Lessons to be learned and questions to be asked for Chesterfield and Amantchi, two years after another striker inked a pro deal
Exactly two years and one week since a quick, powerful young striker signed his first pro deal at the Proact, a quick, powerful young striker has signed his first pro deal at the Proact.
On 10th October 2016 Ricky German, 17, sat in the manager’s office, pen in hand, next to a beaming Danny Wilson.
This week, 17-year-old Levi Amantchi was the young man at the desk holding the pen and Martin Allen was the first team boss next to him.
German burst onto the scene during the club’s League One days, thanks largely to his prolific youth team record.
Amantchi has been on the radar of the senior set-up since Gary Caldwell was manager.
He has size, pace and has been scoring goals for the youth team.
German had made three first team appearances before signing his contract, Amantchi has two.
But three weeks after posing with Wilson on his big day, German made his final first team outing of the season.
He played 29 further minutes as a senior Spireite before his release this summer.
If Chesterfield and Amantchi are to benefit from the teenager’s two-and-a-half-year deal, German’s story might hold a lesson or two.
It’s not a simple case of a young man snot being good enough to make it.
Wilson, Caldwell and Jack Lester all saw fit to involve German in their first team squads and throw him on in competitive action.
A theme developed, however.
When asked what German had to do in order to break into the first team again, Caldwell’s answer was simple: “Work harder.”
Fast forward to the Lester era, the same question elicited a similar answer.
When Caldwell took the Spireites to Spain for a pre-season tour, senior players and staff were constantly ‘encouraging’ (for want of a better word) the youngster to run faster and work harder.
Some were less forgiving in tone than others.
In one particularly gruelling session, German – still a teenager let’s remember – was struggling in the latter stages of the running.
When Lester threw open the doors of the Proact for a public training display, German, again, appeared to be labouring in the sprints.
Lester would later say that German had indeed dropped a considerable amount of body fat thanks to the club’s new fitness regime, but he still had a way to go.
How it ever got to the stage where a teenager in possession of a professional contract needed to get so much fitter, is not only a question for the player.
Somewhere between the moment when he signed his deal and the moment when they released him, Chesterfield and German lost their way.
Some will, and have said in this particular case, that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
But it’s important to ask if the club does enough to ensure youngsters carry on their development once they sign a pro contract.
Just because a piece of paper says you’re now a professional does not make it true – like in any walk of life, you have to be shown the ropes.
Might players fall through the cracks between life in the academy, with its chores, lessons and oversight, and life in the first team – where players are expected to look after themselves, get to the gym, do all the things that lead to good performance?
With no reserve team in place, are the youngsters getting vital game time?
Should there be a protracted handover period between a player’s academy coach and his first team boss?
Will some players, even subconsciously, take their foot off the pedal once they think they’ve got it made?
What did the academy do to get the best out of a kid and can the first team do the same?
There’s no doubting German’s talent.
Even at the end of that session in Spain, he was finding the net despite exhaustion.
Right now, at current club Hendon, he’s banging in goals – 14 at last count.
There was, or is, a player in there.
The challenge for Chesterfield, who evidently believe there’s a player in Amantchi, is to make absolutely certain there wasn’t more they could have done with German, and if there was, avoid the same mistake this time round.
There might be some money in it for them, eventually.
The challenge for Amantchi is to watch the likes of Drew Talbot like a hawk, learn quickly what it takes to be a professional and do everything in his power to ensure his work ethic is never what keeps him on the sidelines.
There might be a career in it for him, eventually.