They might not all have the world at their young feet – the next Pele, or even the next Neymar – but Matthew Tilby picks out five players who are worth keeping an eye out for in 2013.
Darren Mattocks – 22 yrs – Striker – Vancouver Whitecaps
While fans of the Whitecaps will no doubt recall Mattocks’ goal in a losing effort against eventual MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy – mainly because it was their first ever playoff goal – it’s also important to remember the Jamaican’s six other goals in the regular season. The pacy forward won the club’s Golden Boot and now represents the changing of the guard. After the departures of Eric Hassli and Dane Richards, as well as the dipping form of fellow forward Kenny Miller, Mattocks now leads the line for the hotly tipped Caps. If coach Martin Rennie can put his qualities to good use, like his near freakish leaping ability (Youtube his goal against Toronto for proof), then expect Darren to rack up a few more goals this year.
John Guidetti – 20 yrs – Striker – Manchester City
Unfortunately, it looks as if John Guidetti’s 2013 might not be as successful as his 2011-2012 season. The Swede, sent on loan to Feyenoord in the Dutch Eredivisie, had a breakout season, with 20 goals in 23 appearances. Fast, agile and rather calm from the penalty stripe, he became a real fan favourite. However, injury at the end of the season not only curtailed his Feyenoord tenure but also his chance at the national level, as he missed out on competing at Euro 2012. Having now returned to his contracted club Manchester City, Guidetti now waits patiently for his chance having never made a Premier League appearance. Who knows – could Mario Balotelli’s departure from the Citizens be Guidetti’s opportunity for a successful 2013?
Joe Cole – 31 years – Winger – West Ham United
The old saying in football is “never go back”. Joe Cole must’ve never heard this before he signed a deal to return to West Ham, the club where he signed his first professional deal. Sure, his days at Chelsea may not have ended how he’d like (aside from backheeling Chelsea to another Premier League title at Man United’s expense), and his short time at Liverpool was ultimately frustrating, but his loan spell at then Ligue 1 champions Lille showed he’s still got it and he’s just making up for lost time. Could his transfer to West Ham allow him to become a focal point for Big Sam’s style of play? Could his reuniting with former Liverpool teammate Andy Carroll be the way forward for the Hammers?
Tom Rogic – 20 years – Attacking midfielder – Celtic
If anyone had any doubts over the success of Nike’s “The Chance” program, here’s a little story for you. Australia’s Tom Rogic took part in the program in 2010, and won the whole thing. In that time, he has since signed his first professional contract with the A-League leading Central Coast Mariners, played 24 first grade games, earned 4 caps for the Australian national team and has now signed a deal with Scottish champions Celtic. Not bad for a 20 year old who, just 2 years ago, was playing local football in his hometown of Griffith, near Canberra. Fleet of foot and possessing a great footballing brain, Rogic has oddly drawn comparisons to Roy Keane by new coach Neil Lennon. However, we think he’s more like former Hoops cult-hero Shunsuke Nakamura. Keep a close eye on this kid.
Brek Shea – 22 years – Left/right winger – Stoke City
We’ve seen the potential of MLS to create great talent. However, players like Robbie Findley and Eddie Johnson, who have been so successful domestically, have tried their hand at making it in Europe, only to falter under the pressure. Brek Shea is the latest in a long line of American talent to give it a go. Seen as one of American football’s hottest properties for a number of years, his transfer to Stoke City is the first big test to prove his worth on a bigger stage. While Stoke’s uncompromising long ball tactic, employed to great effect by manager Tony Pulis for so many years, might take Shea some time to get used to, we’re confident that the bleach blonde winger can make a real impression in the Premier League in 2013. Plus, if all else fails, he has his art studio to fall back on.