Matthew Pennington arrived at Leeds United on loan from Everton with a burgeoning reputation. He had played some first team football for the Goodison Park outfit the previous year (only 3 starts, but it felt like more because they were high profile matches on tv) and had done alright in those games, scoring his first goal in the Merseyside Derby against Liverpool.
It was hoped that Pennington could prove to be an adequate replacement for Kyle Bartley after he returned to Swansea following his successful loan spell during the 16/17 season (before returning next season, hopefully).
Pennington’s Leeds career started off with a really promising performance in the opening day 3-2 victory away at Bolton Wanderers. He gained rave reviews, leading to articles such as this, but unfortunately got injured after an hour.
Matthew Pennington made MORE CLEARANCES (21) in 63 mins today than any other @SkyBetChamp player in the opening weekend.— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) August 6, 2017
This fantastic debut proved to be a bit of a false dawn, and it seemed that Pennington struggled to get close to the standard he had set for himself in that match. When he came back from injury he put in performances that I would describe as below average, he also had an absolute horror show in the 2-1 home defeat by Sheffield United where he was comfortably the worst player on the pitch. The below par performances were the case for the majority of his 24 appearances for Leeds (15 starts, 9 sub).
Towards the end of the season Pennington had a couple of improved performances, including a couple playing in a less familiar right-back role but the performances didn’t do enough to get Leeds fans clamouring for a permanent transfer.
The former England U19 international never managed to make a place in the team his own through a combination of poor form and injuries. Had he played anything close to the level expected from him Leeds would have been lining up with a combination of him and Pontus Jansson in defence but in the end Pennington struggled to stay ahead of Liam Cooper in the pecking order, and he himself is a player that most fans agree isn’t good enough to be in Leeds’ starting XI.
Final Season Grade: C
I gave him a flat C grade because I thought he was an average footballer, in an average side, in a fairly average league. Obviously Everton thought he did better overall than I did as he has been rewarded with a new 3-year deal at the Merseyside club.
I would be surprised if he makes the grade at Premier League level but I do think he has the ability to be a good player in the Championship. He has good physical attributes and on his good days is good in the air and in the tackle. He had far too many occasions this season where he went to sleep and lost his man, his marking of Billy Sharp at Elland Road, and Lewis Grabban in our fairly recent defeat at Aston Villa being good examples.
Not sure what Pennington is thinking there. Allows Grabban to get out of his eye/line and then I have no idea where he’s off to after that. Even if he’s not getting there, he has to challenge for the ball. Poor defending makes a good finish look easier.— David Preece (@davidpreece12) April 13, 2018
Overall, as was said by Pete Schlenker earlier this week, he “won’t be missed” and I think Paudie O’Connor is of a similar level and he is 3 years younger so could become a superior player, hopefully far superior.