Every year new young players make an impact in the Premier League, and every year players who once had an impact in the Premier League fade off into obscurity.
Football fans are an impressionable bunch, and often get carried away when a youngster breaks through from the youth system which lead to claims that he will be the "next big thing" on the Premier League scene. Sometimes, it works out. For example, Wayne Rooney made his Premier League debut at 16 and has been an ever-present in Manchester United sides for the last 10 years regardless of whether or not he lived up to his initial promise. Steven Gerrard was tipped to lead Liverpool for the next 15 years when he burst onto the scene as a skin-headed midfielder, and that's exactly what he did. But sometimes, it doesn't work out.
We at Balls.ie had a think back over the Premier League years and the kids who came in with the world at their feet, and wound up bouncing around loan clubs before settling for being the type of player that ends up on a Balls.ie list of players with unfulfilled potential.
John Bostock made his first team debut for Crystal Palace at just 15 years old. Spurs saw enough in the young English play-maker to shell out £700,000 which was seen as a bargain for someone who was destined to be an integral part of the England set-up for the next 15 years. But that destiny never materialised. Bostock was loaned all over England while a Tottenham player, and by the time he was released at age 21, he had only three Europa League appearances to his name. He now plays for Belgian second tier outfit OH Leuven.
Another youngster tipped to be a stalwart of the English midfield was Everton's Dan Gosling, who burst onto the scene with a number of impressive cameos as an 18 year old having recently signed from Plymouth Argyle. Gosling was going steady with Everton until 2010, when he suffered a ruptured ACL that he would never quite recover from. Newcastle signed him on a bosman as he attempted to revive his Premier League career, but he never featured regularly for the Magpies, and he now plays for Bournemouth in the Championship.
Brazilian wonderkid Denilson signed for Arsenal from Sao Paulo in 2006, and Gunners boss Arsene Wenger described him as "bit Thomas Rosicky and a bit Gilberto Silva". He turned out to be nothing like either of them. Denilson showed promise in his early career in London, and looked to be a good bit of business at £3.5m when he played 37 league games in 2008/09, but that was it. Denilson suddenly forgot how to play football and clearly thought that players only had to work when their team was in possession. It was no surprise in 2013 that Denilson returned to Brazil when his contract at Arsenal was terminated by mutual consent.
"Remember the name, Kiko Macheda" proclaimed Martin Tyler as the 17 year old striker stuffed home a vital last gasp winner against Aston Villa that proved a pivotal moment in Manchester United's 2008/09 title win. Macheda got another game-deciding goal against Sunderland soon after, which had Manchester United fans delirious over their new teenage sensation. Macheda was always going to struggle for playing time in a United squad that boasted the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, and Dimitar Berbatov, so in 2011 he left on loan for Sampdoria, which turned out to be a disastrous move that his career never recovered from. Further loans to QPR, Stuttgart, and Doncaster hammered home the point that Macheda would never be the player United fans hoped he would be, and he now plays for Cardiff City in the Championship having been released by Manchester United last year.
Johnson looked like the type of technically gifted midfielder England were crying out for when he broke into the Manchester City first team in 2006. Johnson really looked to be a top player in the 2007/08 season, as he linked well with Stephen Ireland and Elano in the middle of the park, but a number of niggling injuries ruled him out for the end of that season, and most of the next. Big changes were happening at City, and Johnson seemed to vanish off the face of the Earth. A picture of him popped up on twitter in 2013 of the enigmatic midfielder looking about six stone overweight, which prompted City to announced that he had been released the year before. He cited mental health problems as a reason for the derailment of his career.
Aston Villa had a blisteringly fast young striker on their books in Nathan Delfouneso, and many people were talking him up as an England international of the future. His first start for Villa came in the Europa League against MSK Zilina, and Delfouneso scored an absolute cracker of a volley with his left foot, further adding to the hype. But that was pretty much it as far as his Villa career was concerned, as he never earned a regular place in the first team. Delfouneso was capped 17 times for England U21's, and will now be remembered as one of those players who plays for years with the U21's and never gets close to the full national team. He now plays for Blackpool.
What can we say about Anderson? Manchester United shelled out a lot of money for a young Brazilian attacking-midfielder at Porto who had just won the Golden Boy award for best young player in the World. Sir Alex Ferguson didn't buy into the "next Ronaldinho" lard, and instead tried to shape Anderson into a box-to-box midfielder. That decision looked like a master stroke as Anderson instantly won the hearts of the Manchester United faithful with a string of excellent performances in his debut season, and he looked like the answer to United's midfield problems. Then, he became Manchester United's midfield problems. A string of injuries and a bizarre loss of form, coupled with a fluctuating weight issue that saw him take a lot of stick for his belly, meant that Anderson never kicked on, and he now, somehow, is still technically a Manchester United player, although talk is that his contract is on the verge of being terminated if a buyer can't be found this coming January.
Sinclair first came into the public eye as a lighting quick Chelsea youngster, who many had tipped for big things. He never got a look-in at Chelsea due to the revolving door of big names, and was loaned out to six different clubs during his time with the London club. Swansea City took a punt on Scott Sinclair for £500,000, and it paid of instantly as the winger helped the club to their first ever promotion to the Premier League, where he shone as the Swans secured their top-flight status. His performances convinced Manchester City to sign him, and give him the #11 shirt, but it was another ill fated move to a big club as Sinclair was completely forgotten about and only occasionally popped up in training videos on Man City's YouTube channel. He is currently still being held hostage at City, perhaps to keep the number of home-grown players at the required amount.