BROWNE ON THE BALL: Pilgrims receive their marching orders

Steve Welsh.
Steve Welsh.

They lead pampered lives these young footballers, don’t they?

Paid fortunes, over indulged and not even forced to clean the senior players’ boots anymore.

Perhaps this is the case in the Premier League, but that’s not how it works.

Not in the real world, and certainly not at Boston United.

If you see a few members of the Pilgrims’ youth set-up looking a little knackered right now then blame Head of Youth Steve Welsh.

Welsh and his team have recently returned from a three-day boot camp at the Colchester Garrison, where 23 youngsters were put through their paces as United had the honour of being the only professional or semi-pro club in the country to spend a pre-season stint with the Armed Forces.

During those three gruelling days the young hopefuls took on assault courses, log races and were even forced to try out the Army’s Basic Fitness Test.

And they didn’t need to lace up their boots for shooting practice on the range.

And just to make sure the lads couldn’t slip back into any form of comfort zone, they spent their night’s sleeping in a hangar on camp beds alongside members of the Parachute Regiment, their hosts for the three days.

Welsh - who spent more than five years in the Royal Signals before leaving at 21 for a career in professional football - has quite a reputation for thinking outside of the box.

Al Pacino’s famous speech from Any Given Sunday, Geese Flying in Formation and Battle of Kruger are among the strangely inspirational videos he shows his charges to instill the neccessity of teamwork, along with a few quotes from the mighty Vince Lombardi for good measure.

Meanwhile, Welsh has never been afraid to send his youngsters for the odd circuit session or two at Boston Amateur Boxing Club to get the air flowing through the lungs properly.

In a world when every football fan - from the ex-pro TV pundit on the Match of the Day sofa to the ex-Sunday League unused substitute drinking lager on his own sofa - has their own ideas on how to train our younger generations to make them tactically more astute, Welsh’s ways may raise a few eyebrows.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The likes of current squad members Sam Vince and Charley Sanders have progressed from the youth ranks to the Boston United first team while Tom Hopper, probably the club’s most famous youth export, is currently enjoying being part of Leicester City’s match day squad in the Premier League.

But not every young hopeful who spent those days in Colchester will become the next Hopper.

For many, football will become a pastime, something to do on Saturday to get away from the tedium of work.

But in a bid to stop his kids ending up on the scrapheap, making ends meet in a dead-end job they hate, this is where Welsh deserves another thumbs up.

As part of that military experience, United’s youngsters were also given a course in how to treat front-line casualties.

“It was to teach them team bonding and working as a team,” the Head of Youth said.

“But it was also to show them about life outside football, about work and the options they have in the world, and a bit of military discipline as well.”

There was, of course, some time for football, with the United lads finishing their experience with a game against the 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery’s XI.

Boston lost 3-1, but you can hardly blame them after what they’d just been put through, can you?