Every year thousands of young, aspiring footballers are released from professional football clubs and often have their dreams shattered at such a tender age. A mindset of becoming a Premier League footballer; to having to go back to school and tell their friends that they are not longer wanted is a devastating situation for a youngster to be in.
At the age of eight a player can be brought to an academy for training and be given real hope for a future in the beautiful game. Two or three nights a week, straight from school, a young talent will get to use the first class facilities, top coaches and meet their childhood heroes at the club they are with. It is a different question as to whether that is too young for a child to be thrust into that sort of system, but what happens after they begin their stint at a clubs academy and the foreseeable future is the main problem.
With their parents making sacrifices with journeys to and from training and match day grounds, they may also be forgiven for believing that their son could one day become a professional footballer. The youth academies are in constant discussions with often pessimistic parents but promises and benefits are made by the club’s that allay any fears for the child’s parents.
A club should not promise the parents or the child anything for the future in regards to possible contracts, age groups or any progress related possibilities. The club must also realise that school is the most important thing for a youngster. How many players who arrive at a club at the age of eight actually go on to become a first team player? Very few. A club can not allow a youngster to forget about school because they want to become a professional footballer; a lot of clubs do interact with their students about the importance of schooling and life outside of the football club which is vital in the long run.
A child should not be told that they are going to be a Premier League footballer as statistically it probably won’t happen. A time will come in the majority of young footballers’ careers when they are told they may not be good enough to make it professionally at the specific club they are at. This can be an earth shattering moment in anyone’s life and it must be dealt with correctly. A player should be in regular contact with a club over how they are doing and progressing and if they are released it should be made clear that it is a possibility a long time before it happens not a sudden, selfish decision.
Just because a player is now deemed not good enough, strong enough, big enough to stay at the club it does not mean that they should not still be kept in contact with the club or academy directors. Football is all that the youngster think about, day, noon and night and from one day playing for a Premier League club to the next day not having a future in the game is a terrible place to be.
In my opinion clubs should help the youngsters that they release to bed back into reality comfortably, help them with a search for a new club and make sure they are ok before cutting all contact with them as it may take them a while to get over a decision like that. If a youngster has been with a club from the age of eight until they are 15 and then told they are being released, that’s a life changing moment for them.
Going back to school to tell your friends; that looked up to you for being a talented footballer; that you have been released and it is back to square one has got to be one of the toughest moments of a kids life. The amount of control that a football club has over their youngsters is frightening and by one conversation or decision they can turn a child’s world upside down. More has to be done to protect rejected young footballers and hopefully we are starting to see that.
Glenn Hoddle has set up an academy in Spain that gives released English footballers a second chance. Hoddle’s academy welcomes 16+ year old footballers that have been rejected recently from a professional football club to get them training and learning new things about the game. Hoddle is then in contact with clubs back in England and scouts are often seen in Spain watching the former Tottenham and England managers sides in action. More opportunities like this need to be on hand and clubs need to understand their responsibilities when it comes to a child or teenagers life.
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