Blackburn Rovers have identified Everton teenager Jarrad Branthwaite as a potential January signing, according to a report from the Lancashire Telegraph.
Rovers are struggling for numbers at the back as their injury list mounts, and reinforcements are desperately needed.
Scott Wharton picked up a season-ending achilles injury last month, Derrick Williams recently underwent surgery on his quadricep and when Rovers fans didn’t think it could get any worse, summer acquisition Daniel Ayala has been ruled out for a month with a hamstring issue.
The injury woes mean that Bradley Johnson is deputising at the back alongside Darragh Lenihan, with youngster Hayden Carter on the bench as cover.
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Tony Mowbray has already identified the need to strengthen his defence, with Manchester City youngster Taylor Harwood-Bellis linked with a move to Ewood Park, and Blackburn have also been tipped to re-enter the chase for West Brom’s Cedric Kipre – who they tried to snag from Wigan in the summer.
But Branthwaite is a new name to enter the race, with the Lancashire Telegraph reporting that the 18-year-old is a target that Rovers ‘have spoken about’, but due to the fact he’s been in Everton’s first team squad for the past three matches, his availability remains unclear.
Branthwaite made his senior breakthrough at Carlisle last season, making nine league appearances for his hometown side before catching the admiring glances of many Premier League clubs.
It was Everton who won the race to sign the 6ft 5in defender last January, and he quickly made an impact on Carlo Ancelotti who used Branthwaite in the Blues’ final four Premier League games of last season.
The teen hasn’t been called upon in the current campaign, which may suggest that his development in mens football could be continued elsewhere, so it may not be too hard for Rovers to strike a deal with the Toffees if he is their top target.
Rovers may need multiple defenders in this window due to the long-term absences of Wharton and Williams, and Branthwaite would be a quality addition.
He could give Blackburn’s defence a better balance alongside Lenihan or Ayala (when he’s fit) as a left-footed player, and he’s already proven in his Everton appearances that he’s extremely talented for his age.
With Everton possessing a wealth of options in the middle of their defence now, letting Branthwaite continue his development in the second tier of English football seems like a sensible decision – the onus is now on Rovers to get a deal done.