In our recent analysis of the PFA awards, my fellow blogger John McGee highlighted the disagreement that can ensue when debating the worth of leading young players.
With Jordan Rhodes valued by the press as a knee jerk £6 million, John pointed out that Adam Le Fondre, the man whose two goals fired Reading to victory over Southampton in the Championship’s recent summit meeting, cost a mere £350,000.
Prices seem to be all the more outlandish for players the tenderer side of twenty. One recalls Aston Villa’s £6 million for Fabian Delph, the £5 million disbursed by Arsenal for the services of Theo Walcott and the £12 million the same club forked out for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Much depends on the purchasers of course – for Arsenal, these sums are sizeable but affordable – so probably worth the risk. Hence, for Crystal Palace to meet their fans’ financial expectations for Wilfried Zaha or Birmingham City for Nathan Redmond, it will have to be one of the really giant enterprises that comes knocking.
Nick Powell is plying his trade two leagues below Zaha and Redmond but his progress is no less significant. Accolades have been piling up for the Crewe midfielder in recent times: caps at various levels, appearances at last summer’s under-17 World Cup in Mexico, and a Football League Young Player of the Month award – and all that with the kid only turning 18 in March.
What’s more, he has developed into a team player quickly – scoring 14 goals in 54 appearances for the Alex and his position as midfield fulcrum has helped inspire the Cheshire club into an unlikely late run for the play-offs – scoring a dramatic late equaliser against Torquay on Saturday and leaving the Railwaymen needing only a point at home to Aldershot to book a place in the 4 team mini-tourney. Indeed, the last defeat suffered was way back in February at Southend and fifteen games have passed since.
Looking at the fees Crewe have received for previous academy graduates, there is some variation, with the record fee received standing at £3 million for both Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton – the latter in particular taking some time to head out from Gresty Road, cementing his place as one of the second tier’s best strikers before leaving.
But chairman John Bowler’s recent announcement that Alex had made a £962,736 loss for the 12 months up to the end of June 2011 will catch the attention of amateur accountants and directors have had to make interest free loans to keep things ticking over.
Powell is already good enough to command a fee amounting to several multiples of that deficit and now he is 18, will not be subject to the ravages of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – so Crewe can breathe a sigh of relief on that count at least. With gates perennially low, even during an encouragingly long spell playing second flight football, the Railwaymen exemplify the realities England’s smaller concerns must face.
If Powell does leave, it seems likely that the fee will top the £1.5 million quoted in a Metro article at the weekend – Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City are among the rumoured suitors and can surely be expected to cough up more.
Current Director of Football Dario Gradi has always been loathe to allow his best youngsters to jump ship too early but the Alex academy costs £500,000 a year to run and its whole existence is predicated on returns – with a bevy of additional talents to keep the club on an upward curve, selling this angular future leader of a midfielder could keep Crewe sustainable for a decade.