In an interview with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Peterborough United manager Darren Ferguson has heaped praise on winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for his change in attitude, and positive approach to training. But has the sporadically troublesome youngster put his problems behind him, or is this the pinnacle of another promising spell, which will soon spiral back down to frustration?
The 22-year old arrived at pre season at the beginning of last campaign two stone overweight, and was quickly cast into the abyss by the manager. This brought a huge amount of frustration with it, as at the painful end of the 2012/13 Championship campaign, in which The Posh were relegated with a record high of 54 points, Mendez-Laing was, arguably, the stand out player in a run of games that saw the London Road club in sixth in the form table.
“He’s young and you make mistakes,” Said Ferguson.
One would imagine that the wide man is on his last chance at the club after being transfer listed in 2013 when he was reportedly involved in an ‘incident’ in Peterborough City centre after a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace along with three team mates.
But frustration has been an emotion commonly associated with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing by the fans.
In the 2010/11 season he showed great promise in his loan from Wolves. At the end of the season, a fee was agreed for the player, but the deal was not finalised after the two parties could not agree on wages.
Then there was the incident in Peterborough City centre, where later in the season he said:
“After what happened I feel I have a point to prove, inside me there’s a bit of fire, I want to prove people who have a certain picture of me wrong”.
And he did! But then the following season, he came back two stone over weight. Again, just when things were beginning to look up, and fans were beginning to change their opinion, he throws it all away.
So why should Posh fans continue to put their faith in, and rest their hopes on, a player who has let them down so often in the past?
“Eventually the penny will drop. We’re hoping it will. The boy has got talent and ability. I’ve got a responsibility to manage him and get the best out of him. We feel we’re there with that.” Explained Ferguson.
Okay, perhaps I may have made it seem as though we should all campaign to get the winger out of the squad. Far from it.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing has always been one of my favourite players during his time at London Road. He has an edge. Explosive pace, Brazilian-esque trickery and bulldozer like strength. Any club would be foolish to give up on a player with these attributes.
“He deserves – if you like – another chance”.
I for one could not agree more with the manager’s sentiments. I believe that because Nathaniel has been exposed to The Posh supporter’s for so long, it is forgotten how young he still is. He is 22! There are very few 22 year-olds around nowadays that are not still making mistakes to shape their futures.
If reports from inside the club are to be believed, it would seem, as Ferguson desires, that the penny has well and truly dropped, and with a huge impact.
Chairman and player alike have also heaped praise on the winger. Chairman MacAnthony has admired his physique, whilst ‘new’ signing, and former captain, Gaby Zakuani has expressed his happiness at Mendez-Laing’s positive attitude over twitter:
“Shocked to see @nmendezlaing turning up at the training ground on a day off! Feeling like a proud dad. Love it #ChangedMan #pufcfamily”
Performances in pre-season have also reflected the change in attitude, with ‘Mendez-Laing’ often being one of the main names on the lips of fans as they leave the games.
In the most recent game against newly promoted Luton Town, MacAnthony piled more praise on the attacker for his impact off the bench, something he has become famous for.
“Great workout against excellent Luton outfit. Well done to Mendez for injecting some life into us!”
The label of ‘Impact Player’ may also have had an… impact on the 22 year-old’s attitude. Manager Ferguson also said that he prefers to use the winger off the bench. If a player is inadvertently told that he probably won’t be starting many games, it is not going to do his confidence much good, is it?
It seems that each summer, their is always one player who wriggles his way off the transfer list, and it looks as though it could be the former Wolves man this year.
So it would appear that this will be a defining season for Mendez-Laing. Either he works his socks off and becomes a permanent fixture in the starting XI, and maybe even puts himself in line for a big money move. Or, he slacks off again and flushes all his hard work down the metaphorical toilet.
It’s sink or swim Nathaniel, and I hope you know your breast stroke.