Luke Garbutt Loan: Is Fulham the Best Stage for Everton’s Rising Star?

Barely a month after signing a new five-year deal to keep him at Goodison Park, it has been announced that Luke Garbutt will head to the capital on a season-long loan.

The Everton starlet had been expected to be on the move one way or another heading into pre-season, either permanently or on a temporary basis.

Roberto Martinez secured the services of the 22-year-old until the summer of 2020, and all concerned at Goodison breathed a collective sigh of relief, such is the admiration for the defender (and his sweepy hair).

But it was soon revealed that Garbutt would leave L4, albeit temporarily; for first-team football – something Martinez cannot guarantee with Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order.

Craven Cottage will be the young left-back’s stage for the 2015/16 season, on which he will try to centre the spotlight in a bid to eventually make his mark down Everton’s left flank.

The stage is set

But is West London the best place to make a name for yourself? Bill Kenwright clearly thinks so, I hear his latest production has reviewed very well. But coming back to our own young understudy, the banks of the Thames offer Garbutt a chance to put his own name in lights.

Call it a dress rehearsal for the real thing if you want. From an Everton perspective, it could certainly be interpreted that way. “Spend some time toughing it out in the second tier, and you’ll come back better for it for the big time.”

Then again, that’s hardly Martinez’s style. We know all too well the Spaniard’s thoughts on bringing through youth. If they’re good enough, they’ll play, regardless of age and Lukaku, Barkley and Stones can attest to that. But in Garbutt’s case, there is no clear, unobstructed path to the first team, with Baines and an injury-free Oviedo currently blocking the stage door.

“Why not loan him out to another Premier League club? We’ve all seen proof that he’s capable of playing at the top level, why send him to the Championship?”

Before terms were agreed on a new Goodison deal, Garbutt was reportedly attracting the interests of newly promoted Bournemouth. Would a seaside stay at the Goldsands Stadium not be better for the lungs and more suitable for his development?

Perhaps. The Cherries took the Championship by storm last year and we’d love to see the same cavalier approach play out and succeed in the Premier League. But if we take off our virtual reality helmets for a moment, we’ll see that Bournemouth are almost certainly going to struggle to keep their heads above water, despite being tossed the life-rings of Sylvain Distin and Christian Atsu.

Relegation-threatened teams don’t often serve as the best environment for the nourishing of talent. Promotion pushing sides on the other hand can provide loan signings with the desired platform for maturing. It’s much easier to develop playing in a winning side, gunning for some form of glory, and Fulham’s bid to return to the Premier League at the second attempt could be that aforementioned platform.

Could history repeat itself?

We don’t need to look too far back in our history for an example of when a loan deal to a Championship side goes to plan.

Seamus Coleman was loaned out to Ian Holloway’s Blackpool in 2010 for a short stay by the seaside. While most young 21-year-olds can expect to come back from a short stay in Blackpool with chlamydia or at best a hangover, Coleman came back to Goodison with regular first team experience and a thirst for more following Blackpool’s play-off triumph and subsequent promotion (he may also have come back with a portfolio on the promenade’s best karaoke spots for new signing initiations, coming at David Moyes’ instruction, although this is unconfirmed and routinely denied by the Scot).

Things happened pretty quickly for the Irishman the following season, as he made more regular appearances on Everton’s right side, giving fans a quicker, more skilful and more attacking alternative to Phil Neville (although I guess that’s pretty much anyone with legs).

And that was after just two months and nine appearances with the Tangerines. Garbutt will have a whole season to settle, impress, claim a regular starting role and shine like the headline act we hope he will be.

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