THE modern player is built up of multiple components particularly when he is available for transfer or vying to be so. The hype machine is rolled out by marketing the strengths this player possesses. Agents and advisors surround the asset, maximising his value by emphasising his worth by drawing attention to the positive aspects of his often limited experience in the game.
With the name of a new “prodigy” linked with the cream of Europe and beyond every week, the lines have been blurred between potential and the real deal.
In short, how do we know when a player has “made it?” do they need to be on top of their game for one year or even five?
The great John Barnes alluded to this in his recent absorbing interview suggesting that modern football culture is to blame for pinning great hope and investment on players who have merely dipped their toe into top level football, leaving a lot of room to chance and that is where criticism, be it justified or not, follows.
Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson are such protagonists; a couple of young inexperienced lads from the north east who have stepped out of their comfort zone at clubs where they were the local lads made good – loved by their fans - with glowing futures in the game. But money talks and in the Comolli days being young, English and with potential meant you were hot property. Over-inflation and un-mitigating circumstances cost the club well over the odds and this breeds impatience with suspect performances by a couple of players learning the game in the coal-face of a high profile club.
When players are willing to learn from their coaches and more senior players everyday in training it is an encouraging sign that their mentality may be up to the challenge of pushing themselves to the forefront of the team. Henderson has no pre-conceptions that he performed to the maximum of his ability and potential. In a recent interview he gave an honest appraisal of how he is doing, admitting he has been “too safe” in his distribution and that it has been an “up and down” first year for him.
“I’ve done the basics, but when I watch matches back I’ve not shown that cutting edge which I believe that I have got.”
It is a learning curve which may be steep but at least the lad is willing.
With these players along with fellow novice Martin Kelly, now England property for the Euros, we will see their value and exposure increase greatly but this could also be a double edged sword especially if any of these players bravely step up and miss in a penalty shoot-out for instance or make a critical mistake which will subsequently send the national team home. This is where the criticism will turn from mocking substandard performances to taking a more spiky and cruel turn; see Southgate ’96, Beckham ’98, P Neville ’00 and our very own Carragher ’06. I wish for this part of their development to be a learning curve and not a further stick for them, to be bashed with.
It is an overinflated market, hype and hopeful trend to maximise a players potential which drives these huge fees and calls for whether a player has “made it”. It is up to the club to protect these assets so they have every chance to eventually live up to expectations and not be seen as a quick fix.
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