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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Rocket ride to obscurity
EVerton striker Wayne Rooney is the man of the monent
Rooney (right) is ready for take-off

As Wayne Rooney begins his rocket ride to the top he would do well to bear in mind that the Milky Way to stardom is littered with burn-outs.

Football's heavenly almanac is sadly full of super-nova stars that burn brilliantly for a short time, only to dim into obscurity.

If a week is a long time in politics, two years in football can be a lifetime, and how many brilliant prospects at 16 fail to mature into the young professional of 18, and then onwards?

Physical injury, mental make-up, attitude and application can all conspire to tug the rug from under a promising career.

Young shoulders can wilt under the huge weight of expectancy. Stan Cummins' debut as a 17-year-old for Middlesbrough in November 1976 was one of the most eagerly awaited in the north-east.

Plymouth Argyle's Martin Phillips
Martin Phillips did not prove to be Britain's first 10m player

Manager Jack Charlton forecast Cummins would become Britain's first 1m player, but an ill-timed knee injury meant he was never able to reproduce his first meteoric season.

He found a degree of success in a four-year stint at Sunderland, but Crystal Palace and a second spell at Sunderland were only stops on the down escalator.

Martin Phillips' frail shoulders could not bear the weight of then Exeter manager Alan Ball's prediction that he would be: "Britain's first 10m player".

Phillips first followed Ball for 500,000 when he moved to Manchester City, then Ball shelled out 100,000 to take Phillips to Portsmouth.

Phillips is currently plying his trade for Plymouth in his native Devon.

Jason Dozzell would provide Rooney with the reminder that that there is no place like home.

In seven successful years at home-town club Ipswich he scored 52 goals in 312 league games.

But he became like a pining homing pigeon following a 1.9m move to Spurs, making just 68 league starts in four injury-plagued years at White Hart Lane.

The signs only pointed one way, as Dozzell stopped off at Ipswich en route to Northampton, Colchester and non-league Canvey Island.

Spurs have had their fair share of talented tyros.

Jason Dozzell, playing for Colchester
Jason Dozzell is down, but not quite out

Shaun Murray was one who never fulfilled the promise he showed as England's schoolboy captain.

Andy Turner's brow was puckered by football's most intense frown as life passed him by, via the stopping-off points of Portsmouth, Wolves, Rotherham, Boston, Rochdale, Yeovil, Nuneaton, Kettering and Tamworth.

There is no tougher testing ground than Old Trafford.

For every Giggs and Beckham who come through the ranks to stardom, there is a Russell Beardsmore and Terry Cooke.

Of course, bright stars are not only seen on these shores.

Remember Nii Lamptey? The Ghanaian's reputation as the new Pele - a view endorsed by the great man himself - tempted Ron Atkinson to bring him over to Coventry.

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19 Oct 02 | Eng Prem
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