I speak to experts about Max Clayton who nears a return to first team football
BBC Stoke’s Graham McGarry had the following to say when I asked him about how he felt the former Crewe youngster would do ahead of his first full season as a Wanderer:
‘A fit Max Clayton for me could be one of the breakthrough players in the Championship this season.
The youngster will have the desire to prove he can perform at this level.
The last twelve months of hardly playing any football due to his injury and his future being up in the air for a long period will for me make him more determind to succeed.
Clayton was a much sought after player after he broke into the Crewe first team with a couple of the biggest clubs in the Premier League keeping tabs on his progress.
Bolton could be the big winners here if the former England youth international rediscovers his form.’
A close follower of Crewe Alexandra in recent times, I’m well aware of how highly rated Clayton is with many involved in the youth setup at Gresty Road claiming that the forward is better than Nick Powell who’s gone on to play for Manchester United.
The Railwaymen are very well known for their ability to develop young players- the likes of Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton, Billy Jones and Ashley Westood have gone on to play in the Premier League, having come up through the Crewe ranks and it was widely expected that Clayton would be the next to surge up the leagues.
However, a broken ankle sustained in November 2013 halted his progress following an excellent two seasons for Crewe as they were promoted to League 1 and then won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy the following year- 18 year old Max Clayton was very heavily involved with both of those successes.
Having played so much professional football from such a young age, Clayton displays a remarkable maturity as well as the genuine raw talent which attracted the interest of some of the world’s biggest clubs.
Say what you want about Dougie Freedman, but signing a player like Clayton for 300k is a huge coup for us.
That all said, there are some negatives to his game; I spoke to Crewe fan Mark Stevens who said:
‘After relegation to league two in 2009 our youth academy was seemingly failing us and nothing of note was being produced or remotely looking like making a move to better things. By 2010 there was talk of some real quality about to break into our first team. One was Nick Powell and the other Max Clayton. Max was regarded highly in our academy, a regular goalscorer at youth level and having all the attributes to go all the way to the top. Our coaching staff were really cautious with blooding him in the first team and his debut came in 2011.
In league 2 he looked a top player and got some vital goals usually from the subs bench. He arguably scored 2 of the most important goals for Crewe in my living memory; one against Southend in a play-off semi final second leg which virtually sent us to Wembley and the second goal against Southend which won us the JPT at wembley in 2013. At this stage he was a fans favourite but as we took the step up to league one things changed.
Against tougher opponents Max struggled with the physicality of the game and was not enough of a threat despite obvious latent ability. He had difficulty beating a man and making things happen off little scraps. His goal scoring record is clear evidence of this. 9 goals in 74 appearances are not the stats of a class lower league striker. Fans started to question his loyalty and it was inevitable he would leave. We were all disappointed that there was no transfer fee upfront. Most fans were not bothered he left because he was adding almost zero to our team at the time.
There is no doubt Max Clayton is a quality player, I’d say he is a classic Crewe academy graduate, technically spot on but needs to be up for the fight when the game gets ugly. the lack of service he got at Crewe may have been a factor for his poor goal scoring record. a really good footballing team that puts the ball on a plate to him in the box could prosper in the future. As a say about all ex-Crewe players I hope they make a name for themselves when they move on and the same
goes to Max at Bolton. The potential is there, he still has to fulfill it.
So as we can see, there are fears that he is not strong enough but I am aware that he’s one (along with Tom Walker) who’s worked very hard to bulk up over the summer and I don’t think that should be too much of a problem.
There could also be issues if he sees his move to Bolton as a ‘stepping stone’ to move onto a Premier League club- I certainly hope this isn’t the case and that the lack of loyalty shown to Crewe was due to the boo-boys.
Finally, the elephant in the room is his goalscoring record. To be honest, it’s pretty poor. However, let’s look at it this way he actually scored 14 in 43 starts. That’s not too bad now is it? Over half of his appearances came off the bench and the fact that he scored so many in the academy shows that he’s certainly got goals in him. It’s also worth noting how young he is- he just turned 21 yesterday and has already had four years as a professional. While we don’t want to stagnate his progress, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and rush him. He also doesn’t always play as an out-an-out striker.
I think he’ll be a very important player for us in seasons to come. While I may well have said this about Rob Hall, I’ll make a prediction: in the next five years, Max Clayton will have an England cap. There, I’ve said it.