The problem for young players in English football is there is too much hype and over-expectation. Ravel Morrison scored a great goal against Spurs last weekend and suddenly the hype takes over and he’s being compared to Gazza.
Sam Allardyce was as bad as anyone after West Ham’s win over Spurs, in talking up Morrison and that the “penny had suddenly dropped” for the young player and now everything would be great. He’s only played 6 games in the Premier League and that was his second goal. It was an outstanding goal and he took advantage of the situation to make his mark on the match but if he hadn’t scored the goal would he have been remembered from that game? The answer is “No”. He had played his part in a well-planned West Ham performance but had done nothing to make him stand out from the rest of his team.
Then in midweek, the usually conservative England Under-21 coach, Gareth Southgate, who is careful in his comments, said that he expects Morrison to be as influential for England as Paul Gascoigne at his very best. What a burden to lumber a young player with. Southgate’s comment was reported in the Daily Express, saying,
We’ve got at least three players – maybe more – who have the ability to do things that are out of the ordinary like Gazza and Ravel is one of those.
A young player needs support and encouragement but a comment like that just raises the level of expectation on Morrison at far too early a stage. Let’s see what he’s doing after he’s played 100 games for West Ham, then there’ll be a better insight of what he might achieve in his career and for England.
English football is littered with young players who were labelled early in their careers as star quality but failed to progress – just ask John Bostock.
In the same week as Ravel Morrison was being lauded as the next great England hope, the Mirror had an article on John Bostock – a reminder that it doesn’t always work out as planned.
The Fallen Star
Bostock made his League debut for Crystal Palace at the age of 15 years and 287 days in November, 2007. He played 4 games and the following summer, he sign for Tottenham amid headlines and haggling between the two clubs over the transfer fee which was eventually settled by a tribunal. Spurs paid £700,000 and dependent on appearances the fee could have risen to £1.25m with an additional £200,000 if he became a full international.
The following November he made his competitive match debut for Tottenham in the UEFA Cup against Dinamo Zagreb, coming on as a substitute tobecome the youngest player ever to play for Spurs at 16 years, 295 days, just beating the previous record-holder Ally Dick by six days. He made a total of 3 appearances as a substitute in the UEFA Cup that year and went on loan to Brentford and Hull City over the next two seasons. He scored twice on his Brentford debut and scored a wonder-goal in his first game for Hull.
He represented England at Under-16 level, captained the Under-17 team and scored twice in 9 games for the Under-19 team. His next game for Spurs wasn’t until January, 2012 in the FA Cup against Cheltenham Town as a substitute for the final 8 minutes. He went on loan to Sheffield Wednesday but again the arrangement was brought to a premature end.
A further loan period was spent at Swindon and earlier this year Bostock went on trial with Toronto, spending three months on loan with MLS club. Last June Tottenham announced that they would not be offering John Bostock a new contract and that he would be released. He has joined Royal Antwerp in the second tier of Belgium football and is being coached bu Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
The Mirror’s article reports that Bostock, now 21, is trying to rebuild his football career away from the Premier League hype. He has made 5 appearances and is enjoying his football again.
Bostock reflecting on his loan spells away from Tottenham said that expectations on him were so high.
There was an expectation on me to perform straight away. Otherwise I’d get people saying: ‘Isn’t he supposed to be this wonderkid? Why is he not doing it?’ and stuff like that.
He also admitted that it was a problem with him too that he felt that he should be able to produce something special in every game. He thought,
I am John Bostock. I should be able to do something special at every club, every time I went out onto the pitch. It took me a long time to learn that I needed to do the simple things well. To get games and show people that I can play with a mature head.
Under Hasselbaink he is rebuilding his career and his confidence after so many setbacks. Hopefully he will in time be able to display the talent he most certainly has and produce those wonder moments again.
Not The First Or The LastBostock is not the first talented young player to fall by the wayside. Ally Dick, who Bostock replaced as Tottenham’s youngest player, was a Scottish schoolboy international and showed all his ability and was the star performer in a 5 – 4 win over England schoolboys at Wembley. He made his early debut for Spurs in 1982 and the highlight of his career was appearing as a substitute in the 1984 UEFA Cup Final win over Anderlecht. Two years later after 21 appearances and 2 goals for Spurs, Johan Cruyff signed him for Ajax. Hindered by serious injury he went to play in Australia and South Africa and ended his career in Scotland in 1977. Another young player who didn’t fulfill the potential that everyone could see in him.
Ravel Morrison is a talented young player who impressed Sir Alex Ferguson. He has the ability to become an outstanding player but would it not be better to let him become established in the West Ham team, gain experience and grow as a player before he’s labelled the ‘next Gazza’. Many young players start well but after a time when teams become aware of them they fail to develop to that next level.
John Bostock and Ally Dick are just two of the players who have come through with Tottenham but failed to build on the early potential and expectations. There are many others of whom there have been great expectations but they never made it to the first team or flattered to deceive and after a few good performances disappeared back into the reserves and obscurity.
Hopefully John Bostock will make it back along the difficult road to reviving his career and that Morrison will one day prove Gareth Southgate right in the assessment of his ability but for the moment just let them get on with it.