The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE -

SKIP­PER at 21. A to­tal of 93 first-team games. Th­ese days, Cal­lum Camps is pa­raded as the star pupil of Rochdale’s flour­ish­ing academy.

But it wasn’t al­ways that way. Like so many teenagers, Camps found the lure of nights out difficult to re­sist.

Amid icy pitches and early nights, the dream ca­reer seemed dis­tant and in­dis­tinct.

The missed nights in Manch­ester were far more real and vivid.

So fo­cused are we on tech­ni­cal skills that this as­pect of youth coaching – on the mo­ti­va­tion and re­as­sur­ance re­quired by young foot­ballers – often goes un­men­tioned.

Yet it’s of crit­i­cal im­por­tance and Camps says that, with­out the pa­tience and un­der­stand­ing of Dale’s academy staff, he might not be playing to­day.

“Those coaches are the big­gest rea­son I came through,” ex­plains the mid­fielder. “When I was younger, my at­ti­tude wasn’t the best. Most of the man­agers used to get an­noyed with me.

“As a kid, I just en­joyed playing, like ev­ery­one does.

“By the time it gets to Un­der-16s – or the youth team, when you’d get paid – it felt more se­ri­ous. You’d still en­joy it, but it wasn’t like playing with my mates.

“Then you see your mates start­ing to go out at week­ends and en­joy­ing them­selves.

But you’ve got a game in the morn­ing so you’re at home, think­ing about them hav­ing fun.

“Even now, I’m happy to ad­mit I still feel like I’m miss­ing out.

“In hind­sight, I can stand here and say it was worth­while.

“But at the time, you’re think­ing ‘Is this re­ally go­ing to be worth it?’ There were def­i­nitely times when I didn’t want to carry on playing.

“But the coaches here – and my dad – were al­ways say­ing ‘Come on, keep go­ing, give it a cou­ple of years. You could be in the first team’. Now I am, I’m very grate­ful.”

That mes­sage is a lot harder to con­vey with a straight face at clubs higher up the lad­der. In­deed, while Camps is already a vet­eran of three sea­sons, Dale team-mate Mark Kitch­ing has played just six pro games, hav­ing emerged from Mid­dles­brough’s Cat­e­gory One academy only to flounder on the rocks of first-team in­dif­fer­ence. The pair are the same age.

“When you see play­ers at big­ger teams, most of them leave and go down­hill,” said Camps. “I was al­ways aware I’d have a bet­ter chance here. My dad and his friends re­in­forced that.

“When I was 16, I was sup­posed to be go­ing to Ful­ham. But I had so many peo­ple say­ing ‘You’d be much bet­ter off here, don’t do it’. A few years later I’ve played nearly 100 games.

“Would I ad­vise a young play­ers to re­ject a big club? You never know, they could be a much bet­ter player than me with a great shot at mak­ing it.

“So I’d never say ‘What you’re do­ing is wrong’. I’d just say you’ll have a bet­ter chance of be­ing no­ticed some­where like Rochdale be­cause the path­ways are there.”

Mark Kitch­ing

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