TERRY BUTCHER, the Hibernian manager, name-checks Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Scott Brown in discussing the bright future he predicts for Sam Stanton; it is fair to say he rates his prodigy very highly.
Butcher, though, was careful not to directly compare Stanton to anyone, insisting the midfielder is his own man after bursting to prominence in recent weeks with his first starts for the club and two goals in the last two games. Nevertheless, he did cite the examples of Messi and Maradona as proof that not all young players have to suffer dips in form as they progress.
He also believes Brown can provide Stanton with inspiration as to just how far the 19-year-old can take his career from a steady start at Hibs. "I think everybody wants to label players 'the next so and so, he's this and he's that, he reminds you of him', but Sam Stanton is Sam Stanton; he is his own player," said Butcher. "He is unique, in that aspect. Is it the British culture to assume that there is going to be a fall, going to be a dip or a stumble? If you look at other players throughout the world, like the Maradonas and the Messis; Maradona's stumble came later on for different reasons, but his progress before then was immense. It was huge and it was quick. Messi is the same.
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"I'm not ever labelling Sam Stanton the same as Messi and Maradona, but I am saying that his rise, why can't it continue and be stronger? Why do we have to label him and then expect him to fall?
"I think it's a public thing, not just the media, we wait for it to happen and expect him to go the same way as others. But the fact is, he is very level-headed and he has seen what has happened before when young kids have come through and gone on to make it into the national team.
"He only has to look at Scott Brown to see what he has done and why can't he go the same way? I think that's a good example to use, although Scott is as mad as a hatter and Sam hasn't quite got that sense of devilment in his character.
"Sam is a different sort of player, he is just Sam Stanton and I hope people regard him as that because he is fantastic. I'm convinced he can go all the way but you don't want to pile too much pressure on him because there have been a lot of kids here who everybody said would be the best thing since sliced bread."