Peter Watts on Private Schools and Association Football

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 Whitgift’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 – 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 ‘sportsmen’ and ‘academics’ 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.

Read the rest.

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3 responses to “Peter Watts on Private Schools and Association Football

  1. Hi James,

    As ever, very interesting. Have covered this as well. Fancy writing Marrs-Hamilton Report.

  2. Now that top class football is dominated by foreign players (and foreign managers) rather than native oiks, maybe it will be easier for intelligent natives of any social background to do well.

  3. Thanks for linking James.

    Dearieme, I agree, and all three ex-pros at Whitgift made this point. Although I am never sure exactly how much more intelligent or better-educated foreign players are, or whether they just seem it because they can speak more than one language and can talk about football in ways that aren’t entirely one-dimensional.

    They also talked about how a lot of pros now send their kids to private school. It’s clear that any social stigma about independent schooling no longer exists, certainly for footballers brought up in the aspirational 1980s and 1990s.

    I also think that previously footballers didn’t have a problem with intelligence as much as with class.

    My example is Pat Nevin, who was fiercely bright and very proud of it, but also resolutely working class. He subsequently didn’t get all that much stick from his colleagues and if he did, he was able to give it back in spades without compromising his own values.

    Now compare that with Graeme Le Saux, who actually isn’t particularly intelligent, but is definitely middle class and incapable of not acting it. For this, he got endless stick, which he wasn’t equipped to handle.

    Hopefully now the climate has changed sufficiently for the kids from Whitgift – who are both working and middle class – to be able to spend time in the dressing room without feeling they don’t belong there. Frank Lampard was a frequently cited role model.

    That’s enough Chelsea references, I think.