The debate about players coming in from the academy rages on and on, it always will. Do we paper over cracks by bringing them into the side? Do we rate them higher than what they are because they have come through the academy? That’s one argument that frustrates me because they are good enough or aren’t. It’s too easy to say they’ve come through the academy therefore they are overrated.
Yesterday saw five academy players start the game. In goals Baily Peacock-Farrell, in defence Tom Pearce and Paudie O’Connor and in the midfield Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira. We already know about Vieira and Phillips and have formed an opinion but the argument regarding academy players is perfect when discussing Phillips. He came into the side under Garry Monk really, getting a run in the side and he divides opinion. Some say he’s underrated and some say he’s overrated. Those who think he’s underrated think it’s because he didn’t cost money and those who think he’s overrated think it’s because he came through the academy and gets less stick that another players. We actually get to the point where we divide up the academy players coming through and the foreign signings, comparing them based on the way they arrive in the first-team and we shouldn’t really, they should be judged on their individual performances, easier said than done.
The three players currently interesting everyone for next season are being judged not to fill gaps but to actually get a chance to stay in the first-team picture and squad, and to be honest none of them are doing themselves any hard at all. I think all three will feel they have made a strong case to be taken with the first-team in pre-season and be involved next season. Players can only be judged on their performances and when you look at the ones we’ve seen so far none look out of place. Baily Peacock-Farrell was the first to get a chance under Paul Heckingbottom and he’s been a revelation since coming into the side, being the best player in nearly every single game since being put in against Wolves. Why he can’t be considered the number one next season is beyond me, he’s shown every attribute needed to do it and in all honesty I don’t really care how old he is, he’s been brilliant. If we sign someone better then so be it, but as far as I’m concerned experience isn’t the be all and end all.
The other two are a different matter but have both been very good in their short spells. Tom Pearce bagged his first goal yesterday, a lovely striker after reading a cross-field pass and intercepting in his stride. His defensive work has also been very good and although he is very young and has much to learn he certainly has a good chance of being involved in the squad next season, Charlie Taylor walked into the first-team and didn’t look back and there is no reason why Pearce can’t do the same. Paudie O’Connor comes from a different background to the others, having already played first-team football in Ireland. He’s stepped into a shocking defence and has looked very comfortable, I would point the finger more at Jansson for the own goal yesterday and while I don’t think he’ll see much first-team football next season I do think he will be in and around the squad, playing cup games, perhaps even a loan. Centre-back is the most difficult position to come into a first-team in my opinion but you wouldn’t think so watching O’Connor.