Pompey pair with a message to game’s young elite

Matt Clarke
Matt Clarke
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

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It wasn’t so long ago he was being hailed as one of the English game’s bright, young goalkeeping hopes.

A much-trumpeted young talent with international age-group honours after being handed a three-year contract at a top-flight club.

Liam O’Brien thought he’d arrived after the lavish terms were dolled out to him as a 16-year-old.

Now, the 24-year-old isn’t taking it for granted where his wages will be coming from to support his young family next month, after signing for Pompey on an initial four-week deal on his return.

Young pros of the Premier League take note.

It’s easy to see how the Blues keeper could’ve got carried away after being wooed to Fratton Park as a teenager.

It was, no doubt, the same for Crawley midfielder Josh Payne who turned out in his side’s 3-0 defeat on Saturday.

Seven years ago, Payne made his Premier League debut for West Ham and had the football world at his feet. Or so he thought.

‘I had a bit of success and I thought I’ve arrived here,’ Payne said, as he reflected on his breakthrough.

‘But it comes all at once and you don’t know what to do.’

A year later Payne was released from Upton Park. Two-and-a-half years on from that he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for actual bodily harm and assault, as his life careered out of control.

Now, Broadfield Stadium provides his place to earn a crust after being ditched by Aldershot – and with stints at Eastleigh and Woking in between.

A common thread between the pair is the results of having status and wealth thrust upon them at a formative stage of their career.

In a revealing interview in the Sports Mail last Saturday, O’Brien spoke openly and eloquently about its impact.

He acknowledged his hunger was in all likelihood affected as his bank balance grew and he went through the motions.

Now there are very different demands fuelling his fire.

‘It was horrible because I had a baby on the way and everything which comes with it,’ he said of the time his Pompey contract came to a close.

‘That’s the point when you really start working because you don’t realise how easy you had it. It’s all changed now, though. I’m fighting for my life in football really.’

O’Brien went on to deliver a view there should be rules put in place to protect youngsters handed luxuriant contracts.

He used the example of Chelsea – where teenager Dominic Solanke was said to be asking for a £50,000-a-week deal earlier this year – as an example.

‘I see 18-year-olds at Chelsea on £6,000 or £7,000 a week, he said.

‘They are probably never going to play for the first team but they get all big time.’

With 38 players currently out on loan and Solanke making one sub cameo appearance for Chelsea to date, he might well have a point.

So thank-you Matt Clarke for this week restoring our faith in the increasingly warped world young players inhabit.

Clarke told The News how it was his desire to make a move to Pompey to prove his worth, rather than sit in the stands at Ipswich and call himself a Championship player.

And the young defender stated it wasn’t the walk in the park in League Two many of his contemporaries in the top two tiers would anticipate.

‘You have to play and earn it so everyone can see what you are about,’ said Clarke, in a faith-restoring response from the 19-year-old.

‘I think that should be the way before you get the credit.’

You hoped those Premier League youngsters with the zeroes shared unevenly between their bank balances and appearance stats were listening. But somehow you doubted it.