Top TEN players ‘tipped for the top’ who failed to live up to the hype

Before the start of the new campaign I wrote a piece about the young Premier League starlets to watch out for. Amongst these much heralded and discussed youngsters were the likes of Marc Albrighton, Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell and Phil Jones. Whilst these players undoubtedly have promising futures, football is full of talented players tipped by managers, team-mates and fans who did not make the grade. Below are ten of those who were lavished with praise but failed to match expectations.

Lee Hendrie

Aged 33, the former Aston Villa player is currently without a club following his departure from Derby County. The midfielder who along with Gareth Barry was once the talk of Villa Park was tipped to be a future England star. He made one substitute appearance for the national team and was signed by Sheffield United in 2007. He was subsequently farmed out to Leicester City and Blackpool. Henrie played the latter half of last season at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Francis Jeffers

With his ‘fox in the box’ label still intact, Jeffers was signed by Arsene Wenger from Everton for £8 million on 2001. He failed spectacularly at Highbury, leaving in 2004 after which his playing destinations seemed to have been planned with all the precision of a drunk throwing darts at a map. The 29-year old striker recently had a prolonged period at Hillsborough but was ostracized after head-butting Port Vale player, Tommy Fraser in the League Cup last year. He trained with Blackpool this summer but has not yet been offered a contract by Ian Holloway.

Neil Mellor

He progressed rapidly through the youth and reserve teams at Liverpool before joining West Ham on loan which only brought a meagre goal return. The strong, burly striker returned to Anfield to score the winner against Arsenal in 2004 and netted against Olympiakos in the Champions League. Injuries and inconsistent form saw him move to Preston North End in 2006 but has since joined up with former manager, Alan Irvine at Sheffield Wednesday.

Michael Ricketts

The centre-forward once earned an England cap after coming to prominence after playing a crucial role in Bolton Wanderers’ promotion to the PL. His impressive goal tally continued in the top flight where he scored the winning goal in the Trotters’ 2-1 away victory at Old Trafford. He was signed by Middlesbrough for £3 million in 2003 but in the intervening years has turned out for numerous clubs across the leagues. He is a free agent after being released by Tranmere Rovers this summer.

Luke Chadwick

Cambridge born Chadwick came through the youth system at Old Trafford but could not cement a regular place in the Manchester United line-up. The midfielder who spent long periods on loan was eventually bought by West Ham in 2004. Further loan spells and transfers continued for Chadwick who can now be found plying his trade at MK Dons.

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Richard Eckersley

It may be perfunctory to write off the talent of 21-year old right-back Eckersley. Having featured for the Manchester United first-team in the latter stages of the 2008/09 season, he stunned the club by rejecting a new contract. He opted to join Burnley but made just three cup appearances before being loaned to Plymouth Argyle earlier this year. The full-back has not found favour with Brian Laws who has not selected Eckersley for a league match this season.

Jody Morris

Contemporary of John Terry, the former Chelsea player Morris was tipped for stardom at Stamford Bridge. The 31-year old made over 100 appearances for the west London club, picking up an FA Cup winners medal in 2000. However in his quest to secure a starting berth he left for Elland Road in 2003 but failed to make an impression. Spells at Rotherham and Millwall follwed but Morris can now be found at SPL side St Johnstone.

Terry Cooke

Scorer of the winning penalty as Manchester United claimed the 1995 FA Youth Cup, midfielder Cooke was set to follow Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham in the first-team. He transferred to rivals Manchester City but failed to assert his influence once more before being signed by Grimsby and then Sheffield Wednesday. In the past few years he has been spotted playing for the Colorado Rapids and North Queensland Fury.

Ben Thornley

Another Manchester United alumnus, Thornely played with Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville in the 1992 FA Youth Cup. The right-footed left-winger was highly regarded by Sir Alex Ferguson but found his opportunities hindered by injury. He left United in 1998 and played for a range of clubs before dropping to non-league football. He is presently on the books of Witton Albion.

Bosko Balaban

The former Dinamo Zagreb forward joined Aston Villa for £5.8 million in 2001 with a reputation as a prolific goal-scorer. He did not discover that free-scoring form at Villa and was loaned back to the Croatian club. Accused of laziness by Graham Taylor, the Croatian whose goal to games ration remains steady, currently plays for Greek side Panionios.

Any glaring omissions? Let me know in the comments below…

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