I conducted an interview with Jim Whitley, the ex Manchester City and Northern Ireland footballer. Jim made 38 appearances for Man City during his career and also had spells at Norwich, Blackpool, Swindon, Northampton and notably Wrexham. He also gained 3 international caps for Northern Ireland.
What do you think of the youth system now at Manchester City and youth system when you came through?
Looking at the youth system at Manchester City there has been an incredible change. When I first came through we used to clean the boots of the first team players. The first team players would take you under their wing and look after you. There would be something for you to aspire to. Nowadays , it is much different. There is a separation between the youngsters and the first team. The facilities at Manchester City are world-class but it is not a real atmosphere. You have youngsters who have not played a game for Manchester City on big salaries. The youths are being rewarded before they have done anything. During my years, it was much performance based and they need to move back to this.
People talk about that youths today and how they no longer are able to tolerate criticism. Craig Bellamy was talking about how he had u14’s crying after he criticised them. Do you think that’s true?
Yes I do agree I think that when I was coming through you had managers who would criticise you and it would make or break you. I saw a lot of more talented players who were unable to tolerate that and in so didn’t make it for that reason. For these youngsters they need to learn to cope with the criticism. As when they play in their first team in front of fans the criticism from opposing fans is something else and you have to be mentally tough to be able to deal with that.
As a footballer do you find that there were a lot of temptations in the game?
During my time you find a lot of sharks in the game who try and tempt you into different things. You find people trying to get you to invest in projects, to gamble and agents as well trying to sell you things. It became so that you don’t trust anyone as you feel they are only chasing the money situation. I know colleagues who have had made bad choices in property and have now become bankrupt due to this.
A lot of Manchester City fans feel that they find harder to relate to the team with less home-grown lads being in the team. Do you think this is true?
I think what Pep Guardiola is doing at Manchester City is amazing with the style of play and the team. He is also making sure that all the players can speak good English and have a good image for the club. I agree that there are less homegrown players coming through and it is going to be virtually impossible for them now to break into the team of such high quality.
Do you feel a lot of British players are now having to go down to the Championship and League 1 and League 2?
I think there is a dropping down effect as players who would previously have broken in at Premier League sides are now having to go down the football pyramid for opportunities. Due to the increase in foreign players and foreign managers in our leagues and the fact they are using these different systems
You are someone who had to deal with injuries during your career. How did you find that?
Injuries can be very difficult to manage and can be a lonely time as a player. I had quite a severe knee injury which needed arthroscopies and you do feel separate from the main team when you are injured. I don’t know how you tackle that problem. Sometimes you get managers who ask for updates about your injuries and sometimes you get managers who will hardly speak to you. Especially in the lower leagues, you would find clubs forcing you to play with injuries and you are unable to do yourself justice due to the injuries that you have. You also had times were clubs would misdiagnose injuries and then you exacerbate the injury by playing when you really need to rest or see a specialist..
Have you ever been tempted by management?
Modern football is such that managers are not given time to develop clubs. I have had managers who I really rate who have been sacked and just feel they have not been given time. The cost of the coaching badges and the philosophy behind the coaching manual I do not always agree on. For that reason I have decided not to go into management as I do not feel I would be a given a fair shot/enough time to implement what I would want to achieve.
Do you share some of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!