Growing up, every professional footballer played some kind of amateur level and at Bluefields we’re all about amateur sport. So we’ve decided to take a look at the Sunday League experiences of some professional footballers and what impact participating in amateur football had on their career progression.
Today, Theo catches up with Colchester United and Jamaican International Marcus Bean [midfielder], and looks at his grassroots experiences and why the Harrow Youth League – a Sunday League in North- West London that both played in – produces lots of players who go on to become professionals.
There are and have been a lot of players coming out of Harrow Youth League – Yourself, Jason Roberts, Adrian Marriapa, Marvin Sordell, Jerome Thomas and many more – Why do you think this is the case?
It’s not just that there are more naturally talented players in the area – there are great players everywhere. Number one – there are a number of good, enthusiastic coaches putting lots of time into their teams, all for nothing. The dedication of the coaches has played a big part.
What did you enjoy most about playing Sunday League?
It was a special time in my life. I just enjoyed going out and enjoying my football. There was no pressure, no fans screaming at you – just football.
Are you still in contact with the players you played with at Sunday League?
I still speak to a lot of the boys. There is always a concrete bond with the guys you played grassroots football with – they become friends for life. It’s reasons like this why people should participate.
Did Playing Sunday League as a child prepare you well for being a professional?
It was great preparation for me. I used to play upfront at St Josephs’, scoring lots of goals before I moved to Northolt Villa, where I moved into midfield. It was a good experience playing different players – most players do. From then I was scouted by QPR. Lucky for me, I had a good coach at Northolt Villa. We were a technically good team and I enjoyed the competitive nature of Sunday League. I was able to play for both QPR and Northolt Villa for a time before QPR said I was playing too many games.
Was your team successful?
At Northolt Villa, we made it to Middlesex county cup final- unfortunately we didn’t get the win.
What are your views on grassroots football and Sunday league in general?
It’s in a good state but there is still a long way to go. At a youth level there is too great an emphasis on results. There shouldn’t be pressure on the children from coaches to use winning tactics at a young age. They shouldn’t be encouraged by coaches to take the ball into the corner in the last minute or play long ball all the time. The focus of grassroots football should be on nurturing talent. This is key. My personal belief is that results shouldn’t be recorded until 15/16, because before then kids should only be focusing on their technique, not results.
What else should the FA do to address this?
There needs to be more qualified coaches. Although it’s great that parents are putting on training sessions, it’s important that kids are being taught properly at a young age. Children learn the most when they are young – they take in information like a sponge when young. The FA should put on more training sessions for parents so that they can coach the kids in the right way. That’s not taking anything away from the parents – they do a great job but it’s important the children have the right training from an early age. Since I was a kid there has been an influx of technical players coming in from abroad and this has had a positive impact on how kids are coached. So the FA has realized about the need to coach kids properly but a little too late. The progression will come in time.
Are you interested in coaching?
Yes, I am. I have my UEFA B licence and I aim to take my UEFA A the summer after next.
Whose coaching style do you admire?
I like a mix of Guardiola and Klopp. They like their teams to play at a high temp and keep the ball on the floor.
How important is participation football in keeping players on the straight and narrow?
It’s very important. It teaches you a lot of valuable life skills like communication skills, how important good team spirit is and the determination to do well – to win. There were better players than me growing up but they didn’t have the same level of dedication. It’s about being dedicated and having the right attitude. Look at Barcelona – they’re all very humble. This dedication and discipline was instilled into me.
What Do You Think About Bluefields?
“It’s a great idea! Anything to do with organizing games, increasing participation in sport is good thing. I’m all up for Bluefields!”