Former Manchester United youth player, Danny Higginbotham, has spoken to the Manchester Evening News about how young footballers have changed for the worse since he was an apprentice at Old Trafford.
As a 21-year-old, the defender had to scrub the boots of Brain McClair and Roy Keane before he was given the chance to lace up his own for the Red Devils.
“Young players get too much, too soon now,” says Danny.
Before going on to play for Sunderland, Stoke City and Sheffield United amongst others, the United fan would grace the Maracana Stadium for his boyhood club in the FIFA Club World Cup, but 15 years later he says that today’s young players are in a completely different world:
“You see lads get to 18 and they are on big, big contracts and I am talking about players who have never played for the first team but at 18 are signing a four-year deal. Towards the end of my career young pros were coming up to me and asking what car do you drive, what watch have you got?
“I would never have gone to senior players and asked those kind of questions. When I was a kid at United I would sit and listen to the experienced pros. I was like a sponge gathering knowledge. It was nothing to do with money."
You only have to look at the situation with Raheem Sterling at Liverpool to see examples of what Higginbotham is talking about. The England winger is still only 20 years old, but is allegedly turning down offers of around £180,000 a week, according to the Daily Mail.
“I was told if you are successful then the rewards would come. Now you get rewards before success," Higginbotham explained.
“The Academy system has created a new animal. Lads at 18 are getting huge contracts and at 22, when they face having to go down to the Championship or lower leagues to rebuild their careers, they won’t sign for the money on offer. They are done with football.”
And Higginbotham has a point – what happens when Sterling does sign for Liverpool or somewhere else? After two or three years of his bumper contract, if he is not playing regularly, or is looking for a move, players expect the wages to go up and up and you end up at 25 years old, priced out of playing somewhere you would make an impact.
“It is a sad situation,” continues Danny. “It won’t be as easy for young players to come through at United in the future the way the system is in our football. But if they are good enough and have the right attitude then they will get chances.
“I wasn’t good enough. Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t sell players if they were good enough."