You only have to look at the way Manchester United have started this season to recognise the impact great young players can have on a team. However, not all are good enough to play straight away in the first team. Perhaps they are better off in staying at their first club for a little bit longer before making their big move.
Spurs youngster John Bostock could well fall into this category. Since making his move from Crystal Palace in 2008, the 19-year-old has struggled to make an impact. He hasn’t made a single league appearance for Spurs. He has had loan spells at Hull City and Brentford. It’s easy to say now but in hindsight, he would have been much better off to stay at Crystal Palace for a few more years to continue his development.
Playing with Palace would have given him grounding and a much better chance of playing first team football. Although it’s very hard to turn down the overtures of a club like Spurs, there is a lot to be gained out of playing regular first team football at a young age. There’s the experience you gain from it and also the more somebody plays, the more he will grow in confidence.
Had Bostock been playing consistent first team football for the past three years, barring any injury he might have picked up, he would have arguably developed much more than he has at Spurs. The proof will come in how long it takes for his career to launch from here, if it all.
The short term gains of a move will always be much more prominent in the mind of a young player. For example, by leaving for a bigger club, they will earn more money and their profile as a player will be raised significantly. There is also the opportunity to work with better players and potentially better coaching staff. The standard of facilities would also feature somewhere in a player’s thoughts. From the clubs point of view, they will want to integrate into their way of playing as soon as possible. Look at the style possessed by all of the players who come out of Barcelona’s La Masia.
You have to wonder whether it is worth players moving from the perceived smaller club when in all likelihood they will just get sent out on loan or play reserve team football. Players would be much better off playing in competitive lower leagues with their club. The Championship and League One are good platforms for a young player to excel.
Perhaps it is now the modern way to move when you’re young to give you more time to progress at your next club. However, Connor Wickham is a player who made a big move this summer to the Premier League. He might well have benefited from another year in the Football League.
Wickham has made an inauspicious start to his career on Wearside. At the age of 18, he would surely have been better off continuing to learn his trade in the Championship, a league where he scored 13 goals in 65 appearances in total. That is not the greatest record for a striker but who’s to say he wouldn’t have improved that this season with Ipswich. Instead he moves to Sunderland for £8 million and expected to be one of their main goal scoring outlets. The pressure on him will only increase with the departure of Asamoah Gyan to the UAE.
It begs the question whether players are being advised by the right people. Agents don’t seem to have the best interests of their client’s playing career at hand. They seem to focus on what will make the most financial sense to them and the player. There is no doubt that Connor Wickham will earn significantly more at Sunderland this year then he would have at Ipswich. It might not have hurt him so much to say he’d like to stay at Ipswich for another season to develop further.
Maybe there is a fear factor for players like Wickham. If they turn down the move now, will they ever get the chance again? That comes down to how confident they are in their ability. The more confident players are able to turn down the overtures in the knowledge they will continue to impress.
It’s not necessarily the same with young players abroad. Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gӧtze has already signalled his intentions that he wants to stay in Germany for another year. Under the stewardship of Jurgen Klopp who has manufactured a team with many great young prospects, that cannot be a bad thing for Gӧtze.
It is understandable how players see the bright lights of clubs like Manchester United and immediately want to join them. However, in terms of a player’s career, they would perhaps be better off to stick it out at their club for a little while longer, learning their trade and playing regularly even if it is at a lower level.
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