Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Lifting the Lid on Life as a United Youngster

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Lifting the Lid on Life as a United Youngster

Article excerpt

CHATTING up a mop, being struck by a ball wrapped in a towel if you got a question wrong and doing unthinkable things to a Clayton Blackmore calendar.

Life on the youth training scheme at United was not as glamorous as it seemed as the club's senior players threw their weight around at the Cliff with those infamous initiations.

Those embarrassing moments helped shape the Class of '92 but perhaps one of the youngsters' greatest legacies was curbing the more sinister initiations, as defender Chris Casper remembers.

"The culture and environment that developed was very competitive and challenging at times," he told M.E.N. Sport. "The initiations and stuff like that. When we first started going down it wasn't very pleasant at times.

"Strong characters like Gary, Butty and Scholesy changed that culture and developed it how we wanted to develop it. How it should be. The dressing room should be a sanctuary as players. That's your room." Then there was the small matter of the boss, Eric Harrison.

But the secret behind Harrison's success was not those spine-tingling knocks on his office window when one of his players made a mistake out on the training pitch, it was how he got to know his players and knew which buttons to press.

And, having joined the club from lowly Harrowby United at age of 16, it was a big change for goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington in learning about the importance of pre-match preparation. "It was a shock to the system," he said. "I was playing non-league football and it was not as serious as it was under Eric.

"Eric was fantastic - hard but fair - and would tell you if you did something wrong. He would nail you but you appreciated that because everyone had the utmost respect for him. …

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