By Matt Farr

Everton development coach David Unsworth has challenged youngster Courtney Duffus to prove he deserves a new deal.

The 21-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season, and negotiations have yet to begin over an extended deal.

Championship outfit Brighton tried to sign the young forward last month in a bid to strengthen their title challenge, but saw their offer rebuffed by Everton.

The Republic of Ireland youth international has been in decent form for Everton’s development side this season, but has only contributed three goals and one assist from his 15 appearances.

And, with the club yet to tie him down for the long-term, his future remains increasingly uncertain. Unsworth insists that Duffus can earn himself a new deal by impressing him on the pitch in the coming months.

He told the Liverpool Echo: “Courtney has come back into form over the last few weeks and we don’t want to give up on him.

“We’ve never given up on him. There was an offer, it was declined, and he’s in our thoughts and it’s up to Courtney to earn a contract and we want to give him every opportunity to do that because you have got to stay at big clubs for as long as you can.

“As much as Courtney is an older player at this level he has had two very nasty injuries and periods out of playing so you have to take that into account. His work-rate is fantastic, he just needs to go on a goalscoring run.”

Unsworth also admitted that the devastating injury setback denied Duffus an opportunity to impress in the first-team squad.

Duffus was named on the bench for Everton during their Europa League group-stage clash with BSC Young Boys in the second-half of the 2014-15 campaign, but he did not feature again because of a knee injury.

Football Insider verdict

Ronald Koeman has handed several members of Everton’s development squad a chance to shine in the first-team this season, including Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, so opportunities will be there for Duffus if he can impress. Unfortunately, time is fast running out, and he really needs to prove himself in front of goal in the next few months or else he will be looking for a new club in the summer. The club have been very patient with him amid his continued injury concern, and in fairness to him it can be tough. However, the Everton chiefs have a job to do. They can’t wait forever, and after a winter clear-out of the first-team squad, Duffus could become the next casualty at Goodison Park.

In other Everton transfer news, Everton are said to be one of several clubs interested in signing Hull’s Abel Hernandez, according to the player’s agent.

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