Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Steven Beacom: Gareth Bale was always a great talent

Gareth Bale

When Gareth Bale attended Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, his PE teacher made up new rules to help the rest of the lads out.

Quite simply Bale was not allowed to use his left foot, otherwise a free-kick would be awarded against him and his team.

Had Rafa Benitez successfully fought to have such a law in place for Tuesday night’s Champions League clash, instead of talking about priests and sugar mountains, maybe Inter Milan would have stood a chance at White Hart Lane.

Instead 21-year-old Bale ran riot, in his latest sensational performance, inspiring Spurs to a famous 3-1 win which should help them into the lucrative knockout stages of the competition.

They could do with all the money they can get even though Harry Redknapp says Bale is not for sale.

That’s because the young man’s head will soon be turned by some serious figures, with every major club on the planet offering him untold riches and promising medals galore in a bid to get him to sign for them.

Right now Bale, with his devastating left foot, speed and stamina, is the hottest property in world football, so much so that renowned publicist Max Clifford has suggested that the Welsh wizard could make as much as £20million in endorsements and image rights over the next five years.

All this is a far cry from when Bale was a kid coming through the ranks at Southampton.

Linfield and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Blayney was with the Saints at the same time.

He recalls Bale as a kid, not just with ability, but with a good head on his shoulders.

“I played in a few reserve games with him,” said Blayney, who is having a fantastic season with the Blues.

“I remember him having a really good attitude and being highly regarded by Southampton. It was a good club for young lads to be because it was very family orientated.

“I certainly have fond memories of my time at Southampton and I’m sure Gareth will feel the same way.

“Being at Southampton would have helped his development. He certainly honed his skills there.

“He was around 15 or 16 and was a youth team player when I was there, but because of his ability, even at that age, he was good enough to play in the reserves. It’s always hard to work out whether or not a young lad with talent will go on and make it big because quite a few players you think would do well fall by the wayside.

“But with Gareth Bale you knew that he was special and could go far in the game.

“I’m really pleased at how well he is doing, because he was a really decent lad.

“Back then Theo Walcott was also coming through at Southampton, so the club had two very gifted footballers.

“It didn’t surprise me that they went on to move to bigger clubs in Arsenal and Spurs.”

With Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan all keen to sign the Welshman, he could be on the move again.

“He had an absolutely incredible game against Inter Milan,” added Blayney. “And of course he scored a brilliant hat-trick at the San Siro a fortnight before.

“He’s been catapulted into legendary status at Spurs, but with all those other clubs chasing after him, I’m not sure he will be there for too much longer.”

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