Everton place faith in repeat Stones story with Holgate capture
For the second time in the space of two years Everton have captured a promising lower league defender from Barnsley, after the Toffees completed a deal for 18-year-old Mason Holgate, following in the lauded footsteps of John Stones.
With speculation surrounding current Goodison Park centre half Stones, who was converted from a right full back by Toffees boss Roberto Martinez, the Merseyside outfit have secured another Oakwell teenage sensation Holgate perhaps as a potential long-term replacement at the club, who are 5/1 with Coral for a top six finish.
Although, with Chelsea target Stones having made an accomplished switch from the Championship to the Premier League, are Everton putting too much faith in history repeating itself with their new arrival?
In January 2013, the Merseysiders lured a young Stones to Goodison on a five-and-a-half deal, after Barnsley accepted a substantial £3m bid, with the talented defender having only made his maiden senior appearance two years prior to his top-flight switch.
Everton’s latest Yorkshire swoop echoes every aspect of Stones’ previous move, with Holgate having only made his first-team debut before the turn of the year, after joining the Tykes at nine years of age.
While Martinez’s Premier League rivals Southampton and Newcastle United continue to look abroad and splash the cash on more experienced acquisitions to blend in with their young starlets, the Toffees seem to be hopefully relying Holgate emulating Stones’ impressive rise to prominence.
This may be evidence of the club’s unwillingness to genuinely fork out the funds again, after the surprise club-record £28m swoop for Romelu Lukaku last summer, with transfer activity this year being so far kept to a minimum.
Only Tom Cleverley on a Bosman and Gerard Deulofeu for a cut-price have arrived on the blue half of Merseyside this summer so far but, if Stones is to ultimately become a Chelsea player this summer, is Holgate really Martinez and Bill Kenwright’s most suitable replacement?
Stones impressively made a seamless transition from second tier football to the top-flight in the country, and has since gone on to become an England international, but it’s asking a lot for Holgate to successfully emulate his fellow Oakwell academy graduate.
However, Martinez’s choice of words upon signing the talented Tykes youngster suggests that the Spaniard still believes that he can retain Stones, for now, outlining former League One defender Holgate as one of the future instead.
“With Mason [Holgate], an opportunity came up and we didn’t want to lose out. He is a young man with a very impressive future,” said the Toffees manager.
“I feel that we are the perfect place in order for Mason to develop into a top footballer. I know that he is a player who can bring us something quite unique, so we are excited about that possibility, even though he is one for the future rather than now.”
Martinez’s statement of intent with his new teenage acquisition may be completely overruled, whether he likes it or not, if Stones departs and any of his limited defenders sustain injuries this season (14/1 to be relegated).
With veteran Phil Jagielka, along with youngsters Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway, the only other central defensive operators in the squad should Stones leave for Stamford Bridge, Holgate may gain an instant senior role.
Despite Martinez categorically stating sought-after Stones is not for sale, in the current climate it usually means very little. Though, thrusting a teenage Holgate into Premier League action after only months into his League One career could either spell disaster in blue or potentially see history repeat itself on Merseyside.