England performed slightly above expectations at Euro 2012, as Roy Hodgson’s young squad managed to meet our dampened expectations with a series of battling displays. However, a worrying trend has developed with this latest batch of promising youngsters and a select few of them may be in danger of getting ideas above their station before they’ve truly made it.
Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck is believed to be haggling over signing a new contract to stay at the club, with reports indicating that he is thought to be demanding around £60,000 per week. He’s had an excellent breakthrough year at the club and his hard-working displays up top for England at this summer’s tournament showed he was capable of making the step up to international football far more comfortably than even his biggest fan could have previously envisioned.
Nevertheless, bearing in mind that he is *only* on £17,000 per week now, the club’s offer of around £40,000 per week would seem perfectly reasonable considering that he’s only 21 years of age and isn’t a guaranteed starter with Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez also jostling for a spot up front. Welbeck has always seemed like a lovely chap whenever he’s been interviewed, so he must be being very poorly advised. Is it trial by the media, though? Is any of it even grounded in truth?
Former Manchester United forward Lou Macari had this to say on the matter, beginning the persecution, which at the moment is based solely on conjecture: “My main concern right now is Danny Welbeck – he’s had one good season, he’s only young and you never know which way they’re going to go. I’m hoping Danny signs his new contract, settles down and doesn’t listen to his advisors, like other young players do. Because I don’t think any United supporters want to see a long drawn-out saga over a contract. I just hope Danny realises these extended contract sagas, signing or not signing, don’t go down well with the fans.”
Throw Welbeck’s supposedly outrageous contract demands into the mix alongside the ridiculous Duncan Edwards comparisons that Phil Jones began to receive last year and you have a media simply willing to over-inflate the ego of any young footballer. It’s a well-worn routine – build them up to knock them down later when they will inevitably if they fail to meet the lofty expectations set out for them.
The club have suffered in particular recently at the hands of greedy youngsters (although I’m pretty sure Welbeck doesn’t quite fall into this category just yet) with the likes of Ravel Morrison, Paul Pogba and Ezekiel Fryer all at loggerheads with the Old Trafford hierarchy over their wage demands. You could say that Ferguson has lost touch with the younger generation, but he is well within his right to not back down to their silly demands – they’ve done nothing to earn the right to demand anything yet, and right now they’re all just merely potential. Ferguson allowed Pogba and Morrison to both leave the club and Fryers looks to be edging towards a move to Tottenham as a result, but what else could Ferguson be expected to do under the circumstances?
Over at Arsenal, the fawning praise for Jack Wilshere could eventually mean he struggles to meet expectations upon his return from injury. A series of ankle injuries kept him on the sidelines for all of last season but he’s already been touted to walk straight back into both the England and Arsenal teams – no pressure then.
If anything, Aaron Ramsey highlighted last season that after a whole year out from the game, you can struggle somewhat when you come back – his form fluctuated last season through no real fault of his own, he just missed a long spell at a crucial time in any player’s development. Wilshere has played just over 70 professional appearances, so how about before we heap a bunch of pressure on the 20 year-old on his return, we give him a bit of time to settle and get back into the swing of things? Sadly, we all know the answer to this before it’s even happened, he’ll be proclaimed the the club’s saviour, the man capable of helping the side bridge the gap on the title challengers, and he’ll disappoint.
At Everton, Jack Rodwell has been hyped up beyond belief and been tipped for stardom with England as the long-term solution to the midfield anchor problem, but he’s never been a guaranteed regular at his club. Injuries have hampered him and he made just 14 league appearances last season – Henry Winter may want to have his babies, but some perspective needs to be applied here.
Theo Walcott has struggled to meet everyone’s expectations of him since bursting onto the scene as a prodigious 16 year-old at Southampton. It’s not that he isn’t a decent winger now and his end product has improved massively, it’s just that he’s not the player that everyone originally thought he would be – that’s not particularly his fault (although his development has been painfully slow at times), rather the fault of the media for trying to proclaim him as the next big thing.
The term ‘wonderkid’ should be reserved strictly for the confines of Football Manager, it has no place when actually discussing the merits of a player. Welbeck is the victim of poor advice, which is threatening to harm his reputation, while the likes of Rodwell, Wilshere and Jones have all struggled with unfair comparisons and weighty expectations in the past. Before we ruin the next generation for England, perhaps a dose of perspective could be applied to ensure that these players keep their feet on the ground in the future, who knows, they may actually surprise a few people then.
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