LUKE GARBUTT may be the most unheralded Yorkshire-born member in England’s UEFA Under-21 Championships party, but someone who knows him better than most is backing him to make his mark.
That person being Everton club-mate and fellow Tyke John Stones, who is likely to be at the heart of the young Lions back line during forthcoming tournament duty in the Czech Republic.
Toffees full-back Garbutt, born in Harrogate, and Stones lined up in Gareth Southgate’s side’s final friendly – against Belarus at Oakwell on Thursday – before heading out to the continent.
The defence had a real White Rose feel to it, with Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson partnering Stones at centre-back, with the duo favourites to be paired together in England’s tournament opener against Portugal on Thursday.
While Boro-born Gibson took a bow after netting a late winner to end Belarus’s stiff resistance at Barnsley, it was left-back Garbutt who caught the eye with most discerning observers on the night in a man-of-the-match showing in the 1-0 win.
The Goodison Park future of Garbutt, on the books at Leeds United before joining Everton as a 16-year-old for a fee of around £600,000 in 2009, is currently up in the air with his Toffees deal expiring at the end of this month.
Should any watching scouts have been in attendance on Thursday, they would not have failed to have been impressed by his vibrant display at Oakwell, with Stones among the admirers.
On Garbutt, who made his senior Everton debut against Swansea in the League Cup back in September and went onto make 10 appearances in total in 2014-15, Stones said: “Garbs has took his chances really well at Everton and he showed what he can do against Belarus.
“Garbs is always working hard on the training pitch and when he gets his chance, he always takes it and I am pleased for him.
“Garbs knows what he is doing (with his future) and I am sure he will make the right decision.”
Garbutt had to share the limelight with Gibson, who just over a fortnight on from cutting a disconsolate figure after Boro’s shattering Championship play-off final loss to Norwich City at Wembley, earned a spot of succour with a rare winning goal.
Penistone lad Stones, afforded a warm welcome on his first playing return to Barnsley after moving to Everton in early 2013, said: “It was good for Ben to get a goal. He was saying he had been needing one for a while.
“All the centre-halves and defenders train with each other regularly and we switch it up and we know how to play with each other – me, Mike (Keane), Liam (Moore) and Ben.
“There are going to be different tests out there in the Czech Republic and it could be different players involved in different games. Whatever the opponents throw at us, we have got to be prepared.
“But there’s no pressure at all and the gaffer has been great and he lets us go out and play our normal game and you can see that in how enjoyable that we find playing with each other.”
Southgate’s relaxed regime has brought out the best in the under-21s since he took over from Stuart Pearce, with one of the big highlights coming when they triumphed against Germany at former club Boro in March – in a 3-2 win at the Riverside Stadium.
Baked beans and ketchup will firmly be on the menu in the Czech Republic after Southgate revealed he intends to run a relaxed camp during the championships.
Southgate and his 23-man squad landed on Sunday to begin final preparations for Thursday’s opener.
Southgate is sure his young players are responsible enough to cope with the fact that they are going to be away from home for more than two weeks and he will, therefore, not impose strict rules on them.
He said: “Although it is a young team, you have to give them responsibility.
“They have never betrayed that responsibility.
“I don’t have a load of rules. They know they have got to be respectful, which is being on time for things and so on.
“When you have lists of rules and fines, number one, someone has to collect the bloody things. That is a problem in itself, and number two, I’m not sure that is discipline.
“That is just putting rules up. I’m not sure that means anything.”
England will be based in Olomouc, the sixth largest city in the Czech Republic, with Southgate happy for his players to roam into the city centre after training and mix with the locals and soak up the atmosphere.
There is no chance of Southgate adopting a Fabio Capello-style ban on ketchup either, for that matter.
He added: “Too bloody right (there will be ketchup).
“I’m not banning baked beans either.
“The players have got to be relaxed enough, so that they play.”