Competing for Dreams, Ross Merriman. (Guest Article)

In 2011, these 6 players were all under 20 years old. Now, they are above it. In 2011, they were all in contention to join Europe’s elite. 3 of them made it. 3 of them failed. These are their stories.


Those who failed.


 Adem Ljajic.


At 17, an agreement to join Old Trafford, broke down. At 21, Fiorentina’s attacking mid remains unknown to most, and a live punch up with his manager following a substitution is his biggest claim to fame.


Once dubbed “Little Kaka”, Ljajic is yet to make any sort of impression in world football. Scoring just 5 times in over 65 appearances, the feisty Serb is praised mostly for his pace and ability to take players on.


Subbed and sarcastically clapped by manager Delio Rossi just last year, he was punched by the man moments later as he proceeded to the bench. Adem didn’t like this and there is a debate over his reaction and the brawl between the duo. Nevertheless, he appears to have been innocent enough as Rossi was sacked the next day and Ljajic went unpunished.


That, however, is the extent of Ljajic’s story. Sympathy where it’s due, but unfortunately for him, his chances of making it to the world stage seem to be thinning by the match.


Success rating on making it big time – 4/10



Connor Wickham.


The Emblem of Ipswitch Town.

The shining light of the Championship.

Hat tricks galore and England U17 Star.

But that was in 2011, and now he fights a relegation battle on the bench.


He’s no stranger to Championship football, that’s for sure. Joining Ipswitch before he was even a teenager was step one to becoming a club legend. At 17 he was a regular sub, and 18, the clubs top scorer that year. The fans cried his name from the terraces, homework was left undone and he was the hero of a small city.


The premiership beats Ipswitch any day, but I wonder if Connor would be saying that now? At 19, he moved to Sunderland FC, and that was the last we saw of the man hailed the next Wayne Rooney.


He makes an appearance from the bench every now and then… sure he does. However, sitting around in the stadium of light is not the preferred weekend activities of someone who could taste his greatest dreams two years ago.

He was praised a fantastic finisher and the most level headed football for years. It makes no difference now. Europe’s future is no longer Wickham. And it’s almost impossible to see him turn that around.


Success rating on making it big time – 2/10





Aaron Ramsey.


Captain of Wales. Arsenal Regular. The next Xavi? Assaulted by Shawcross. Victim of murder hoax. Slipping down the pecking order…FAST.


You cannot ever say that Ramsey is not a tough guy. That should be written into law.

He laughed off an Internet established theory that whenever he scored, a celebrity died. Although he never forgave Ryan Shawcross, he overcame a major injury setback when his leg was purposely broken on the field. And even though he has the likes of Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby, and Coquelin to compete with, he still battles away with the club he loves week after week, even if that means his job is sitting down.


Cesc Fabregas famously stated “If I go to sleep, I will wake up and find Aaron in my place”. Not many footballers can have that said about them. This guy was constantly hailed for his successive work rate, and his ability to pass swiftly while maintaining his great vision during play.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and he has undoubtedly worsened through age.

It goes without saying, if you’re not the cream of the crop, football can be a very tough life indeed.


Success ranking in making it big time – 5/10




Those who made it.


Jack Wilshere.

School dropout and teenage father,

to main man for club and country.


In 2011 Jack the Lad was England’s next big thing.

18 brutal, injury laden months later, he’s further up that ladder. With added ruthless characteristics enhanced in his play, and more of an eye for goal, he’s easily among the world’s best midfielders already.

Jack is picking up Man of the Match awards like he does yellow card. For want of a better word, constantly.

Praise from La Liga’s very best and the award for best young player two seasons ago seem to have pushed him farther.

What role will he play in the future of Arsenal?

Will Gooners cherish him like Scousers do Gerard?


Only time will tell, and currently, Arsenal’s Number 10 is their best player. He’s gonna want to make it stay that way.


Success rating on making it big time – 9/10




Christian Eriksen.

Poland and Ukraine were entertained by this wonder-kid. The heart and soul of Ajax FC, when he decides to move on, his price tag will be above £20M and his contract guaranteeing Champions League football. Much like Neymar, he’s a ready made superstar.


Throughout his childhood, he was hailed a Danish wonder.

However, it was always going to be a difficult task making a  name for himself in the footballing world.

Yet, through hard work, dedication and raw talent, his improvement has been outstanding and a move to Bayern or United seems likely come summer.

The displays he showed for EURO 2012 attracted plenty of new fans, and secured his name as a “future star”. His swift runs of play, and slick passing along with Bendtner’s run of form aided the Danes greatly.


Despite being offered a place in Chelsea’s academy following a teenage trial, he decided that Holland was a better place to learn the game. He lead the victory Ajax had over City in this years Champions League group stages also.

This is a player we should all watch out for. His arrival to the Premier League would be similar to that of Eden Hazard, and with less pressure, perhaps more influential. His rating would be higher, but for the fact he still plays in the Eredivisie.


Success rating on making it big time – 8/10





Mario Gotze.


In 2011, he finished school and spent the summer holidays interning. They said he could be the next Mesut Ozil. Two years, and two Bundesliga wins later, he’s probably better.


Let’s flick back to 2009. 4 whole years ago. Mario looks up at the clock. It’s the 97th minute, in the final of the U17 European Championships. Netherlands 1 – 1 Germany. That’s all that needs to be said. Mario captained Germany to the title and he won player of the tournament.


Perhaps that was the beginning of his epic journey. His journey not only to worldwide fame and admiration, but to TWO Bundesliga titles. With a club that should have been heavily outweighed by their Munich rivals. Many would say that without his qualities and ridiculously positive attitude, that never would have happened.


He is two footed, plays on the tips of his toes and silently executes the defenders that walk in his way. You would think he could mean no more, but you’d be surprised.

He is the first full German international to be born in reunified Germany. He is a future legend, no doubt. It’s tricky to see him NOT dominating European football for many years to come. Genius

Success rating on making it big time – 10/10





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