Not every teenage prodigy can become the next Wayne Rooney. For some, the tag of becoming the ‘next big thing’ is too much. Football Fancast blogger Matthew Wood checks out five of the most notable youngsters who have failed to live up to expectations.
Still only 20 years old, time is on the side of American Freddy Adu but in truth the forward has never reached the potential that was predicted at the tender age of 14. Adu became the youngest American athlete to sign a professional sports contract when he signed for DC United. Italian giants Inter Milan were also interested and offered a six-figure fee but the transfer was turned down by Adu’s mum who believed he was too young to move abroad. In 2006 Adu had a two-week trial with Manchester United but boss Alex Ferguson failed to follow up on initial interest. Now with Benfica, Adu has been loaned out three times and will spend 2010 with Aris Thessaloniki of Greece.
Dubbed by Arsene Wenger as a ‘fox in the box’, an £8 million signing for the Gunners, Jeffers never lived up to the expectations that he had set early on at Everton. Playing second fiddle to Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp didn’t help but a career that started with much promise, including a goal in his only appearance for England, soon went badly wrong. Jeffers joined former club Everton on loan but failed to score a single league goal, stints at Charlton, Rangers, Blackburn and Ipswich followed without any success. Jeffers is currently contracted to Sheffield Wednesday but is out of favour with the Owls after being transfer listed for head-butting an opponent.
A former England under-20 captain, much was expected of John Welsh as he rose through the ranks at Liverpool. Many fans believed Welsh could become the ‘next Steven Gerrard’ but in reality chances were limited in the Liverpool first team, although he did feature in Liverpool’s run to Istanbul, coming on against Bayer Leverkusen and an unused substitute in Turin against Juventus. Welsh left Liverpool for Hull City in 2006 following a loan spell, after initially impressing at the KC Stadium Welsh was shipped out on loan to Chester, Carlisle and Bury. The 26-year-old now plies his trade for League One Tranmere Rovers.
A former Chelsea captain, Jody Morris made the breakthrough to the Stamford Bridge first team at the same time as current skipper John Terry. Morris made 124 appearances for the Londoners after debuting in 1995. In 2003 the midfielder was offered a five-year deal but chose to turn it down on the hope he would receive a better deal elsewhere. Morris ended up joining Leeds United just three months before Roman Abramovic checked in at Chelsea. However, it was his ‘bad boy’ image that led to a slide in the career of Joy Morris. Following spells at Rotherham and Millwall, the 31-year-old is now trying to re-build his career at Scottish side St. Johnstone.
A £5 million signing for Leeds United in 1999, Michael Bridges was thought of as one of the hottest young strikers around. Bridges paid back Leeds’ faith in his first season at Elland Road with 19 Premier League goals. However disaster struck in the following season when Bridges suffered an injury in a Champions League group game against Besiktas. Bridges failed to score any goals in four more years at the club with injuries forcing the striker to just 10 appearances. Attempts at resurrecting his career at clubs including Newcastle, Bolton, Sunderland, Bristol City, Carlisle, Hull City, MK Dons and Sydney FC followed with only real success at Carlisle United were Bridges’ 15 goals helped the team to promotion. Now with Australian side Newcastle Jets, the 31-year-old has enjoyed a successful start to life in the A-League.
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