Rob Fielding argues that Rob Page’s steady approach to player development is the right way to develop talent.
Rob Fielding writes…
Do you remember earlier on this season? Do you remember the constant calls from fans for JJ Hooper to be played, the moaning that Rob Page had “no idea” and that the manager was somehow biased against the striker and “would never play him”.
At the time, I doubted the capability of those complaining fans to know if the striker was ready, I felt it echoed a similar call to play Achille Campion the previous season and I maintained the view that Rob Page and his coaching staff would be best placed to know when JJ Hooper would be ready.
After Hooper scored his fourth of the season and his second in successive games at the weekend, I would argue that Page has been proven to be correct in holding Hooper back. I’d also challenge those fans who felt Page “would not play Hooper” to look at how the manager had kept faith in Hooper in recent weeks.
To back up the view that Hooper could have forced his claims earlier in the season, just look at these remarks from coach Paul Bodin back in December…
Bodin said: “When he first came in he perhaps wasn’t used to the full-time training but he is growing and you see him in training now and he looks so much sharper… He is a natural goalscorer but when you haven’t got the physical capabilities, and you are perhaps not as fit as the rest of the boys, you can’t you can’t quite get in those positions…. When you do one-on-one basic technical finishing he is up there. But to see that in a game you have to have some physical attributes and your movement has to be better. We are just seeing that now over the last couple of weeks and we are really pleased.”
I don’t really need to add to those comments. Would fans have been happy to see Hooper, who in the view of the coaches that saw him every day wasn’t ready, rushed into the first-team and potentially struggle – or would they prefer the player that they see now? One that was gradually given longer and longer appearances from the bench before being given the chance to start games and show fans his scoring potential?
It’s the same approach that Page took with Enoch Andoh. Should the winger have been introduced during last season when Vale struggled and Page (rightly) opted for experienced heads to see Vale to safety? Would such an introduction have potentially crushed his obvious talent through the pressure of Vale’s relegation fight? Or should Enoch have been unleashed after a full pre-season training, at the start of the season when there was no pressure? For me, there’s no contest.
I believe Page’s slow but steady approach has paid dividends with both Andoh and Hooper and perhaps it’s now time for fans to show a bit more patience and respect to the Vale manager.