If any Leeds United fans had looked through the archived praise of summer loan signing Matthew Pennington, they could be forgiven for thinking they had a real gem on a player on their hands.
Everton’s reserve boss David Unsworth had hardly been reserved in his praise of the young defender after he returned from a long-term injury in The Toffees’ Premier League 2 winning campaign last season.
“At the back, Matthew Pennington was faultless,” Unsworth gushed after Pennington’s impressive display against Arsenal’s Under-23s in February, as reported by the club’s official website.
“It was probably the best performance I’ve ever seen from a central defender at this level. He epitomises everything that I like to see in young players - he’s a workaholic, a learner and he’s a smashing lad.
“You want the good guys to do well, and he certainly is one of them.”
Such praise painted a rather nice picture of Pennington before Leeds signed the 23-year-old on loan for the season. But it’s easy to forget that he had played just nine senior games for Everton before this season and his loan spells away from Goodison Park saw him feature at clubs lower down the Football League, Tranmere, Coventry and Walsall.
And, so far, Leeds are yet to see why Pennington is so highly rated. Though an early injury hampered his progress, his form was so poor when he returned to fitness that he was immediately dropped to the bench.
As it stands, Pennington hasn’t started a game since October. So perhaps Unsworth’s praise raised the expectation levels a little too high for a player who arrived at Elland Road largely unproven in the professional game.