It's only a month loan deal, admittedly, but given his involvement in and around the first team this year it felt worthy of a follow up. It's been a good few weeks for the youngster. The Mancunian, and devout City fan, broke all kinds of records last month as he finally completed his way along the long and rarely trodden path from the u8s to the first team. He made his debut in the Carling Cup, coming on to replace Yaya Toure as the clock counted down through its final moments. A small teaser, yes, but a nice moment nonetheless. It was deserved too, with his brief forays in the first team friendlies highlighting his naturally elegant playing style, a style seemingly at ease with the technical requirements of the way the club plays. He's a highly accomplished footballer, and having tasted football last year on loan with Scunthorpe and Crewe the year before, sticking with the EDS didn't seem an option.
City clearly agreed. On Tuesday morning he confirmed a one month loan deal with Dean Smith's Walsall. He wasn't the first to City youngster either to step out for the midlands club, with Jordy Hiwula, now moved on and currently at Wigan, also spending time there to great effect last year. The real surprise came from his immediate involvement in first team affairs. Less than 24 hours after hearing of the move he was named in the starting lineup as Walsall faced Barnsley away from home - a baptism of fire, yet one he came through with his usual, nonchalant ease. He scored the opener, twisting well inside the area to fire home and set Walsall on their way to a 2-0 victory. He impressed too with his composure and general all round play in an assured and encouraging debut. Walsall, thankfully, play good football and its a young team too - one with a welcoming environment. Hiwula was treated well by Smith last season and the early signs are Evans will be made to feel equally at home.
Evans' debut goal for Walsall.
This move could be a vital part of his development. A tall, graceful player, adept at spreading play and capable of a long range screamer, he's a lovely footballer - but one with nothing new to learn in the EDS. Young players need professional football, and Evans is no exception. Though he may not be a headline grabber like some of our other academy players, there is likeable confidence to his game. He could go either way potentially, and the only we'll ever to realise that will be by affording him the opportunities he needs. I'm a firm believer that you never quite know, until you know, so to speak. You have to give players that opportunity to see how they adapt in a certain environment. Anything else is guess work - educated guess work, yes, but guess work nonetheless. Some players will go up a level unexpectedly, and others who you would presume would be dead certs, simply don't, slipping through the net as they don't quite adapt to then professional game and more testing environment. It's an impossible formula, hence a long list of failed wonderkids, and on the flip side, unexpected late bloomers and surprise stars.
Evans is one of many that could quietly work his way in, given an opportunity. Two, three, four games one season, ten to fifteen the next and before you know it he's 22 and playing close to 30 as a reliable squad member. A year later, a regular first team player, just like that. The game is littered with players who take a similar path, and it always will be. It might not happen, but it is possible and that potential scenario should always be thoroughly considered by the club before any decision is ever made, with all the youngsters. Not every player in the squad has to be a star, and there is no shame in using youth players to 'do a job' while they develop, standing in for senior players who need a rest. Ferguson was a master at it, though we'd hate to admit it. The likes of Brown, Fletcher and O'Shea being prime examples. Good, talented footballers that knew the club inside out, gave their all and grew into their roles as years progressed, eventually making the club a small fortune as they were sold on. They saved the club millions of pounds in potential transfer fees too. Bellerin and Coquelin at Arsenal spring to mind as modern day examples, now regulars at the Emirates having served a protracted apprenticeship. Why can't Evans follow suit?
"Stop it, George Evans..."
Like many around him at the CFA, Evans is very talented, but as he's surely aware, he has a hugely difficult task ahead of him. In another era he'd perhaps be a regular for City already, but the barriers to entry at the Etihad are considerably greater these days, and rightly so - but they shouldn't be out of reach. Some players simply improve amongst better players. Its not unheard of. Technical ones in particular. His style of game could be unappreciated in the lower tiers of the English league, where the emphasis perhaps isn't always on the more subtle side of the game. That's not always the case, no, and technical players of course do sometimes excel, but even if his loan spell at Walsall isn't as fruitful as one would like, that doesn't necessarily mean the door should be closed on him. Walsall are not Manchester City. The two clubs will work differently and they will play differently. He will need time to adapt, which he won't get given the brevity of the loan spell, and if he doesn't it isn't the end of the world. Evans should know that if he doesn't already. The signs are already promising, but caution and a little luck is needed. Fingers crossed this move is a success for him. He truly deserves it. As ever there will be updates throughout the loan spell on here.