Thursday, 26 July 2007

He might be a millionaire… but is he happy?

JJ here,

Through an odd set of circumstances yesterday I ended up talking to the sister of a guy with a new three-year contract at Man United. This girl’s brother is on the under-18s squad and is in the first year of his deal.

His sister is delighted even though she’s a Pool fan (indeed the poor thing has gotten tickets to the last two defeats Man U have handed Bentiez’s men at Old Trafford) while the brother is apparently seen as a very decent prospect and a future international. Of course, things like this can often change.

After all, John O’Shea – the butt of many a joke over the years – was the best of a bunch of talented Irish youngsters who went to Old Trafford nearly a decade ago. Progress at youth level is extremely hard to gauge – Julian Joachim was once regarded as the top prospect in Britain, and now… (

One interesting thing that the guy’s sister mentioned was how the United training ground is set up. Apparently, once you get in at youth level you’ll pass by Ferguson’s office most days and get a word or two from him on a regular basis; you’ll interact with the first team whenever possible; get two tickets to each game and are invited to a load of team events. This whole ‘Family Man U’ concept that Ferguson tries to put across whenever he wants a young player to stay is apparently a reality after all.

I’m no great fan of the Scot; but that is solely because of who he manages... and maybe his wild paranoia and wallowing in denial over refereeing decisions too. So maybe I’m just no great fan full stop… but without doubt his teams play excellent football and I’ll always watch them. Even if I do hope they lose most weeks.

The Man U youth player in question also told his family that – from talking with other players at different clubs – things at Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Celtic and most other big teams are vastly different. Youth players elsewhere are segregated and not even given a glimpse of the first team. Maybe this leaves them awestruck and open to poor form once they do break through.

The Liverpool youngsters who played in last year’s Carling Cup looked like a bunch of scared kids as Julio Baptista ran riot. Chelsea’s youngsters never even get a look in. While over at Arsenal it seems that – and throw some examples at me if I’m wrong here – local guys who come through the youth ranks barely get a look in as foreign starlets signed in their late teens are promoted straight into the first team.

Unhappy players are generally useless players, and I suppose that goes for all levels, whether they’re suffering from homesickness or not feeling appreciated (like them poor fellas left to survive on £55,000 a week... taking the piss so they are). The amount of players that stay at United for life is a testament to that. While those who get grumpy and start to upset things – Ince, Van Nistelrooy, Stam and even Roy Keane – are shipped out once they become too much of a problem.

I’m not saying that others should attempt to emulate Ferguson’s approach – he’s a man 20 years in his job so should know everything that’s going on at his club – but I just think it’s interesting what effect these little things can have. We see players on the pitch, in press conferences and in media appearances but what goes on behind the scenes (where even the ‘close sources’ of the tabloids get nowhere near) is generally kept secret and must be of huge importance.

The effect of a happy club can be seen in Reading’s success last year; and indeed Sunderland’s where Keane has fostered a fairly relaxed sounding atmosphere. I suppose it’s all about buying into a manager’s vision and if that is the case then that’s another reason I think that Newcastle players who are willing to work with Fat Sam will have a great season while West Ham players who couldn’t give two shits about what Alan Curbishley says will be in for a hard slog this year.

It’s about getting things right throughout a side, from youth team upwards, and it can’t be a coincidence that Ferguson’s approach has yielded nine league titles while United’s often shambolic peers go from manager to manger and plough cash into youth team set ups that often lead nowhere.


Now, after that ramble… we’re preparing for this week’s show which will feature results and fixtures (including the wonderful, wonderful Aussie defeat and mad Iraqi celebrations); Pub Talk featuring Kluivert, Fiendish Freddie Ljungberg (a reference for all old Commodore 64 owners there), Ireland ‘ace’ Joe Lapira, and much much more. We’ll also profile the Legend that is Jurgen Klinnsman. We’ll be online by Friday afternoon.

Later folks


Mark V said...

I think the team spirit and what goes on behind the scenes is very important, can be hard to tell sometimes from the outside looking in... A strong manager does seem to be the key to success, Fergie, Arsene & Mourinho have their visions and will.

The thing with Ferguson is the longevity and his absolute power at OT. He can pretty much do what he wants, like Stalin or the Pope, and he'll get away with it because it is (almost) impossible for United to sack him.

I tend to agree with the assessment of Curbs but he can't really feel secure in his job with the seemingly trigger happy Egg at the helm. Other managers will rather concentrate on the first team as that is what will keep them their job...

Constant upheaval never works well in England, they can get away with changing managers every 6 months in Italy, Spain etc. because everyone does it, and hey, someone has to win. But since the Prem began we've seen a quick succession of idiots in charge of Spurs, Everton, Newcastle & Man City and look what tehy've won

knicksgrl0917 said...

hey! i'm going to cali this weekend and won't be back until is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here

JJ said...

Is that spam? I presume so as anyone using teh word 'cali' has got to be a spamming cunt.

Parrotbait said...

Bit of a stupid spamming effort really

Mr C said...

I seem to remember Cambridge 'legend', Andy Duncan who signed from Man Utd about a decade ago, telling a story in an interview about going awol from a couple of training sessions with another lad when he was a youth player at Utd. He was then swiftly summoned to SAF's office, where the scottish one sat behind his desk like a Bond villain, ruthlessly explaining the shit they would be in if they ever did it again. He may be more like Stalin then you'd think...

Duncan never said who the other lad was but I hope its Gary Neville, if only so I can direct people to the following link.

ODF said...

That link is a missed opportunity - he should have either pretended to be Keane and said: "I got your number but I don't give a fuck" or pretended to be best bud Beckham and ripped the piss, got him to fly to the US or something...

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