This morning I read an incredibly heartwarming story about young Sunderland striker Connor Shields right here on RokerReport.com that has got me feeling all giddy again - perhaps the most uplifting bit of news I’ve read about us since it was announced that Stewart Donald was taking ownership of the club a few months back.
If you haven’t taken a look at it yet, I urge you to do so. Shields’ story probably won’t get as much exposure today as it should and I felt compelled to write something about it, such was the inspiration that I’ve drawn from having read it.
The main take, of course, was that this young man felt it was necessary to return back to Wearside early for training in order to try and impress Jack Ross. Clearly the mantra that keeps on being repeated by our new owners and manager is starting to sink in with some of the players, particularly the young ones, and with the club facing at least one season playing in the third tier this presents many of them with a chance to show that they too can contribute to what happens with Sunderland’s fate in the future.
Amongst all the talk of young players who haven’t even kicked a ball yet for the first team informing the club that they plan to leave for greener grass elsewhere, it’s refreshing to hear Shields speak so passionately about his urge to head in for training early and knuckle down.
On top of that he spoke about returning back to his former club, Scottish League Two side Albion Rovers, in order to donate them some money that will go towards their running costs and supporting their youth system - an important show of gratitude that, unfortunately, we don’t see enough of from young players making their way in the game.
The money Shields has afforded his old club will go towards keeping their U20s side alive, and that’s a show of class from a footballer that is rarely seen these days.
Grassroots clubs get little to no financial help and are forced to raise funds by whatever means necessary in order to just be able to afford the basics, like kits, equipment, pitch fees and finding a place to train.
If more young players gave back to the clubs that gave them their start in the game we’d have a far better chance of providing quality footballers from the ground-level up in the future, and that’s important.
Of course, nobody is under any obligation to appropriate money towards their boyhood clubs, but wouldn’t it be nice if more of them were as gratuitous as Shields as been?
I’ve been involved with grassroots-level football for many years now and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that those involved with the running an organising at the very base level - coaches, secretaries and other volunteers - get little in the way of thanks or support.
Fact is, if more people gave back like Connor Shields has the entire landscape of football in this country would be much more different. Not enough of the wealth in this sport filters back down to those that need it most - but that’s an argument for another day.
Any young footballer looking on inspiration should look no further than at him, because his actions are those of the type of person you want at your club - he’s ambitious, loyal and hard-working.
So, I say thanks to Connor Shields for not only being such a thoroughly decent person but for reassuring me that, contrary to popular belief, there are still some decent human beings involved in this club that have been left over from the previous regime.