Written by Neamman
Back in the 60s, perhaps 66 or 67, we had a young player who appeared in 3 games in a month, I saw his debut. His name was Mickey Boot and he scored 2 goals in those three games, the one I saw was a nice shot from outside the penalty box. Yet he never appeared for us again and soon thereafter moved to South Africa. I always wondered why he never progressed, was he a drinker? Did he not have the right mental strength? He certainly had the skills but obviously not all that was needed to succeed!!
The reason Mickey Boot came to mind was when I saw Jerome Thomas score for WBA. Now its not a strict comparison as he has carved out a reasonable career for himself but I remember the first time I saw him. I was at Barnet watching our reserves beat Chelsea 5-0, Jeffers scored twice, I forget who else did. Thomas and Juan [a Brazilian left back some of you may remember] were on the left wing. I watched astounded as the two of them raced up and down with the ball virtually tied to their feet, their control was so good. I had those two players pegged as potential first teamers but in the end neither made it, Juan due to knee problems.
I know the game has changed but I miss watching the way young stars worked their way up through the ranks and ultimately made it to the first team. Our double team of 71 was largely made up of youngsters who had played for us in the old SE Counties youth league plus the Football Combination. The great teams that clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Leeds had in the 70s were largely home grown boys with 3 or 4, usually high profile stars, judiciously brought to fill in weaknesses. It was the pleasure in spotting and watching the youngsters develop that melded you to you team in a very large degree. I can remember the anticipation when Charlie George made his first team debut, we all knew he was special and it was even in the papers prior to the event. Sadly these days most teams, at least in the EPL, rarely nurture youngsters through their ranks. I think the Manchester United class of the early 90s is the last example of a great team comprised mainly of home grown lads.
But perhaps this is changing, finally the youth academy at Arsenal is starting to bring through a steady stream of youth, players steeped in the Arsenal way. In the early years of this decade we had a very successful youth team but none of them made it as regulars, Sidwell, Harper, Thomas to name a few were all good players, but not good enough for Arsenal, Cole being the exception. We also had another youth cup winning team recently but now we are starting to see some of them in our first team squad as regulars, Gibbs and Wilshere are already established and there are several more on the fringes.
I, for one, hope that this is the start of a new trend, that we go back to producing a steady stream of youngsters who will be given their chance, a realistic chance, in the first team. For those of you who have the opportunity I recommend you start to attend the youth and reserve games as often as you can. They usually are free and, who knows, maybe you will be the first one on this board to tell us about the NEW Jack Wilshere or Cesc Fabregas!!!!