Stopping the disappearing acts of young English talent

As everyone obsesses over the Raheem Sterling saga, their attention should be turned to the other exciting English talent that has made his move to the Etihad: Patrick Roberts. Manchester City have acquired a midfielder that at the tender age of 18, has already scored 14 times at youth international level. He is “an extraordinary talent” according to former boss Felix Magath, and with the right education and development England fans as well as City fans will soon have a new hero to fascinate over.

For now though, he remains relatively unknown and the general reaction to the deal is that he is simply there to address the home-grown quota, filling up the numbers. Because of this, for many fans the deal carries with it a worry that City will ‘ruin’ Roberts, as they did with Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair. But if we are on the subject of accountability, who really is to blame for the decline of those players?

It is very simplistic to point the finger at the financial powerhouse such as Manchester City. After all, for their owners, football is ultimately a business and very rarely is a footballing project with so much financial backing patient and purely focussed on the long term. Results are needed, and needed quickly, meaning they will play their best XI and gear everything towards trophies. Easing promising but raw English talent into the team with some regular game time is not high on the agenda. In fact it probably doesn’t mean a thing for these owners, and why should it?

That being said, young players still make the move. Are they all simply blinded by the money? Only they know. But what they should also know is everything I mentioned above, so why are they not put off by that? Yes, Roberts will now surround himself with superior coaches, facilities and players. This is good for his development. But nothing beats regular game time, something they can have no guarantees over. I should think that every player who makes a big move has the self-belief that they will make it, and become a regular, otherwise there’s no point of getting up in the morning. But there needs to be realism added to the hopes and dreams.

This week, boxer Anthony Joshua was asked: ‘How good are you now, and how good are you going to be?’ to which he answered, ‘right now I am no good but I have the ability to be exceptional.’ This is a young man who’s smothered by media hype and high expectations but he himself has his feet firmly on the ground, and earlier in the interview stated the importance of ‘living simply’.

Player power dominates transfer windows, so why don’t players now pave their own paths towards fulfilling their potential? Joshua’s style out of the ring should be emulated by our young, talented football players. For the sake of England, the FA can place more regulations on home-grown players; literally forcing managers to play them, but why shouldn’t our players take responsibility and ensure that they choose being played over getting paid?

By James Abedian – @jamesabedian