BLOG: Back in my day '“ former Blades prospect Dom Roma on what young pros could gain from cleaning boots
There's been a bit of press talk recently about the change in attitude of the young professional and YTS footballer.
Danny Higginbotham wrote an article for the Independent about footballers being given too much too soon.
So I started thinking back to when I first walked into Bramall Lane at 16, straight out of school, ready to try and forge a career as a professional footballer.
The question I asked myself was do young professionals get it easier now than when I was young?
Playing in the Conference North for the last 10 years with numerous clubs, coming across quite a few loan players from pro clubs has led me to believe that times have most definitely changed.
Gone are the days of cleaning boots in the boot room and missing your bus home to make sure the pro’s boots were spot on, dreading getting into training in the morning to find that the boots you were responsible for were not up to scratch.
This gave me a sense of responsibility and accountability that would benefit me more after football.
These days the young lads don’t seem to clean boots and as Higginbotham pointed out, in his last season at Stoke they had to tell the young pro how much they would be paid.
Previously, you got what you were given and that was it, no questions asked.
Higginbotham highlighted that this made a bond between the older pros generation and his, and I have to say I completely agree.
Being around the first team made you want to be there all the time, even making the teas on the bus and in and around the training ground if it meant you were with the first team. You just did it, no questions asked.
Another benefit of being in that environment is it hardens you for what inevitably is a dog eat dog world.
You meet so many characters that make you who you are.
Rob Kozluk is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in football, and I was the butt of a few jokes, but I still maintain that it made me the kind of person I am today, in and out of the dressing room.
I remember a few seasons ago myself and Greg Young pulled off a bit of a stunt on the bus back from Barrow, and a young lad we had on loan at the time couldn’t believe we did – but to the older lads it was good fun.
This highlighted to me that these younger lads aren’t around these characters anymore.
When I first signed for Gainsborough there were some lively characters in the changing room, like Gav Cowen, Leon Mettam, Lew McMahon and Phil Barnes.
But the upbringing I’d had helped me settle in straight away.
My full-time career fell by the wayside at 21, after showing promise and representing my country.
Without being given responsibility, cleaning boots, changing rooms and showers as a young lad, I probably wouldn’t have had the independence and the drive to forge out a career as a PE teacher and non league footballer.
These young lads don’t have that, or are not exposed to it, and that could be why they fall out of the game at such a young age.
And maybe it’s the reason why so many talented players have never fulfilled their potential.