CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Lockdown coaching for the stars of tomorrow

Footballers offer top tips during video-call interviews

17 April, 2020 — By Steve Barnett

Aiden O’Brien: ‘Don’t try to be the next Messi’

SCORES of wannabe professional footballers have been spending their lockdown getting tips and advice from big-hitters who have already carved out successful careers within the beautiful game.

Coaches from Camden Elite Football Academy have been hosting a series of live interviews on Instagram with “pro ballers”, including Millwall striker Aiden O’Brien and Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford.

Republic of Ireland international O’Brien, who grew up in Islington, revealed how he spent time bouncing around lower-league clubs on loan learning his trade before going on to play almost 200 games for his parent club Millwall.

QPR youth coach Liban Mude (left) chats to Leeds’ Patrick Bamford in a lockdown video call

The former Holloway schoolboy told young players “to keep working hard”, and that they “had to be themselves” when they stepped out onto the pitch. He also urged the next generation not to allow themselves to be distracted from their goal, saying “there is plenty of time for house parties once you’ve hang up your boots”.

The 26-year-old added: “You have to play your own game, enjoy yourself and let the rest blossom. If you are good enough, you will get spotted.

“Don’t try to be the next Messi or Didier Drogba, just be you – train hard, and do whatever you can to help your team.”

O’Brien was 15 when he was scouted while playing for his dad’s team, Isledon Wolves, in the Camden and Islington Youth League at Market Road. But it was a decision he made years earlier – and the support of his family – that really led to his big break.

Aiden O’Brien, who grew up in Islington, in action for Millwall

“When I first kicked a ball I was probably around eight years old, and I just loved football from then,” recalled the Arsenal fan. “From the age of eight to about 12 I never took my eyes off football. But when you’re from an estate in Islington, there are distractions, and other things get in the way.

“That’s when I was at a crossroads, but I got guided in the right direction, and put all my energy into football.”

Meanwhile, Bamford, whose goals helped fire Leeds to the top of the Championship before the coronavirus outbreak, also urged future footballers “to make big sacrifices” in their bid to make it within the professional ranks.

The 26-year-old striker said: “You might have a game with an academy on a Saturday, and your friends have rung you up the night before and said they’re going to this party.

“Things like that, you have got to be willing to give up in order to get to where you want to be. I feel like the sacrifices you make early on, you reap the rewards down the line.”

As a youth player Bamford was at Nottingham Forest at the same time as Camden Elite founder Sebastian Eurico, and while Eurico didn’t go on to flourish at the same level in the professional game, he did set up one of the top football academy’s in the country.

His former teammate had nothing but praise for what Eurico has gone on to achieve. “I know Seb is doing a great job at Camden Elite,” said Bamford.

“I’m proud of him.

“He’s a good example to the kids because he was a good player but, for whatever reason, didn’t quite make the jump.

“He’s shown that he loves the game so much he has taken what he’s learned and given it back to the kids.”

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