Monday, 10 August 2009

Young at heart

First published in Sons View, 08 August 2009, Dumbarton -v- Alloa Athletic

A quick calculation tells me that it is fifteen years since I last kicked a football in anger – that is, in a competitive match. If you think Sons’ 5-0 drubbing by Dunfermline last week was bad enough, you should have seen that.

I was in my mid-30s at the time, and I hadn’t done much by way of training for several years, but something in my over-optimistic brain nevertheless thought it would be fine to join a London 5-a-side league team that turned out to be stacked with youngsters. I blame my friend Paul. I lasted one game and could barely walk for a week!

Young at heart I might have been, but the ‘old in body’ bit let me down. Unlike the genuine youngsters who are coming through Dumbarton’s ambitious and hopeful Youth Development Initiative. If you follow the Club website, you’ll see regular updates on how the under-19s, 17s, 15s, 14s and 13s are doing. It’s inspiring stuff.

Organised youth football is a way to encourage the upcoming generations into the game, to keep Dumbarton’s profile up in the area, and to invest in our own future. Against the ’Shire in the Stirlingshire Cup recently we saw the benefits of all that hard work.

Manager Jim Chapman observed after that game that the youngsters had done well, and fans commented that they had played a major part in turning the game around – claiming back a two-goal deficit and winning on penalties.

They showed a lot of character, desire, and a first class attitude, declared Jim. “I'm a great believer in the phrase if players are good enough then they are good enough. But I don’t want to heap too much pressure on our kids. It’s all about development. The players know we look after them at Dumbarton Football Club.”

Keeper Michael White retained his place for what turned out to be a really tough Co-operative Insurance Cup game. But the gaffer was clear: “The lad has done very well since he re-joined us and I know have three great choices for the No 1 jersey… a great problem to have.”

Its important that we as fans do all we can to encourage the youngsters, both on the park and off it. Turning up to watch the youth teams and appreciating the work of the coaches and volunteers who help make it all happen is one way. There’s also fundraising through the Sportsmans Dinner, Walk to the Rock, and buying old programmes through Tommy Hughes on eBay.

The one thing I don’t advise, if you’re a crock like me, is pulling on a jersey and thinking you can take ’em on!

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