EFL Stars of the Future: Shrewsbury’s Josh Bailey
If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Sir Matt Busby’s famous quote remains just as relevant in a footballing world of tremendous talent. Due to a flawless array of young attacking prospects across the game, the art of defending can be under appreciated. Impressively, the likes of Saliba and Colwill are bucking that trend at Premier League level.
However, a point often overlooked is the hardship of standing out lower down the football pyramid. On the whole, teams don’t have the facilities to adopt high level aspects of play like the elite. Without doubt, diamonds in the rough glisten across the EFL. On this occasion, we take a look at Shrewsbury Town defender Josh Bailey.
Who is Bailey?
To begin,18 year-old Bailey is a graduate of the Salop’s academy that produced former Man City legend Joe Hart. Coupled with Declan Hutchings and Nana Owusu, the Telford born full back signed his first professional deal with Shrewsbury in June. It proved a huge moment for Bailey, expressing his joy on the club’s Instagram:
“I’m delighted. “After last season I pushed towards this and now I’ve got what I want.”
Bailey first showed promise aged 16, featuring off the bench for MK Dons first team in the EFL Trophy. The full back moved to Shrewsbury’s youth set-up in 2021 in search of a better path to the first team. He is a quick and strong left sided defender. Rock solid in the tackle and comfortable on the ball, Bailey can also play at centre half and in midfield.
Due to decent showings in the EFL Trophy for Shrewsbury, Bailey came off the bench last November to make his League one debut in a 1-0 defeat to Barnsley. Despite only playing nine minutes, the value of a taste of first team action cannot be underestimated, leaving Bailey hungry for more: ‘Firstly, to join in and travel with the first-team is good, but to get on the pitch is a dream of mine. It’s nice to see the fans as well.’
At this time, Bailey is yet to feature under new boss and former Bolton and Pompey cult hero Matt Taylor. The left back is unfortunate as Shrewsbury’s squad is better suited to line up with wing backs, leaving him without a clear path into the first team.
In any case with a young player, their physical capacity dictates whether they are ready to compete at the top level. Bailey’s former boss Steve Cotterill indicated after his debut in a 4-0 loss to Port Vale last year that he needed to get to grips with the dark arts of the game:
“He is really quiet, so I deliberately talk to him a lot. So he talks back to me.
“He is very very quiet, it is not just with me. He is a lovely lad. We just need to make him a bit more horrible.
It’s worth noting that Bailey only has a handful of appearances under his belt, mainly coming in the EFL Trophy. On the whole, it may be a good option for him to go out on loan to a side in League Two. This should allow the Englishman to become battle hardened and well adjusted to the difference in speed compared to youth level football.
On the positive side, Shrewsbury see potential in their tough tackling full back by keeping the defender. Other graduates such as Tom Bloxham, who has 82 appearances for the Salops, left on loan. Another organization that seems to rate Bailey is EA, with the young defender rated astonishingly high at 79 in the FC 24 closed beta, and a value of £15.5m. (at least he is in my game anyway).
Despite this likely being a mistake, it would be great to see Bailey breakthrough as a first team regular either at Shrewsbury or elsewhere. With greater exposure who knows, that rating could become a reality in the long run.