Wednesday Word: Old enough for the 'big stage'?

Every Wednesday, Club Website will be asking your thoughts on the big football question of the week, with a grassroots twist. Get involved and tell us what you think!

Top football clubs are always on the lookout for young wonder-kids to join their ranks.

As the professional game’s scouting network covers more and more of the globe, the real trick for the world’s best teams is to unearth the best players before their rivals have got there first.

Academies in this country can’t officially sign children to their books until they reach the under-9s age group, but many clubs invite kids down before then to train with them and get to know them before then.

The hope is, no doubt, that when they are old enough to sign, they will choose the club has invested their time in them.

The best – or luckiest – players may be able to look forward to a long and successful spell with the academy. The elite few may even make it to the first team one day.

But many others will not even make it into the academy or may get cast aside when it’s deemed that they don’t make the grade.

For every bright young star that makes it into professional football, there are hundreds out there who will only ever get to play the game at grassroots level, even if they seemingly had the world at their feet.

Have your say!

So at what age do you think is appropriate for a young footballer to leave their grassroots club for the ‘bigger stage’?

Should the best players get the chance to receive the best coaching from the youngest possible age? Is it a case that if you are good enough you are old enough?

Or should the kids be left for as long as possible to develop in grassroots football before being taken under the wing of the professional clubs?

It’s time for definitive word in grassroots football, so it’s over to YOU!

Have your say by voting in our online poll via your club or league website (or our demo site). Alternatively, you can join the debate on our Facebook or Twitter pages, or have your say in the comments section below.

Dan Pope on LinkedinDan Pope on Twitter
Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

Take the hassle out of organising your sports team with Teamer. Organise, communicate and take payments.


  1. Ray on December 20, 2012 at 12:49 am

    My son has aspirations of rising up to academy level once again, but how?
    He is fifteen at the moment.
    One thing that dismays me about this, is the fact that trialists from
    abroad will have all expenses paid, accommodation also.
    My son who is very talented was let go by Liverpool academy, all because
    of us not being able to get to the academy on certain days.

    Let me start off at the beginning, my son has been playing football since
    the age of six, and has been in many teams since, mostly he had been
    trained by standard chartered coaches, some of those coaches have moved on
    now to professional clubs.
    A couple of them still have interest in my son, and have asked about him.
    But transport is a big problem to us.

    On his first day attending the academy, we met Kenny Dalglish fleetingly,
    my lad was in awe and could not sleep properly that night.
    I reminded him (my son) of his actions when he was younger watching
    Liverpool on television and how he used to get excited.
    “That’s my club” he used to say, one day i will play football for them and
    England too.

    It was exciting for me too as i used to watch him train without many
    faults, most of the time i used to go to the academy tea rooms and leave
    him to it, as i did not want to put him under any kind of pressure.

    He was promised a lift to all sessions, by his scout believe it or not.
    So we gratefully accepted to offer, thank you.
    Some times he just never turned up because he was to busy doing duties for
    Liverpool academy.

    Other times he would phone and let us know, but by that time it would be
    too late for us to get up to Kirby on time.

    My son was also asked by an Everton scout to attend trials, but was
    convinced by Liverpool scout, that his better options was up at Kirby.

    It was very sad the night we came home after being dismissed from the
    academy, so sad i cannot put it into words.

    I cant now go and ask Everton now can they accept him again, can i.
    The first refusal must have seen like a push off to them.
    On saying that, i wish my son would have said yes now, but in hindsight we
    can all say that.

    On those days another player, also at the academy who lives a minutes walk
    from us, was getting a lift off the academy min-bus, and returned home by
    way of taxi sometimes.
    I asked could my son be included, in getting picked up also.
    The flat answer was no, because he was a trials player and not signed.
    And or not insured they said, to do this.

    And those trial players Spanish, see above: were getting picked up, how
    come they got insured is beyond me.

    We as a family are very unfortunate to be poor, no job, no car, which
    makes us outcasts, for the future.. no club would take him i think
    (because of our situation) if this is way they behave as normal, then i am
    truly shocked.
    I guess he has no footballing future to look forward too, his dream must
    be getting smashed to smithereens as the days continue, in my honest

    With the money that LFC has, i am sure that such a talent should not be
    wasted. But it seems neither they care or give a damn for localized talent
    from within the Liverpool area.

    Three seasons or so ago, he scored over 90 goals over the course of two

    He has also broken school high jump records that stood for seven years,
    and still stand today.
    He has also been city champion in the long jump event.

    Since a young kid people have always noticed him as a talented athlete,
    especially football, teachers trainers and just normal people have said
    how talented he is, and has that something special about him.
    He is quite famous in circle of friends and well liked by sporting

    Not long ago he got man of the match, he was on the losing side too.
    The referee was astonished on how he played, and his sporting attitude on
    the field.

    What i really want, is not for my son to follow the lead of many others
    kids his age, they fall by the wayside, crime and so on. I have seen this
    for myself with other young players.
    “This very thought frightens me”
    I just need a little help in trying to get his talent noticed.

    Notes to add:
    Present Club is Liverpool schoolboys, also represented Merseyside county
    Next season he will be playing for a well known Sunday league team at
    under 17 level, quite an achievement that, seeing as he has just turned
    He has also travelled and played in Dublin for international friendly

    I would like to thank Shrewsbury Town FC for the genuine enquiry (Cheers,
    but to far)
    Wigan FC for not ignoring us, and Blackburn for the acknowledgement.
    Thanks also to Morecambe FC, its just a pity we cannot get there.

    I am seriously now thinking I should start to write to clubs away from the
    United Kingdom, he might get a better chance, maybe they will come to his

  2. matt on January 4, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    I think the U9 age group is about the right age for youngsters to be introduced to life in a football academy – however it needs to be done in the right manner. I don’t care what anyone says you can’t tell if an 8 year old will make it as a professional – you just can’t!

    Clubs need to have patience and long term development plans. Clubs need to be up front with their intentions and they also need to provide consistent and clear communication with parents and regular player assesments.

    We all know that only a hand full of players will turn into professsionals, so when it comes to telling a young lad that his contract won’t be renewed it shouldn’t be a complete shock as the club should’ve been giving regular feedback throught the season.

    Obviously some kids will be better than others and if they and their parents believe they will develop into better players by signing an academy contract and committing to the club (and its a huge commitment trust me) then I’m all for it. After all it what the Spanish, Dutch and Italians do.

Join the discussion