It seems that whenever a young player performs well in during a match in today’s game there follows a worrying trend amongst football journalists – a trend that becomes a price the young player must endure the very next time he steps onto a pitch and beyond, for the foreseeable future – hype.
In the beginning, hype could be seen as a good thing – particularly by the player himself. It signals his ‘arrival’ in the world of football. The moment he’s been dreaming of his whole young life. When all his sacrifices and dedication to ‘making it’ finally pay off. But what follows quite often – and often it is immediate, is a trend to build up the player as the next ‘great’. Instant comparisons will be made with established stars, and the inevitable ‘new’ version of tag will follow. Praise will be heaped upon the player with superlatives being attached that, in the past, had only been reserved for only the truly established and world class stars. No longer. Instantly lauded, there seems to be no such thing these days as simply a ‘quite promising performance’ from a youngster – particularly if he’s attached to, or linked with one of the bigger clubs.
Of course, hype of a new or young player isn’t a new thing in the world of football. It’s been around every player, manager and club for years following every good performance, result or success. But in today’s world the media magnification is so strong and vast, and the thirst for the latest scoop by the press is so intense, that there is nowhere to hide for anybody who shows even the slightest bit of promise, particularly in England, with the many scrutinising tabloid journalists working for the press. They are responsible for the over-hyped stories and un-needed added pressure placed on young shoulders with the sudden weight of great expectations, then even more responsible in deriding the player if they fail to live up to the impossible build-up they had been given. Build them up, to knock them down, as they say. No country does this better than England.
It may not all be down to ‘evil’ football journalists, far from it. But they play an integral role in the hype-machine of today. The hyperbole of football journalism in this country has played its part in the massive premium that’s been put on today’s young English players. Just look at the value being placed on our young ‘stars’ now. I say ‘stars’ in inverted commas as, in the eyes of the media, that is what they are – quite often even before they have fully established themselves into the first team. It is an example of the extreme superlatives given and what the hype-machine can do, which has led to unrealistic values in the transfer market. Look at the recent examples of Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones. Far from established, experienced players, a promising 18-months led to transfers at over-valued prices. Now they both have the weight of hefty price-tags on their shoulders too with journalists closely monitoring if they are worth it, with every kick of the ball. As this hype transfers to the watching fans – the pressure to perform is even more immense. Another example is Andy Carroll. His huge fee was in part down to the over-hyping of a player who had less than 6-months experience of top-flight football. The subsequent attacks on his abilities are not solely down to the player who is in the near-impossible position of having to live up to his ridiculous price tag, and the hype given by the press, who are now eager to mock the youngster every time he fails to meet their unreasonable hype.
Danny Welbeck this season has been the latest target for the press. His performances have brought him into the spotlight and the press are instantly lauding him and claiming United have ‘unearthed a gem’ – even though he has been around their first team for a number of seasons. But, as a youngster, any great performance will bring this type of hype.
Of course, this rule doesn’t just apply to the UK. One famous occurrence took place in Italy back in 1992, when after only a few promising seasons, Gianluigi Lentini become the most expensive player in the world, when AC Milan signed him for an astonishing £13 million. Whether he really ever had the potential to become a world ‘great’ was debateable from the off, but under the intense pressure of the transfer fee and playing for a giant club, Lentini couldn’t live up to the expectations and faded – his name becoming synonymous with failure in Italy. With great hype comes great, but often false expectations – and players pay the price for unfulfilling them.
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