Regarded by many as the best English talent in League One, James Maddison has experienced a rapid rise to fame since breaking into the Coventry first team in the 2014-15 season.
The 19-year-old made his professional debut in the early stages of that campaign, coming on as a substitute in a League Cup tie against Championship club Cardiff before getting another chance from the bench in the Sky Blues’ 3-1 home league loss to Bristol City. On a poor day otherwise for the club, Maddison provided a small positive from the game, as he set up his side’s only goal of the game.
It was enough to launch the youngster into a starting berth and, once again, he provided a plus in another poor Coventry performance, grabbing their only goal with a sublime free kick as they fell to a 4-1 defeat by Oldham Athletic. His impressive early form was quickly rewarded, as he signed a new three-and-a-half year contract with the club a month after his debut.
This season, Maddison featured in the Sky Blues’ first five games of season before suffering from injury, which left him on the sidelines until the middle of December.
He returned in the fixture against Oldham earlier this month before firmly reminding the Cov faithful what they had been missing, scoring his side’s winner on Boxing Day in their 1-0 victory over Port Vale with a fantastic individual effort before grabbing an equaliser in the final minute through a spectacular free-kick against Chesterfield on Monday.
The confident youngster started his footballing journey at Coventry at the age of seven and represented both Under-18 and Under-21 sides before his promotion to the first team.
Comfortable playing with both feet, Maddison has extremely impressive close-control skills and can free himself from tight situations with extreme ease. He has the ability to impose himself onto a game and create the all-important chances that forwards crave.
Discussing his game, the attacking midfielder said: “I like to have a lot of the ball at my feet, dribble with it, take players on, draw them in. That’s how I earn a lot of fouls I think. Big strong defenders think ‘I’m just going to show him what I’m all about’ and I’ll nick it away and win a free-kick.”
You can review the youngster’s development over the past ten years in this fantastic video that follows the youngster’s rise within the Coventry youth system.
What the Experts Say
Coventry Academy manager Richard Stevens: “He’s a real gem and very exciting.”
Coventry manager Tony Mowbray: “The important thing is that he is a very talented boy who has got all it takes to become an exceptional player.”
Former Coventry manager Steven Pressley: “His willingness to learn and do extra to improve was a crucial reason in offering him his first professional deal. We’re excited by this signing and we believe James can have an extremely bright future at this club.”
Where Does The Future Lie?
According to recent reports, Arsenal and Liverpool are currently leading the race in trying to lure the midfielder away from Coventry, although Tottenham have also been credited with an interest.
With a £10million price tag attached to Maddison and Mowbray reluctant to sell the starlet, it is unlikely that a transfer will arise without at least a return loan clause embedded into the deal.
Much like the Dele Alli transfer from MK Dons to Spurs last season, which saw the midfielder return to Stadium:MK for the remainder of the season, if a transfer is to happen it will be expected that Maddison will continue to develop at Coventry for the remainder of the campaign, possibly stretching on into the 2o16-17 season.
When asked on the speculation surrounding the youngster, Mowbray said: “My advice has always been to James to let his career develop where he’s going to play every week and where he’s appreciated; let his talent flourish.
“What’s the rush at 18/19 if he’s talented enough? Even at 20 in two years time he might have played 100-odd games for us so, for me, he has to let his talent flourish.
“The only scenario I could see for James Maddison is for someone to pay us the right amount of money and we get him back for two years on loan and invest the money”.
By Daniel Roberts, @djroberts22