The news that we finished yesterday’s training session with a lengthy list of injuries isn’t exactly what we wanted to hear with the kick-off looming. With Dean Keates still struggling to recover from last season’s exertions and Brett Ormerod injuring his hand, Andy Morrell’s squad, already a little threadbare in places, looks worryingly thin with the opening day of the season just three days away.
Oddly enough, it’s Jay Colbeck’s injury which might actually be the most damaging for us. Obviously we want the experience of Keates and Ormerod in the team from the start, but Colbeck has been struck down just when I’d like to see his development kick on.
Even with Keates sidelined I’m not suggesting Colbeck would be pushing for a starting place against Welling. Clearly he’s been overtaken by Robbie Evans in the midfield tyro category, and although his chances of starting would be linked to the sort of midfielder we’d need in the side at the time, currently a rough sketch of the midfield pecking order puts him in seventh spot.
But that could have been different if he’d been able to put in a solid pre-season. Colbeck has ability: he’s an impressively cool finisher and is deceptively strong in the challenge. Pleasingly, he’s had little problem in transferring those attributes to first team football, and his composure on the ball is also undiminished when he steps up. A couple of times I’ve noticed that, on the edge of the area when a young lad might be expected to panic, he’s been able to keep cool and wait for the right moment to play the ball. That sort of composure is a rare in a young lad.
However, I’ve pretty much been saying exactly that since he broke into the first team picture a year and a half ago. That doesn’t worry me, as you have to be patient with young players’ development, and there’s no desperate imperative for him to suddenly take the decisive leap forward at the moment. Bryan Hughes, who broke into the side in the mid-1990s then essentially dropped out of the reckoning for a year, came back a fine midfielder who drove us on a run totthe quartter-finals of the FA Cup and earned a big move in the process. There’s no textbook for youth development, and therefore there’s no pressure for Colbeck to find his feet.
Having said that, this could have been a key point in his development. Morrell’s need to prune his squad certainly opened the door for young lads to come in, and Colbeck might have been ready to grasp that opportunity.
Even if not, this was still a key juncture for him. Morrell’s use of the loan system and our relationshp with some of the Northern clubs in the League of Wales has been profitable. He has spoken positively of the development of our young lads as they’re transplanted into a league where grown men play to put food on the table. Colbeck might well have benefitted from such a move, and Morrell’s budget would have too.
If letting Colbeck go out for six months was not only a chance to help his development but also a part of the plan to reduce Morrell’s wage bill and allow him to draft in a new face for Saturday, the youngster’s injury has well and truly compromised his plans.