BROWNE ON THE BALL: Youth club are doing the business

Jordan Nuttell in action for the under 18s.
Jordan Nuttell in action for the under 18s.

LIFE has several ways of telling you you’re getting old.

There’s less on top and more round the waist. You watch stand-up comedy and tut at the risque jokes. You make an ‘ooof’ noise and hold your back every time you get up from your seat. You walk into a nightclub and people look at you like you’re a pervert. Your Facebook timeline isn’t full of people holding bottles of Sol on some party island but other people’s kids. You look at the haircuts on Boston United’s youth team and wonder what ever happened to the good old mullet and tache combo?

The wake-up call you probably got was when you realised your team’s latest sporting hero was years younger than you are. It makes you question your own achievements.

My version of this has been seeing those names that used to spring up in junior sports reports progressing through to the senior ranks.

I’m taking absolutely no credit for their development. But it’s extremely fulfilling seeing kids who were blessed with so much promise refusing to fall for the trappings of life, instead making a go of their talents.

That’s why I think Steve Welsh has got one of the best jobs you could possibly dream of having.

The Boston United Centre of Excellence supremo is the man who puts the club’s youth policy together.

It’s not easy forcing kids who sign up to a two-year footballing course to be motivated in the classroom. They’d much rather put the pen down and lace the boots up.

But that’s what Welsh is, a motivator. Following the sacking of Tommy Taylor, Welsh was promoted to the first-team job.

Attempting to get the best out of his squad he sat them through some of his best inspirational videos that prove the importance of teamwork: Al Pacino’s teamtalk in Any Given Sunday, the Battle at Kruger, Geese Fly in A V Formation (they’re all available on YouTube).

They didn’t always have the desired affect. Showing a natural history video to a room full of blokes who’ve been there and done it will always get too many blank stares.

But show those same videos to a bunch of impressionable kids who get up every morning, dreaming about carving out a career in the Football League like Welsh enjoyed, and you’ll get those hairs standing up on the backs of necks.

It’s inspiration like this – and leading by example with his fitness regime - which has steered the likes of James Reed, Adam Millson and Alex Beck into the Pilgrims’ first team.

Eighteen months ago I was fortunate to sit down for an afternoon with Welsh as he explained his philosophy to me. It may not be easy to always follow that broad Glaswegian accent, but his passion always shines through.

He holds up two sportsmen as examples to inspire his young charges.

One is US baseball star Willie Mays who once said Welsh’s favourite quote: “It’s easy to be great some of the time. The difficult part is being great all of the time.”

The other is Tom Hopper, the former Boston United youth team product, who is now a professional with Championship side Leicester City.

Last season, Welsh guided his under 18s to a phenomenal achievement, reaching the third round of the FA Youth Cup.

Last Wednesday, they began this season’s campaign with a crushing 6-0 thumping of Lincoln United. Four days earlier, Hopper made his Football League debut, on loan at Bury.

So Welsh and his team or volunteers must all be doing something right.

Of course, there will be people who say Welsh has it easy. He’s not doing it at senior level and he’s at a club where expectation can only reach so high – the pressure’s off.

But anyone who’s been entertained by United’s youngsters - be that in the under 18s, reserves or even the first team - know the right man is in the right job.