There’s a temptation to sneer at the signing of James McCarthy. He may be the hottest prospect in Scottish football; he’s only 18 and being anything in Scottish football doesn’t really equate to anything anywhere else. But there’s another take on this, and the targeting of the likes of Victor Moses, Roman Golobart and Curtis Obeng that presents a much brighter picture, and given that it’s miserable outside of my train window, I’m taking that one, and sod the rest of you.
During the Dave Whelan era, managers have tended to show how much they feel the chairman’s breath on their necks by buying for the here and now, trying to get immediate success and not caring what the future might bring. This has been visible, as much as anywhere else, in Latics’ bits and pieces approach to youth policies that have effectively left the squad without that ‘natural’ back up that other clubs have.
The fact is that younger players are less stressful and less demanding. I’ve written before about how difficult it is for Latics to maintain a healthy reasonably sized squad and maybe this is the way forward. It would be nice to think that one day Latics will have their own little conveyor belt going (didn’t we used to have a renowned youth set up? Whatever happened to Dave Crompton?) but for now we probably have to make do with buying one in.
Of course, unless you’re Alex Ferguson, the only thing you win with kids is the FA Youth Cup, but we’re (hopefully) not talking about pinning our hopes of survival on a bunch of kids, but using them to increase the size of the squad. The success, or otherwise, of bringing in a bunch of youngsters (if indeed Bobby succeeds in his attempts) hinges on having a strong core to the squad for them to support.
That depends as much, if not more, on keeping what we’ve got than buying people in. In Kirkland, Bramble and Cattermole, Latics have a defensive core that many (most?) teams would be envious of. I’m not convinced that we’ve replaced Heskey, Palacios and Valencia yet, but the foundations are there and hopefully there are now enough leaders in the squad to build from (something that has been sorely lacking on the other occasions that a big hole has been ripped in the squad.
I guess that, and I say this with some trepidation, the conclusion is we’re heading in the right direction, Martinez seems to want to build for beyond this season, which is good, better than good even, as long as he doesn’t forget there’s a more immediate job to do as well.
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