Peter Watts has an article in the new FourFourTwo about private Whitgift School’s efforts to develop young footballers. It’s worth getting hold of a copy to read his piece in full, but there is a useful summary of the main points in Peter’s post at The Big Smoke:
I met six of Whitgiftâ€™s schoolboy footballers, ranging in age from 10 to 15, who came from a wide variety of backgrounds, and were all placed at different football academies â€“ two at Chelsea, two at Palace, and one each at Charlton and Spurs. What an opportunity they were receiving, and how happy they were to get it.But Whitgift has gallons of money, and spreads it around in the form of burseries and scholarships. It is based in South Croydon, and therefore cannot pretend that poverty and inequality do not exist.
All the same, I tried to tease out some hint of social friction from the boys, and also the coaches, all of whom had a state education. None of them bit. Later I spoke to David Muir, an eloquent presence on the Crystal Palace academy staff, who pointed out that private schools tended to be far more flexible and open-minded than comprehensives, which is surely as much about a state of mind as it is about money.
What was most refreshing of all was the insistence that all these young footballers should receive a good academic education. Muir said that previously kids were divided into â€˜sportsmenâ€™ and â€˜academicsâ€™ but he always believed that our best footballers always had the potential to be high-achievers academically. I agree. From personal experience, footballers are certainly nowhere near as stupid as they are portrayed, but it often makes people feel better to pretend that they are. Whitgift are proposing a quiet and double-edged revolution here, so all power to them and begger the snobbery, inverse or otherwise.