Premier League English

Former England star plays judge, jury and executioner, red-flagging Jadon Sancho after watching him in a match as a 17-year-old

It is actually well nigh impossible not to sympathize with Manchester United’s castaway prodigal son Jadon Sancho after hearing about how one former England star recently recounted when he actually placed a significant “red flag” on Sancho after observing him in one particular match during his fledgling years at Manchester City.

What is absolutely shocking is that this same individual could so perfunctorily and, even worse, disdainfully pronounce judgments on a 17-year-old youth – who the former by his own admission admitted was evidently so amply blessed with an abundance of talent to the extent of being the apparent darling of all and sundry at that period in time even in his formative years at the academy – actually defies comprehension.

And are we to accept that the red-flagging of this poor lad was all because of one particular match where the young Sancho supposedly for once performed out of character and didn’t pull up his socks on the pitch? It just simply doesn’t make any frigging sense, especially considering that the individual pounding the gavel and pronouncing judgment is former England and Newcastle player Kieron Dyer, who was at that pertinent period in question a youth football coach, who by his own confession, actually had Mancheser City on his radar due to the ‘unstoppable’ Sancho’s wizardry even in those early years.

In an interview with talkSPORT, Dyer fondly reminisced, as he waxed lyrical, about watching Sancho during his time in Manchester City’s academy set-up.

“He was a wonderkid growing up. He was the talk of everybody in the academies at that time. I was coaching and when I watched Man City, he was unstoppable. It was the youth team, so the under-18s, and he was incredible,” he enthused.

However, Dyer pointed out that Sancho’s ‘attitude’, which he now claims has been a persistent issue, may have influenced Pep Guardiola’s decision to let him go for a mere £8 million despite his immense potential. That is at best only a supposition and not fact. And definitely a statement that does not reflect well on the former England and Newcastle player.

Dyer went on to describe what was to himm a pivotal moment in that earlier time frame that, obviously for him, raised concerns about Sancho’s mentality.

“He was probably 17 years old and everyone wanted him – he could have his pick, he’d just dominate every team. They played Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup final and played against Reece James, and Reece James got the better of him, which can happen to anyone, but he quit on his team in the Youth Cup final.”

Dyer continued, emphasizing the significance of that incident.

“He just mentally went and I kind of had a red flag against him then and thought that’s a bit weird. He’s got the world at his feet and alright, he’s had a bad game but he’s quit on his teammates. You could see the life had gone out of him, he’d stopped tracking back and sort of given up and was basically mentally gone.”

For the love of God, the kid was only 17 then and already blazing a hot trail even then as a wunderkind with his sizzling skills and slamming aside all competition with his abundant talent. Yet at the end of the day, he was only still human and certainly not infallible. Sure, it’s possible, even likely, that the 17-year-old lightning rod was crestfallen and blew a fuse after Reece James got the better of him in that crucial match, according to Dyer. It’s football and things can, and often do happen, when one least expects them to. Like suddenly feeling all deflated and out of steam both physically and mentally. Hey, even the Messis and Ronaldos of this world succumb to such rare moments, let alone a 17-year-old young buckeroo with the world prostrate at his feet.

Sancho, who is now 24 years old, was unquestionably a promising young talent rising through the ranks at City before being acquired by Borussia Dortmund in 2017. As to why he was released from the Etihad and his potential not leveraged on is a question that only the likes of Pep Guardiola can adequately answer. Anyone else making presumptions not based on facts are unfairly casting aspersions. To get the facts back in alignment, suffice it to say that at Dortmund, Sancho’s abilities blossomed beyond measure and captivated audiences weekly on an international scale until United’s then gaffer, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, could barely wait to lasso the hot rod over to Old Trafford to get the rodeo going in high gear.

Sancho has already more than acquitted himself beyond any doubts, having featured spectacularly in Dortmund’s Champions League matches, culminating in the scintillating final at Wembley, against an imperious Real Madrid. His exceptional performance in the semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain was instrumental in securing his team’s spot in the final.

Admittedly, Sancho’s career has not been without its hurdles, including a hiccup at Manchester United with the star sticking to his guns, which led ultimately to his loan back to Dortmund in January 2024, where he again rose most prominently like the fabled phoenix from the flames.

Since rejoining Dortmund, Sancho has managed to score three goals and provide three assists in 20 appearances across all competitions. His return to German football has seen moments of inspiration and brilliance.

As for the concerns raised by sceptics playing judge, jury and executioner like Dyer, questioning his mental resilience, these are at best mere fodder for light-hearted discussions in pubs and certainly do the talented, proven striker no justice in any way.