The perils of too much, too young
The transfer window has now closed and Watford have remained relatively unscathed. The departures of Jon Harley, Will Hoskins and Jay DeMerit earlier in the summer were expected and Watford’s most saleable assets remain at Vicarage Road.
To date, the Hornets have spurned the overtures of former boss Brendan Rodgers and his new club Swansea for star striker Danny Graham. The future of goalkeeper Scott Loach is much more up in the air.
The circling of vultures
Hardly a week has gone by without the England U21 ‘keeper being linked with a move away from Vicarage Road, SPL runners-up Celtic, moneybags Manchester City and Mark Hughes’ Fulham the latest club to join the growing list of admirers.
Celtic have since solved their goalkeeping problem with the capture of highly-rated Newcastle stopper Fraser Forster, but Harry Redknapp remains a fan of the former Lincoln City man and Spurs remain the only club to have made a concrete offer for the Hornets number one, that a loan-to-buy offer last January.
However, should Loach be given permission to speak to Spurs or any other big club then he would do well to turn them down.
Why Loach should reject Spurs approach
At present, Loach is the first-choice ‘keeper in an average Championship side, he’ll play another forty-six league games this season, and hopefully win a handful of U21 caps for England, gaining vital experience, unless he’s injured, suspended or sold to a bigger club.
The grass is not always greener elsewhere and for young players especially, picking a move at the right time, to the right club is absolutely critical in their footballing development.
For talented young players, the obvious forward step is to join a bigger club when the opportunity comes along. However, it can and, more often than not does, lead back to square one. It just so happens that Spurs are a fine example of a club that takes players backwards or at the very least halts their careers.
A cautionary tale
Tottenham’s John Bostock is the perfect example of a raw young talent who jumped ship at the first opportunity and has not developed as expected or hoped since. If he’d have stayed at Crystal Palace he’d be well on his way to the one hundred game mark and gaining experience week-in-week-out.
Instead he showed no loyalty to the club that helped him cut his teeth in the game and joined Spurs only to sit in the reserves. A loan spell at Brentford last season brought little success so it’s another season on loan at Hull where he may or may not succeed.
And that is of course the problem with loan spells. Though they provide experience for youngsters and opportunity for fringe players, they also provide instability and a lack of continuity for all involved which can be as harmful as not playing.
Bostock’s loan spell at Griffin Park last season started with two goals on an impressive debut before being sent back to White Hart Lane after another eight matches.
It was said that the physical nature didn’t suit Bostock’s personal style, but attitude problems were also cited as a reason for an early return, something that reflects the widely-held view that young players suddenly come into money and fame before they have earned it or are truly ready to handle it.
Now 18, Bostock has still only made 13 career starts, a damning statistic for a man who jumped ship at the tender age of 16 with the lure of the Premier League too much to resist despite only having played in four games for Palace.
Although Scott Loach is four years older than Bostock, his age is still comparable on the basis ‘keepers play on for much longer than outfield players, and in goalkeeping terms, Loach is still very much a baby.
However, having stayed loyal to Watford, the club that took him from Lincoln aged 17, Loach has already broken the one-hundred game mark (112 starts to be precise), won promotion with the club, been handed twelve England U21 caps and just recently received a first senior call-up.
Sure, going to Spurs means a pay-hike and the chance of European football in the future, but it will be several years of stagnancy, waiting in line patiently for the likes of Heurelho Gomes and Carlo Cudicini to depart before thinking about even a place on the bench. That is before even bringing into consideration other young stoppers such as Oscar Jansson, Mirko Ranieri, Ben Alnwick and David Button.
Hoarding and herding
Bostock is by no means the only young player to move on to bigger things at the first opportunity and Spurs are by no means the only club to hoard young players without giving them an opportunity, Liverpool under Rafael Benitez for example had over sixty professionals on their books.
Manchester United and Chelsea in particular are also guilty of snapping up youngsters “just in case”, never giving them a chance and moving them on. Of course the only big club who don’t really subscribe to this trend are Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal who work entirely differently.
There are also exceptions out there, players who moved into the spotlight at a young age and thrived: Michael Dawson, Micah Richards, Joe Hart, Cesc Fabregas to name but four.
Scott Loach strikes me as a young man with his head screwed on, the fact he cited first-team football as being important to him makes me feel that any decision on his behalf to leave Vicarage Road in the future won’t be taken lightly but the same doesn’t go for every young player.
Loach is the exception that proves the rule. Before he does move on, you can bet plenty of other promising young players with fewer games under their belts will be drawn like moths to the bright lights of the Premier League.
Written by: Tom Bodell