by Chris Dunlavy
TWELVE goals, likened to Sergio Aguero and called up by England U19s – no wonder Newcastle fans want Adam Armstrong back from Coventry.
The little striker has bagged the same number of goals as the entire Toon squad put together and, aged just 18, is currently the highest scorer in English football.
“He does remind me of Aguero,” said Coventry loanee Joe Cole this week. “That’s a big statement but he’s got that stocky stature. He turns and twists and he can finish. He just needs to keep developing and keep moving.”
The question is, would that cause be helped by a return to St James’ when his loan expires in January? Unless he is handed a genuine chance by Steve McClaren, the answer is no.
We’ve all seen the depressing trajectory of youth ‘development’ in the Premier League. Young lad gets hyped, manager gives him the odd ten minutes or a League Cup start then, when he fails to beat six men and score, dumps him in the reserves. Next thing you know, he’s 22 and at St Mirren.
Armstrong cannot allow that fate to befall him, as it did his pal Adam Campbell, a one-time Toon protege now rebuilding his career at Notts County.
“I had to leave,” Campbell told me this year. “Even if I’d been offered another year, it would have been a year of the same treatment – no guidance, loaned out here, there and everywhere. Then I’m a year older and my career is slipping away.”
Nor can he permit himself to become the next Haris Vuckic; signed by Newcastle in 2009, loaned out all over the shop and who, at 23, remains as far from the first-team as ever.
When he walks into McClaren’s office in January, Armstrong must say ‘I start games, I play regularly, or I go’.
Too bold? Maybe if he was looking to overhaul Alan Shearer. But those days are long gone. Now the competition is one-season wonder Papiss Cisse and walking red card Aleksandar Mitrovic.
When Coventry boss Tony Mowbray remarked that “whoever’s playing for Newcastle must be a hell of a player to keep this kid out”, he unintentionally pilloried everything that’s wrong with the Premier League and its love affair with foreign players.
Yes, he is only 18, but so what? Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman is eight months older but it didn’t stop him ripping Arsenal to pieces in midweek. Dele Alli was playing in League One for MK Dons last term. Trusted by Spurs gaffer Mauricio Pochettino, he has flourished in the top flight and won a first England cap. Age is a number. Talent is what matters – and Armstrong has plenty.
If McClaren is willing to recognise that, great. If he isn’t, Armstrong should demand a return to Coventry. And if the first-team doesn’t beckon within 12 months, he should turn his back on Newcastle for good.
All players dream of the big time. But too many players fester in Premier League reserves whilst cowardly managers sign cut-rate filler.
And as they wait vainly for a chance, players like Alli and Jamie Vardy are toughening up and honing their skills in the lower leagues.
Armstrong would be much better served following in their footsteps than gambling his future on a broken system that’s already failed too many of our kids.