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Blackburn have told Everton what they want to hear about Branthwaite

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Almost exactly a year after becoming the first signing of the Carlo Ancelotti era at Everton, Jarrad Branthwaite's stock has risen drastically.

The centre-back is already on the move again, completing a loan to Blackburn Rovers for the rest of 2020/21 after spending the majority of the campaign playing with the under-23s.

The 18-year-old was, of course, initially signed to play at that level when he completed a move from Carlisle United. The jump from League Two to the Premier League is a large one, especially for a young star still learning his trade.

Of course, Evertonians are well aware with how things have gone since then.

After some appearances for the U23s, Branthwaite was quickly called into training with the senior side and was handed an incredible early opportunity to prove himself on the biggest stage at the end of last season.

After a shaky beginning from the bench against Wolves, the next few matches showed a player eager to learn and with a lot of quality already on display.

He had a calm head on relatively young shoulders, he seemingly had all the attributes Ancelotti wanted to see from his central defenders.

David Unsworth told the ECHO in November : "His development has been astronomical since joining. He was a little nervous at first and we had to give him a bit of time to settle and he played in a few games.

"But then he got an early opportunity. We say to these boys all the time that they've got to be ready and when that opportunity comes you've got to take it."

More opportunities could have followed if it wasn't for an injury picked up in his first start of the campaign against Salford City at Goodison Park to begin 2020/21.

The subsequent arrival of Ben Godfrey has elevated Everton's options in central defence to the point where they stand now - four quality senior options and a hugely talented youngster in Branthwaite waiting in the wings.

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From being the "nervous" player joining the U23s a year ago, however, it's clear that the 18-year-old has already transcended what that level of football can bring.

Last season showed that he was ready to be playing at a first team level.

Perhaps not yet ready for the Premier League on a regular basis, but senior football was certainly his home.

With a move to Blackburn Rovers now confirmed, Everton will hope that the youngster has found a similar pathway that Lewis Gibson did in January 2020.

The centre-back secured a temporary switch to Fleetwood Town and instantly established himself as a regular starter in a solid defensive unit, eventually helping Joey Barton's side into the playoffs.

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Loan moves are always a gamble in a certain sense. As a parent club, the Blues have to place their trust in Blackburn that they will give Branthwaite the kind of senior opportunities that just wouldn't have been possible at Goodison.

Manager Tony Mowbray's comments on Thursday will instil a certain amount of hope.

He told a press conference in the hours before the youngster's loan was confirmed: "I think he has a lot of attributes that will help our team moving forward.

"I know he is young but he's had a pretty meteoric rise. He's played 14 times for Carlisle and appeared five times for a Premier League club.

"I have got every confidence that his attributes that he brings to the team will help to give us a balance and I hope we can help him to get closer to becoming a first-team regular in the Everton team.

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"I'm pretty sure the reason he is out here is because Carlo (Ancelotti) thinks he will be in the first-team squad over there on a pretty regular basis and I think he has the attributes to do that."

The last line in particular will be exactly what Everton want to hear.

Opportunities for Branthwaite to step into the first team might not have been forthcoming for the rest of this season, but they certainly will in the future.

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From a position of relative weakness at the beginning of 2019/20, with only three senior options in central defence and none of them playing at the level they are now, the Blues suddenly have an embarrassment of riches in that area of the pitch.

Branthwaite remains an exciting prospect, and his meteoric rise was first kicked to the next level by his first step up to senior football.

While U23s football is useful to a certain level, the centre-back needs to test himself against first-team opposition. He needs the pressure to grow, he needs to make mistakes to develop.

A loan move at this stage of his career could be perfect, if he adapts to the step up in level as he did six months ago.

The defender's rise over the course of one year has been incredible to see. Another challenge now lies on the horizon and, considering how well he has dealt with previous tasks at his feet, it could be very interesting to keep an eye on him once more.




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