Belfast Telegraph

Go the extra mile to live dream, boys

Adam deserves applause for showing Dutch courage

By Graham Luney

Here’s a question for Irish League fans — have you heard of a young player called Adam Salley?

Followers of the Linfield and Northern Ireland youth teams might know the boy.

Adam is 17-years-old and from Banbridge. He’s a tall striker who has scored goals for the under-17 international side and under-18 Schoolboys.

The former New-Bridge Integrated College student is on Linfield’s books and he brought his goalscoring form to the County Down side at this summer’s Milk Cup.

Nothing unusual in Adam’s story so far until you realise he has gone where few British or Irish teenagers have been before. The promising youngster is in Holland enjoying his second trial with Dutch side FC Groningen... a team nicknamed the Green and White Army!

The journey from Banbridge to Holland’s Eredivisie is a brave one to embark on. Adam also had a trial at Swansea City, but a trip to Groningen, where Luis Suarez and Arjen Robben once honed their skills, left him wanting more. Groningen, who lost to Aberdeen in the Europa League this summer, may be an unlikely destination for an Ulster kid who loves the beautiful game but Adam hopes to grab his golden chance.

“I’m out here for a month,” he says. “The first time I was nervous but now I’m comfortable. I’ve been given a timetable which includes training and matches and hopefully I can earn a deal.

“My agent showed the club clips of me playing for Northern Ireland youth teams and they followed up on that. The standard of football in the 17-years age group here is so much better than back home. There is no comparison, even in England or Wales.”

We should applaud Adam’s courage and wish him the best of luck.

Here’s why. Adam is unlike many British and Irish kids — he’s prepared to go the extra mile to make it in the professional game.

While young players throughout Europe and further afield aren’t afraid to broaden their horizons, our youngsters are reluctant to leave their cosy existence.

Too many, particularly in the Premier League, are paid obscene wages.

What have they done to earn it? All money, but precious little hunger.

Where is their drive and desire to always improve.. their relentless pursuit of perfection?

One stat doing the rounds revealed that 82 Spanish players were registered in main squad lists for the Champions League, compared to 17 English players. That’s one more than Belarus.

One fan hit the nail on it’s head with his response on the Guardian website. He wrote: ‘We keep complaining about a lack of opportunity for our youngsters, but that only relates to this country. The FA should invest more time and money in getting our young players opportunities in the other leagues in Europe. To me this is the finishing school these players need before being Premier League ready and would also help them grow as human beings rather than being overly pampered.’

The FA has announced proposals to cut the number of players from outside the European Union coming into the English game by up to 50 per cent.

FA chairman Greg Dyke claims that mediocre players from overseas are taking places in club squads that should be going to young English players. Well Greg, those mediocre players didn’t halt Danny Welbeck’s progress!

I’m not criticising our coaches or our coaching programmes. We do the best we can, but there’s a big world out there with many exciting opportunities for young players.

And any expert advice picked up from elite coaching further afield can be banked and put to use in our league in the future.

At the age of 13, Lionel Messi swapped the streets of Rosario in Argentina for the bright lights of Barcelona and he’s done okay for himself. Our own George Best gritted his teeth when he had to overcome homesickness and remain on the path to greatness with Manchester United.

Sacrifices have to be made on the road to success.

As the Linfield motto states: ‘Fortune Favours the Brave.’

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