Rubin Colwill is a notable, undoubted talent. On that I’m sure we can all agree, but what happens next? That is a little bit trickier and more divisive.
Cardiff are out of practice in nurturing talent through the next phase of their development, from prospect in to first-team staple. Some people want him in the side immediately and permanently, where others promote degrees of caution.
The truth is that the stars have aligned for Colwill. He could not be at a better club at a better time. Cardiff have cut right back on spending, for the first time in a decade or so and opportunities for rookies have never been as bountiful. Whether this is the right team and set-up is a very different issue though.
Take Fulham prodigy Fabio Carvalho as a point of comparison. He has just turned 19, nine months Colwill’s junior, and has had a comparable impact, already netting three goals. Carvalho has benefitted from being able to step into a fluid attacking side that play on the front foot and suits his qualities. He also has players of the calibre of Bobby Decordova-Reid and Harry Wilson to carry the burden.
When Colwill steps into the Cardiff side, the hope is that he can be Lee Tomlin. There is still a Tomlin-shaped hole in the heart of this side, but that is a big ask for Colwill, at this stage of his development. Carvalho is able to play with youthful abandon, but Colwill would be immediately saddled with providing inspiration to an uninspired side, and club.
Thus far, Colwill has impressed coming off the bench and looked a bit lost when he has started. This is completely understandable and should prove instructive. Mick McCarthy clearly has a handle on this situation and has noted his struggles when starting.
One of the main reasons for this has nothing at all to do with Colwill. For some reason, it takes Cardiff an hour to get going these days. They have yet to score a league goal in the first-half, so often find themselves recovering from a deficit. It has become a nasty habit that needs to be urgently addressed.
When Cardiff finally start playing, usually with their backs against the wall, everything is in place for Colwill to shine. Sometimes that change of impetus is inspired by Colwill emerging from the bench, but in that scenario, he always seems to impress, so why not stick to that for now? Let Mark Harris run the legs off the opposition back four for an hour, then unleash Colwill on their weary defence.
Colwill’s rise has been meteoric and expectations have followed suit, but it’s far too early to tell how far he can go. With Joe Ledley and Aaron Ramsey, you could kind of tell. They were ready to go and seemed to have the spatial awareness and match intelligence that seems to come naturally to prodigiously gifted players. Colwill may have it too, but has not benefitted from entering into an attack-minded, more possession-based side like his predecessors.
Club and country both have high hopes for Colwill and you rarely see a player with such paltry domestic experience start for their country. That can be viewed as invaluable experience or heaping unnecessary pressure on one so young, depending on your stance.
I think Colwill is in safe hands with McCarthy, who won’t ride him until his wheels fall off due to pressure from impatient supporters. It’s nice to finally have one of our own to get excited about, but some supporters just generally need to calm the fuck down. Everything is either amazing or terrible, with very little in between. That leaves little room for development and they need to play their part here.
All things considered, super-sub may currently be the best role for Colwill and that’s OK. He has a great deal of promise, but still a lot to learn. With patience and encouragement, he may go on to become the player we all want him to be.