Cardiff City midfielder Jordon has Mutch to prove in 2013
Of all the players brought in during Malky Mackay's summer spending spree, Jordon Mutch has been the most disappointing thus far.
The disappointment is not because he is a poor player or a waste of money, his potential is obvious and £2m was probably about right for such a highly regarded prospect.
There is instead a nagging suspicion that actually fulfilling that potential may be no easy task.
It was no surprise to see Malky swoop for Mutch, he enjoyed a very successful loan spell
at Watford during his reign, scoring five goals in 23 league matches.
On joining, Mutch admitted that Mackay was the deciding factor in departure from Birmingham City, revealing:
"I changed completely as a player during my time under the gaffer at Watford."
"Those six months were the most enjoyable of my career at that stage because I was
playing first-team football.
"I grew as a player, became stronger physically and matured.
"The improvement in every area of my game during that time was fantastic and that gave
me such confidence.
"That experience played a big part in my decision to sign for Cardiff.
"I believe the manager can help me progress again and develop into a footballer capable
of playing regularly at Premier level."
A prodigy, Mutch was selected in Birmingham's squad for a League Cup tie at Blackburn
in September 2007, aged just 15 years and 298 days, before the FA forced his withdrawal.
He eventually made his debut in August 2008 and was voted the club's Academy Player
of the Season that year.
During this period, Academy boss Terry Westley confirmed: "I've known Jordon an awful long time and I have no doubt that he has got all the ingredients to be a top player."
Blues manager Alex McCleish also admitted that Mutch could be "a star in the making," remarking that Mutch was already built like a man at 16. At the time, Colin Tattum of the Birmingham Mail described Mutch as; "a baby Gerrard, with a hint of Michael Carrick," which is an interesting comparison for a number of reasons.
The accepted wisdom is that Mutch's time at Cardiff has been hampered by injury, but in
fact his whole career to date has been a tale of succesive health related obstacles. In October 2008, Mutch was ordered to rest after growing 4cm in a matter of weeks. This rapid physical development put considerable strain on his legs, ankles and feet, resulting in fractures in both feet and confining him to a wheelchair for a three month period. He has since sustained a broken ankle and his recent absence was due to nerve problems in his feet.
The similarity with Gerrard was made because of the box-to-box nature of both players, but Gerrard also endured growing pains but it did not prevent him from enjoying a distinguished career. Gerrard, like Mutch, initially appeared ungainly and clumsy before evolving in to a rampaging force of nature, fingers crossed that Mutch replicate this transition.
The similarities with Carrick are evident in his build and array of passing, but despite
a comparable gait, Mutch is more powerfully built than the elegant Manchester United
They both boast a comparable array of passing, although Mutch is more haphazard and his decision making sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, but this should improve with time and experience.
The enduring criticism of Carrick is that he goes missing against better opponents, Mutch can also be a bit flaky, but his greater physicality should sustain his influence, even when his passing is wayward.
Although a quintessential Malky signing; young, hard working and rich in potential, Mutch needs to find his feet and remain free of injury to establish a regular place in the Cardiff side and win over sceptical fans.
Chris Hughton, who managed Mutch last season, publicly praised his versatility while simultaneously highlighting a further conundrum regarding his future progress. "With Jordon, I think it's determining exactly what player he is," Hughton conceded. "Because of his range of passing he can play a little bit deeper but I think he likes to break forward."
If his inclusion is at the expense of shape and defensive cover, he has to justify his selection by providing drive and incisive distribution. On merit, it should be Aron Gunnarsson lining up next to Peter Whittingham for the foreseeable future, but Mutch needs as much playing time as possible to generate some momentum.
He has only completed 90 minutes on one occasion this season, regularly hauled off for issues relating to either form or fitness.
Substituted at half time against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, he looked off the pace and his passing was poor.
Significant improvement, in form and luck, is required in 2013.