Saturday, January 22, 2022

Trevor Steven: Overseas move is worth the risk for youngsters

To understand why young English players are increasingly attracted to the prospect of joining teams ..

By admin , in Sprots , at January 1, 2019

To understand why young English players are increasingly attracted to the prospect of joining teams in other European leagues you need only look at the case of Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The midfielder, 22, was part of the England squad that achieved their best World Cup finish in 28 years during the summer, yet back at Chelsea he is still barely getting a kick at club level.

The squads of top Premier League teams have become so vast that even talents like Loftus-Cheek struggle to get the minutes they need to develop, and that is why they have started looking overseas for opportunities.

Whether its a loan move, as in many cases, or a permanent transfer of the kind that has paid off so handsomely for Jadon Sancho, I am very much in favour of players taking this route.

A better chance of playing time is the primary reason to take the plunge but there are plenty of others.

European leagues, where the football tends to be technically good, are far more conducive to developing talent than the Championship, which is a grind of a division.

Out of the comfort zone

Simply being wanted is a confidence boost and if you do well that effect is multiplied. Even if it doesnt work out it will ground you and expose you to new cultures, training methods and habits.

I think its a good way of focusing the mind of players. Its easy to coast if you feel like youre a long way from the first team.

Moving to a European club, especially if its on loan, takes you out of that comfort zone: you know you have a finite spell to make an impression.

Its a risk, of course, and not everyone is equally well suited to living and playing abroad. Some people are home birds and others are happy being more nomadic.

But young English players shouldnt be afraid of the standard – Sancho and England Under-21 winger Reiss Nelson have shown that in the Bundesliga – and they have very little to lose by trying.

England recognition

I think its hugely positive that Gareth Southgate has rewarded players like Sancho who have been prepared to take this alternative route to high-level football.

When I was at Marseille with Chris Waddle we were omitted from the England set-up for the whole time, despite being relatively senior internationals and part of a championship-winning team in France.

Agents and clubs are now also seeing these moves as a good option. If they are managed well and the overall strategy is communicated with the player, they are a good thing.

In football, you dont have long at all to make it. You may have been with a club since the age of six and you may have a contract, but thats just the start. The percentage who succeed is still tiny.

The reality is that you need to show a high level of consistency pretty quickly to get a foothold in the first team.

I think you are always the best judge of how well youre doing, but as a young player you need to be honest with yourself – and if that means moving then do it.

The game is high-pressure so you have to show that youre the man – or at least the boy who can, with more playing time, become the man.





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