Although there had been some speculation mounting over the last week around the future of 17 year old Ishe Samuels-Smith, it still came as a bit of a surprise to learn that he has seemingly declined a first professional contract with Everton and reportedly decided his immediate future will be at Chelsea.
Disappointing as it is to lose any prospect that you have invested time and money in, to put it into context, Samuels-Smith is nowhere near the finished article.
As a 16 year old in the Under 21s, he looked composed and classy beyond his years, was good on the ball going forward and defended well enough but, in truth, there is still a lot of work to do positionally and physically. That’s entirely understandable for a young man just turned 17. He played as left back and also as a left wing back or left sided centre back whenever a back 3 was deployed.
Can he progress to be a great player? Most definitely, with hard work and the sort of coaching that you might expect to receive if you have one of England’s finest left backs (Leighton Baines) amongst your management team. Although he was involved in first team training and the matchday squad the Manchester-born defender will leave without pulling on the blue shirt that matters (the first team).
What will Everton miss out on?
In the immediate term, nothing at all. The reported £4 million fee allows (hopefully) that money to be reinvested elsewhere in a first team squad desperately short of goals. So the loss of a 17 year old full back nowhere near a regular slot in Everton’s first team should be regarded in just that way, a short-term positive.
Samuels-Smith is a long-term prospect not a shoo-in to Sean Dyche’s squad or anyone else’s squad for that matter. Before you know it, after a season of development with Chelsea’s Under 21s he’ll probably be off on loan to a European club for one season or two maybe and then it’s pot luck if he makes it.
The lure of new Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino might be an attractive proposition but I’d be highly surprised if he features in Chelsea’s first team in the next couple of years or so.
Thierry Small (remember him?) is the obvious comparison to make. Another promising left back was almost mourned by supporters having similarly declined professional terms at the same age with Everton two years ago. The young man who became Everton’s youngest ever player with a five-minute cameo appearance in a FA cup tie under Carlo Ancelotti is now in the Championship with newly relegated Southampton.
He spent last season on loan at Port Vale and Scottish side St Mirren. He is 19 in August and yet to make a senior appearance in the Premier League and we now know for sure that won’t be with Southampton anyway. Small was a highly promising attacking left back with a mountain of learning to do positionally before he could be regarded as “ready”. In fairness, at the same age, Samuels-Smith is much nearer the “real deal”.
Nobody would begrudge any young professional making their way in the senior game. Let’s hope Ishe has made a good decision.
Shame, but if we were to reinvest that supposed £4million in, for example, Rodrigo from Leeds who allegedly has a low release clause in his contract, then you would be getting a top class and ready player that would immediately improve your first team. I know it’s only a short term gain if that were to happen but nobody can guarantee their progress as a 17 year old, just ask Thierry Small?