In a statement on their official website, Everton Football Club have officially confirmed that they remain hopeful that Kyle Naughton will become the latest addition to their squad, confirming media reports that a fee for the young full back was agreed a week ago, but that he is yet to undergo a medical or to agree terms with the club. If you are to believe further media reports, this is because Tottenham Hotspur have made an attempt to hijack the bid and that the player now must decide which club he will join.
Naturally as an Everton fan who has heard only good things about Naughton and who recognises the need for more strength in depth in our squad, particularly in the right-back position, I hope that Naughton chooses to join Everton. Furthermore, while I will naturally be biased towards this conclusion, I genuinely feel that Naughton would be mistaken in joining Spurs ahead of Everton, and that a move to the Toffees would be far more beneficial for his long term development and career.
Naturally Tottenham fans will perhaps disagree with me, But I think it’s fair to say that White Hart Lane is a bit of a breeding ground for failure when it comes to young players. They often seem to snap up promising young players, who then go on to stumble in their development, recent examples including Gio Dos Santos and Gareth Bale, who both joined the club with high expectations but failed to progress in their first seasons. The likes of Jermaine Jenas, David Bentley and Alan Hutton too have moved to Tottenham at a reasonably young age and not fulfilled their promise. There are exceptions, Aaron Lennon is developing well now, but he too went through a very rough period.
Arguably this comes down to Spurs very generous transfer policy. Every summer for the past few years they seem to have made a large number of signings, bringing in many foreign players like Luka Modric and Didier Zokora who then take the place of their younger, usually homegrown players in the side, and stunt their development. In that sense, Tottenham can’t really guranantee a young player any sort of consistency, and there’s no guranatee of regular playing time at the top level which is what they need to develop.
And when you consider that Kyle Naughton is a right back and that Tottenham’s current squad features no fewer than four players who can and arguably should be playing at right-back at Premier League level (Alan Hutton, Vedran Corluka, Chris Gunter & Pascal Chimbonda) it makes you wonder why Harry Redknapp is interested in signing Naughton at all. Furthermore, you have to question why Naughton would want to join Tottenham, knowing that he faces such fierce competition for a place in the side, whereas he is currently first choice right-back for Sheffield United.
Some would argue that even as a bit part player at a Premier League club he will develop more than at Sheffield United in the Championship, but I would argue that regular playing time would be better for him. And given that he was raised as a Sheffield United fan and so probably is only considering leaving to further his career, then I think a move to Tottenham would be a bad move. On the other hand, I think he would do very well for himself by moving to Everton.
For a start, David Moyes’ squad is much smaller than Spurs’, and at present the competition for a right-back slot lies pretty much between Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville. However, Moyes prefers to deploy Neville in his more natural holding midfield role, and so when injury has struck Hibbert, Phil Jagielka has sometimes been asked to fill in at right back. In short then, Everton are ain need of a right back, and so if Naughton signed for the Toffees, he could be fairly sure of having a good chance at regular playing time.
What’s more, David Moyes has shown countless times in the past that he can pluck a player from the lower levels of English football and turn them into top quality Premier League and international footballers. Tim Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka have all come from the Championship, and are now firmly established as some of the Premier League’s top performers. That should show Naughton that Moyes sees him as an integral part of his first team plans, and isn’t signing him simply as one for the future, as I believe Redknapp would be.
This is further demonstrated by the clear faith that Moyes places in his younger players. The season just gone saw the emergence of Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling into the first team fold, and the purchase of 21 year old Mauruaone Fellaini for £15m pounds. Furthermore, in his time at the club Moyes has also brought through young players like Wayne Rooney and Leon Osman, and also has James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe as part of his current first team squad. He has great faith in youth, and is not afraid to give them a chance.
And of course, there is quite a strong link between Everton and Sheffield United too. Phil Jagielka, who I mentioned earlier, came through the Sheffield United ranks and is now a firm favourite at Everton, while the likes of Gary Naysmith and James Beattie have, in recent times, left Everton for Sheffield United. Since Naughton has been at Sheffield United since he was a boy he will no doubt have looked up to Jags when he himself was breaking into the first team, and possibly saw him as an ideal role model for him. So to have the chance to follow in his footsteps is surely a great opportunity for the young lad.
Overall then, I have to say that I think Kyle Naughton would be very wise to choose a trasfer to Everton over a move to Tottenham. At the same time, I’m fairly sure that Spurs will probably offer him a bigger money deal, and so it will be interesting to see whether his head is turned by that financial aspect. I think in purely footballing terms, the move to Everton is the right one, and we’ll get a glimpse into his motivation and ambition when we see where he ends up, whether he’s seriously looking to further his career or interested only in the flash lifestyle of the modern professional.
Of course, it might not be that simple. While Everton have confirmed an offer for Naughton, the papers have since reported that Spurs have made a double bid for him and his namesake Kyle Walker. Reports suggest that Walker would be immediately loaned back to United as part of that deal and so that is no doubt an attractive option for them, as they will get the cash up front and still have Walker for a year, as they may well lose him after next season whatever happens. If that is the case, then Everton may have been outbid and the element of choice may have been removed from Naughton himself.
Whatever happens, this to me represents an interesting glimpse into the way in which managers treat young English talent. Redknapp, in my opinion is showing a blatant disregard for the development of Naughton by bidding to bring him to a club where he may get very few chances, and so he could progress far more slowly than he otherwise would. On the other hand, Moyes (and current boss Kevin Blackwell) will be keen to get him on the pitch regularly and will mould and push him to become a better player.
Having recently seen England fail to reach Euro 2008 and seen the footballing community finally accept that the foreign influence on the Premier League is having a negative effect on English football, I know which move I would rather Naughton make – even if I weren’t an Everton fan. It’s about time managers like Redknapp accepted a greater responsibility for the success of England at international level and so if Naughton does sign for Spurs, I’d like to see a clear out of their other right backs, because they don’t need five.
At the end of the day, I think Naughton has a big future ahead of him and could even, if he has a good season, push for consideration for the World Cup squad (because aside from Glen Johnson and Micah Richards, who have we got at right back?). Therefore I’d be delighted to see him become an Everton player, because not only do I think he’d be an excellent addition to our squad (and our all English defencive line), but also because it would be a step in the right direction for the English national side too.
What do you think: