You can imagine Tony Pulis as a Sergeant Major on the parade ground, calling his young troops to attention. Imagine if they brought back National Service and put Pulis in charge… the world would be a better place!
But is straightening out troubled modern day footballers beyond even him? It’s clear that hard men such as Pulis, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce can’t always get a player to behave off the pitch.
Ravel Morrison has had his contract terminated by West Ham United. That followed Manchester United showing him the door previously.
Morrison is a talented footballer, but he’s a flawed human being.
Manchester United tried to teach him how to behave. They failed. And now West Ham have given up on the lad. He’s off to play for Lazio in Italy.
West Ham United co-chairman David Gold said: “It’s a lesson to a lot of young men. You must grasp your opportunity when it arises. I wish him well. He’s young enough. There’s no reason why he can’t be the great player that I optimistically thought he could become.”
At the end of this season Tony Pulis and West Brom will have a decision to make over Saido Berahino. Should he stay or should he go? It’s likely that the decision has already been made, either by the club or those who represent the player. The lad has clearly had his ear bent and been told he’s worthy of better than West Brom.
Pulis spoke about Berahino and the overriding problem of managing young footballers in this day and age.
He told Pat Murphy: “There’s a lot of young lads who are brought up today who haven’t had any mentors at all. Saido’s father passed away when he was very young.
“If you look at society, teachers are not allowed to scold people. All the way through my life there was always a mentor who put you in your place if you misbehaved. Some of these kids today are not getting that.
“They have people surrounding them who are blowing nonsense in their ears. Unfortunately the kids don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong.
“It’s about teaching the kids how to behave on and off the pitch. I’ve been to Germany and Spain… those kids are different to our kids. Not technically, but in their attitude, approach and their character.
“We’ve got to spend a lot more time mentoring these young players that life’s not just about going to kick a football around and getting a big car and a big house. Life’s about getting the most you possibly can from the talent you’ve got.”
Spot on. Well said Tony Pulis.
Steve Claridge works at three football academies. He enjoyed a long career and scored plenty of goals for numerous clubs.
He says: “I’ve got 103 kids in those three academies. 50% of them their mums and dads wouldn’t know where they were from one day to the next. Football clubs are now becoming surrogate mothers and fathers. They have to start again and teach someone how to behave, because they haven’t got that in their life. The framework and the structure is provided by the football club, and not their home life.
“Parents should be the role models. That’s where it should start. We love chucking responsibility at someone else, like teachers, but actually we should take responsibility ourselves.
“They are not bad kids. Most of them are just on the wrong side of good. They need a little push in the right direction, but they just don’t get that. All this thing about ‘kids are horrible’…they’re not. They want a little bit of love and guidance.”
He’s right. I’ve seen first hand how those running football academies spend hours not just teaching the youngsters how to play football, but showing them how to behave off the training pitch. It’s ludicrous that they have to do that. But too many parents seem to think that once they drop their children at school, or at the football academy, that somehow their responsibility as a parent has ended.
Of course the worst influence are the agents and representatives of young football players. Or, as I prefer to call them, the leeches.
And their appetite never diminishes. Today they set their sights on ever younger lads. Football clubs or agents have long bribed parents with gifts and money for them to agree to their gifted son signing on the dotted line.
But now they are turning their attention to lads who are so young they haven’t been allowed to enjoy a childhood.
No wonder that further down the road, with vast money at their disposal and with temptation around every corner, some footballers in their late teens go off the rails. I’m only surprised more don’t.
For that we should thank those mentors who do exist in the game. The scouts and academy coaches whose sterling work goes unnoticed. The game owes those people a huge debt.