Ademola Lookman scored on his Premier League debut for Everton and won the Under-20 World Cup with England. But what is it exactly that made him so sought after at Charlton?
As part of our How To Find A Star series, former Tottenham head of elite potential identification David Webb explains why it is sometimes about character as much as ability…
When assessing young talent, it is familiar to marvel at a player’s pace or his trickery. But that is only part of the package. With so many youngsters likely to fall by the wayside in the race to make it to the top of the professional game, an individual’s hunger is essential.
Who is David Webb?
David Webb was Bournemouth’s head of first-team recruitment during their rise to the Premier League and most recently worked as Tottenham’s head of elite potential identification. He also has a Masters in Sports Psychology and the UEFA A Licence.
„The psychological aspect is massive and you need to find out as much as you can around the player,“ Webb tells Sky Sports. „The character and the work ethic needs to be there to survive. The ones who do so usually have shared qualities.
„Even as a teenager, you can still develop skills and learn. It is much harder for any coach to develop character. That is harder to teach. So if a quality manager can get hold of an enthusiastic player while they are still young, he can mould them.“
Case Study: Ademola Lookman
Lookman had been playing Sunday football for Waterloo FC as a 14-year-old when he was spotted by Charlton. „He had no academy background at all,“ the club’s academy coach Jason Euell told Sky Sports. „Sometimes it can happen that a player slips through the net.“
As a result, there was much work to do. „He had to learn what was needed from him in and out of possession,“ added Euell. „The tactical side, the game understanding and decision making. It was just about getting him to understand when and where to do certain things.“
In Webb’s view, the clues were there in Lookman’s background that would suggest to a scout that the youngster had the personality traits that would increase his chances of making the necessary improvements. „His history was quite appealing,“ says Webb.
„There was some basic information out there. It’s not fool-proof but it does give you some indication as to what sort of person he is. You knew he was a street kid and you knew he had been on many trials. So you knew he was resilient and someone who kept coming back.
„You also knew that he came from a family that did not necessarily have a lot of money. When someone is hungry to succeed it shows on the pitch. Sometimes it’s not the most talented ones who impress but the ones with the best work ethic.“
When Lookman did begin to feature in the Charlton first team, the reports of a raw but gifted young player with an exceptional appetite could be measured more accurately. Webb says that after only eight games the evidence of his ability had top clubs on alert.
„Once he was playing for the seniors, you could see by the way he moved and the way that he worked on the pitch that the theories about his character married up,“ he adds. „It’s about what they do off the ball as well.
„The work ethic and enthusiasm was evident to see, but with only a few senior games played his tactical understanding of when and where to press the opposition on the pitch still needed harnessing and developing.
„This does make him extremely coachable, as a top coach can provide a tactical understanding based on the methodology of the team, but determination and hard work are naturally ingrained and difficult to teach on a consistent basis.“
And it’s this quality that top clubs value more than most. Ability is essential, of course. But it is ability coupled with attitude that really gives a young player the chance to make it at the highest level. If you are going to find a star, you will need to consider all of these aspects.Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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