Smith on Sport: Kids brilliance puts dark arts to shame

Share this article
Have your say

EVEN Wednesdayites were impressed, in a begrudging kind of way.

EVEN Wednesdayites were impressed, in a begrudging kind of way.

A crowd of 30,000 for a youth team game isn’t bad going - even if it is the FA Youth Cup final against Manchester United.

Those lucky enough to be at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night to see Sheffield United’s kids were reminded of a few things.

Firstly players don’t learn to play-act until they get into the first team.

There wasn’t a dive, dramatic stumble, or suggestion of simulation all night long from either team.

There couldn’t have been more than half a dozen fouls either.

Secondly young players have to learn to crowd around referees when they don’t get the right decision, though there were a couple of cross words with errant linesmen.

Thirdly, no visible verbals, wind-ups or gestures between opposing players.

So where, between the ages of 18 and 22, do players learn the dark arts of their trade?

Perhaps the big clubs have classes for lads coming through into the first team.

Training days like:

9.00am Diving, simulation and feigning injury. Sick notes will not be accepted.

11.00am Penalty box wrestling from corners and free kicks.

12.00 Half time. Tunnel fighting tactics, pizza throwing, use of the hairdryer.

2.00pm Late tackles - please try to arrive to class on time.

3.30pm Substitution, sulking and the tactical strop. How to make the best of the TV cameras.

Otherwise how do they make the transition from honest, talented and wholehearted teenagers to cynical and win-at-all-costs exponents of professionalism?

The sad thing is that most of those players won’t make big-name pros and those that do will master the dark side long before they are first team regulars.

There was a comedy interlude on Tuesday when an announcement was made over the Lane PA system. “Would Mr So-and-So sitting on the Kop please contact a steward as we have found his two children.”

‘He’s been trying to get rid of them for ages,’ piped a voice in the crowd. Cue much laughter and remembrances of kids misplaced. Might be as well if the children’s mother doesn’t find out...`