Pat and Dele can light up the Premier
...IF THEY GET REAL CHANCE
IT’S HARD to argue with the nominations for the Football League’s Young Player of the Year. Patrick Bamford, Dele Alli and Nathan Redmond have all done the business. But while Redmond is an established part of the Norwich squad, what does the future hold for Bamford and Alli? Will this pair of loan stars get a proper opportunity to show what they can do when they return to the Premier League?
Alli, who was signed by Spurs in January and immediately loaned back to MK Dons, has had a fantastic season. He’s that invaluable asset in football – a midfielder who scores lots and lots of goals.
Karl Robinson deserves great credit for that. The Dons boss believes in playing football properly and believes in giving young players the freedom to express themselves.
Alli has really blossomed in that environment and it would be great to see him pay them back by winning promotion to the Championship.
Most people will look at Dele, see he’s 19, and imagine he’ll go straight back into the lower leagues on loan next season. I’m not so sure.
I look at Tottenham now and age is no barrier to the first team. Ryan Mason, Harry Kane, Nabil Bentaleb – Mauricio Pochettino loves to give young players a chance.
They’re likely to be in the Europa League, which will necessitate a big squad. If Alli has a good pre-season, I’d expect him to play, at least until Christmas. And if he performs in Europe, who is to say he won’t keep his shirt for the Premier League? That’s exactly what Kane did.
At 21, Chelsea loanee Bamford is the same age as Kane – and, for me, he belongs at the same level.
He did brilliantly for MK Dons, really well for Derby. He’s gone to Middlesbrough this year and become the first player since Fabrizio Ravanelli to score 16 goals for them in a season.
He’s quick without being blistering. His energy and work-rate around the pitch are fantastic. He’s a clever player in his movement and use of the ball. He’s also very confident, and a good-sized guy who can keep hold of the ball.
Any young player who makes it this far has got the talent. What the Championship does is test whether you’ve got the heart, commitment and desire to really make it.
I think Bamford has passed that test with flying colours. He doesn’t belong on loan in the Championship any more. There’s nothing left to learn. For me, he has to spend next season in the Premier League, and preferably with Chelsea.
How else can he develop? He needs an opportunity and when I say opportunity I don’t mean five games in the Premier League, no goals and that’s it. Too many managers seem to think that’s enough.
You have to be fair to these players. You can’t expect them to repeat what they did in the Championship without giving them the same environment – a consistent run in the side and the trust of the manager.
It’s like Jamie Vardy and David Nugent. They were absolutely superb for Leicester last season, scored bags of goals.
This season, they haven’t been quite so good and immediately people say ‘Oh, Championship players who couldn’t adapt’. That’s not fair because they’ve gone from a side who were flying to one that is struggling.
Give Alli freedom to play and he can strut his stuff. Play Bamford every week in a good Chelsea side and watch him score. Give them a handful of minutes here and there and you’re just wasting a lot of talent.
WHEN Dougie Freedman took over at Nottingham Forest immediately lost top-scorer Britt Assombalonga to injury, you feared the worst.
But, against all odds, they went on a fantastic run which end at one point looked like it might even in the play-offs.
Now Dougie has been rewarded with a two-year contract and it would be a great if he could keep the momentum going because Forest are a club who've knocked at the door for so, so long. For the first time in a while they can approach a summer with a bit of stability.
It should also encourage any coach or assistant asked to take temporary charge that if they seize the chance, they force the chairman's hand.
LOAN STAR: Patrick Bamford has been a revelation at Middlesbrough this season