When the international break rolls around, invariably we as football fans get distracted by the next shiny thing that comes across our vision. Based on the number of stories I’ve written the past two weeks about him, that shiny object is currently Troy Parrott.
And for good reason! Party Parrott is taking the Ireland U21s by storm, scoring three goals in his last two games and causing Ireland (and Tottenham) fans wondering when he’s going to get called up to the big leagues. He’s a big lad, strong, knows where the net is, and based on all indications is an extremely good finisher.
What’s not to like? Throw him in the first team now!
Hold your horses, say his managers. Both Mauricio Pochettino and Ireland boss Mick McCarthy have urged fans to ease back on the hype train throttle, saying that Parrott needs time to acclimate to the rigors of top-level competitive football, and that failing to do so does nobody any favors — especially him.
Here’s Pochettino in his press conference today before the Crystal Palace match.
“I think the progress was there because he had the possibility to be involved in pre-season. Now he’s more consistently training with the first team. But I think he needs time, we need to be relaxed. We cannot put his name in the spotlight every day because we’re not going to help him by doing that. He’s still so young.
“The best way to help him is to be calm and relaxed about him. If he’s going to be involved, perfect. If he’s going to be involved with the U23s instead, perfect. Sometimes he’ll train with us, good. Now it’s a process where he needs to be relaxed. If we put too much pressure we’re going to force or push him to make a mistake and that’s what we don’t want.”
If there’s a football fan base that’s possibly more rabid that Spurs fans are about Parrott, it’s Ireland fans. Troy is already getting billed as the next Robbie Keane (with some saying he’s even better than Keano at this age), and are wondering, despite Troy not getting a single U23 cap, when McCarthy will call him up to Ireland’s senior side.
McCarthy also told everyone to slow their roll. Here he is, responding to a question about what Parrott needs to do to earn a call-up.
“Get in the first team. You do realise that the U21s and the U23s where he’s playing is far-removed from where we are playing, don’t you? There’s a huge difference.
“If I think he’s right, I’ll take him. We’ll try and get him watched. It’s interesting – if he hadn’t come on and scored his goals, I wonder what would the questions be had he not come on, because [Ireland U21 coach Stephen Kelly] has not played him?”
They’re right, of course. Youth development is a crapshoot, and just because a player is excelling at the U21 level doesn’t mean he’ll be able to carry that form at higher levels or even be a good professional footballer. There’s also the danger that putting too much pressure on a player like Troy, or throwing him into the deep end too quickly, will have a negative effect on his development. He’s only 17. It benefits everyone involved to be deliberate with how and where he plays and to put him in match situations that he’s ready for. Poch has probably learned his lesson the hard way with Marcus Edwards, and if you’d ask him, my guess is he’d candidly say that he made a mistake with how he thrust Marcus into the spotlight too soon.
But holy moly, it’s hard not to get excited, isn’t it? Parrott looks to be one of the most exciting players to come out of Spurs’ academy since Harry Kane, and even Kane didn’t get this level of hype as a U21. I understand, however, that playing the long game is the correct way to get the most out of him, and the other players in Tottenham’s academy.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to tweet Party Parrot emoji!