Google+ Blueprint for Football: Too Much, Too Soon

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Too Much, Too Soon

When Michael Johnson first stepped up to Manchester City's senior squad, he was projected in some quarters as the poster boy for the 'new' academy system.  Here was a player with technical abilities as exceptional as those being developed anywhere in Europe but with the desire to physically dominate the midfield area seen typical of British players.

That poster boy image remains but the product he's seen as advertising has shifted dramatically.  Johnson is no longer being pushed as the representative of the future of English football but rather as the epitome of a wasted talent and a career that appears over at just 24.

Yet Johnson probably was neither of those two extremes.  Instead he was a talented young player who got promoted to the first team far too early without having the mental fortitude required to handle the adulation that came with it.

Is it that surprising that, having been praised so much - and Johnson was publicly labelled as better than Steven Gerrard - he struggled when injuries started limiting his progress?  Is it any surprise that he found motivation difficult when the early attention died away?

If Johnson is to be held up as an example, it should be to fans who quickly rush to hail any promising player.  There is nothing as exciting as seeing a young player grab any opportunity that comes his way to make a mark on the senior side.  Yet some attention should be given to the praise that follows such early success.

Players have to be shielded from that praise as strongly as they are from criticism.  Because if from an early age they start measuring their self worth by the positive comments they get or put in the work depending on the reviews that come their way, then their careers could be ruined before they get a chance to really develop.

This piece was originally published in Issue 3 of Blueprint for Football's free bi-weekly e-zine that was sent out on the 2nd of February. For exclusive content, snippets of future articles and links to the best football articles around, subscribe here.

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