Once upon a time, players were right to be cautious about making the step up from the Championship to the Premier League. But now, there’s never been a better time to do it…
“Don’t move from the Championship to be on the bench in the Premier League. That is a killer, don’t do that. Take your time, there is no rush. Take your time, make you sure you move from here to the first team, not to be on the bench.”
That was the advice given this week to Hull’s Jarrod Bowen, the Championship’s joint-second top-scorer despite being a winger rather than a centre-forward, and naturally the source of much speculation as January looms, with assorted Premier League clubs looming with fat wallets and promises of glory.
Now, that advice was given to him by Hull owner Assem Allam, so to say the least it’s not exactly impartial. Allam has been adamant that they won’t sell Bowen for anything other than top dollar, which is transfer posturing 101 for the semi-smart chairman to get the best fee for his player.
This is a slightly more advanced strategy, trying to chip away at the player’s certainty that he does actually want to leave. “Oooh, are you sure about that Jarrod? Big scary place the Premier League. Will you play? They won’t love you like we love you. I guarantee you’ll either be mugged or not appreciated.”
Still, even if you take Allam’s words at face value, it’s something worth considering. Bowen will play in the Premier League at some stage, whether that’s by leaving in January, next summer or perhaps even with Hull: they’re five points off the playoffs and we’re nowhere near halfway through the season yet. In the bunfight that is the Championship, promotion is not out of the question.
But should Bowen be cautious about making the step up now? When is the right time?
The short answer is: now. Because there’s really never been a better time for the best players in the Championship to move into the Premier League.
There’s recent precedent, for a start, as the success rate of the brightest talents that roughly match Bowen’s profile making the step up has been extremely high in the last couple of years. David Brooks, James Maddison, Daniel James, John McGinn: all attacking midfielders of some description, all either signed by Premier League clubs from the second tier, all successes. You can throw Mason Mount and Harry Wilson into that category too, youngsters who have made their first significant steps with Championship clubs, who have gone on to succeed in the top tier.
Of course not everyone has been so immediately successful. But the days when a player who has dominated the second tier must be cautious are gone. The natural confidence of footballers will always convince them that they are good enough, but now there’s evidence that they will be.
There’s also the sense that the step up from second to top tier isn’t quite as big as it once was. Beneath the elite few clubs there are a lot of pretty mediocre teams in the Premier League: at the time of writing every team between the Champions League places and the relegation spots have won either four or five games. Only one of those teams won at the weekend.
Again, none of this is a guarantee that Bowen would be a success. But again, it does indicate that he has nothing to be intimidated by.
Particularly as there are few doubts that he is good enough. The goal tallies should probably be enough: he’s scored 50 goals in the last two and a bit seasons, and he’s on course to at the very least break 20 again if he stayed for the whole season.
“His mentality is unbelievable,” said Hull manager Grant McCann recently. “People do not see that. How high he is every day on the training pitch, the best trainer. In the 85th minute when he lost the ball, he sprinted back to get it. He gets the rewards, with all the goals and assists, because of his work-rate.”
Allam is of course only trying to get the best deal for Hull for when Bowen is eventually sold. But while his words of caution might have been relevant a few years ago, they no longer apply to players who have already proven themselves in the Championship.
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