Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

At the Sharpe end of football

Posted on 15 October 2019 by Laoishe MacCana

Scouted at the age of five, Tom Sharpe currently plays as a midfielder for West Bromwich Albion, in the U18’s Premier Youth League.

Speaking to The Sports Gazette, Tom Sharpe highlights his courage through adversity and incredible positive outlook.  His genuine and likeable personality radiates as he shares a fascinating insight into the world of an up and coming footballer.

The life of a professional footballer can appear glamorous, with the fame, expensive cars, big houses and fancy holidays, but the life sacrifices young footballers make are concealed and unknown to many.

Aged 13, Sharpe demonstrated his remarkable commitment to his career as a football player.  He left his family, friends, Winchcombe School and his local football team to move from Cheltenham to Birmingham.  He made the brave decision to live with another family and finish his two years of GCSEs at a Birmingham school.

In addition to the significant sacrifices Tom had to make, he also faced the challenges of strenuous training programs.  Training for two hours, four days a week and a match on Saturdays, Sharpe required immense focus and dedication to excel educationally, physically, and handle his emotions of his home life upheaval.

“I stayed [in Birmingham] Monday – Friday, then home Saturday, Sunday.  I did feel homesick at the beginning.  So I missed home quite a lot, and it took me four/five months to get used to it, but because I wanted to be a footballer, I have had to do these sort of things, so I had to get through it.  But now it’s all good and I don’t really miss home,” the 18-year-old said.

It’s evident that young footballers with high potential are propelled at a tender age into a different life and difficult changes.

Sharpe exudes a unique positive attitude which has supported him through leaving everything he has ever known to pursue his dream and excel in his sport.

Sharpe on the road to recovery (Credit West Bromwich Albion Football Club)
Sharpe on the road to recovery (Credit West Bromwich Albion Football Club)

Injuries that leave players out of the action, are yet another devastating obstacle in the world of professional sport.

Last season Sharpe faced a potentially career ending anterior cruciate ligament injury. In search of the best medical attention, he travelled to France for an operation and after a 12-month period of rehabilitation and hard work, he was back to full strength and eager to get back on the pitch.

Injuries can cause a plethora of problems both physically and mentally, which can be detrimental to an athletes return to sport. Sharpe explains how he stayed focused on his recovery even though he had to watch his team play without him.

“It was difficult because obviously, it was hard going from playing everyday to then suddenly not being able to play for 12 months.  For me it was more about managing myself, when do I watch and when do I keep myself to myself,” he said.

With the help of supportive coaches and a mature head on his shoulders, Sharpe stayed focused on his end goal.

However, injury isn’t the only thing which is an unfortunate reality for young footballers coming through the ranks.  Verbal abuse is an unfortunate issue on the pitch, whether it’s barked from the side-lines or delivered on social media.  Young footballers coming up the ranks like Sharpe have sadly become accustomed to the fact that abuse is now a significant part of the sport.

“I just think it’s always going to happen, wherever you go, wherever you play, you’re not going to be able to stop someone from shouting abuse at you, so it’s the kind of thing you have to laugh off really, you are there to play football,” said Sharpe.

(Credit West Bromwich Albion Football Club)
(Credit West Bromwich Albion Football Club)

Describing his future goals, Sharpe’s drive, positivity, and strength of character is clear to see.

“My aim is to train everyday and just be the best player on the pitch, earn myself another contract and hopefully break into the first team squad in the next couple of years.  That’s the biggest aim.”