Friday, October 10, 2008

Fergie goes in search of British Manucho....

IF you're like me and you're not particularly interested in watching England these days, you will no doubt be at a slight loss regarding what to do with your time this weekend, what with international football taking centre stage. The good news is that United will be on TV this weekend, albeit on Sky 1 at 12pm and 8pm.

Ferguson is set to star in a programme entitled "Nike Most Wanted", in which the United manager goes in search of potential young stars who have escaped the football net due to one reason or another.

Apparently, there was over 35,000 applicants from Britain and Ireland, of that number 1,600 became hopeful contenders for the actual trials, which eventually led to just 22 finalists taking part in a training session overseen by Ferguson himself. During the show the United manager talks to the finalists about what it is like to be a professional footballer, "it's a good life", Fergie tells the wannabe stars of the future.

Fergie uses the example of new striker, Manucho, to make his point when saying that it was only two years ago when the Angolan became a professional footballer. Those of you with half decent memories will no doubt recall that in the mid '80s Arsenal's Ian Wright was catapulted from non-league obscurity into the big-time. Closer to Manchester, Wayne Collins was another who made the step up from Winsford Town to join Crewe, then Sheffield Wednesday and then Fulham among other professional clubs.

While the players mentioned undoubtedly have proven that it is still possible to find a way into the top-flight, even at the age of 24 like Manucho, sadly the reality is that finding stardom once you are out of your teens cannot be anything but a dream. So why exactly is that then? United and other top English clubs have scouting networks which stretch far and wide, so the chances of not being spotted at an early age these days are extremely remote.

In the programme Fergie also brings up another issue that has no doubt burdened many managers, which is that of allowing players to leave the club too soon. The United manager hints that maybe he would have liked to have given some players longer before making what truly must be an awful decision for all concerned.

The search for new talent starts a very young age these days, at one time the club would invite youngsters down to train with them with a view to joining the United school of excellence, which later became the Academy.

I have personally been involved in taking youngsters to train with United and Oldham Athletic and I have seen kids under the age of 10 having their dreams shattered when being told that, no, they won't be invited back the next year. At the same time, I have heard coaches telling parents that they realise that they will not get it right all of the time.

Fergie has drawn upon his personal experiences when alluding to those young players who he's allowed to leave United, some of which perhaps prematurely, but the record shows he's barely put a foot wrong in this respect, as no one that I can think has gone on to better things after being shown the Old Trafford exit door at young age - though Robbie Savage might well argue the point...

In the case of Manucho, given that the talent net is cast wide and far these days in the trawl for new stars, the fact of the matter is that some countries like Brazil for example, have an excess of burgeoning young players. Take the example of recent signing, Rodrigo Possebon; until he signed for United he was unheard of in his native country.

While United and Nike had over 35,000 hopeful applicants, I predict there will be no professional contract at the end of this show; this is due to the reasons outlined in this post. However, no matter what the reality is, if you have bags of talent, coupled with dedication you've got a chance and that is what this show is all about, the chance to fulfil a dream of playing for the biggest club in the world, let's hope it makes good TV.

I have my own views on how things could be improved regarding nurturing and finding young talent, but I'll save that for another time.

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