Very often at the highest level you see talented kids eventually playing league 1 or 2 football, and never fulfilling their potential while with clubs in the Premier League – being released after multiple loan spells. Clubs are usually more inclined to think those players will never make it after average loan spells – but last season one player may have changed the outlook on that.
Harry Kane scored a total of 16 goals in 65 games over 4 loan spells to Championship/League 1 sides – and never really impressed. However with Spurs’ lack of performing forwards they gave him a shot in the Europa League where he scored 7 in 9 games. Because of the early form of himself in said competition, he was put ahead of Soldado and Adebayor in the league, and repaid the club with 21 goals in 34 games. So, in total – 51 games, 31 goals and an England call-up and a goal to go with that. What a turnaround for a player who could have easily been sold on for a measly sum likely to have been less than £1m.
Now I see another who has gone the other way – Benik Afobe was highly rated by Arsenal but never given a single appearance. He scored 19 in 80 games over a period of 4 years worth of loan spells to various clubs. He was then sold on to Wolves earlier this year, despite scoring 19 in 30 games for MK Dons, including a few in the famous win against Man Utd. For Wolves, he managed 13 in 21 games in the Championship to take him to a total of 32 in 51 – and the highest scorer in the country! At just 22, he will surely make it back up to the Premier League with one club or another, and hopefully prove Arsene Wenger wrong and bag a few against the Gunners
Another who will probably fail to make it with his current club is Patrick Bamford. Plucked from Nottingham Forest in 2011 for £1.5m, he is another to have never appeared for the first team. He has had 3 loan spells – 4 goals in 14 for MK Dons a few seasons ago, then a mix of Derby and MK Dons in the 13/14 season – with 25 in 53. Last season he won player of the season in the Championship with a total of 19 goals in 43 matches. He is now in big-demand from clubs in both the 1st and 2nd tiers of English football, with a price of £10m being mooted from Chelsea, who with Falcao, Remy and Costa have no intention of ever playing him. He is one I feel must leave if he wants to become a success at the highest level.
You look around at others who have been given up on and wonder “Could they have made it if given the chance?”. The likes of Jose Baxter at Everton, Fede Macheda at Man Utd, most recently Adam Campbell at Newcastle – who was dubbed ‘the next Michael Owen’ – now at Notts County. One who has gone full circle, ala Ian Wright – is Dwight Gayle. He was playing non league football after being released by Arsenal and after a stint at several non league and lower league clubs is at Crystal Palace. Sheffield Utd have Che Adams on their books now after he was released by Coventry. After just 16 games for Ilkeston Town he has been snapped up by a football league club after impressing greatly there!
The loss of the bigger teams is the gain of said smaller clubs, but with numbers of English players in the Premier League dwindling you have to think how many more Harry Kane’s there are that have been and gone. There is too little patience with youngsters these days – they pretty much have to come in and hit the ground running or are let go and replaced by a foreign wonderkid who gets twice the time and the same result. In the case of some, they are simply not good enough – but if they were given an inkling of a shot at success they may well take it. Attitude is one point made by some – I remember a youth player for Newcastle called Marcus Maddison, and he went to Gateshead on loan with the ‘I’m a Premier League player’ and was soon put in his place. Needless to say he was released by Newcastle but has since revived his attitude and is now with Peterborough and performing well!
Once released some kids seen to give up and settle for a career as a lower division player – but after seeing the likes of Afobe and Kane make themselves when it seemed bleak – it will give hope to the younger kids out there, which is good for English football. Afobe and Bamford should find themselves at Premier League clubs before they know it – and possibly in the England squad alongside Harry Kane. They both have the talent and work rate to succeed – and I really hope they do!