Preface: I feel I must preface this post with a note to say that, of course, I would very much welcome an influx of youth to the first team, who wouldn’t, right?! To utter anything to the contrary flies in the face of our club’s unique history … I really do like kids, I just couldn’t eat a whole one (sorry, that was sponsored by the Institute of Dad Jokes).
Since the Class of ’92 so impudently gate crashed the grown up’s party to their obvious incredulity, the sport has evolved into a very different elephant. Needless to say, this is, in part, due to the world that exists outside of our football sphere going through some almighty dramatic changes itself.
If you were born post 1980 you are now widely acknowledged as a Digital Native. You are immersed within, and at one with the technology that shapes our social and cultural environment. It’s likely, some say, that you have no soul. You are no longer a face in the crowd, but an avatar on A. N. Other’s Twitter timeline. You express yourself through a series of emoticons and abbreviations, LOL #justsaying. (However, I didn’t intend to be drawn in to a tongue-in-cheek defamation of our yoof and return to my point.) The distractions presented to the current crop would only have been glimpsed in the dystopian nightmares of a young Becks or Scholesy.
Neville Neville would no doubt have spent quite a bit of time shouting his rambunctious sons in for their tea, as they played footy, jumpers for goalposts, in the streets. Whereas today the equivalent scene may find him shouting upstairs to stop his offspring cracking a carjacked junkie over the head in the streets of L.A.
The immediacy of our culture ensures the young and impressionable habits and hobbies have evolved beyond kicking a ball about in the park, after downing a bottle of blue pop and being sick in the hedge bottom. The values instilled from a more ‘old fashioned’ upbringing are no longer that easy to impart. How can we expect that football is going to be coursing through the veins of today’s ‘kids’ like it did for the previous aforementioned ‘Class of 92’? I personally don’t think we can.
I will tip-toe around the increasingly clichéd territory of the ‘trappings of fame’. I’d also like to acknowledge with a passing nod that the ‘Class of ’92’ did not take on the world by themselves, they had leaders of the like the game can simply never replicate: Eric and Keano.
If it were to have a chance, it would have to happen sooner rather than later. I feel when SAF retires the traditions our club has clasped close to its chest and held dear with regards to the nurturing of the prospective talent will become more difficult to sustain, as the lust for instant gratification becomes king. Someone’s job will no doubt depend on it.
Far from being a naysayer I would like to conclude as I opened, I can’t think of anything more satisfying than seeing a product of our youth system (preferably, a local lad – Hi Danny) progress and break through into the first XI. I just believe that for a throng of them to do so, in the manner of the ‘Class of ’92′, would be less likely than it ever has. The number of ‘what if’s’ that such an occurrence usually struggles against, now has to compete with societal change.
I would love nothing more than to be proved absolutely wrong as the waffling idiot that I am.