Steve Hopcroft, the youth team coach of West Bromwich Albion, still considers Izzy Brown’s move to Chelsea three years ago to be ‘the one that got away’.
In an interview with BBC Radio WM the Baggies youth boss said that he thinks the teenager is regretting his decision to swap the Hawthorns for Stamford Bridge back in 2013. The youngster has failed to make the breakthrough in West London and is currently on loan at Rotherham United.
Hopcroft, who is the head of recruitment for the West From academy, think that Brown’s decision to move to Chelsea when he was just sixteen was ill-advised and that it was perhaps poorly timed; though he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the youngster succeeding altogether for the Blues. He said, “It might turn out a correct decision. At the moment, it doesn’t look a great decision”.
The England Under-17 international was the second youngest player of all time to appear in the Premier League when he ran out for the Baggies as a sixteen-year-old back in May of 2003. Hopcroft believed that even then you could see his potential and that he could easily have notched up his 100th appearance for West Brom by now if he had decided to stay in the Midlands. He said, “I absolutely loved Izzy Brown. I thought he was the best of all the players that have left here. He could have gone on to play a similar number of games as Saido Berahino. He could have made his 100th appearance for West Brom and be in a better position than he is now”.
Hopcroft had been linked with a move to Manchester United’s set-up recently but decided to sign a new deal with West Brom instead. He feels that Brown may be ruing his decision to do the opposite and sign for a big club before he’d proven himself. He said, “For whatever reason he chose not to go down that route. He chose to go down another route with a bigger club. He made a decision and his parents made a decision that West Brom wasn’t for them at that time. I wasn’t party to it, but I know really good offers were made”.
Chelsea are notorious for sweeping up young talent and then sending them out on loan, with an incredible 38 players currently on the West London club’s books but plying their trade elsewhere. Hopcroft felt he had it all as a youngster and that he could have become a real crowd favourite at The Hawthorns. He told BBC WM, “He was the one that got away for me. 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 that the fans would have loved, full of flair and skill. He could on take six players from his own half and score”.
Having brought through players like Saido Berahino, Sam Field, Kane Wilson and Jonathan Leko it’s fair to say that Hopcroft knows a thing or two about young talent. For him, though, it was the departure of Izzy Brown that has hurt the most. The nineteen-year-old has scored once in four games for Rotherham so far this season but his former tutor believes he could have achieved so much more if he’d remained in the West Midlands. Hopcroft: “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”.