"Grass roots and Fruit Shoots" - Dave Kelly

Sometimes you can spot a winner in the starting blocks. They also say don’t meet your heroes.

Sunday, 11th July 2021, 4:45 am
Lars Baron/Getty Images
Lars Baron/Getty Images

The first one may be true but I'm not so sure about the second.

Remember the ancient street football we knew as kids of 27-a-side, the older brasher ones controlling the game when we were kids?

You got blooded into competitive teenage street football until you were the top dogs as the older lads discovered pubs.

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Then the PlayStation revolution happened and the kids on the streets seemed to disappear. Screens replaced studs.

Many moons ago, when I was a youth worker, I ran a Friday night football project on Farnley Park with a view to tackling anti-social behaviour in the area.

We bought a couple of generators and some floodlights, a few balls and goals and we were away. Grass roots and Fruit Shoots.

As word spread through the area, more and more young people came to the sessions and we were very well attended by 40-50 young people every week.

One day a lad came with his little brother and wasn’t very notable until he started to play. When I say he was heads and shoulders above the rest, I mean you could tell he wanted it more.

He was graceful and polite, could dribble and take people on. A few weeks later I heard he was taken on by Leeds United’s academy shortly after and wasn’t allowed to play competitively in games like ours.

The kid from that game went on to be somewhat successful and, in recent weeks, I`ve sat and watched him dominate the midfield in some of the best England Euro games seen in recent years.

True heroes in football are hard to come by. In 18 months, with not a lot to look forward to, football has given people a diversion to the rough social situation that now has an end in sight.

For years my dad has tutted at the lack of people playing on the pitches of Holbeck, until recently where they have exploded in shapes and colours with wonderful Holbeck Moor FC, where it doesn’t matter your age, sex or ability, you are welcome to turn up and play.

Every Wednesday the community turns up and plays for the love of the game.

Youth work is a job that hopefully lets you see a difference in people, to raise aspirations and help people raise their potential through positive encouragement, hopefully setting a good example to help young people literally achieve their goals.

If Kalvin Phillips has helped the people look at themselves and reach for the stars, then he really has started a legacy worth following.

And we, along with the rest of the country, if not the world, will watch as the kid from Wortley Rec becomes a world beater.

So maybe do meet your heroes, even if you just don’t know they will become one in years to come!