by Adam Virgo
SOLLY March has the potential to be a top-class player. Right now, though, a move to the Premier League would be a big mistake.
If rumours are to be believed, Southampton are lining up a £7.5m summer bid for the 21-year-old Brighton winger.
Apparently, Ronald Koeman has been watching him for more than a year and, if so, he’ll have seen a player who’s come on massively.
Solly is quick, creative and can beat a man. He’s been Brighton’s best player this season, which is some feat considering they’re top of the Championship.
Chris Hughton can take a lot of credit for that. Even though Solly is a left-sided player, he’s often played on the right under previous managers.
So, while he would regularly hit the byline, he’d always cut back in to cross with his left foot, slowing play down and giving defenders a second chance.
If you think of Ashley Young at Manchester United, it’s a pretty good comparison.
Chris has realised that Solly is a better player on the other side and, recently, the quality performances have been coming thick and fast.
Nevertheless, I’ve still been frustrated at times. You watch him in one game and he’s absolutely unplayable. Then, you see him in another and he’s really, really poor.
I watched Solly play against Switzerland for the England Under-21s and he couldn’t put a foot right.
He can also be quite robotic. Watching him, you think ‘Take the safety catch off. Don’t worry about making mistakes or following instructions to the letter’.
He can become predictable – hit the line, cut back, try to cross.
I say he should be a bit more selfish – take on a man or shoot at goal. Your best performances are when you don’t worry too much and just let it flow.
Of course, those things all come with age and experience.
And, at 21, it’s perfectly natural to have the odd no-show. But, if you cost £7.5m, people will expect you to produce consistently.
That’s why I think the Premier League would be a step too far at this stage. The fact is, Solly’s never really had a run of games where he’s played consistently for a season.
When you’re young, you play with a bit of worry. You’re thinking ‘If I don’t cross the ball enough, the manager won’t pick me. If I lose the ball I’ll be dropped’. That’s why he can still look a bit safety first. Now, for the first time, Chris is picking him regularly and he’s starting every game. He can loosen up and express himself, take games by the scruff of the neck.
And with every minute, he’s building confidence, building his own style of play, understanding the subtleties of the game.
If he were to join Southampton in the summer, he’d be on the bench, with the odd start, bench again, coming off, coming on. It would be back to square one, which is the last thing he needs.
What he really needs is a couple of seasons in a successful Brighton side, playing 60, 70 maybe even 100 games.
That would take him to 23-24 years of age and he’d be vastly better equipped to handle the step up.
I just hope Brighton, who this week announced losses of £10m, can resist the money. In the past, they’ve let top players go quite easily. Leonardo Ulloa is a perfect example.
But they dug in their heels with Lewis Dunk, even though Watford offered a serious chunk of money.
I’d like to see a similar stance with Solly – for his sake and theirs.