SWINDON have a cracking player in winger Alex Pritchard. Against MK Dons last weekend, he made a wily old pro in Dean Lewington look like a park player after a night on the lash.
That’s no slight on Lewington, although I’m sure even he must suspect the sponsors spent too much time enjoying the hospitality after he walked away with the man-of-the-match bubbly.
Pritchard was just too good, knocking a perfect free-kick into the top corner and skittering into the box at will.
But watching him, you can’t help but feel sad. This is a kid who has long been hailed as a future star. Whose set piece prowess has been compared to David Beckham. Who, less than 12 months ago, was scouted by Barcelona after helping Spurs drub the Spanish giants 4-1 in the NexGen series.
Yet he isn’t playing in the Premier League for Spurs. He isn’t even on the bench. He’s out on loan in League One.
Spurs will call it “gaining experience”, but does anyone really think he’ll get a look-in at White Hart Lane when he returns?
His chances can be summed up in a few words. Dembélé. Sandro. Capoue. Sigurdsson. Lamela. Paulinho. Chadli. Holtby. Eriksen. Lennon.
At 20, Pritchard can’t afford to wait behind that lot. By the same age, Beckham had played and scored in the Champions League for Manchester United. Cesc Fabregas had played 150 times for Arsenal. Michael Owen had eight goals for England.
I know they all went on to become world-class players. But like all world class players, that was only because someone gave them a chance and time to learn their trade.
Pritchard could be rubbish in the top flight but unless he plays there, how will we ever know?
After all, Kevin Keegan was playing for Scunthorpe in the Fourth Division just six years before being named European Player of the Year.
It’s easy to scoff at Greg Dyke and reasonable to ask the FA chairman for action rather than words.
But watching Pritchard last week, it’s impossible to disagree with him.
CHERRIES’ DEBT TO MITCHELL
LIKE him or loath him, Eddie Mitchell rescued Bournemouth from liquidation, appointed Eddie Howe manager and oversaw a rise from the foot of League Two to the top half of the Championship. There have been plenty of unedifying scenes along the way, including a drunken on-pitch pop at supporters and a sweary rant on the BBC’s 606 phone-in.
He has never been one to make his supporters proud. That’s why, with a place in the second tier and Premier League ambitions, he has made the right decision in selling his 50 per cent stake to co-owner Max Demin. The higher you go, the more dangerous Mitchell gets in front of a microphone.
Yet history should remember him as the man who saved Bournemouth.
FORCE ALL CLUBS TO USE DROP CLAUSES
WIGAN chairman Dave Whelan makes a reasonable point about the necessity of parachute payments, currently £48m over four years.
“If we didn’t get help when we get relegated, a lot of clubs would go into bankruptcy,” said Whelan, whose side went down in May after seven years in the top flight. “And players wouldn’t sign for you if you told them you’d reduce their wages by, say, two thirds if you go down.”
Which is quite true. So instead of asking clubs to do the dirty work, why not make it compulsory for all clubs – even Manchester United – to include relegation clauses?
Then you’d have a safety net without the noxious bi-product of a shocking financial disparity with sides at the lower end of the Championship.
Given their determination to attract stars at all costs, the Premier League would probably laugh at any such notion.
But the FA could reject any contract without a relegation clause. That would certainly show a commitment.
NO SHOCK TO SEE END OF ABBOTT
WAS anybody surprised to see Greg Abbott sacked by Carlisle? He has been like a chipped windscreen, just waiting
for the jolt that will shatter the lot.
Having won the JPT in 2011 and finished seventh in 2012, fans expected a promotion push. Instead players like Tom Taiwo and Francois Zoko left, a string of flops came in and the club slid to 17th. Suddenly, Abbott’s complaints about the budget were seen as excuses.
And when the season started with 5-1, 4-0 and 4-0 defeats, the board knew that after five years, fans had lost faith in their manager. Once that happens, there is no winning it back.