The Ox has lit up The Emirates in the last couple of months, making the Arsenal winger the latest young English tyro to be linked with the national team. But should we protect him?
His cameos of blistering pace and uncanny technique has led to the 18 year old being heralded as the man to give England any hope at the forthcoming European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. However, putting this much pressure on someone who has had less than a year in the Premiership could see the Ox becoming the next Gazza rather than the next Becks.
It’s difficult to escape the comparisons between the 18 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a young Paul Gascoigne; both moved from their local clubs to the major North London sides, both have a strong build combined with a quick change of pace and both amplified by the media as England’s best hope to finally give the World Cup some company in the trophy cabinet.
Arsene Wenger has always been adamant about his protection of his younger players; Le Prof has seen enough talent absorbed by the flesh-hungry press and as a result, players who were crammed full of prospect are settling down at lower league clubs, destined for minor drunken assault charges and unwanted pregnancies with ex Take Me Out contestants. It’s really no surprise that he wants the next England manager, probably ‘Arry, to stay well clear of the Ox this summer.
But what if the man put in charge of the national team decides to take a punt on the Ox to scare full backs in ex-USSR territory in a few months’ time? Wenger knows more than anyone that there’s nothing he can do to stop Oxlade-Chamberlain boarding that plane, no matter how hard he tries to hide his passport or anonymously phone border patrol that his protégé has stashed a kilo of cocaine in his rectum; the Ox will be in full view of every camera in Britain and the overused ‘England expects’ phrase will be tattooed crudely on his forehead.
The Ox will be in full view of every camera in Britain and the overused ‘England expects’ phrase will be tattooed crudely on his forehead.
Could this thrust into limelight cost England a future prospect that has, despite his size and presence, yet to finish growing and take the Paul Gascoigne route? Will ‘Arry’s decision to take arguably the most exciting English talent since Gascoigne result in Oxlade-Chamberlain telling a Scandanavian nation to fuck off or by turning up to the aid of a shotgun-toting maniac armed with chicken and a fishing rod? Probably not; yet the constant media strain on younger players really has to be taken into account, just look at the rise and fall of Michael Owen (overplayed at a young age) and David Bentley (media attention) as great examples of this.
Even though Oxlade-Chamberlain comes across as a very well-spoken and mannered young man, money (as we see nearly every day) has a huge part to play in footballer’s personalities. What if Paul Gascoigne had been playing a few leagues down instead of playing for Spurs in the FA Cup; would the lack of fame and fortune mean he wouldn’t develop reliability on drinking? Money can change people and when you’re just a supporter looking in from the outside, it’s very easy to forget that.
It’s also easy to forget the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain are still barely old enough to be going to University, take away the bastard-sized cars and millions of pounds – they’re still teenagers. To be taking a man of this age with very little experience to a European Championships is like asking the talented office work experience kid to keep an eye old pervy Ron at the office Christmas party. It’s a big ask for someone who should still be focusing on stacking mindless amounts of paper or in the Ox’s case, getting enough match practice in over 90 minutes.
That’s not to say that putting Oxlade-Chamberlain in the England squad would lead to him becoming the next Gazza. Things are different now; managers are stricter and media access is more widespread with the invention of camera phones and Twitter. If Wenger was in charge of a young Paul Gascoigne now, would he let him get away with even a quarter of the stuff he did back in the 90s? Probably not.
Why have we been pushing these kids, these CHILDREN, into the England sides before finishing their Under 21 duties?
What if the England boss chooses to dodge every newspaper on the morning of his squad announcement and decides to leave the Ox at home for the summer where he can rest his legs that little bit more after his first full season playing in the top league? Surely a few weeks in front of FIFA or trips to Nandos will do the kid no harm and will spare him the embarrassment of an early knock out yet again; England expects (to lose).
However, if Oxlade-Chamberlain HAS to attend an international tournament this summer then why not plonk him in the British Olympic squad? Sure, Wenger could decide not to let him go to this but if the public and press are that determined to see the Ox in international colours this year, then having him line up with Ramsey, Bale and Beckham in the midfield in a less rigorous tournament is surely the answer? Effectively a youth tournament, Oxlade-Chamberlain will be gaining experience without being overexposed in an England team that’s destined to fail. Plus, who really cares what happens in the Olympics?
What I’m probably trying to say in this article is that while players such as Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wellbeck etc have a great chance of going on to successful careers, what’s the rush? The examples of how the mistreatments of a player on or off the pitch are very apparent, why have we been pushing these kids, these CHILDREN, into the England sides before finishing their Under 21 duties? There are 92 league teams out there.
So let the Ox grow as a person and as a player before we start putting the weight of a country on his shoulders. Sure, there’s a huge likelihood that he won’t go down the Gazza route but let’s try and make it that it’s a definite that this won’t happen. Another two years down the line we’ll see a more rounded player with a team who has grown up with him and maybe a chance of a World Cup? We will see.
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook