BBC BLOGS - Paul Fletcher
« Previous | Main | Next »

Keeping the football dream alive

Post categories:

Paul Fletcher | 11:49 UK time, Sunday, 28 February 2010

A wet and largely miserable February afternoon was being considerably enlivened by Northampton Town head of youth Geoff Harrop, who was on the other end of the telephone and talking in excited if secretive terms about his latest find.

Harrop had discovered a player at the trials he recently attended and now had the striker training with his youth team as he assessed whether to offer him a two-year scholarship.

My attempts to prise from Harrop the identity of the player failed, although I suspect he might have told me if I had pressed the issue. There was almost a tone of playful glee in his voice when he asked: "You don't really want me to tell you where he is from, do you?"

The point of all this is that Harrop spotted the player at the recent Football League exit trials.

These take place at different venues over three separate days in February every year and give youth players released by their current clubs the chance to try to earn a two-year scholarship somewhere else starting at the age of 16.

Northampton Town's Geoff Harrop (left) at the 2009 exit trials Harrop hugs the left touchline as he watches the 2009 exit trials

I first met the spiky haired Harrop on a crisp morning at the 2009 exit trial at Bisham Abbey. Back then he told me that he had spotted a central defender, although he eventually failed to persuade him to sign for the club.

Part of his problem is that any players who really stand out in any of the three 30-minute games that take place at each trial might attract interest from a club in a higher division than League Two Northampton.

"I've got to get on the phone to mums and dads," added Harrop. His main selling point is that first-team manager Ian Sampson is a former youth boss at Northampton and young players will be given a chance at Sixfields.

I also chatted to Charlton head of education Dave Regis at the 2009 exit trial. He had brought five boys to Bisham Abbey who Charlton had told would not be offered a scholarship when they left school.

If Harrop is optimism personified, then there is a steely, almost weary realism to Regis as he explains that some boys just totally disappear off the footballing radar once they are released at 15.

It is often not a question of ability but desire, mental toughness and a love of the game.

"I try to make as sure as possible that they are not wounded by the experience," said Regis, who could not remember what happened to the boys he took to the trial.

The Football League Trust's affable youth development business manager Jim Briden plays a key role in organising the trials and is a whirling dervish of activity as he deals with one matter after another on the day of the exit trials.

"Two years ago the standard was very high, it was not that great last year, but it was high again at the recent trials," he said.

Particularly pleasing for Briden was the fact that every Scottish Premier League club attended at least one of this year's trial days, with Aberdeen at all three. Manchester United also sent a scout along, although Briden is realistic enough to admit he was probably not on the hunt for players.

A total of 274 boys attended in 2010, with an estimated 140 scouts. The Football League has also sent out 116 letters of interest, which follow a scout asking for details about a player. There are a further 40 letters still to be written.

Briden estimates that in 2009 30% of the trialists were approached by clubs and of these 26 boys went on to receive apprenticeships, roughly 8% of the total who attended.

My thoughts turned to the three boys that I interviewed in 2009, Dawayne Campbell, Jimmy Becque and Grant Brown.

Campbell was a very tall central defender who had been released by Crystal Palace. While his mother looked on, Campbell explained how he thought he had played pretty well during the trials.

It was a day rich in nervous energy and, I expect, plenty of false bravado concealing the pain of a dying dream. But Campbell must have been true to his word because I heard that Aldershot showed an initial interest but he eventually joined Wycombe, featuring for the Chairboys in several pre-season games.

There were reports from early season on Wycombe's website of Campbell in action for the Under-18 team but these dried up. I contacted the club but my attempts to gather further details were largely unsuccessful.

At first I was told it wouldn't be a problem and that head of youth Richard Dobson would be able to supply details. When I called back I was informed that Campbell had unfortunately sustained some kind of serious injury and the club did not wish to make any comment.

The 2009 exit trial at Bisham Abbey The 2009 exit trial at Bisham Abbey was a day of nervous tension and anxiety

Becque had joined Coventry after being released by Wolves but the Sky Blues had now decided against extending his tenure with them.

The young defender seemed understandably nervous as his father looked on protectively.

Coventry helped to put me in touch with Becque's father, who e-mailed me to say that his son's footballing dream was alive and well after he had signed up for a scholarship with Southern League Division One side Chasetown.

Finally, there was Brown, who apparently had an agent and had been at the Hammers since the age of eight.

Brown talked honestly about the hurt of being told that his time at the Hammers was coming to an end but there was a relaxed and easy confidence to both Grant and his father as they discussed the prospects of finding another club.

I couldn't really blame them as most boys appeared to be from clubs outside the Premier League. It stood to reason that a central midfielder who had survived for so long in such a competitive environment must have something about him.

I was told some weeks after the trial that Swindon Town and Leyton Orient had expressed an interest but as far as I can see he is not registered with a Football League club.

I'm still waiting to hear back from West Ham about Brown but I did get a phone call back from Regis at Charlton.

He had kindly looked through his records and discovered that three of the five players he had taken to the 2009 exit trial at Bisham Abbey had been signed up by other clubs.

Apparently one is at Brentford, another at Wycombe and the third at Southend.

Regis sounded quite chipper as he told me and I thought, rather obviously, that they are three of the 26 who remain at a Football League club because of the trials. Keeping the dream alive.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    A pretty good article thats highlights the problems with driving these young kids onwards to professional football when the odds are stacking up against them. It makes a real difference what kind of homelife and background the youngsters have and I'd be interested to see who those players making a living in the lower divisions see as the driving influence in pushing on when they are let go by higher division clubs...

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article and nice to see a focus away from man utd/rooney/drogba etc

  • Comment number 3.

    I find the progress or otherwise of youth team players absolutely fascinating. My team, Leicester City, won the FA Youth Premier League in 2007 (beat Arsenal in the semi-finals) with the following team:

    Carl Pentney - still at club, one substitute appearance, currently third choice keeper after a series of non-league loans. Just joined Leamington of the Zamaretto Premier (two leagues below the Conference) on loan.
    Joe Magunda - also in the Zamaretto Premier but permanently. Was a promising England youth international, eventually went to King's Lynn, left when they folded and now at Brackley Town.
    Joe Mattock - handed in a transfer request, now plays left-back for West Bromwich Albion.
    Scott Garner - at Mansfield in the Conference.
    Scott Lycett - released and went round all sorts of non-league teams, currently at Leamington alongside Pentney.
    Max Gradel - played well last year in our League One title win but never held down a first team place for any length of time and went on loan to Leeds, now there permanently.
    Andy King - first team player with us, the only player from this team to be an established player for City. Great prospect.
    Tommy Tejan-Sie - was released and went to Dagenham and Redbridge for whom he sits on the bench regularly in League Two.
    Ryan Beswick - went to Kettering and is now at Solihull Moors in the Blue Square North.
    Eric Odhiambo - at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
    Billy McKay - playing well at Northampton Town in League Two.

    One of the Sunderland players who played against us in that Academy final, Martyn Waghorn, is now on loan with us and playing superbly, has scored seven goals this season and looks a brilliant prospect. Really hope we sign him permanently.

    Our current Academy team are unbeaten in the league this season and top their group ahead of Spurs and Villa. Have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs etc this season. Will be interesting to see where they all end up, because just because you're the best team at youth level doesn't mean you will end up with 11 great players for the first team.

    Apologies for indulging myself on this subject!

  • Comment number 4.

    Good article and good responses.

    Far more relevant to most people In the game, than the great and ever fatuous PL 'love-in'.

  • Comment number 5.

    RE #3

    Don't apologise i thought your comment was great. I always wonder what happens to the players who win the FA youth premier league because obviously they are all very talented. I have followed Waghorn for the last two years which started by picking him for my FF team and then keeping him all year because he had such a cool name (he only got about 1 point though) and i'm glad to see him playing well and scoring :).

  • Comment number 6.

    It's a shame to see so many young players left in the wilderness at such a young age. How many of them have the confidence to make it in the Football League after being rejected by a club?

    At my team, Barnsley, we've had so many young player's who have been described as the next big thing, only to land up at nearby non league clubs like Ossett Albion or Frickley Athletic... No disrespect to them of course, but I think so much pressure is placed on these lads that I think they must burn out before they have a chance to fully develop. At least trials such as the one described above will give these youngsters a chance to find a new club willing to give them a second chance.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'd agree with Harry, there is a lot of pressure on these kids before they're really ready for it. We've had a number of young players come through only for them to wind up in the lower leagues even given our quite impressive academy and training facilities. One player I'm particularly interested in is Reuben Noble-Lazarus, the youngest player ever to play in the football league. He seems to have largely vanished from the radar since making his debut, it'll be interesting to see where he ends up, and if making a professional appearance at such a young age has actually done him any good.

  • Comment number 8.

    Now then,

    Gradel97thMinute - great analysis. I think it is really interesting looking at what happens to a youth team. It is pretty clear that most do not make it.

    Young players losing their interest in the game completely is something that I think is very sad. At the very least, they should use all the top-quality coaching they have been given to play decent non-league football. The fact that some do not want to and are unable to come to terms with not making it as a pro, is something that must be looked at.

    I must say that I really do think the Football League Trust really do care about young players and what happens to them. The exit trials are part of that process.

    superharrytufnell - I broke my knee cap at Ossett Albion (or rather, somebody else did). I would not describe it as the end of a glorious career.

  • Comment number 9.

    My nephew who is 17 is currently on a 2 year youth deal with a conferance side currently in the play offs.But sadly plays for nothing as the club is unable to afford to pay him he even has to pay £30 a week for his digs.His parents are currently helping him out,but this is the question i like to put.How many youths turn deals down to seek the quick money as he could get anything up to £100 a game locally.He has chosen to put his head down and listen to the coaches and work hard to try and gain that professional contract.But how many take the quick fix and are lost forever in the wilderness of amateur footy forever

  • Comment number 10.

    good article the best i have read from you so far well done

    the harsh reality is the standout players at youth level normally have one or two big attributes (normally extreme pace and/or strength) that enables them to boss the game at that level.

    my dad is a scout and used to manage a successful boys team all the way to under 18's from under8's. Three players who always were in and around the team but never got selected for county honours like some did are now playing in conference and league two the ones who were with local professional sides now either dont play or play at a county level.

  • Comment number 11.

    I like this article Paul, it's nice to read about something different. Have you ever written a post on the Glenn Hoddle Academy? I would be intereted to know a bit more about it. Also wondered what you thought of Steve Cotteril going to Notts County? Seems to me like it could be a great appointment, a chance for him to get his stop-start managerial career back on track after the Sunderland debacle with Howard Wilkinson and a chance for County to get a young, hungry manager with an eye on the long term to match their own lofty ambitions! ross
    http://footballshorts.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 12.

    TomTyke

    I'm especially interested in RLN too, he sounds like he could make it if he's handled in the right way. It seems like Robins may be easing him into the first team slowly. I'm pleased to hear that Barnsley are bringing back the reserve team next season, that'll give some of our younger lads some competitive football besides the academy.

    Paul, I used to watch Ossett Albion (and Wakefield & Emley) when I used to live in Wakefield, there were some decent players there as I remember.

  • Comment number 13.

    I was meant to say RNL.. As in Reuben Noble-Lazarus.

    Forgive my typo ;-)

  • Comment number 14.

    I am liking everyone's comments. I am only young but I have seen many friends and fellow young talents released from both premiership and football league clubs, and they eventually lose the dream altogether. I was released from a Premier League club at a young age and even though they did a lot for me in terms of helping me find another club, I had lost a lot of confidence from rejection. I am currently playing at non-league level and am trying to build up confidence again, but some people as someone said just disappear from the radar altogether.

  • Comment number 15.

    Its good people get a second chance at their dream, but someone I know (not me) was wondering if young players, around 16-19 and playing part-time football every Saturday, that didnt have the chance to go to academies still have a chance of playing football professionally.

  • Comment number 16.

    Good Blog. Perhaps more coverage of grass roots might help the game. There's always talk about we need to improve grass roots but that's where it stops.

    Would be interested to know if on the continent they have as many youngsters lose interest. Maybe our culture of drinking, nights out etc which is different to many provides a far greater distraction...





  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Paul,

    Great blog. My son is a 1st year scholar at a club although he had previously been discarded, he has fought on. These stories are the real true to life aspects of the game that are great to read about, for many of the youngsters unfortunately do not became the next Rooney story, although thats who they all aspire to be.
    Whilst the exit trials are a lifeline, you may not to get to play in your favoured position and have just 30 minutes to prove that the last 10 years have not been for nothing. It is so daunting for the boys. I guess its better to have the chance than not though!
    As for your 3 boys from the class of 2009, Grant Brown is with Motherwell in the SPL, os he finally got his chance...

  • Comment number 18.

    @ NCFC - On The Ball City

    I find your "someone I know (not me) was wondering if young players, around 16-19 and playing part-time football every Saturday, that didnt have the chance to go to academies still have a chance of playing football professionally" quote hilarious. I'm not sure why you don't want people to think that it is you who would like the question answered... but anyway...

    Lots of players do end up going in to professional football a fair bit later than others.

    Off the top of my head I can think of a few.

    Being a Reading fan, Dave Kitson is the first who springs to mind. I think I remember reading that he was stacking shelves in a supermarket until he got signed by Cambridge from Arlesey Town at the age of 21, and now he's playing (albeit rarely at the minute) in the Premiership.

    Someone who has had an even more impressive career is Ian Wright who was playing Sunday league football until Steve Coppell signed him for Crystal Palace when he was 22!

    Oh, and I've just remembered Chris Smalling has just signed for Man Utd from Fulham was playing for Maidstone United just a couple of years ago in his late teens.

    So if you're good enough, you'll always have a chance!

  • Comment number 19.

    Interesting article, and a pleasure to read.

    I'd be interested to hear from someone who has successfully been through the process...

    Not sure if i'm 100% right but did Jimmy Bullard get released by West Ham and signed up by Peterborough, or perhaps Robbie Savage released by Man Utd and signed by Crewe. As i said i'm not sure if my information is correct, did they go to the exit trials??

    An interview with someone who has been through it all would be an interesting read.
    Thanks

  • Comment number 20.

    Paul, this is a particular interest of mine as development officer of a new support service/network for football scholars or any young footballer aspiring to become professionals. Our website is at www.fasss.org.uk.
    Although the article is about 'pre-scholars', it is always interesting to know what happens to those who succeed in getting a scholarship as a result of the exit trials and those who don't. By this time next year, and on an ongoing basis, we want to be able to know exactly what happens to these playesr, as well as those being released by clubs after a scholarship or signed on pro contracts.
    This is a massive task but something that really excites me. Thanks for the article.

  • Comment number 21.

    A very interesting read.

    I am curious to know why the clubs where unwilling to help you and that you found it hard to find any followup info on these players.

    Is there no database with the FA but if there is, does the data protection act prevent you from viewing this.

    For this years trails, did you get the phone numbers of player who you interviewed? Maybe you should do this (if they agree) allowing you to contact them next year.

    But as I said at the start of this blog, I a curious to know why wycombe said they would help but chaged their mind. I know they have the right to do this but its very curious to why they should.

  • Comment number 22.

    Jalxsu, I cant play football no more. My ankle cant take another bad tackle. If you wanted to know, my cousin interested in pro football. Ill tell him not to give up the dream

  • Comment number 23.

    Our current Academy team are unbeaten in the league this season and top their group ahead of Spurs and Villa. Have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs etc this season. Will be interesting to see where they all end up, because just because you're the best team at youth level doesn't mean you will end up with 11 great players for the first team.
    -----------

    I'd go even further than that and say that often it's indicatice of an average youth system rather than a good one.

    You tend to find that the youth systems that win things tend to be filled with pretty average players at the top end of their age bracket. The players with a real future in the game have already left the youth ranks and are playing reserve or even first team football (possinly on loan) at 16/17 years old so youth football tends to contain some talented under 17's and a lot of less talented 18 year olds. Often it's the less talented but more physically developed 18 year olds that will win out over a season. There are exceptions of course with some late developers of teams who have strong squads and can let their youngsters develop for longer but a common thread amongst most of the better players is that they were skipped ahead at least one age group and graduated for the youth ranks early, often without winning much at that level. This is why results at this level are not really that indicitive.

  • Comment number 24.

    barnsie (comment 10) - who do you play for?

    rossfox (commment 11) - not too sure about Notts County. They remain at the right end of the table but have clearly spent way beyond their means. I cannot help but think that their bill has yet to be paid and I wonder who will have to pick up the tab. Once again, I suspect the fans might end up on the losing side of that equation.

    NCFC On the Ball City (comment 15) - of course, clubs have scouts all over the place. Just look at Charlie Austin at Swindon Town...

    Blue and White Army (comment 17) - brilliant, many thanks for the info about Grant Brown. I've checked it out and you are quite right. Nobody could accuse him of not being prepared to travel to keep his dream alive. I was waiting for a call back from West Ham but.....

    mpjacko (comment 21) - I think that Wycombe decided they didn't want to say anything because Campbell has picked up a serious injury and both he and his family are very distressed about it. I don't know whether they thought there was anything fishy about my intentions but I too was surprised they would not at least give me more details about why they signed him and what has happened to him.

  • Comment number 25.

    Another good example of a youngster who did well after being dropped is Jack Collison of West Ham. He was released by Peterborough United and picked up by Cambridge united but they had to fold their youth system when they went out of the league. He was then offered a trial at West Ham and he is now playing in the Premiership.

    So it does happen. I believe Lincoln City used to have a striker who was in the army till his later twenties but then went on to sign for them and had a few good seasons. Cannot remember his name for the life of me though.

  • Comment number 26.

    I dont mean Phil Stant but he is another good example (started at reading aged 20 after serving in the falklands)

  • Comment number 27.

    It wasn't Lee Bradbury was it? Seem to remember him having an army background and being quite old coming into the game. I might be totally and utterly wrong though lol Didnt he end up at Man City?...

  • Comment number 28.

  • Comment number 29.

    On the subject of youth teams but admittedly out of date my first Leeds United game was the 1992-93 Youth Cup Final (which Leeds won) and looking back at the squads is just bizarre.

    Leeds: Paul Pettinger, Andy Couzens, Kevin Sharp, Mark Tinkler, Kevin Daly, Rob Bowman, Lewis Atkinson, Mark Ford (c), Noel Whealan, Simon Oliver, Jamie Forrester. Subs: Alex Byrne, Steve Tobin, Darren Kerry

    Man U: Darren Whitmarsh, John O'Kane, Steven Riley, Chris Casper, Gary Neville (c), Keith Gillespie, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Richard Irving, Paul Scholes, Ben Thornley. Subs: Colin Murdock, Robbie Savage, Phile Neville, Mark Rawlinson.

    Admittedly some of the Leeds players had fairly long careers with lower league teams but even (arguably) two most successful [Jamie Forrester - reasonable lower league striker and Noel Whealan - recovering alcoholic offering his services for free] pale into insignificance compared to the Nevilles, Gillespie, Butt, Beckham, Scholes and Savage yet Leeds won the thing. Just goes to show that youthful promise doesn't always lead to success.

  • Comment number 30.

    Yellow Badger

    I don't know if you mean Dave Cameron? He was a Scottish striker who served in the army before joining Falkirk and later played for Brighton and Lincoln City.

    I knew a lad at school who started his career at Barnsley and went on to play for the reserves. He was always the best player at school, he was 6 foot odd and very good with his feet and was a tall srong center half. He never made it into the first team and dropped into the Conference and now plys his trade in the Conference North I believe. Sometimes it's the guy's who develop late that have a more productive career rather than the ones who develop too early and fade away. Perhaps it's worth hanging on to player's who need time develop and grow before letting them go?

  • Comment number 31.

    Yellow Badger,

    I think you mean Simon Yeo.

    Another good example a player released at a young age from a pro club and still having the opportunity in his early 20's is James Hanson.

    After being released by Huddersfield Town, he played for non-league Guiseley before being signed by Bradford City, he is progressing well and scoring on a regular basis.

    In these cash strapped times i think more and more opportunities are becoming available for non league players as clubs look to trim budgets.

  • Comment number 32.

    paul

    i play in the conference although i am by no means a regular starter

  • Comment number 33.

    The role that luck and desire play in the progress of young players really is startling at times. We tell ourselves that the cream will automatically rise to the top but there are so many examples that make you question this.
    To take just one example, Chelsea accepting a bid from Huddersfield for a young John Terry. It is likely that he would have found his way back to the top flight but I think its safe to bet he may well not have scaled the heights he has.
    A more personal example: As a Wolves fan I remember watching Wolves vs Man Utd in a reserve fixture in 1993/94. Steve Bull was returning from injury - the official attendance was 9,000 but they opened the gates shortly after kick-off with turnstile operators unable to deal with the demand so there was easily 15,000 at Molineux that night...
    Anyway, the United team included a young David Beckham, Dion Dublin, Darren Ferguson, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, John Curtis etc. The programme (sheet of paper!) says Paul Scholes was on the bench but I don't recall if he came on. Bully scored twice, United won 3-2, but all the talk after the game was of this kid Ben Thornley who absolutely lit the place up.. he did some extaordinary things that game and genuinely appeared, by some distance, to be the most talented player on a pitch that turned out to have half a dozen England Internationals on it.
    Football is a very strange game.

  • Comment number 34.

    My little lad plays with an absolutely fantastic club in Sheffield - they're great with the kids, realistic with the parents and encourage them to enjoy the game and have fun.

    They also work with Man City and a couple of the local clubs to give the kids a chance to play in environments they're more comfortable with but in front of really knowledgeable and engaging coaches and scouts.

    My lad got invited to a Futsal Day with Man City's Brazilian coaches, but when he turned up they admitted they'd thought he was 7 at the open day. He's 5 !! They were good enough to recognise he'd be devastated if he couldn't play, so let him in and made a point of recognising his age and effort in the presentation at the end of the day. There were also a couple of kids there who are currently with the full academy, and my son was absolutely bursting when I got home from work because he'd been tackling them and had managed to "skill" (his own word for it !!) one of them and the coaches had said well done to him.

    All in all I felt that whilst it is an opportunity for a big club to look at local youth teams and pick the best players, which might sound a little callous, certainly for my son it was a really positive and enjoyable experience and he got a lot from the time he spent there. I can't speak highly enough of the way that his local club work on confidence and fun as much as the technical side of the game. At that age it's nearly impossible to predict where a childs ability will take them, I'm just glad that, at City at least, the same approach seems to be being taken by the big clubs - certainly that's my impression.

    Some of my best friends, who I've known all my life, were made through football - we've played for the same teams - in fact we still do - and if my son never makes it as a pro but gets strong, lasting friendships and 25 years of enjoyment and competitive sport out of it like I have then I'll be just as proud and happy for him as I would be if he made it all the way . . .

  • Comment number 35.

    We do have to remember that not everyone will make it as a fulltime pro and it might not even have to do with them not being good enough. Just like any pyramid, there will always be more at the bottom than at the top but we should not forget those who are not at the top of the pyramid.

    As parents, friends and fellow footballers, we need to help our young footballers to appreciate more of what they achieve(d) and less of what they did not achieve. It is a matter of fact that some of them will have to find careers outside of football or establish a career in the 'lower leagues' but it should be with a satisfaction that they did their best and were well supported throughout.

    Apbats (comment 33) is quite right re luck and desire (and more). My son played 16 of 18 reserve matches in League One during his first year of scholarship, putting in better performances than most of the pros. Once the first team was safe, the manager wanted to get him involved with the first team for the last couple of matches but he got injured during a mid-week reserves match that left him missing the rest of the season and the start of the following season, returning in early October.

    There was no reserve cover for his position so the manager had to get someone (a couple of years older than him and from a Championship club) in during pre-season. The new lad did very well and naturally took my son's place in the reserves for much of his second year. At the end, the choice was clear - even I would have retained the other lad ahead of my son but what might have happened if he did not get injured?

    What's more, in footballing terms, I think my son is probably better off playing men's football even at Ryman North level than only featuring in reserves matches in League One. His ambition is still towards fulltime pro football and he is still working as hard as he can. But luck remains a significant ingredient if he is to get there.

  • Comment number 36.

    Its not just a case of losing interest, believe me. I was released at 16 from Sunderland and was obviously disapointed but still had the desire and believe to get a 3 year contract at West Brom. Life at a pro club is much different to non league and semi pro teams, your only as good as your last game applys to all levels but especially in the professional game, particularly if your not established. If you get injured even if you have been doing well you are ignored by most of the coaching staff as you are of no use, some one else will fill in. These and other issues that develop sap the confidence and love of the game that myself and I m sure other young players had. When I was released by WBA I had no believe in myself and did not make any attempt to find another club, I fell out of love with playing the game and although still love to watch I do not play anymore.
    I m collating the events that happened in my 3 years at WBA and hope to provide an insight into why this may happen and the reality of life for most at professional football clubs with a book which may be of interest.

  • Comment number 37.

    Great article Paul.
    I was released by Nottingham Forest when I was 16 and ended up moving to Sweden to play for IFK Gothenburg. Unfortunately, a couple of nasty injuries ended my time there.

    The trouble I find is that alot of players who drop out of academies play semi-pro or amateur football in leagues dominated by older men where the emphasis is less on technique and skill and more on tackling and heading.
    It is impossible for youngsters to shine in such matches but at the same time if they don't play well then they don't get picked. It means alot of talented players are wasted because they can't express themselves and thus are unable to move up the levels of the playing ladder. Instead they have to resort to playing a semi pro style which gets them nowhere. It is a catch 22 situation.
    I also think pro clubs need to do more to help players stay in the game. One very good idea is for clubs to send players that they dont' think will get a pro contract over to a smaller,feeder team for a few months and see how they develop over there before making a decision on their future. I beleive Sheffield United operate a similar thing to this where they send players to clubs in Finland and Hungary and see how they develop in a different environment before making decisions on them.
    My last point, would be playing facilities. Whilst playing in Sweden I noticed that any football game, whether it be a schools match, amateur Sunday league match or a pro match, is played on a good quality football surface thus encouraging better football to be played. It was very rare for me to see a boggy, mess of a pitch. I accept that climate plays a part but I think more needs to be done to ensure that everyone who plays football has the best tools possible to develop.
    Sorry for rambling....

  • Comment number 38.

    Known Geoff Harrop for more years than i care to remember through his time at Colchester United,he was like a dog with two dicks when telling me about his latest dicovery at Layer Road, Tresor Lomana Lua Lua.

  • Comment number 39.

    One of the benefits of the EU is that folk can live and work anywhere. Why don't some of these lads try other countries in Europe?

    Over here, in Sweden, there are plenty of clubs and not so many people. Anyone with a half-decent background would probably get a trial for a lower division club. Language would be no issue - as the Swedes all speak English.

    A few seasons at a Swedish club could see them mature and move on to bigger and better things!


  • Comment number 40.

    I see someone has beaten me to the punch about lua lua,geoff harrop was coach of our colchester six form team and this geezer playing for leyton college tore our team to shreads, I know geoff found it hard to tie him down for a while as he was very raw lets say but boy it was worth it as he made col u 2.5 million quid in the end. No geoff at the side and things wouldnt have been v.different for lua lua eh

  • Comment number 41.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 42.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 43.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 44.

    good

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    To take just one example, Chelsea accepting a bid from Huddersfield for a young John Terry. It is likely that he would have found his way back to the top flight but I think its safe to bet he may well not have scaled the heights he has.
    The role that luck and desire play in the progress of young players really is startling at times. We tell ourselves that the cream will automatically rise to the top but there are so many examples that make you question this.
    The programme (sheet of paper!) says Paul Scholes was on the bench but I don't recall if he came on. Bully scored twice, United won 3-2, but all the talk after the game was of this kid Ben Thornley who absolutely lit the place up.. he did some extaordinary things that game and genuinely appeared, by some distance, to be the most talented player on a pitch that turned out to have half a dozen England Internationals on it.
    Football is a very strange game.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    I appreciated the attention diverted frombig teams.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Interesting! Football is my favorite game. Pic is awesum and nice view.
    Best Buy USA

  • Comment number 56.

    This is a great post, It really brings it home to me how lucky I was to get a sport scholarships to the US. I was able to keep going with my studies and carry on playing football. It is getting increasing difficult for young players to get into the sport and get recognized by the right people, the competition for playing for top flight clubs is extremely tough.

  • Comment number 57.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 58.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    This article is true. I never got to play for a proper academy although I have been involved with county and England schoolboys. I play semi professionally and even now, at 19 I still harbour hope.

  • Comment number 63.

    I do agree with some of the commenters that it is good that those who don't play professionally can continue with the sport - yet also, we need to re examine all of the pressure on these young players. I think they need to be able to freely develop a love of football without worrying about whether or not they will be injured & ruin a possible future career or who will sign them or if companies like [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] will endorse their career. I feel as if the most important part of football is passion - that's what makes great players and that's what makes great clubs and fans. If we insert pressure and corporate contracts then we will lose that!

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.