BROWNE ON THE BALL: The kids are United

Ricky Miller has been named Skrill North Player of the Month for January
Ricky Miller has been named Skrill North Player of the Month for January

“You need to have kids in your team.”

Neil Redfearn was being deadly serious when he leaned forward in his chair, locking his eyes on mine and emphasising his point by stating it a second time.

Neil Redfearn.

Neil Redfearn.

I was discussing Boston United’s upturn in form during the 2002-03 season with the Pilgrims’ player-assistant manager, and had just put forward the idea that this could be put down to the side being packed with experience.

The team was built around mature heads such as Stuart Balmer, Mark Greaves, Tom Bennett and Paul Bastock; players who had seen the game from higher up the pyramid or who had learned every trick in the book the hard way.

But Redfearn - who, along with boss Neil Thompson, was still putting in a decent shift, despite both being in their mid-30s - was having none of it.

“Kids are vital to every team because they play differently, they play without fear,” he added.

“When you get to my age you know what your body is capable of. You see a 50-50 challenge and think to yourself ‘is this going to see me out injured’?

“Young players don’t think like that. They just want to win that ball.”

Redfearn then finished his point by cracking a joke about how they’re also useful as they can do his donkey work for him on the pitch.

But by then I’d heard what I wanted. I’d heard the part which stuck in my mind.

Younger players may lack experience, but what they lack in that department they more than make up for with their exuberance and enthusiasm.

Look at that youthful Boston United side which reached successive play-off finals under Rob Scott and Paul Hurst. After going 1-0 down at Bradford in the UniBond Premier final they fought back to win 2-1 and gain promotion. After three times trailing to Guiseley over two legs the following season they refused to roll over and fought their way back into the contest, only to be outdone on penalties.

On both occasions I believe an amount of that refusal to surrender was down to the youngsters in the side not yet learning to accept defeat. Older heads, who had been there and seen it before, may have been willing to accept their fate.

I think the same goes for this current youth club Dennis Greene has assembled at York Street.

This 20-man squad has an average age of just 22 years. Take on-loan Charley Sanders out of the equation and the result remains the same.

This is a squad currently pushing for a play-off spot in the Skrill North, but which only has five members of playing staff aged 25 or over.

When I had that conversation with Redfearn, the three most senior members of this current side were not legally allowed to buy beer, although Ian Ross, Ryan Semple and Spencer Weir-Daley were close.

Add to that trio Marc Newsham and Indy Aujla, both 26, and you have the five most experienced players in the squad - and none of them yet that close to 30.

A team full of lads approximately the same age will build a firm togetherness, instead of creating cliques that you so regularly get at football clubs.

As Hurst and Scott’s teams proved, when your willing to put your body on the line for all your teammates, and not just your own pals, the power around you becomes greater.

I could point to Alan Hansen’s famous ‘you don’t win anything with kids’ to argue that young guns fire just as potently as classic weaponry.

But this side haven’t won anything yet. Instead, and so far, they have just given the fans some much-needed hope. But because there is and abundance of hunger in a squad which is yet to fulfil their potential - in a dressing room littered with players looking for their first trophies or hoping to catch the eyes of Football League clubs - there’s no reason why a top-five finish should be ruled out.

So, instead I’ll leave you with some Mark Twain: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”