Warrington-born youngster spent time away from the Club with spells at Tranmere Rovers, Coventry City and Walsall.
“We’ve got to tread very carefully with him,” Unsworth told evertonfc.com. “We’ve spoken about a loan but it’s something we are going to have to discuss right at the death in the transfer window. Because he’s had such a horrendous injury, we have to treat him with kid gloves at the moment in terms of minutes.
“We just have to go softly-softly with him for the next three or four weeks. If it means he doesn’t go out on loan, he’ll certainly be ready in a couple of months for hopefully our first team.
“I’m hoping that he can show the manager and first-team staff what he’s all about.”
Everton Under-23s are next in action on Wednesday afternoon, facing Rochdale at Finch Farm in the Lancashire Senior Cup.
With the tie being played on the back of the win at Sunderland, Unsworth says he will assess Pennington to determine if the young defender is ready for his second match in the space of four days.
Unsworth added: “That was his first 45 and we’ll see how feels over the next two days before our game on Wednesday. We might leave him out of that one.”