Possibly one of the hottest talents in the Football League today, 21-year-old Solly March’s journey began as a youth team player at non-league side Lewes.
At just 17, his talent was quickly noticed and a number of clubs chased for his signature. Although he attracted serious interest from Premier League clubs such as north-east rivals Sunderland and Newcastle, March decided to join Brighton & Hove Albion’s youth system in November 2011. Signing a three-year deal, the young winger impressed enough and progressed into the club’s first team just two years after joining.
In the 2013-14 campaign, Solly made his first senior appearance for Brighton in the second game of this season, coming on for Will Buckley in the 86th minute to play out the final minutes of their 2-1 loss. He would have to wait until 2014 to make his first career start, though, making his full bow in the FA Cup tie against Reading, where he played 79 minutes in his side’s 1-0 victory.
In the next round, he would once again start, but this time he would also score his first professional goal, grabbing his side’s second on the stroke of half time. He ended his first season in the first team with 27 appearances in all competitions, nine of them starts.
After his impressive form saw a contract extension, signing a deal that would keep him at the club until 2018, the 2014-15 season’s expected progression was unfortunately halted by injury. After missing the first 18 games of season, March had to wait until the end of November to make his first appearance of the campaign, coming of the bench to play 13 minutes against Fulham.
In the return fixture against the London club, March would score his first professional league goal, hitting the net in a 2-0 victory. Although he was limited to just 11 appearances, making one start, the midfielder boasted an impressive 83% average pass accuracy, while also creating seven chances for his team-mates.
This season, it must feel like deja vu for March, as another injury is hampering his development.
However, prior to his December injury, he was a crucial part of Brighton’s impressive early season form. In fact, in the 16 appearances he would make before suffering from a season-ending knee injury, March never left the field as a losing player, helping his side pick up nine victories and seven draws.
His stats were once again impressive, as his passing accuracy hit 79%, he made 18 chances for his team and averaged 1.9 shots, 1.3 accurate crosses and 1.6 tackles per game.
Standing at just under 6ft, March has pace and power to be a truly exciting player on the wings. Comfortable with either foot, predominately his left, he is a technically gifted player who certainly has an eye for a pass. As his seasonal stats suggest, he can create with either a pass or a cross, chip in with goals and battle back to help defensively.
Internationally, as you would expect, March has also started to impress. Although the injuries have limited his chances, he has still managed to represent England’s youth sides a combined five times and make an impression on Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate.
“I’ve watched him a couple of times recently and he not only does the job with the ball but also without the ball, which is very important if you are going to be a top player,” Southgate said.
Watch March score a pre-season stunner against Norwich City.
What the experts say
England U21 manager Gareth Southgate: “Solly is technically an exciting player. He has got pace. As a wide player he retains the ball well too.”
Former Lewes manager Steven King: “He is technically very good. He has bags of energy, is a box-to-box player, has a good left foot, a good shot, he sees things early and the weight of his passes is very good.”
Brighton defender Bruno: “I think he matured a lot this season, he’s became a more solid player, including defensively. He has been more consistent, game after game. He hasn’t just had one good game, then three average games. He has had lots of good games in a row.”
Where does the future lie?
First things first, March needs to return to full fitness and enjoy a campaign injury free. After two seasons battling with injuries, the winger certainly has had an unfortunate time, but it also highlights just how special the prospect is to earn numerous plaudits whilst struggling for fitness.
Prior to his injury, March maturely admitted that he still had a long way to go into the game before reaching his full potential.
Speaking about his rapid rise, he said: “I’m probably a late developer, so I’ve still got plenty to offer and plenty of things to improve.
“I still think I’ve got four or five years to get to my best, learn the game, get a bit more consistency.”
However, it is highly possible that we will see the 21-year-old in the Premier League in the near future. While Brighton could still reach the promise land this season, a number of teams in the English top flight are reported to have a strong interest in the starlet.
Southampton were widely tipped to offer up to £7.5million in January, before the injury ended their pursuit, and Marchy has admitted to having aspirations to play in the top league in the future – but with Brighton.
Discussing the prospect of moving up a league, he said: “Being a Premier League player is the ultimate aim for any footballer, so hopefully we can get there soon.”
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