It all started with a comment by Bobby Charlton. Manchester United’s new signing Phil Jones apparently reminded him of Duncan Edwards. Before long, endless journalists were calling him a future England captain and The Telegraph’s Mark Ogden penned a gushing interview including pictures of Jones in front of a picture of Edwards (and Ryan Giggs).
By all accounts Jones has had a great start to his United career, though when I have watched them the defence has been more porous than the much maligned Arsenal back four. That might be more down to Jonny Evans and a fading Patrice Evra however.
But either way, that’s not my point. I am not a bitter City fan jealous at the bargain that United have bought. Jones may well be a brilliant player. He may become a future England captain, he may have a glorious trophy-laden career. Who knows?
What grinds my gears (thanks Peter Griffin) is the ridiculous over-hyping of every young English player. Jones is 19 years old. He has barely started his United career, and has made mistakes like any young player yet already he is being labelled by all and sundry. And it probably does Jones no good to be compared to United greats anyway. Stop the stupid comparisons and just let him play football. Just as well he appears grounded, or he could just be another talent to fall by the wayside. I’m still waiting for Freddy Adu to reach his full potential – anytime now.
The media love to compare players to past legends. Incapable of describing the attributes of a new star, much easier to call them the new Giggs. The White Pele (arf). The English Platini. The next Romario. The new Steve Claridge.
The Jones hype is helped by him playing for Manchester United of course. There was no mention of him being a future England captain last season when he was a Blackburn player (he was their best player against Manchester City) There was no clamour for an England call-up for Danny Welbeck or Tom Cleverley when they were playing Premiership football on loan last season. There is now. Fair enough you might say, as they are now playing (sometimes) at the top level, but let’s hold back on the ridiculous levels of praise until players have performed consistently over a longer period.
Owen Hargreaves has a successful 57 minutes back from a 3-year injury and immediately he is being talked of as possibly securing an England recall. Michael Owen scores his annual Carling Cup goals and Ollie Holt demands that he too gets an England recall (conveniently getting a dig in at Capello in the process).
Any England fan will be happy to see some great English youngsters breaking through, especially strikers where the pickings seem particularly slim at the moment. But rather than build up another Golden Generation so we can knock them down again when they fail, let’s just wait and see how they develop, and in the meantime enjoy them for what they are, not for what they might be.