On the back of a breathtaking substitute appearance versus Villarreal in Spain where an 18 year old Glenn Middleton simply changed the tone of the game, many supporters are now questioning if it is now time to start this kid who has shown glimpses of real quality in his late substitute appearances?
It's an interesting debate – on one hand every time he gets on the ball the support are excited as he shows no fears and has such a high self belief, he will take on any full back one on one and more often will get some joy, the directness he has alongside his pace and close ball control is vital to his game but Steven Gerrard has already mentioned he is currently too one dimensional and the debate centres around would he get the same joy from the start against mostly low block defences vs when he comes on and defenders are tired.
There is no way to really judge until he gets a start against a decent level of opposition but 6 months ago he was signed for our - at the time u20 side as a 17 year old - fast forward 9 months and he is on the cusp of a starting place and has changed the game in our favour vs a team that finished 5th in La Liga and spent £70 million this summer. It is all very exciting but I do think we often overhype young players so at the point of being a bit hypocritical I hope the support temper expectations.
Glenn has starred for the Scotland u19 side over the last 12 months with 3 goals and 3 assists in 10 games which included an assist in an impressive 2-0 victory over Netherlands in the Uefa Euro u19 championship qualifiers. Given the minutes on the field he is averaging (0.81 G/A p90) – 0.81 goals or assists per 90 minutes at this level in the last year. At each national age range – 16s, 17s, 19s and 21s he has made his debut at least 2 years younger than the age limit.
Going back to Gerrard’s thoughts on Middleton's one dimensional wing game, I think that is fine for last 20/30 minutes but if he is to play a full 90 minutes then I’d like to see him link up more with the central midfielders and cut inside like Ryan Kent often does. There is a time vs deeper defences where it requires to move the ball from side to side with a less direct approach to unsettle their defensive set up before a possible overload or opening to arise. That can come with time however.
Arfield had this to say on Middleton ‘Glenn scares people. You saw when he came on, he doesn't think about anything else than taking on his full-back. That's the beauty of him. I'd like to see us keep that naivety and innocence about him. We don't want him getting sucked into that tippy-tappy football.’
On the flip side Norwich fans have mixed opinions on the Middleton deal with many frustrated with their ownership for letting a young talent go for a nominal fee but some have commented that he had a poor attitude and instructed his agent to demand first team football. I’ve seen no complaints since his move to his boyhood club however.
On his excellent appearance vs Villareal, he committed the opposing right back Miguelon to a foul minutes after his arrival due to his direct running whereas Ryan Kent caused him very few worries in the 67 minutes previous. For his best moment of the game Glenn has control of the ball around the half way line and finds a lovely through ball to the on rushing Borna Barisic down the left wing to feed Lafferty for our 2nd equaliser of the night.
You can listen to some more discussion on this on our Patreon site https://www.patreon.com/posts/dundee-and-in-21560015
In terms of full professional games at club level there is limited minutes available to judge him so it’s a difficult one to really quantify the excitement in terms of statistics but sometimes you have a young talent like we did with Lewis Macleod, who just excites the support and Glenn does just that, under Gerrard and Beale et al he has a great development opportunity and we will afford minutes to outstanding youngsters.
My personal view is that he deserves to start, whether that is vs St Johnstone or Ayr is one for the manager to answer but the sky is the limit for him.
Thanks for reading,
John McIntosh (@JohnMcIntosh19)