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Kaylen Hinds, Wolfsburg & the FA? Why there's plenty of blame to share around

COMMENT: Anger. Frustration. Blame? For Kaylen Hinds and Wolfsburg, there's plenty of it to go around. And it doesn't begin and end with those two...

To catch you up, Kaylen Hinds of England, formerly Arsenal and now also of Wolves, is a free agent. Effectively sacked by his German club after refusing to return from London for preseason training. Written warnings were fired off - and ignored. A six-figure fine imposed - and dismissed. Hinds left Wolfsburg, from their side of the table, with no other option. And so barely a year into his three-season deal, his contract was terminated.

For his part, the England U20 striker claimed a missing passport for initially failing to report for preseason. But as the days - let alone weeks - dragged on, Wolfsburg knew something was up.

Marcel Schaefer, the club's new sports director, recognised as much as early as the first week of August.

"It is no secret that it does not take so long to apply for a passport. There are other ways and possibilities," he stated. "It may also be that there is a lot of bad luck in the matter.

"It's a bad situation for everyone involved."

Schaefer then hinted at what many were long suspecting: "If he is here, we will sit down in detail and analyse what went wrong there. But it is clear that something went wrong, and you cannot do that. It is also clear that we cannot simply accept such a thing."

There was something wrong. And VfL should've twigged long before Hinds left the country at the end of last season. Shunted off to second division Greuther Furth at the end of January, the loan move was a disaster for Hinds. He managed just the one appearance, amid being demoted to the club's reserve team.

In preseason, Hinds was granted a chance by VfL in the Cup - and made a full Bundesliga debut against Borussia Dortmund. That €1.5m VfL paid Arsenal for the youngster was looking money well spent. But a few months on, Hinds found himself being sent to the second division - then weeks later demoted to the II's.

For Hinds, he was left to his own devices - literally. In a foreign country, needing to speak a foreign language. Wolfsburg must have known they were risking their investment. After all, this was the same lad, who as a 15 year-old playing for Leyton Orient, wanted to accept an offer from Manchester United, but chose Arsenal to be close to family and friends.

The 2.Bundesliga isn't the Championship in England. And playing for those II teams is even a harder slog. Back in the day, this column was involved with a couple of young foreign lads trying to make it in Germany. But outside the Bundesliga, it's very, very tough. And you can understand Hinds thinking he could be doing all this - and still be close to family - back in London.

At Furth, having overcome some injury problems, Hinds finally made his one and only first team appearance in May - and looked hopelessly unfit and overweight. As Schaefer stated, something was wrong.

And after clocking Hinds, Wolfsburg should've acted. If the lad wasn't going to play, better to get him back to (at least semi) familiar surroundings. But they blew it. And their reaction to him going AWOL only reinforced the perception of a half-hearted approach to the player's well-being. Instead of someone getting on a plane to talk to the lad, they warned him via letter. Instead of getting a fitness trainer and German tutor organised for London, they fined him. And instead of talking to London clubs about doing preseason with them - even taking him on a short-term loan, well, they issued a termination. €1.5m deal down the drain. Better yet, make that €5m - which was the valuation the board had placed on Hinds when it became obvious he wasn't coming back.

That's not to say Hinds is blameless. He'll have to live with the manner of his departure for some time. Such reputations can be difficult to shake. He should've been up front with Wolfsburg. The club deserved better than going AWOL and claiming a lost passport. It's the dog ate my homework stuff...

And there's a lesson also here for the FA. Where were they? One of nation's brightest young talents finding himself homesick and out of shape playing in the II's in Germany. England should have had a representative keeping in contact with Hinds, VfL and Furth. With so many of the country's best young players now testing themselves abroad, the FA should be putting together a team of mentors and scouts - and making them available to those now trying to make it abroad.

Over 20 years ago Brian Kerr, the brilliant former Irish youth coach, was doing similar on his own - no matter whether the lad was at a Premier League club or running around in the Conference. And his reward was the 1998 U16 and U18 Euros Double - something Ireland has never come close to since. If it was good enough for Kerr all those years ago, there's no excuse for the FA not to get involved in a situation like Hinds now.

For now, Hinds remains on the sidelines, with no response made since the dismissal. Clearly burned by last season, you hope he learns from the mistakes he made - and realises the fault was not all his own. There's plenty of blame to go around for this one.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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