London soccer skill compared to world talent

By Jonathan BrodieSource:

Canada might not be that far behind England when it comes to soccer. That statement would raise some eyebrows in London, Ontario and 5,800 kilometres across the pond in the other London, but it’s a statement John Megson, a camp director for England’s Sheffield Wednesday F.C., stands by. In Megson’s eyes, the Canuck children have already reached the English level.

Megson has spent the last month checking out the talent of clubs as far west as Las Vegas and San Francisco and as east as Oshawa. Megson, along with his partner Kevin Noteman, were in the Forest City from Friday to Sunday (July 25 to 27) looking at roughly 100 players, ages eight to 21 years old, from the North London Soccer Club (NLSC). The younger the better, Megson admits.

“There’s certain kids over here at seven, eight, nine that showed immense ability,” he said.

By the end of Megson’s North American trip, he’ll have seen about 500 players and will invite about 100 of them to England in March to learn the game from Sheffield’s coaches. Megson expects 10 of those players to be handpicked to train in Sheffield’s academy. Sheffield plays in the Football League Championship and is one of the oldest professional soccer clubs in the world.

With all the talent he’s seen, Megson equates a lot of the local skill he’s evaluated to being on par with the soccer ability back in his home.

The difference he sees between the two countries is the way players are nurtured. Opportunities are endless overseas for youth and things are vastly different in the way young athletes are prepped.

NLSC president John Dreliozis said Megson and Noteman were telling him about how they’ve sold 10- and 11-year-old players to big name clubs like Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Imagine the Toronto Maple Leafs scouting a child in Grade 5. That scenario is somewhat second nature for English soccer clubs. The goal is to keep tabs on a player’s progression at a young age and see how far they can go.

The scouting goes outside just skill. Megson said youth recruiters would even look at the size of a child’s parents to judge potential growth.

“If they’re on the level of our kids then we should be looking after them, but they need coaching,” Megson said. “I’ve seen kids here in North London, and in Toronto and places like that, where they’re even better. If they’re even better then I’m sure, even if they didn’t make it to Sheffield Wednesday, there’s professional clubs out there that are absolutely awesome, so why can’t they give the kids a chance?”

Megson looks at young athletes as getting a soccer education. If one teacher can help a class of 30 students then four professional coaches should be able to do wonders for a group of skilled players roughly the same size. It just takes an opportunity.

“I think the government should realize that the kids over here got immense talent and the football game is a great profession,” Megson said. “I think the kids out here with the ability and skill should be able to push forward.”