Everton sign 7 year-old Harry Yates – is this too young?

Everton have beaten off competition from Manchester United and Liverpool to secure the signing of a seven-year-old goalkeeper. Harry Yates will join up with Everton after being spotted playing for his junior side.

After much interest from a number of teams, including Manchester United and Liverpool, his parents decided the young goalkeeper from Heaton Mersey in Stockport, will be given the best care at Everton.

Harry’s father Phil, himself a former goalie, reckons it was only a matter of time.

“He has no other real hobbies – it really is his number one passion,” he said. “We even had to get him soft balls because we can’t stop him kicking around inside, so bang go the ornaments and glassware.”

Harry also practices every day with the half-sized nets that have been put up in his back garden.

The potential young star will practice on the same field as the first team at their Finch Lane facility in Halewood, Cheshire.

“He’s not stopped talking about it and says he has butterflies in his tummy,” said Phil, “He is old enough to understand what a big thing it is but his mother and I have kept his feet on the ground.”

“He also knows he can be dropped just as easily if the effort flags but it will be a fantastic experience.” Harry’s mum Julia added: “Our biggest concern is that he enjoys his journey.”

I wrote recently about the trials and tribulations I have suffered being the father of a talented young player, but to start all that at the age of seven?!

When I first read the news I wasn’t entirely sure what I felt about it. I’m all for finding and developing young talent, but seven years-old just seems too young and vaguely wrong somehow.

I am in no way criticising Harry or his parents and I wish them the very best of luck. They seem really sensible and are doing what almost any parents would do in the same situation.

If I am criticising anything, it is the football world and society in general. Surely seven years old is too young for any football clubs to be ‘pursuing’ anyone.

I have a friend of a friend who has had a son at Bristol Rovers since the age of nine. Now, at seventeen, the boy has been released. That is an awful situation for the boy. Eight years of dreaming of being a professional footballer and playing for his local professional side, and then gone. It’s all over.

I know from personal experience that on that dreaded day when you are told, “Sorry son, you’re not going to make it,” the lives of the children and parents change forever. Imagine this family at Bristol Rovers. At least twice a week for eight years the boy has met up with and trained with his mates. The Dad, if he was anything like me, will have formed great frienships with the other parents at the club. So when the child is released by the club, not only are dreams shattered, your whole life changes as well.

You walk in one door to speak to the Academy director and walk out the other with a different life. It is a massive moment and one that needs to be managed carefully if it isn’t to have a psychological effect on all concerned.

I can’t speak for Everton, but in the case of most professional clubs it is a case of “Goodbye and thanks for coming” when they release a young player. As far as they are concerned that is the end of their involvement with the young person, and it is left to the parents to pick up the pieces.

That is what worries me about young Harry. He might turn out to be the next Neville Southall or Tim Howard, but that is still a one in a million chance. So many things could go wrong. He might not grow big enough for example. I have another friend who is the father of a very talented goalkeeper. He was at Bournemouth for a while but he stopped growing at around 5’8″. It doesn’t matter how talented he is, at that size he will never go beyond semi-pro football.

The boy might just not develop enough to make it. I hope he does, but although Harry’s father talks about keeping ‘his feet on the ground’ the dreams are already beginning. To Everton, Harry will just be another kid on the production line. To Harry and his parents this is their life. They must start to prepare for possible disappointment because Harry could go all the way to sixteen or seventeen years old and then be discarded. Everton won’t care because they’ll have other young keepers that they think are better.

I don’t want to sound like the ‘Grinch’ and I don’t want to spoil anyones ambitions or dreams, but I do fear for the psychological well being of kids who are handed the dream at such a young age.

Hat tip to Soccerlens’ own Steve Amoia for first alerting me to the above news.

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