As rumours spread on the web of Premier League scouts being present at Home Park for Plymouth Argyle’s 1-0 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers, Argyle fans began preparing their goodbyes to emerging young striker Tyler Harvey and winger Paris Cowan-Hall. After a great debut from the 17 year old striker and the consistent showings of the 21 year old winger, many Argyle fans had expected interest from higher up. However, the surprise came when it emerged that the player in the eye of the scouts was in fact central midfielder Luke Young. The Pilgrims number 8 has been a permanent fixture in the team this season under recently-sacked manager Carl Fletcher and now the likes of West Brom and Arsenal, as well as Championship clubs appear to be monitoring the midfielder.
Young joined the club in 2002 at the age of nine, signing with the clubs centre of excellence. Since then he has gone on to represent at youth, reserve and senior level, making over 100 combined appearances in a green shirt. The midfielder represented at youth level 56 times, playing against some of the best young sides in the country, in particular during the FA Youth Cup run in 2009, when Argyle lost 3-0 in the 5th round to Tottenham Hotspur.
Following that run, Young began to get opportunities in the reserve side, making 11 appearances until in 2011 he got a call up to the first team squad, being named as an unused substitute for the Pilgrims away fixture at Charlton in January 2011. He then made his debut a week later, when he was a late substitute in a 2-1 home defeat against Bournemouth. However Young waited another month for his full debut, which came on his 18th birthday in a 4-0 defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Withdean Stadium.
Since then, his career has flourished and to date has 52 first team appearances to his name. After signing his first professional deal in July 2011, Young has become a key member of the Argyle side. His energy in midfield was a big contributor to Argyle’s survival last year. He was often the catalyst in Argyle’s attacking play and he was proving himself to be one of Argyle’s most gifted players. A club hit hard by administration had given opportunities to youth players and Young grabbed his with both hands. His first goal came just under a year later against local rivals Torquay United and he went on to bag another goal that season against Morecambe, in Argyle’s final away trip of the campaign. Young finished with 2 goals from 28 games. His performances in a difficult season for Argyle saw him rewarded with a new contract and named as the clubs young player of the year by supporters.
However this season has been more testing for the midfielder. After making the transition from the wing to his natural position in the centre of midfield he has struggled. Young has continuously shown signs of his potential with a number of good performances, but unlike last year, these positive showings have been outweighed by a string of bad ones. Due to his slight nature, he has often struggled with the physicality of lower league football. He is tenacious and is not scared to get stuck in, but finds himself easily dispossessed. His crossing also lets him down. Despite being entrusted with taking set pieces, his corners and crossing are poor. One corner will fail to beat the first man and the next will fly over everyone and out for a throw in. It has summed up his consistency this season which has been largely non-existent.
But in truth, League Two is no place for a blossoming passing midfielder and his qualities are suited to a higher level. Despite his inconsistencies, it is obvious Young has potential. His real strengths lie in his ability on the ball. With quick feet and a great eye for a pass, when Young is on his game, he helps the Pilgrims tick in midfield. His technique is good and accommodates for his limited physicality. He finds a lot of gaps in the attacking third, regularly working space for himself to test the keeper and although he does not score many goals, he has a dangerous right foot. His vision also means he creates lots of chances, but with Argyle’s inability to score goals, these passes are often wasted. If Young could string together a series of good performances and get back to his best, it would be evident that he has a future higher than league two.
Even so, it is clear that Luke Young has a bright career ahead of him. With 52 appearances to his name already, Young has plenty of experience for a man of just 19 years old. However, the links to Arsenal and West Brom have come as a huge surprise. Young is one of the latest off of the Pilgrims production line, following in the footsteps of Liverpool youngster Lloyd Jones, Cardiff striker Joe Mason and Newcastle midfielder Dan Gosling. However when you compare Young to both Mason and Gosling, they are wide apart in terms of ability. Young has enough potential to warrant a Championship move, alike former team-mate Mason, but he doesn’t have what it takes to cut it in the Premier League. Not for the time being anyway. Young is not much younger than Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and whilst it would not be fair to compare him to such a talent, the thought of Young in the Premier League – at a club of that magnitude, alongside players of that quality, is just unfathomable. If Arsene Wenger believes Luke Young is the answer, then god only knows what the question is.
If Young leaves, the most likely destination would be the Championship and with good coaching and opportunities he could thrive at that level. It would be a shame to say goodbye to a promising youth product, but the transfer fee he may command – although not large – would be vital for the new Argyle manager to reinvest in the current squad. With age on his side, he will get a move sooner rather than later but any club with common sense would keep a closer eye on the midfielders progress instead of launching a premature bid to sign one of the Football League’s roughest diamonds.
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