It was at a summer barbecue 10 years ago in a friend’s garden when my son Daniel dribbled past an array of international defenders, eliminated Mathew Upson playing a one-two with Teddy Sherringham and smashed the ball past a floundering Sasa Ilic in the plastic mini goal. Martin Keown remonstrated with his co defenders and Paul Konchesky simply laughed
“Great goal Scholesy” Teddy shouted and the nickname stuck, this Scholesy was 5 years old. The comparison was probably more to do with Dan’s copper coloured top and freckles than his talent but the goal resembled a typical Paul Scholes strike. Dan also adopted this great player as his idol. Dan is now 15 and gave up football long before Paul Scholes in favour of Athletics, Snowboarding and ‘free running’ and still Paul goes on; Sir Alex has indicated that he could continue at Manchester United for at least one more year at Premiership level. A new contract is testimony to the professionalism, dedication and passion of one of the games true greats.
Paul Scholes came up through the school of hard knocks and street football. A little kid playing with the big lads and developing techniques and skills to cope. This is the story of many of the ‘pocket dynamo’s’ and those with real talent often progress to the very pinnacle of football. Kevin Keegan and Alan Ball were also fine examples of that.
For me our finest is Paul Scholes. Spotted by Manchester City, signed by Manchester united and nurtured by Brian Kidd and Sir Alex Ferguson there can have been no doubts in Manchester that there was a gem in the city. This gem turned out to be part of the ‘crown jewels’
Paul has all the requirements of a top International player, not a sprinter but quick, like a rattlesnake he assesses the situation and then pounces, he reads the game well and these two ingredients make him a great opportunist and therefore a priceless commodity, a midfield general who can make and score goals.
His goals fall into two categories; subtle, with a simple incisive build up and a clinical finish inside the box and spectacular, volleys, half volleys and power drives from outside the box. This is only achieved with outstanding techniques and these are only developed through constant practice and nobody loves shooting and finishing practice better than ‘Scholesy ’
Herein lays the secret of the rest of his play; Character and personality.
I had the pleasure and privilege to work with Paul Scholes and the rest of the squad over a period spanning 22 games as assistant coach with the England Senior team. Paul was never happier than with a ball at his feet. He can’t resist smashing a ball into the back of the net and Ray Clemence and myself often found ourselves hiding the balls away during the warm down to prevent him belting them all over the Bisham Abbey training ground. He would still manage to find them despite our efforts and I am sure Kevin Keegan being of similar ‘cheeky’ character used to get them back out on purpose!
This character manifests itself on the pitch, Paul never knows when to stop and he never gives up always believing there is another shot, another pass or another goal scoring opportunity, this is infectious and it was no surprise to me when Manchester United won the European Champions League in overtime.
For England Paul established himself as a senior player but he got on with his job quietly and efficiently, above all he is a winner and there is also fire in his belly, sometimes this has brought him rebuke from referees but without it he would not have the array of medals he has won.
He is an enthusiastic player who badly wants to win but he is also a nice guy, great dad and family man; a role model in an industry never far from a personal scandal. He has never forgotten his roots and were he not the great International star we know he would still be kicking a ball around with his mates over the park.
My eldest son is a Manchester United fanatic and idolises Scholes I am glad my lads are fans of Pauls , nothing will give me and my boys greater pleasure than to see Paul Scholes ; socks around his ankles with the European Champions league trophy in his grasp. It’s just a great shame it won’t be the World Cup!
Sir Alf would tell you , you can’t win it without a pocket sized red head in the team!