You can insert any name you wish at the end of the headline. Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley, Andy Carroll, Steven Taylor. The list goes on.
Granted all of those players are Geordies (or adopted Geordies in Taylor’s case), but I’m not really referring to the geography of where they were born. What I’m referring to instead is the number of players who have come through the ranks at NUFC and have managed to find a way into the first team.
Players who have made the jump have been in short supply over the years. We’ve had a handful of players who have really flourished, before heading off to pastures new, and we’ve had players who have stumbled into the first team, before heading off to pastures new. The only exception I guess is Steven Taylor…
Maybe it’s something to do with loyalty in the modern game? There isn’t an awful lot of it going about in all honesty, and that works both ways between club and player. Both can be as loyal as they want or as fickle as they want which means that it’s not too often these days that you’ll see a player stay at one club for very long. It’s not often you’ll see a player burst onto the scene these days either…
Which brings me back on point after going off on a tangent. I look at the current crop of the next generation of NUFC players and I see very little to get excited about. Granted we have some good players in prospect, with the likes of Haris Vuckic, Mehdi Abeid, Shane Ferguson and so on being talked about positively, but sooner or later they have to make the leap from being a prospect to being a fixture in the first team, and I just can’t see a way that is going to happen.
Every so often you get a player that comes along, a Gazza, a Pedro, a one-off, that you can just tell will make it and who find themselves thrust into first team action at a very early age – think Wayne Rooney. The rest of them though have a long race to run, and the fact of the matter is that the race is often too long for some and they end up drifting into obscurity.
The fact is that football is a results based game and a sequence of poor ones will see a manager out of a job before too long. This is where the conflict between the now and the future exists. Young players have to learn and they can only do that by playing in games, which will generally make the team a little bit weaker to start with as they learn the ropes. The long term benefits to it could be great, but when a game is lost the focus is not too often on the longer term and there is pressure to change something.
To me this is one of the biggest problems we have in our game right now, both at NUFC and beyond. There is this clamour to play the best team at all times, for the now, even if it means forgetting the future just a bit. In turn that means younger, highly-rated, players end up stagnating by playing football at a lower level.
This is my concern right now as we focus on building the development side of things up. It’s all well and good doing that, but will those players ever get the chance to shine through?
Looking at the way things have gone thus far, probably not!