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Moncurs Putting Iron 4:51 Tue Aug 25
The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Please delete if already done, couldnt see it.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parents-warning-football-academies-side-one-talks-simon-bywater


PARENTS’ WARNING - FOOTBALL ACADEMIES - A SIDE OF FOOTBALL NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

Simon Bywater


I cant sit back and bite my tongue any longer.

With the new football season just underway I wanted to highlight a side of football only a few see and even less talk about.

10 years ago our 9yr old son was approached by a number of professional football clubs to join their academy programme.

At the time it was all very exciting for him. Having thought long and hard over what decision to make he decided to join West Ham United. Given the way they welcomed him and the history of the club it swayed our decision. There was however one small problem for us as we lived over 75 miles from the training ground. The FA clearly stated in their rules that any player under 13 years of age wouldn’t be able to do this journey of over an hour. Where we lived it was impossible for us to be within 1 hour of a premier league academy, a process seemingly penalising boys from rural areas.

“Don’t worry” the Club said, we can register him to a local address and support you with any travel costs as this is perfectly fine. We didn’t think anymore and assumed by their proposals that this was standard practice. I worked for myself and had to make massive sacrifices to get my son to training and games at the least four times a week. My Monthly fuel bill was in excess of £400 a month and we often got home after 11pm on school nights. Make no mistake it was a massive commitment.

Our son started very well at West Ham and from the age of 9years old he began to “play up” age groups every season. The coaches were always on the phone to us especially when they got the impression he was unhappy with something. On one occasion they even got paranoid and suspicious that another club had approached us to get him to leave the club. At 15years old there was even a suggestion by staff that he might be selected for England Schoolboys. I was unhappy about this as it built hopes up of probable trials which didn’t materialise as he was ill with tonsillitis in the match the representative from England attended and was not asked for trials.

The then very well thought of academy manager told my son and us that he was very disappointed he was not given a fair chance or even asked for trial. He was not as disappointed as a 15 yr old with massive ambition / hopes and dreams. This was another example of how they built up hopes, only for parents to manage it when it didn’t happen.

On reflection this theme of false promises began to increase and became a familiar pattern, but at the time we couldn’t see this. Despite phone calls and promises I never once saw any financial support to get him to the club for training having convinced us of this would be the case when getting him to sign. How could I turn around and say “no you can’t go anymore”. It would have broken his heart as an 11 year old and given our location in the country where else could he have gone for his football as West Ham would have sought compensation. So in effect we were caught in a Catch 22 situation over his registration if he wanted to leave.

Family life begins to revolve around the club. As a Parent school holidays are full of football tournaments / games and you have to be prepared to arrange things at minimal notice. Dropping family events is the norm. The sacrifices as a family will be unseen by most and certainly ignored by the club. With hindsight we were naïve but like many we couldn’t see it and had no one to ask advice from.

At the age of 13yrs we were seriously considering pulling him out of the club given the travel commitments and financial pressures on us as a family. The club representatives suggested that he could start living at the club house from Wednesdays to Saturdays which would benefit us from reduced travel costs and thus reduce demands on our son. The club certainly suggested it would be to his benefit if he wanted to keep progressing. ( I now know this was complete rubbish). The club loosely liaised with his school and it all seemed fine. Make no mistake the school were the “kingpins” to making it work for him and not the club.

On the night we were being shown around the impressive club house we were suddenly interrupted by a phone call to discover that our sons best friend had tragically died in a freak accident. He was 13 years old when he died and our son has never forgotten this night when we had to race home from London to be with our friends. This had a major impact on our son and it is still seen today during goal celebrations.

Things eventually settled down for a couple of years until he reached 16. He had been scoring lots of goals and had been playing very well. We found it hard to go to a home game without being pestered by agents asking us to sign up. I didn’t like this part of the game and it was all “hush hush,” conversations. We avoided these individuals who circled training grounds like vultures.

The Sacrifices our son was making at home, school and within friendship groups was massive. He was balancing lots of travel, school and large training programmes. Through no help from the club he managed to get all his GCSEs albeit we paid for a private maths tutor to pull him through the study pressure as a result of his football commitments.

Sixteen years of age is a very important age for a young player. It’s the time scholarships are awarded by clubs. There was lots of pressures from agents to sign and explore avenues with other clubs. We truly didn’t have a clue who to turn to for advice and nobody spoke about it. It was if it was some kind of a dirty conversation to have. At the time, our son wanted to remain loyal to West Ham and he chose not to have an agent at that time. To his credit he went in on his own and spoke to the academy director to discuss the offer of a scholarship. Some might think this is nothing, but it takes a bit of courage as a 15yr old to do this. He had been doing very well and the then director offered him a 2 year scholarship with a 1 year pro contract to follow.

The two years as a scholar went very quickly which saw him featuring at seventeen years of age for the U21s, playing against older players like Raheem sterling and Jonjo shelvy at Liverpool. Ian Abrahams (moose) even suggested via twitter he had been man of the match for West Ham setting up all three goals. He played behind a closed door game at Upton Park with the first team against QPR. He was captain of the U18s and U21s and during 2013/14 (as an U18) became the countries 2nd highest goal scorer despite being a midfielder. He was also nominated for the Academy player of the year. Videos and interviews started to appear via You tube and on the clubs web site. He regularly featured in “the goal of the month” videos at the club given that the first team were having a bad season and not scoring many goals.

As for our son everything seemed to be progressing well and at 18 years old he was really enjoying his football with a smile on his face.

That was until disaster struck for a second time with another tragic shock. One of his first friends from the Academy House, and someone he looked up to and admired both as a person and player- Dylan Tombides became unwell with testicular cancer and after a brave two year battle sadly died . It was another huge emotional blow. During one home game he walked out as captain of the U18s on behalf of the Club and laid a wreath in Memory Of Dylan. I know privately this was very very hard for him as it brought back so many memories. There was no support from the club and it was left to us to help him through this before and after games.

At the beginning of the 2014/15 season (his 1st year as a pro at West ham), everything seemed fine and he had been training regularly with the first team. A new Academy director had come to the club to replace the outgoing Tony Carr.

The new Academy director spoke to our son about his goal scoring and heaping praise upon him but was worried why he only had a year left on his contract. It all looked very positive for our son to keep progressing and in December 2014 he was asked to attend the Bobby Moore Foundation annual event in London to represent the club. Standing up with other famous sports stars like David Seaman and Mo Farah he was introduced as a top upcoming U21 player within the club. There was no indication that he would be leaving the club or hadn’t been performing.

He was at this time playing every game for the U21s in preseason against lower league first teams and doing well. However I began to notice during these Barclays U21s premier league games that the manager at the time seemed to have a difficult working relationship with the new Academy director. There was obviously something going on behind the scenes as I and other parents could sense the tension between staff. The new Academy director had brought in his own son and given him a long contract. Standing in the crowd watching games and performances his son who was a couple years older than ours was glaringly below standard to all onlookers and mutterings of how he was offered a contract were rife.

On one particular day The Academy director approached me outside Cambridge United’s ground where I was waiting for my son after he had just played for West hams U21s against Cambridge United first team. The Academy director asked me to confirm that our son only had a one year left on his contract and that he suggested he wanted this extended as soon as possible. We took this as positive feedback and I got the impression The Academy director was worried of losing our son at the end of his year contract, as other lads who weren’t making the team as regularly as our son were now on longer contracts.

Over the weeks before Christmas 2014 our son started every game bar one for the U21 due to injury. Scoring a number of goals in the European competitions, he was progressing well or so it appeared. There was no feedback to him from staff at the club, other than praise for performances, which is well documented in TV interviews on the clubs website. I can quote, “ he can score goals with both feet and play in any position”.

Not long after this, I had a conversation with my son and he informed me The Academy director had called him into the office to find out who his agent was. My son didn’t have an agent at the time so The Academy director advised that he would get one for him and would then extend his contract for a further 2 yrs. It all seemed like a conflict of interest so I advised my son to be careful and to explore all options for an agent. i.e One whom he could trust and build a good relationship with that had no affiliations to the club. We found a really nice guy, who had worked for the PFA and been a Police officer during a short career break from the game. We felt he was the ideal trustworthy person our son needed in the game.

The Academy director was unaware of this and again asked our son that he would get a further 2year contract and an agent. That was until he found out our son had appointed this different agent. Less than two weeks after appointing his agent (January 2015), The Academy director called our son into his office and told him that he wasn’t getting a new contract and was free to leave. Simple as that!

To say this was a shock to our son was a massive understatement. Everyone around the club was shocked. The Academy director couldn't look my son in the face but assured him that he had wanted to keep him at the club but claimed Sam Allerdyce ( the manager at the time) was the only one at the club who had over ruled him despite coaching staff recommendations. Who could we believe and where did our son stand in all of this? He was devastated and once outside the office door cried his eyes out .

So in effect after 10 years of loyal and dedicated commitment to the club our son became a victim of this whole academy process. Sam Allerdyce was later sacked by the board and 6 months down the line our son is still exploring options in the hope he can find a new club or even new career.

As it stands a good young technical player released from a premier league academy has very little chance unless they have a club which is prepared to loan them out. So as a parent you must be prepared for this. When you are released as a young untested Professional at 19 years old it literally kills your career overnight, despite any previous performances in the U21s and such like.

“Why you might be asking”? Well its simply because lower league clubs can’t afford to pay or take a risk on a young untested player when there is little money in their annual budgets for squads.

Nobody around West Ham believed my son when he announced he was being released. We are still getting messages as I write this article. Our phone didn’t stop ringing from people stating they had heard the news and couldn’t believe it. All the clichés came out, “one door closes another one opens ”, “he will have no problem finding a club and be snapped up”, “they have made a huge mistake”. Privately this didn’t ease any of the pain for him and he is still without a club. He has even had to tell agents through his LinkedIn account to leave him alone and stop making contact.

So why this article? I want to warn other parents going down the academy football route. You will hear so much storytelling and false promises. Trust nothing you are told and always have a plan B outside football. Clubs and The Football association need to be brought to account as they are manipulating naive parents and young lads year on year for their own advantages. Clubs will say one thing but do something completely different. One minute your top dog the next your bottom of the pile and your son could become very isolated over night for no apparent reason.

Some will think I’m writing this article because I’m a bitter Dad because our son didn’t get an opportunity at West Ham. That’s not the case but this whole academy process does hugely affect a lads opportunities going forward once released.

What I’m bothered about here is the way clubs conduct themselves during the Academy process. I say this because I was recently stood on the touchline in the midlands of a U21 trial game. I spoke to parents of lads from Villa, Chelsea, Fulham and Arsenal to name a few. They all had similar stories to tell. Young lads facing the depression of isolation having given everything to a club from the ages of 7,8 or 9.

Don’t believe a word you are told by football clubs. West Ham have used our son, in effect to big themselves up about player development and then spat him out the back because it didn’t fit with certain staff when he chose a different agent.

I don’t personally have any frustration about what has happened to my son, more a huge disappointment given his selfless great attitude and a Commando ethos he learned from me over years of dedicated effort. To see him being discarded like trash while others of lesser attitude and ability move forward “for having the right contacts and agents” is deplorable.

We are very grateful for a number of coach’s who have supported our son , especially Nick Haycock and Steve Potts . Our son has many unanswered questions, but nobody at the club through the past 3 years has ever sat him down to say where to improve his game prior to being “let go”. On the contrary, staff were telling him from the age of 18 he was on a three year programme of development until he was 21. Why then did it suddenly change at 19. It was certainly not performance related. I suspect the only reason he was let go by the club was because he didn’t get the right agent. Very much like Ravel Morrison and the many other young players following in similar footsteps.

That however is for my new book and I would be keen to hear from other parents and players about their stories at academies from up and down the country.

I just hope our son and the many other players going through the same battle get the chance they deserve in English football. I hope English Clubs can start looking past trying to find the next Ronaldo in one off trial games and concentrate on consistent technical quality with excellent attitudes and ability to face defeat and learn how to overcome it.

Sadly having witnessed events in the past 12 months I have many doubts about English Football and the way its heading for our young English Players. There needs to be a massive change in the duty of care of our young player’s because years of promises in a player’s development can have a devastating effect when it comes to an end.

As for West Ham, the only person to have called our son to ensure he was ok is Nick Haycock who was incidentally forced out of West Ham by a certain person who has his own son happily in the squad. It’s a real shame because the fans at the club are probably the most loyal and dedicated fans in the world and the young players certainly deserve better protection.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

hammerforever 1:08 Thu Aug 27
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Just read that Sam Westley is going on loan to a club in Holland. Wonder if they have seen him play?

http://readwestham.com/2015/08/26/west-ham-defender-set-leave-loan/

nicola99 5:59 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
My son is in a performance team albeit in another sport. If they are good enough they will eventually make the break through even with set backs on the way. The problem is most kids and nearly all parents react badly to the set backs (me included!) and this makes it doubly hard to make the bounce back.
If the kids want it they will continue to work hard, if they don't they will always find an excuse.
Sport is a tough and selfish world.

one iron 4:09 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
When you have kids you can protect them in most things, when a boy gets released, you feel it because you can do nothing to help them ,only saying keep going,prove them wrong,unless you have been in this position, you wont know how it feels.it hurt me because we are all westham mad in my family, when we went out of the gates at chadwell heath i felt a feeling in my stomach that i dont want to feel again.

Dr Congo 3:43 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
I read it as meaning they shouldn't have raised the possibility of England because it's too hard to handle if you come up short. But it's a lesson all kids would have to learn at some point.

Staffs-Hammer 2:53 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Read about 3-quarters of that. What I don't get is the following:

"At 15years old there was even a suggestion by staff that he might be selected for England Schoolboys. I was unhappy about this as it built hopes up of probable trials which didn’t materialise as he was ill with tonsillitis in the match the representative from England attended and was not asked for trials."

That reads to me that he was upset that his son may have been being considered to represent England and was then upset because he was ill and didn't get a trial as a result? In fairness, I may be misunderstanding this as it's not very well punctuated.

If the guy feels he has a legitimate complaint to make against the club then I assume there are official channels he should be going through rather than making veiled attacks on social media.

Dr Congo 2:34 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Not read the whole thing, but it's crazy to take on that amount of travel with a kid that young just to go to a premier club.

franksfat&slow&wank 2:25 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
if he made it i wonder if he'd had done the same interview

whittlesea hammer 1:36 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
well Long article I actually know this lad as sold him a car 2 years ago ( nothing flash ) he is a very likable lad polite and enthusiastic about West Ham and football the same as his father . After selling him the vehicle started to check the u21 reports and its there for everybody to see a bright future scores goals rellying doing well, so maybe a bit of truth in the article ,hope he does well and it dosnt come back to haunt us, not sure Peterborough is that rural lol.

The Bard 11:16 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Who posts an article on LinkedIn.

Knob.

SurfaceAgentX2Zero 11:10 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
To sum up:

My son didn't make it -whine.

And if this is all down to Allardyce and his mates then presumably there is now nothing to prevent to club re-signing the lad.

Moncurs Putting Iron 11:06 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
PS I have missed you guys there are plenty of Cunts on facebook, but they are cunts by accident.

You lot really put the work in.

Moncurs Putting Iron 11:01 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
*Wanders back in*

Tell you what........


....that Maiga is a bit shit isn't he.

Coffee 8:43 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
"sometimes you have to go down to build up again"

Exactly. Hope young Bywater can fully develop his potential and will not let this disappointment stop his career.

one iron 8:40 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
It takes aboy years to get over being let go, both my boys played for westham 5 years in total, now both at a great non league club corinthian casuals.all the boys play for no money but love the club,fans are great, dont stop singing for 90 mins.and everyones made welcome.german team looking at dan hes a gk,told hes one of the best gks in non league football, sometimes you have to go down to build up again.seeing my boys broken hearted when let go was like having my heart ripped out, i now how you felt.

Monk~koknee 4:32 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Although it beggars belief that MPI could have made such a schoolboy error at least with his mod capabilities he is able to re-write history as if this never happened.

All he will need to do is to 'fix' things so it appears that his thread was posted before Polite's. Simple.

eusebiovic 1:31 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Maybe the answer is at places like at the Aspire football academy who work with Dulwich Hamlet and are the true pulse of that fine amateur club - not lazy articles about craft beer and hipsters

http://peckhampeculiar.tumblr.com/post/127412092584/achieving-goals

Ronald_antly 1:17 Wed Aug 26
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
MPI

You can redeem yourself here by giving a bullet point summary of this article, so those of us with a short attention span can determine if we should try to read the whole thing.

bruuuno 11:20 Tue Aug 25
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
I can't believe they let you out if G.A.Y just to post tis shit

13 Brentford Rd 11:19 Tue Aug 25
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
M&S Ready salted squares!

And have you tried wiping your knob in it?

On The Ball 11:10 Tue Aug 25
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Stephen Bywater aims for Poland but hits the Baltic Sea.

greenie1 11:02 Tue Aug 25
Re: The dark side ot Football Youth academies (Long Article by father of Kieran Bywater
Written at the same time as the Magna Carta.

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