Mike Pejic: Tom Edwards needs to rediscover drive under Joey Barton


It will be interesting to see if a loan move at Fleetwood Town can reignite Tom Edwards’ career as it has helped propel Harry Souttar into the Stoke City first team.

But there are pros and cons to the loan system and, in an ideal world, I’m not sure Souttar really needed 18 months away.

If Stoke had a smaller squad, he would have been raining with the first team anyway, he would have been getting experience playing against first team players and he would have had a chance to prove he was better than Ryan Shawcross, prove he’s better than Danny Batth, than James Chester and Bruno Martins Indi.

You have to ask that question initially – and it’s one I’d be tempted to grill Nathan Jones on again as we cross paths this weekend.

But hopefully, Michael O’Neill is looking at the long-term and making the necessary adjustments to make sure that Clayton Wood isn’t absolutely overflowing with senior players.

The Covid-19 situation and Financial Fair Play do mean that there is an open window for youth prove themselves.

And it’s on the training ground that it’s done – that’s where the manager and coaches really get a chance to assess, analyse and work. It’s a healthy club that has that.

A clear pathway gives everyone underneath something to aim for. If there’s no chance of it happening, it can destroy you.

Harry Souttar has all the attributes really. The only thing missing is experience – but the rough and tumble he’s encountered further down the league has done him good.

But I look at the statement Roy Keane makes about the environment he was in. He relished a dog-eat-dog atmosphere at Manchester United and there’s nothing like being involved in that.

Yes, David Beckham had a loan at Preston but Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes didn’t need loans. Ok, they’re great players but it was being kept close to Sir Alex Ferguson that they learned the high standards and, “If I don’t do well, I’m out!”

That threat keeps you going. That desire to make sure you are the best you can be makes you a winner.

So good luck to Tom Edwards but, as much as he’ll be hoping to benefit from Joey Barton and Clint Hill, he’s got to look at himself as well.

I remember one away game in particular, a 1-0 win at Bristol City under Gary Rowett, when he had a real partnership with Tom Ince and kept driving forward. I thought then he had the potential to hold down that right-back spot for a long time to come.

But compare that to his last league game at Stoke, taken off at half-time of a 0-0 draw with Reading last December.

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It was so different and negative. He was passing backwards and squad. He’d lost that positivity and confidence in his play. It looked like a keep possession thing. There was no urge to get forward, to think forward. There was no drive and the crowd started to get on his back.

It’s a great shame. You have these little periods in your career that test you and you have to kick on. Your last training session is gone, your last match is gone. It’s what you do the day after. Every day, every week, every month, every year.

You have to reach your limit of what you’ve got inside your body. Whatever level you hit from there you can be proud. You have to be your own number one.





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