Young footballers at risk of injuries from training too much

At a time in England when the Premier League has taken over the English game and millions of pounds are being put into English Academies and EPPP – Elite Player Performance Plan - are we guilty in this country of being negligent to the health and welfare of our young football players of today?

I’ve heard the number 10,000 hours of training needs to be put into these boys to help produce a top player but at what price to the player and his welfare and health?

Speaking from my experience as a young lad a ball was never too far away from my feet and my mum used to say I could kick a ball before I could walk!

The reality of the matter was that at 16 I had my first knee operation, at 20 I had my second, just two months after my professional football debut and was told to not put all my eggs into one basket.

At 24 I thought my career was in full flow but I had a series of knee operations and my career was effectively over, although I neither knew it nor would have accepted it at the time.

After numerous operations, broken bones and both my knees and my right foot riddled with arthritis, I spent the last five years of my career struggling to get out of bed in the morning.

So, a day before my 33rd birthday I decided to call it a day. I made the sensible decision to stop popping anti- inflammatory pills and injections and try and enjoy a bit of quality of life while I could.

So where I feel that EPPP has some great things going for it, I feel that the amount of hours that these young boys do should be strictly monitored.

Another question I put to parents and clubs is... Should a young player between the ages of seven to ten have to deal with the feeling of rejection?

I certainly wouldn’t put any of my sons who are keen footballers into that environment.

Some professional clubs are taking in and rejecting these young boys every six weeks in their development centers and some are paying for the privilege to do so.

Some of these boys are working for an extra 2-3 hours a week, which I feel is too much at such a young age.

In my opinion these boys will be nowhere near a professional club's first team for eight to ten years, and less than 0.5 per cent will ever make footballers.

I believe the boys should play and practice their skills and drills in safe, friendly coach-effective grass root football clubs.

I know that St Albans City Youth and Harvesters Football Club, where my sons play, are making great strides in making good development environments for boys and girls to come and enjoy and play football.

I think that once they get to secondary school at 11 then the academy process should take over and the best players should then enter the Academy process, but I believe that there should be a couple of conditions.

1. The players should all live in a 30 mile radius of the football club.

2. The clubs are committed to the boys until they are 16 and put them through their schooling.

I think this way the clubs will hand pick their players more carefully and not play a numbers game and rejecting young players like they are pieces of meat.

Unfortunately I think we are at a stage where a lot of the parents do not have real knowledge and they have no idea of the amount their sons will have to go through to get there.

Most people just see the Premier League on TV and players earning £15,000 a week plus and think that looks good. Would they still be as keen if they thought their son would only get to play for a lower league club for £600 a week?

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