In light of recent arguments for why Premier League clubs have not been producing enough quality young players, and how the FA should respond to this deepening concern, three academy players made their Premier League debuts over the weekend.
Ryan Mason, Tyias Browning and Paddy McNair all put in impressive performances for their respective clubs – further restoring hope for the England national team and the Premier League of maintaining a deep, talented pool of players for the future.
Since these are three academy products who before the weekend, had not experienced the madness of the Premier League pantomime, we look at who they actually are, and how they earned their debuts.
Ryan Mason, 23 (Tottenham)
After six years of academy games and loan spells to the likes of Yeovil, Doncaster, Millwall, Leyton Orient and Swindon, the gifted attacking midfielder finally made his Tottenham bow… against their hated rivals, Arsenal. What a chance this was to shine!
And, credit to Pochettino for placing faith in Mason for such a big game, Mason did not look out of place amongst such talented players – showing excellent composure and positivity during this heated match.
Very highly regarded by Spurs’ coaching staff, Pochettino may look to give Mason more games thanks to his impressive pre-season and debut. Widely seen as their most talented and capable prospect, this could be his chance to fulfil his huge potential.
Yet, he will need to avoid injury (which has halted his development) if he is to cement his place in Tottenham’s star-studded team.
Tyias Browning, 20 (Everton)
Another young hopeful who made his debut against his club’s nemesis, there could not have been a bigger baptism of fire for the pacey defender – replacing the veteran Tony Hibbert with around 20 minutes left to play.
Although this was the infamous Merseyside derby he was about to participate in, Browning managed to showcase glimpses of his brilliance and potential.
Everton’s manager, Roberto Martínez, was left singing his praises after such a promising cameo, when he said: ‘'Tyias Browning on his full debut showed incredible composure and great pace. He's a phenomenal defender who gave us real penetration.
‘’Between the pair of them (Hibbert), they did a terrific job for us.’’
Paddy McNair, 19 (Manchester United)
Amidst a deep injury crisis which had left Louis van Gaal with just one fit centre back – in the form of new signing, Marcos Rojo – the Northern Ireland youth international was drafted in for his professional debut in their 2-1 victory against West Ham.
McNair, who started his career as a midfielder, was instrumental in their win. In defiance of his inexperience, he made more successful clearances (13) than any other United player – one of which was a fantastic diving header to prevent a certain goal.
He certainly caught Van Gaal’s eye, and the 63-year-old said this about McNair’s performance: "He played very well. His goal-saving header in the second half was fantastic." This is especially true considering that West Ham are known for their physicality.
If this is anything to go by, then it looks like the academy graduate could have a big future in the game.