Adu, Martinelli and Manchester United star who was better than Giggs among 10 Next Big Things

John Nicholson
Arsenal striker Jeremie Aliadiere, Southend United forward Freddy Eastwood and Freddy Adu
Not all of these players are called Freddy

A Manchester United academy graduate better than Beckham and Giggs, an Arsenal Invincible and, of course, Robin Friday. These are ten lost Next Big Things.


Freddy Adu
Still only 34 but hasn’t played since 2021 and has only scored 31 times in 227 games. He has played for 15 clubs in nine countries. Aged 14 he was being called ‘the new Pele’ which is always a curse. He was the youngest player to sign a Major League Soccer contract. Everyone had heard of him. He was feted before he’d done anything. In 2007 he signed for Benfica for $2million but only made 14 appearances. Afterwards there was a litany of loans and brief transfers where Freddy proved his lack of worth. Got 17 caps and scored twice but not since 2011. A case of an early big reputation either ruining him or not being deserved. Just not that good.


John Bostock
Now at Notts County, he was hotly tipped when just 15 and at Crystal Palace. A year earlier he was offered a contract with Barcelona. He was the youngest player both Palace and Spurs had ever fielded. There was an unseemly tussle with Spurs for his signature. I don’t know why as he only played in a few friendlies and a UEFA Cup tie for Spurs. They loaned him out five times and barely played him. Finally joined Royal Antwerp under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for a year. Then OH Leuven for probably his best stretch, scoring 13 goals and making 19 assists. Never stayed anywhere long enough to become an important player. Still just 32, Notts County is his 15th club. Never fulfilled his early promise.


Freddy Eastwood
Played in West Ham’s youth team with Anton Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson. Was at one time thought to be a brilliant striker in the making but West Ham let him go to Grays Athletic. It was at Southend where he was impressive across four different spells, winning the League Two play-offs and League One, scoring over 60 times. Was fined for fly-tipping rubbish with his name and address on. Duh!  From a Romanichal family. Played 11 times for Wales and scored four times. Had a big reputation for a lower-league player but never made it anywhere near the top.


Kenny Deuchar
Prolific goalscorer tipped for big things. Arrived at Gretna from East Fife, winning promotion after scoring 34 in 77 for them. His first season there was remarkable, scoring 41 times in as many games. The legend of the good doctor was born as Gretna moved through the leagues. Was this a brilliant, top-class striker? Calls for an international cap were ignored. After 71 goals in 112 games he moved on loan to Northampton and, like many big noises in Scotland before him, was poor and only scored three in half a season. So back on loan to St. Johnstone he went and played better, scoring eight in 14. Went to MLS with Real Salt Lake and picked up a wedge but only scored three times in 30 games. Returned to Scotland to finish his career at Hamilton, St. Johnstone (again), Falkirk and Livingston. Came out of retirement to play for Arbroath for nine games but the magic had left his boots.


Adel Taarabt
Probably the most skillful player on this list but took the piss a lot. Signed for Spurs – instead of Arsenal – from Lens but they hardly played him so he went to QPR for 164 games and 34 goals and was voted Player of the Year as he led them to promotion. Was easily upset and huff prone. Went on loan to Fulham for half a season and AC Milan for the rest of it. Seemed very restless and possibly found football too easy. Joined Benfica and seemed to be stable for once, being there for seven seasons. Inevitably took the autocratic regime money in 2022 at Al-Nassr, for whom he’s scored 13 times in 43 games. Now just 34, he’s always lacked the application to be consistently impactful but has all the skill in the world. A classic ‘good in training’ player.


Carlos Martinelli
Attacking midfielder who, for a brief period, was known as ‘the new Maradona’ by the press who were being stupid as he was nothing of the sort. Came to Middlesbrough for £1.5million without any track record. Played 43 times and only scored three times. Wasn’t the new anything. Became a bit of a laughing stock.

He was loaned to Torino and began an 11-club journeyman career which ended in Peru. Retired at 32 due to injury. Was cursed from an early age with the Maradona moniker. Played less than 250 games in total.


Robin Friday
Legendary name, unusual name, a total law unto himself. The original rock and roll footballer. An unreconstructed character whose reputation for sex and drugs and drinking sounds more like a tale from an Aerosmith tour of America in 1976. He was also, briefly, one of the best strikers outside of the top flight.

Played mostly for Reading but also Cardiff. Retired at just 25, not through injury but because he was sick of being told what to do, and how to live. Looked like he should play guitar for Uriah Heep. Allegedly took loads of drugs and was a heavy drinker but saw Reading to promotion from the fourth to the third division. Sometimes it turned out he was not exactly sober when taking to the field but performed well anyway. But he remained fit and strong. Went to Cardiff for a couple of seasons but was more concerned with getting off his face. Disappeared for weeks. Not only blessed with all the football skill you need but also physically imposed himself. His supposed digestive working out in Mark Lawrenson’s kit bag is a typical Friday legend. There are many. You could imagine it being true, even if it wasn’t.

Died at just 38 of a heroin overdose. As Half Man Half Biscuit so memorably had it ‘the man don’t give a f**k’. Read Paolo Hewitt’s biography for all the glory details. It’s widely agreed he was good enough for England if he could sort his head out. But he couldn’t or wouldn’t.


Jeremie Aliadiere
Graduated from Clairefontaine in France and signed for Arsenal for the 1999-2000 season. Scored nine times in 51 appearances over six seasons and was often said to be their next big talent but was so inconsistent he was loaned out to Celtic, West Ham and Wolves. Was often too quick for his own good. Went to Middlesbrough for three seasons, 86 games and 12 goals but he never really settled into the parmo-based lifestyle. Went to Lorient on a free and did quite well but jumped ship to Qatar for two seasons. Retired in 2018. Another player who had a lot of promise but sometimes lacked the discipline to be one of the best. Never got a cap but played for France U21s five times. It might be argued Arsenal kept him too long.

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Danny Cadamarteri
You remember him. Had wee dreads and was fleet of foot. He came through the Everton academy. Initially he was highly thought of. But after a guilty assault charge, Everton were happy to see him leave. Next 12 years saw him go on a slog around the lower leagues, playing for 11 different clubs. There were other legal problems along the way and he never developed into the quick, incisive player he once threatened to be. His last club was Carlisle after which he packed it in aged 35. His son plays for Sheffield Wednesday. Doesn’t that make you feel old?


Ben Thornley
Youth and reserve team player at Manchester United right at the time all the youngsters were coming through. Some say he was better than Giggs, though at exactly what isn’t clear. David Beckham has said Ben was the best of all of them. Thought he was in for a long, successful United career. Played on the wing in the ’90s and was highly thought of but knee-knack in 1994 ended his progression. Subsequently sued the man whose bad tackle caused the injury for loss of income. Good luck with that. Got some compo and a couple of caps for the U21s. Toured around, never stayed anywhere for long. Toured the lower leagues and then understandably took to the drink for a few months. Ended up at Witton Albion in the Northern Premier League. Just shows how badly an injury can disrupt a promising career. Now works for MUTV.