Let the Youngsters Blossom?

Nialle Rodney’s appearance the other night had me thinking on the dearth of quality younger players we have had come through the ranks of late.

Nialle Rodney

What with Billy Davies statement the other day that the youngsters may have to step up into the team, despite hardly ever being given a look in before. Brendan Moloney we have seen bits of before, but Rodney and Kieron Freeman we have hardly seen. Also mentioned were Jamaal Lascelles and then there’s always Mark Byrne, who still will be wrongly remembered for missing an open goal v Derby in the cup.

I am always heartened by the fact most fans, even the delusional ones who think we have a god given right to be in the Premier League, warm to a youngster making his steps in his career. Being supportive whereby with a more experienced player they would probably berate. Of course this run will end, and there will be a point where this encouraging reaction of fans turns to expectation.

Of course it helps that Rodney largely did well when he appeared against Preston, chasing every ball, hitting the post. I worry it’s a game of politicking by Davies, trying to prove a point ‘look to what I’m left to having to play.’ But should it be as if everyone is saying we down to the bare bones? If these guys aren’t ever going to play for us or make the grade, what is the point in us employing them? Of course they should be used, that’s what they are at the club to do, so this largely condescending tone of having to use youngsters belittles the whole point of having a youth team in the first place.

Hamza Bencherif

The last youngsters to break through were arguably Lewis McGugan and James Perch. The likes of Thornhill though looked like he might settle in ultimately have been shipped off elsewhere. Many youngsters coming through who you hear are promising haven’t made the grade. Hamza Bencherif, Adam Newbold, players who in the youth and reserve teams names appeared to be set for a bright future but never made that step up.
It’s been said to me that the lack of decent young players coming through is that that 3 year period in League 1 meant we were no longer the appealing prospect we were before. The top youngsters we would sign went to other clubs, and we ended up with lesser quality. Only soon will we see the benefits of going back up a division with a talent of attracting in new quality youngsters.

It also would help to have a manager who trusts in youth. Billy Davies obviously does not. He wants players who can perform now, and not need to be moulded. Calderwood was more encouraging of youth, and of course Paul Hart implicitly entrusted in youth, it did help that he had a quality batch of youngsters coming through. For a while after that Golden Bunch came through we supported any youngsters coming through, hoping it would be another gem uncovered by Forest. Invariably these youngsters who broke into our team drifted down the league to relative obscurity. Gregor Robertson and Barry Roche two such examples. It didn’t help at that time, that the most highly promising youngsters we had both turned out to be no good, and vanished, I refer you to James Beaumont and Ross Gardner. Players apparently highly regarded at Newcastle, when we pinched them. I can’t help thinking this was a line we were fed.

Ross Gardner

There were one or two I feel we gave up too early on. Chris Doig could have done well for us in League One, he certainly did OK for Northampton. The famous cases of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Liam Lawrence being released by us by kids underline the fact that some times wrong decisions are made on youngsters. Look at Felix Bastians, playing in Bundesliga, not as the left winger we thought he was, but as a central defender. By and large though, we make the right call. These players leave us and disappear into relative obscurity. Though it is good to see Craig Westcarr blossoming at County, and Steve Guinan carved out a decent enough career after we let him go.
So I am delighted to see the possibility of youngster being able to maybe have the chance to step up. It’s all too easy to say that in the pressure cooker of this promotion run in games that we need experience, but I think that belittles these players and makes a mockery of what they might be able to offer. If they are what we have available then we utilise them. Simple as.