England Under-21s manager Lee Carsley has heaped praise on Everton duo James Garner and Jarrad Branthwaite for the roles they played in helping the Young Lions win this summer’s European Championships.
En route to securing the title at that level for the first time in 39 years, Garner played in all six of England’s matches in the competition, outlining his standout quality and versatility by featuring predominantly as a right-sided wing-back throughout.
It is a role the 22-year-old was previously unfamiliar with, having most often featured as a central midfielder throughout his career. However, in the final rounds of the last campaign with Everton, Garner was tasked with taking on the role in place of injured players Nathan Patterson and Seamus Coleman.
He excelled while doing so, and Carsley believes being adaptable is a huge asset for any young player looking to forge a regular role in their team’s starting XI.
“I have known Jimmy for a while,” Carsley told evertonfc.com. “I have worked with him for a few years. He is a player I rate highly. He had a strong two-year campaign with some ups and downs at Forest, but he did well. He got promoted and then secured a move to Everton, which is obviously a club I still follow and hold plenty of affection for.
“What impresses me most about Jimmy is his versatility. He has the ability to play two or three positions. Also, the way he finished the season at Everton. Considering the pressure the Club were under and the age Jimmy is, he took it all in his stride."
Reflecting on the Everton player's form throughout the tournament, Carsley - who played for Everton between 2002-2008 - added: “He has a lot of different attributes. He can play numerous roles. We didn’t ask him to play a traditional right-back role, it was more hybrid.
“Certain moments would involve him coming more centrally, like a midfielder. He was able to show different faces of his game throughout the tournament.
“It’s a massive benefit to a young player to be so versatile because you want to get in the team, and you want to stay in there. If you can play multiple roles, it gives you more options.
“I say this from my own experience of being a young player coming through at Derby. I played centre-midfield, right-back, centre-back and right-wing. It was important for me, and I would put Jimmy in the same bracket.”
Playing time was limited for Garner's Everton teammate Branthwaite at this summer's Euros, with his only appearance coming in the 2-0 group stage win over Germany when he started and completed a full 90 minutes.
Carsley was keen to point out that was not a reflection on Branthwaite's ability and instead sees it as important exposure for the 21-year-old who is set to play a key role in the squad’s next qualifying cycle.
“Jared is still at an age where he can go and have another full qualifying campaign at this level and potentially a European Championship tournament,” Carsley explained of the defender, who spent last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven. “We knew that coming in. He was coming in late to the party. But we knew of his high quality and how this could be a good experience for him. He’s been capped now at Under-21s level, meaning it will be easier for him to come back in.
“He played a big part against Germany and showed his quality. He had a strong year at PSV and now for him, it is about taking that on this season with Everton in the Premier League. We will be tracking his progress.”
Both players are set to report back for pre-season training next week and could be set to play pivotal roles in Everton’s campaign.
Carlsey – who made 198 appearances for the Blues across a successful eight-year period - hopes this is the case and believes his former side has what it takes to have a much steadier season this time around.
“It’s been nerve-wracking looking at the Premier League table and seeing Everton near the bottom,” he admitted. “It’s a club with such a tradition of being competitive in the league. Hopefully, we can get a bit of stability. The new ground is coming, there will be an increased optimism and, fingers crossed, we can build and improve on last season.”
The former midfielder was also keen to praise manager Sean Dyche and his staff, feeling they are the ideal candidates to help get the best from this current Everton squad, adding: “The job Sean Dyche and his staff did at Burnley considering the resources he had was outstanding.
"Like all managers, he will need time to embed his vision and culture in the team. But there’s more potential in this Everton team than we have seen in the past. There are some very good players, you would expect them to be much stronger this coming season.”