Monday, July 17, 2006

Paul Anderson - the new Leyton Maxwell ?

A friend of mine is a Liverpool fan. When he heard the result from Wrexham, he raised a clenched fist and hissed triumphantly "Yes, 2-0 - Bell-a-my".

It was a friendly. Lard-arsed players, not long from the beaches of Barbados, strolling reluctantly around the Racecourse in front of a thousand Wrexham diehards, outnumbered by ten thousand shirt-wearing families, taking on the opportunity to introduce the kids to The Mighty Reds off the telly. Welsh kids, many from Wrexham, wearing the Liver Bird.

Of course, they loved it. Children are easily fooled. They will ask anybody wearing a Carlsberg logo to sign anything. How many will have gone home clutching the prized autograph of Paul Anderson, the other Liverpool goalscorer? How many friendly match programmes from years past sit unloved in boxes, bearing the autographs of young hopefuls, first year pros with starry eyes ? How many children have been blessed with the autograph of Leyton Maxwell, who was making his debut for Caernarfon on Saturday, while Anderson was playing the biggest match of his life ?

Leyton Maxwell was a trainee with Liverpool for years before signing as a professional in 1999. He became a regular in the reserve team, keeping Steven Gerrard out of the side on occasions. He was a Wales Under 21 international and his bright future was seemingly confirmed when as a 19 year old, he scored in front of the Kop on his first team debut, a League Cup match against Hull City, Anderson's former team.

But that was to be his final appearance for Liverpool, and he was sent out on loan to Stockport County for a full season in 2000/01. His rejection by Liverpool hit hard and Maxwell only started 8 times at a level where he might have been expected to flourish.

On he went, to Cardiff. But despite a few promising games, he struggled to make the first team and was offered to Swansea on a free, where he made three appearances on a non-contract basis. Since leaving Liverpool, he has been on more trials than Saddam Hussein, including time spent at Newport, Barry, Mansfield, St Johnstone and Chester City.

By 2005, Maxwell was at Carmarthen Town, and he scored a superb goal at Farrar Road to help his side beat Bangor City 1-0. Bangor were so impressed that they signed him. Reputed to be a winger at Liverpool, he has morphed into a busy-looking midfielder, reminiscent of Archie Gemmill, or Arfon Griffiths. He has had a decent season. At this level, he can dominate when he fancies it, but understandably he can also seem disinterested, disillusioned with the game. His fitness levels have suffered since he moved out of the pro game, but nobody doubts that he has ability.

Caernarfon Town are the latest club to take a punt on a player whose list of clubs reads like the CV of a 40-year old, but who is actually still only 26. While Paul Anderson became the latest young winger to shine for a Liverpool second string, Leyton Maxwell was playing in a side that lost 2-4 at home to Prescot Cables.

Is there a lesson to be learned? Would Leyton Maxwell, born in St Asaph, still be playing professionally if he had started his career with Wrexham? English Premier clubs now discard young talent by the bucketful and fill their teams with expensive imports. Maxwell might have made the Wrexham first team and stayed there.

Liverpool are like a spoilt child. They can afford to buy a whole packet of Revels in the knowledge that they can discard the orange and coffee ones, in the happy knowledge that a raisin will soon arrive. And there are plenty more packets where that came from. Wrexham buy Buttons and try to make them into Minstrels.

It's a difficult decision to make for a Father with a talented son. If Liverpool, or Man Utd come knocking for your 12-year old, what do you do ? Can you turn them down, and explain to your boy that Wrexham might be the better option in the long term ? How do you tell him that Wrexham have a fine record in player development and that his chances at Old Trafford will be miniscule. Maybe you could send him to Carmarthen to meet their young captain Rhodri Jones, who was a star of United's academy before being released five years ago.

So what about Paul Anderson, signed from Hull's Youth team? Will he go on to be a star in the game, or will he be the new Mark Kennedy, a young winger plucked from stardom at Millwall and cruelly abandoned into the obscurity of Liverpool's Stiffs.

Right now, Anderson is sure that he made the right decision. But so was Leyton Maxwell, that night in 1999 when he saluted the Kop. And so was Mark Kennedy when he posed for photographs in his new Liverpool shirt. How long before Anderson joins Kennedy and Maxwell at Disillusioned FC?

1 comment:

Gary said...

I presume when Bellamy said he was proud to follow in the footsteps of Ian Rush and John Toshack, that he didn't mention Lee Jones!!