JACK MARRIOTT has been grabbing the headlines this season after a prolific debut season in League One with Peterborough.
Premier League and Championship clubs have all been monitoring the form of Marriott, who’s goals have helped his side push for a place in the play-offs this season against expectations.
There is no bigger commodity in football than goals, and in the 23-year-old Peterborough know they possess not only a cutting edge up front but also a valuable asset when it comes to the summer.
But Marriott’s path in the game is not only one of overcoming the usual struggles that affect the majority of youngsters as they try to make the leap from talented teenager to fully fledged professional.
It is also an example of a player taking a brave decision early in his career to drop down from a higher club, where a contract beckoned, in the belief that match action was the best thing for his progress rather than staying in a development squad.
One of the biggest problems now for young talent at all levels, especially in the Premier League, is the desperate need for results. This can deny them the first team opportunities they need to help further their career.
Many sides prefer to keep prospects in their development squads, just in case they eventually flourish into players good enough to use or sell on for a good return.
That may be sound business sense for the clubs concerned, but it is not necessarily good for the career development of the players – and it is an issue that is only set to continue growing over the next few years.
Marriott had a similar dilemma when he was a young professional at Ipswich, fresh from the academy set-up where he had scored goals and made a big impression on the coaching staff at Portman Road.
A contract extension was his for the taking, but aged 19 the forward looked at the roster of experienced senior forwards in Mick McCarthy’s squad and knew there was no likelihood he was going to be used in the first team any time soon.
For him, the choice was to sit around kicking his heels or being bold, taking the step down and give himself the best chance possible to make a career in the game.
A free transfer to Luton followed, and in the three years since he has grown from strength to strength – proving that going back is sometimes the best way to move forward overall.
Marriott said: “I have the utmost respect for Mick McCarthy. He knew I needed to leave Ipswich to progress, because of the standard of centre-forwards they had at the club at the time, I wasn’t going to get a look-in at 19-years-old.
“He totally respected I needed to go and get a first team somewhere and get myself a game and I will be forever grateful to him.
“I knew I needed to leave to progress my own career, he’s very experienced in the game and knew what was best for me and it’s worked out really well.”
During his time as a young pro at Ipswich, he was shipped out on loan but never felt a part of something. It was only at Luton, and now at Peterborough, he started to find that belonging that first team football can help to allow a player to flourish.
He added: “I learnt a lot from those loans, probably from the negative side more than anything. It made me stronger mentally.
“That was tough when you go on loan, you hope to be playing, that’s the reason why they bring you in in the first place – and when you don’t really get a chance you question everything.
“But you get setbacks, especially when you are young, and they are just other ones that have made me stronger to help get me to where I am now.
“Luton was a great club, I loved it there and had a good breakthrough season. I went there as sort of fourth striker and played quite a few games, finished with 16 goals at the end of the season.
“I had felt like I was doing well at Luton, felt I was a first teamer then and enjoyed myself but I needed to progress myself even further.
I wanted to be in a higher league, to develop myself and prove I could do it in the league above.
“I wanted to get settled, I wanted to be a regular in the first team here at Peterborough, I wanted to score as regularly as possible and thankfully the longest period I have been without a goal is three or four games.
“A lot of people doubted me, thought I wouldn’t do it in League One, it will all fizzle out – that just aggravated me and motivated me to do even better and prove people wrong.
“It’s never nice when you get people saying “he’s not good enough, he’s never going to cut it there”, so you always want to prove them wrong and that gives me the extra fire in the belly.
“You get a lot from outside of the game, social media and whatever, and whether they have an impact on your life is irrelevant – I don’t like people saying anything because I back my own ability and believe in myself so I trust I can go on and be the player I want to be.
“I always set the bar high for myself, I give myself high targets and high aspirations so even if I do finish a little bit short I have still done alright.”