When Alan Hansen famously claimed ‘you can’t win anything with kids,’ Alex Ferguson didn’t just prove the former Liverpool captain wrong once, but repeated the feat again and again and again.
The school of ’92 went on to arguably be the best team in Premier League history. Players of the ilk of Beckham, Giggs and Scholes have become household names and the club from Old Trafford have gone to unprecedented
On the back of that, Alex Ferguson has blooded other young players into the team, not afraid to put his hand in his pocket with the purchases of Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, who both played prominent roles in their double winning season of 2008.
Even before these two great generations of players, Ferguson introduced the likes of Russell Beardsmore, Lee Sharpe, Mark Robins and Lee Martin. That faith proved crucial, with Robins arguably saving Fergie’s job with a
famous cup goal at the City Ground and Lee Martin securing the man from Govan’s first trophy with an FA Cup win in 1990.
He is now introducing the next breed, with Smalling, Jones, Welbeck and Cleverley showing they have what it takes to take over the mantel of their famous predecessors.
Watching this new generation coming through has led me to wonder if they are really that much better than our own current breed of young stars?
Since Alex Inglethorpe has come to the club I have noticed a number of exciting players on the fringes of the first team. Due to considerable pressure, Santini and Jol never seemed brave enough to give them a try.
I remember a young left back Phil Ifil making his debut against Liverpool in Santini’s first game in charge. He was quick, not scared of going forward and looked a good prospect. After such a promising start he was never given a look in, went out on loan to Millwall and has never been heard of since.
Even though I’m probably the biggest fan of Martin Jol, my only criticism was he didn’t give many youngsters a chance. I remember the likes of Dean Marney having a great game against Everton, but wasagain unable to establish himself into the team.
A lot of you might ask what have they done since, as Marney plies his trade at Burnley, but players develope differentially in a different environment. Players sometimes only improve with the experience of playing with better players. They haven’t had that since they left the Academy at Tottenham.
Our current crop contains some players who in my mind, match their northern counterparts. Youngsters like Walker, Caulker and Naughton have proved themselves at Championship level and have deservedly earned a
In Walker’s case he has come back vying for a place in the Spurs first teamand if you take his performances at Villa and with the England U21’s, ‘The next Roberto Carlos’ will be surely be given a chance.
Caulker has earned his stripes in the lower levels, first in League One with Yeovil and then the Championship with Bristol City. In Naughton’s case he has been voted into the Championship team of the season on two occasions (Sheffield Utd and Leicester). Other lads such as John Bostock, Danny Rose, Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, Jon Obika and Tom Carroll and Harry Kane all went out with moderate success.
Harry Kane was out on loan with Leyton Orient last season and although his impact was minimal, he has comeback a better player, scoring goals for fun in pre-season. I really like the player; he seems to be a natural finisher in the Robbie Fowler mould, but strong enough to hold the ball up. If given a chance he could be a superstar, but will Harry be brave enough to play him?
History says yes, as Harry was in charge of West Ham when Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole were coming through. He was using the same template there as he is now – sending them out in the real world of lower league football. It’s a sink or swim philosophy which worked well at the East End club. Let’s hope he keeps his promise of playing the kids in the League Cup and Europa League, even though the opening game of the season has been cancelled.
I obviously don’t see these young players train every day or know what their characters were like, but only seeing Sol Campbell, Stephen Carr and Ledley King establish themselves in my time as a supporter, is very disappointing.