Sunday 25 March 2018

Big boys take and give nothing back

Marcus Rashford Photo: Reuters
Marcus Rashford Photo: Reuters

Eamonn Sweeney

The notice on the website says it all. "The soccer school is in dire need of new coaches who are enthusiastic about running a football team or just helping out with the Saturday morning sessions. We have several groups in need of good solid leadership and an ambition to take on and develop. If there are any people who think they have the qualities to run a team, please give a call."

They may have been suddenly catapulted into the spotlight following the meteoric rise of their latest product for Manchester United but Fletcher Moss Rangers are facing the same kind of challenges which bedevil clubs everywhere. They could do with more help and they could do with more money.

Fletcher Moss are the club where Marcus Rashford, who followed his two-goal haul in his debut first-team start against Midtjylland in the Europa League with another pair against Arsenal this day last week, started playing football. They have also given a start to Wes Brown, Danny Welbeck, Ravel Morrison, Rashford's current United team-mates Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Tyler Blackett, sometime Republic of Ireland keeper Keiren Westwood and a number of other players currently in the pro game.

The gulf between the world these players have gone on to inhabit and the one where they began is obviously enormous. Yet you wonder if the gap needs to be quite so big.

Dave Horrocks, the club's academy development officer, spoke last week of leaking changing rooms and dilapidated facilities. Fletcher Moss reckon they need £2m to carry out repairs, get a long-term lease from the local council and secure the future of a club which fields 17 teams, runs a soccer school and caters for hundreds of local youngsters.

Horrocks commented with understandable frustration, "We have not had a penny from any of the clubs that have taken those players, nor from any of the players that have gone on to play top-class football and got very good wages out of it. United, City, Burnley, Celtic, Swansea . . . none of those clubs have ever come round to offer us anything. They just take, take, take and we never get anything back. You wouldn't mind if they came and said here's a bag of balls for you, or here's some boots for you."

That's scarcely unreasonable but Horrocks' reward for making the point was to be misrepresented as the man who had asked United for £2m in return for Rashford. Fletcher Moss were forced into denying they'd done any such thing. And they hadn't. But it didn't stop a courageous columnist from the Daily Mail flying to the defence of poor little United against the unreasonable demands of this bullying schoolboy club and prissily lecturing Fletcher Moss that their work should be its own reward. There really is no swine like a Tory swine.

It is true that the former Fletcher Moss players had moved on to the United academy. But it's equally true that United wouldn't have an academy at all were it not for the volunteers who give kids their first taste of football. The professional clubs let those clubs do the work and then skim off the best products. A bag of footballs would seem reasonable recompense in the circumstances.

Meanwhile, at Fletcher Moss they were looking forward to this weekend with the under 11 boys playing a cup final against Flixton and under 9 teams facing semis against Timperley and Wilmslow Town. On the website there are warnings about possible car parking difficulties and exhortations to come along and support. Coaches are reminded that, "You must set a good example to your players and parents with your behaviour and attitude towards opposition and referees. Your actions reflect on the rest of the club."

This is how it begins. The big professional clubs can never really repay the Fletcher Mosses of this world for the work they put in. But it would be nice if they made an effort.

Sunday Indo Sport

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