There was a time when Nathan Delfouneso was considered one of the most highly regarded prospects in England. The 23-year-old former Aston Villa striker has 54 caps to his name at various youth levels of English football, and has scored 19 times in those appearances.
But he has never been able to work his way into regular first-team football at the highest levels of the game. He was released this week by Aston Villa after five separate loan spells with four different clubs. All but his 2012-13 stint at Blackpool were giant flops, and even that one was less than convincing (41 appearances, 6 goals).
Now he is (fairly, I must add) being panned by writers of League One teams. From Andy Turner's piece in the Coventry Telegraph:
Some players ooze quality and stand out when they drop down a division... Delfouneso looked like he would follow suit when he first arrived at Coventry amid a frisson of excitement and expectation, and put in a decent shift against Bristol City in dreadful conditions. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got until it was too late with a couple of half decent displays in the last two games by which time, of course, you, I and, crucially, the manager had made up our minds.
I encourage you to go read the whole thing, but the entire article is a damning coda on the lacklustre start to a career.
There is still time for Delfouneso to turn things around. He is, after all, only twenty-three, just a year younger than Fabian Delph who emerged so brightly this season. But whereas Delph had struggled in the Premier League (an understandable problem), Delfouneso has struggled at every level.
I hope for his sake he can pull things together, but it's a harsh reminder that even the best prospects don't always pan out.