United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

Life after United: Ebanks-Blake crowned Championship Player of the Year

Posted by nickogs20 on March 31, 2009

While we all love to see youngsters come through the ranks at United to make their mark on the Old Trafford stage and become first team stars, there’s also a definite satisfaction to be taken from seeing those who don’t quite make it with the Reds go on to lead successful and fulfilling careers in the game at other clubs. One such player is this season’s Football League Championship Player of the Year – Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

On target to finish as the second tier’s top goalscorer for the second consecutive season, Sylvan was handed a terrific 23rd birthday present on Sunday in the form of the Championship Player of the Year crown at the Football League Awards gala evening, held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. The Wolves striker also picked up the Mitre Goal of the Year award for his stunning strike against Charlton back in March last year.

Ebanks-Blake’s career so far is one that any youngster not quite making the grade at United, or indeed any top club, should pay close attention to and draw inspiration from. A prolific scorer as he made his way through the youth ranks at OT (30 in 58 at academy level, an even more impressive 30 in 44 for the reserves) and winner of the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award in 2005, Sylvan made his first-team debut against Crewe in October 2004 and – a year later – marked his first start (against Barnet in the League Cup) with his first senior goal.

Unfortunately, a broken leg had kept him out for much of the time in between and seriously hampered his progress and, despite a successful loan spell at Royal Antwerp that saw him score four goals in nine games, those two League Cup games were to be the only appearances he would make for the first team. The presence of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha, Alan Smith, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Giuseppe Rossi ahead of him in the pecking order led Sir Alex Ferguson to accept a £200,000 bid from Plymouth Argyle in the summer of 2006, and the Cambridge-born forward, then 20, reluctantly moved on.

After a slow start to his Plymouth career, things picked up for Sylvan towards the end of his first season in the South West and he finished with a record of 10 goals in 45 games, the majority of those towards the back end of the campaign as the Argyle fans took to him. He picked up where he left off at the start of 07/08, notching 13 in 29, form that attracted the attention of Wolves boss Mick McCarthy, who met the £1.5m release clause in Ebanks-Blake’s contract with Plymouth and took him to Molineux in January last year.

A further 12 goals in just 20 games followed in the remainder of the season as Wolves just missed out on a playoff place on goal difference, and Sylvan’s combined total of 23 league goals earned him the Championship Golden Boot. With 24 goals already this term he’s the leading contender to take home the shiny footwear once more, and his form has brought international recognition in the form of a first England U21 cap against the Czech Republic in November.

What’s more, SEB’s form has been a key part of Wolves’ promotion bid, which currently sees them perched atop the Championship with just six games to go, a nine point cushion over third-placed Reading (albeit having played a game more) surely making them odds-on to be playing in the Premier League next season. Even if McCarthy’s side were to do a Devon Loch and miss out, with constant rumours of interest from top flight clubs it looks nigh-on a certainty that the 23 year-old will, one way or another, be playing against the club he started out at in the 2009/10 campaign.

8 Responses to “Life after United: Ebanks-Blake crowned Championship Player of the Year”

  1. NicoQB said

    Smith – good lad but out of his depth
    Saha – balsa
    20legend – :(
    Rossi .. yes but no but…

    Is this a case of players being played because of their reputation and not on actual playing merit? 30 goals at reserve level would have guaranteed at least 3 or 4 matches good matches to prove himself. Any mid table premier league team and he would have probably deputed for bent in the England set up!
    Shame that he had to leave, sometimes one has to ask himself if home-bred attacking players are at a disadvantage because of mental association of them being perhaps less good…

    Wonder what will be the future of the Campbells, MAchedas…
    (Welbeck I’m sure will be a type of second striker or attacking midfield)

  2. nickogs20 said

    Don’t really agree with that. Fergie will give kids chances if he believes they are good enough, and when you look back over his time at the club, how many who haven’t been given chances have really gone on to prove him wrong?

    It’s not as simple as saying “he’s scored 30 goals at reserve level, he should be guaranteed games ahead of established international players”, it’s a massive step up from reserve level.

    Don’t think homegrown attacking players are at any disadvantage, Welbeck is getting his chances already at just 18. And if he ends up as an attacking midfielder or even a second stiker I’d be extemely surprised.

  3. NicoQB said

    My point there was that compared to midfield players or defenders, strikers have not been known to make the grade at United. Certainly there was the case of the talents not being good enough, but competition up front was and is affected by reputation of past players. When a player – a striker – is bought with a sizeable transfer tag, there ia a certain form of obligation from the manager to play those said players, despite reservists doing everything right to make their case. THe fact that there are only two starting slots can make it even more difficult.

    As for strikers who have gone on to prove him wrong, how about Rossi and Ebanks-Blake? :)
    Certainly moving from reserve level to first team action is a massive step up but when moderately talented players like Gibson and O’shea have achieved decent playing time then one can question the unfairness (at least to me) of superior players not getting the chance to play because of competition for strikers starting places.
    Sure I too think that for a club of our standard even beig very good is sometimes not enough, but they could have had the occasional game – as in what Fletcher or O’shea would normally get in a season. That Smith got these games at their time just seems a bit unfair to me.

    Finally, I really hope that Welbeck makes it with us, but the fact is that he looks even more languid than one Berbatov, which is saying much! The reason I see him more as a support striker cum midfielder – I might be wrong! – is his very good technique and slight drifting away fom the goal – Compared to a Macheda who seems more attracted towards the opposition goal like RVN was; being the goalscoring lethal finisher.

  4. nickogs20 said

    Ebanks-Blake has done nothing to prove Fergie wrong yet – he’s done brilliantly in the Championship but the Premier League is a totally different challenge, not to mention playing at the very top of it and in the Champions League. Rossi wanted to leave so that is moot.

    If Fergie has shown anything in his time with us when it comes to young players, it’s that anyone good enough will get their chance. Smith was an England player and did well for us as a striker before SAF started trying to convert him, there was no youngster at the time making a compelling enough case to be playing ahead of him.

    As for Welbeck, he simply isn’t a midfielder, nor a typical support striker. He’s a mobile centre-forward – he’ll drop deep, he’ll pull wide, similar to someone like Henry I guess. Macheda is more capable of playing as the archetypal support striker and has done on occasion for the reserves – he played behind Welbeck in the Rochdale game recently for example.

  5. NicoQB said

    Obviously you’ve got more experience from watching the youths than I have, so I’ll trust your judgement. ;)

    But I guess I’ll have to review my understanding of what actually is a support striker! If Welbeck becomes half the player that Henry is, we’ve got one hell of a player. Confirm (or disconfirm) something for me please: does he look as languid in his youth / reserve games as he did in the first team? Cos if he does he’ll more likely end up being a KAnu than a Henry! :)

  6. nickogs20 said

    Nothing wrong with the Kanu comparison, SAF has made it himself, Paul McGuinness as well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being ‘languid’ per se.

  7. nickogs20 said

    In fairness, on the official site Welbeck himself says “I see myself as more of a support striker, but I want to also be able to play up top.”, but I guess it depends how you define ‘support striker’. I see Rooney and Tevez as support strikers, same as Cantona and Sheringham. I don’t see Welbeck in that mould, dropping off and creating – his pace and (when he fills out) strength should be too great an asset up against the last defender and running in behind.

  8. NicoQB said

    Let’s hope you’re right, though I somehow picture Macheda to be the one who actually turns out to become that tpe of striker.

    Oh and by the way, who was the last striker who made it through the academy to become a regular first teamer? Whiteside?

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