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20th Nov 2019

Ex-pros on how to stay grounded as a youth footballer

Wayne Farry

Sponsored by Paddy Power

Staying grounded can be the difference between a young footballer making it and falling down the leagues

If there is one commonly perceived trait among young footballers today, it would probably be arrogance. Youngsters, coming up through the ranks of top clubs, are considered cocky, and are accused of acting like they’ve “made it” long before they ever get close to achieving success.

This perception most commonly comes from the style of particular young players; the clothes and jewellery they wear and the vehicles they’re seen travelling around in.

It’s difficult to tell if young footballers are arrogant and cocky without actually knowing them, or speaking to them at least once, but that doesn’t stop pundits and commentators making their minds up regardless.

One thing that is true though, without ever meeting these youngsters, is that players of a young age receive a lot more a lot sooner than they used to years ago.

No longer do players have to play years in the first team before they get their hands on a bumper contract; indeed, coveted youth players are often handed multi-thousand pound deals as an incentive to stay at a club, rather than a reward for impressive performances.

The topic of young players staying grounded came up on the latest episode of Liquid Football, in a conversation prompted by Sadio Mane’s humility in helping a member of Senegal national team staff with bottles of water.

The panel, of Steve Sidwell, Stephen Warnock and Wayne Bridge, spoke to presenter Will Perry and agreed that such behaviour is not a surprise from someone like Mane, who has frequently and recently stated that money is not his motivation in football.

It also led the panel to recall their own upbringings in the game, and what helped each of them remain grounded as youngsters.

“When I come through Arsenal’s Academy, we had the best of everything, but my dad kept me grounded,” said Sidwell.

“He owned a scaffolding company. And on certain days when we’d have a rest or day off, he’d be banging my door down at six o’clock in the morning saying, ‘come on now’. And he was like, if you don’t liven yourself up, you could be doing this for living like I have, you’ve got a great opportunity here.”

“I think as well, it’s also the people that you’ve got around you. The network around a player, especially young players now. Agents, financial advisors, family, just giving good advice.”

Wayne Bridge echoed those sentiments and the importance of having a strong network at home, while also stressing the importance of the role of the club on a player’s development and attitude.

“My mum and my dad, they never let me slack off . I had to do a paper around to earn some money and stuff like that,” said the former Chelsea and Manchester City defender.

“But I think as well Southampton helped me in terms of the youth scheme, they had you do jobs then. It wasn’t like you just go in and train. They had you clean the changing rooms, made sure all the kit was folded nicely.

“They’d go along and check door frames. If there was any dust, we’d be out running. That kind of keeps you grounded. It depends how the club treat you as a kid.”