by Nigel Davies
For a fan base reeling from relegation and long starved of a home grown hero Dan James’ emergence last season was like a gift from the Football Gods.
The little winger raced in like some form of Welsh qualified Speedy Gonzales and brought with him a sense of excitement that had been absent for such a long time at the Liberty. Andale, Andale indeed.
And then, just as quickly, he was gone.
A failed move to Leeds in January (no, I haven’t stopped laughing at Leeds fans yet either) was a temporary reprieve as Manchester United swooped as soon as the season ended and the summer window opened.
It was a bitter blow for Swans fans that had had their craving for an exhilarating new hero from the youth system satisfied for the briefest of times.
And then crashing through the despair like a high speed express train came a kid called Garrick, bursting onto the scene in a blur of pace and with an impudent drop of the shoulder.
Garrick’s emergence might have been a little less spectacular if he’d broken onto the scene during pre-season but injury robbed him of the chance to stake his claim in those often benign practice games.
It wasn’t until he was unleashed on an unsuspecting Northampton Town as an impact sub in the Carabao Cup that Swans fans got to see the raw potential of a new star to replace the departed James.
As Garrick tore into the League Two side, his naked pace and devastatingly direct running turning the game, I couldn’t help but do my best (!) Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon impression, slightly altering the quote to triumphantly proclaim in my head that:
The lad’s impact has been spectacular, partly because of the meagre doses we’ve been treated to so far.
At the time of writing Garrick has just 114 minutes of senior first team football under his belt but during that time he’s scored his first goal, chalked up an assist against Cambridge, won a game changing penalty at QPR and generally run any opponents facing him ragged.
The Jamaican born forward is another success for the youth department’s scouting network. Just as the likes of Dan James (Hull), Oli McBurnie (Bradford) and George Byers (Watford) were recruited from outside the Swans catchment area, Garrick was signed from Ossett Albion a few of years ago, another low key capture for the kids’ set up.
For a time Garrick flirted with a career in Rugby League and was training with Bradford Bulls just a few months before signing for the Swans.
Fortunately common sense kicked in and the kid put the funny shaped ball aside and decided to concentrate on the round ball – and that decision is now starting to bear fruit, for the player and for the club that has carefully developed him over the last three years or so.
Like James, Garrick has raw pace as his main attribute but where James relies on his low centre of gravity and superior acceleration Garrick has a bigger frame and a touch more unpredicatability.
Garrick’s flirtation with Rugby League has also helped his football, honing his ability to step inside and employ a change of pace. The physical nature of the oval ball game has also given him the abrasive physicality to brawl his way past opponents when needed too.
There’s lots to admire, but there’s lots to work on too.
Decision making and defensive discipline are two areas that will require work and there are far harder challenges ahead. Garrick will soon find out that the bigger your initial splash, the more attention you’ll attract. How he copes with Championship coaches actively planning to stop him will tell us a lot about how real his talent is.
Sometimes it can be “easy” to stand out, being a young player brought into the first team for short, eye catching cameos…anyone remember Darren Perrett? Sustaining it and producing consistently is the hard part yet to come for young Jordon.
Garrick comes across as a level headed young man and he’ll need to stay grounded if he wants to make a real career in the game. He’s received a lot of attention since his debut – and yes, I’m aware I’m adding to that with this article – but he has to put that aside and carry on learning, for he has a long way to go.
I’m sure he’ll benefit from having Steve Cooper as his manager though, as well as the likes of Cameron Toshack, Gary Richards and Nigel Rees within the Development set up around him, men who played a significant part in developing James and McBurnie – players that brought in about £35m in the summer to keep the financial wolves from our door!
Hopefully Garrick will follow Dan James’ example, fully seize his chance this season but without the outgoing transfer at the end of it.
That way Swans fans can continue to have their bums lifted off their seats in excitement as a young winger tears into our opponents…
….. and I can carry on indulging in my pretty bad Brian Blessed impression. Altogether now: