Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Young guns? Go for it!

Earlier in the week the news broke that we're close to completing the signing of Swindon Town full-back Ben Tozer, having successfully fended off rival interest from Everton and Portsmouth and agreed a fee that could end up being in excess of £1m.

While it's certainly true that cover at left back would be useful, with Charles N'Zogbia currently playing out of position, Jose Enrique out of form and Celestine Babayaro finally off the wage bill. But given that Tozer is only 17 and has only figured in seven games at League One level for the Robins so far this season, it's very unlikely that he will be expected to step straight into the first team frame at St James's Park. Indeed, Sam Allardyce has already been talking about sending him out on loan to gain some experience.

What's most interesting about the move, though, is the hint that we might be starting to pursue young talent more aggressively. Too often we have paid hefty sums for players already in their prime, while Arsenal, to pick an obvious comparison, have amassed and developed a whole shadow squad of highly promising youngsters for next to nothing. Whereas Arsene Wenger always seems to see the bigger picture (certainly much more clearly than he sees the majority of fouls his sides commit), Fat Fred and his managers have lacked vision, constantly preoccupied with short-term solutions and quick fixes. Youth and reserve fixtures have apparently been below our scouts' radars.

The snaffling of N'Zogbia from Le Havre, albeit in acrimonious circumstances, and the capture of Tim Krul, currently on loan at Falkirk, are the recent exceptions that prove the rule - but, counting a couple of chickens, it would be heartening if the signing of Tozer marked the beginnings of a concerted effort to scour both foreign shores and England itself (a la Spurs) for the bright young things that can grow, blossom and in time displace the current superstars at a fraction of the cost.


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