He’s been branded a “potential £40 million player” by a Premier League academy boss who still rues the day he got away.
Izzy Brown hasn’t brought quite such rhetoric from Rotherham United boss Alan Stubbs yet.
But the Millers manager’s admiration for the 19-year-old was such that he was prepared to drive to London and personally meet Chelsea’s key figures to make sure he could take the teenager to New York Stadium for the season.
Brown turned in a sublime man-of-the-match performance in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest, and the 19-year-old will be one of the first names on the teamsheet for Saturday’s Championship visit to Blackburn Rovers.
“He came and he wasn’t fit in terms of match sharpness,” said Stubbs. It was always going to take a little bit of time.
“I chose to go down to Chelsea and have personal meetings with all the right people at Chelsea because he’s got an unbelievable amount of ability.”
Brown was developed at West Brom who made him the top flight’s second youngest player ever in 2013, and Baggies youth chief Steve Hopcroft wishes the attacker had never left the club for Stamford Bridge.
“He was the one that got away for me,” said Hopcroft. “The manager at the time, Steve Clarke, was ready to make him an integral part of the team.
“We had a potential £20-30-40 million player who the fans would have loved, full of flair and skill. He could take on six players from his own half and score.
“I was bitterly disappointed, as was everyone in the academy. He’s still potentially a world-class player, the best we’ve lost, without a shadow of doubt.”
Brown started his first two Millers games, against Brentford and Barnsley, on the wing, but has shone in a more central position just behind striker Danny Ward in draws against Bristol City and then Forest.
“He’s playing in a role which I feel suits him,” Stubbs said. “Because of his ability, the way he runs at defences, his first touch and awareness, he is a problem. We’re going to enjoy him as much as we can while we’ve got him.”
Forest never came to terms with the elusive Brown who set up Jon Taylor’s opener with a surging run and deft pass.
That was record signing Taylor’s first goal since his summer move from Peterbrough and the pacy winger added a second in the closing minutes to earn a 2-2 draw and preserve Rotherham’s unbeaten home league start.
“He’s starting to listen to us,” said Stubbs. “We’ve spoken quite a lot and we’ve shown him a lot of footage. When he first came, he played probably the way he did at Peterborough, and we had to get him to think about different things.
“When the ball’s on the opposite side, we don’t want him on the other touchline not affecting things. We want him to come inside. When the ball is on his side, we don’t always want him to receive it on the touchline. We want him to take up clever positions because he gives people problems.
“We’ve just told Jon to be a bit different, not be too predictable. We want him to keep defenders guessing. We’ve shown him clips and now he’s starting to get more crosses in.
“This is a test for him. If he can be as effective in the Championship as he was in League One with Peterborough, we’ve got a good investment.”
The 20th-placed Millers, still looking for their first away point, face a Rovers side who are bottom of the table, with five defeats and two draws from their opening seven matches
We’re unbeaten at home against some good teams and now we need to be better away from home,” Stubbs said. “If we play like we did against Forest on the road, we will take points away from home.”