What do Sol Campbell, Jermain Defoe, Lee Bowyer, Ledley King, Paul Konchesky, Jlloyd Samuel, John Terry, Bobby Zamora, Ugo Ehiogu and Muzzy Izzet all have in common? They have all gone on to become professional footballers having played youth football for a club called Senrab. You may have noticed from the list that most of these players are Londoners and it comes as no coincidence that the Sunday League side is based in the east end. There are many counties in England that have been associated with bringing through the players that we see on our screens on a weekly basis and clearly Senrab has played their part with a host of names. Incidentally, their unusual name is chosen because the club’s founder lived in Barnes Street, in Stepney. Senrab is Barnes backwards.
It is incredible to think that a Sunday League club can have this sort of impact, where they run 15 teams for young players aged five to 17. The success in unearthing players of Premiership quality deserves a lot of credit and maintaining these standards is the hardest part of it all. Not only have they produced the aforementioned names but they had today’s current coaches, Dario Gradi, Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins, as players there in the 70s. It seems that because those names had a link with the club in the early years, after they were founded in 1961, the word spread and the products of the 90s must have been integrated in to the positive influence of the predecessors.
I mentioned that word must have spread and with small clubs in parts of London it is usually through word-of-mouth that draws youngsters across to play football after school and on weekends. It is said that many of Senrab’s Premiership players are the sons and grandsons of former Senrab players that would go to the extent to play for the team knowing that they could get a chance to make it as a pro. In a day and age where we constantly have to hear about how keeping youngsters out of trouble is a priority, someone like Senrab is ideal for teenagers and even those that are younger than 13. What better incentive could their be for a kid than giving them an opportunity to kick a ball amongst those that are all roughly the same age?
The young players at Senrab have been made aware of the fact that playing there is now considered in serious measures. I find it admirable that they are not resting on their laurels, because with their previous production line they could have been happy to dwell on what they achieved. While they must be focused on results, the nurturing of today’s Premiership players couldn’t have happened had they not concentrated on the full package. The technical side of the game, and most importantly for young people- discipline. Senrab takes a hard stance on this as their club secretary Tony Carroll alluded to. He said: “Players also have a code of conduct. We’ve thrown people out of the club for misbehaving, for causing aggravation at games and in training. But if people want their boys to play football then they come to us. You can send a player to a professional club and think he’s the best thing since sliced bread but then they send him back two weeks later because his time-keeping is poor and he’s not disciplined.”
Senrab strikes me as a family-type club. Modern football is so relentless that the likes of Defoe, Zamora and Campbell have all, more or less, gone through the same journey and must be indebted to what they learnt at the youth football club. Being the first stage in identifying youngsters and teaching them the skills at a local Sunday League club remains one of the hardest things to accomplish in English football, and Senrab can be proud for their achievements. Who knows, in time they could end up attracting the wealth and funding to build themselves up to produce the next line of Premiership players.
You can follow me on www.twitter.com/prashster