Harty on . . . the Albion and the Six Nations

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WITHOUT wishing to sound like a cracked record, I have always considered it a privilege to have this column as a platform for my personal opinion.

By the very nature of the definition of opinion, not everyone’s going to agree with what I write every week, but that’s the whole point of writing it.

If everyone agreed with 100 per cent of what I wrote, I doubt I’d have lasted 11 months, let alone 11 years and, in that time, I have, on a number occasions, upset individuals at the Albion.

I can’t be a nodding dog and, if I consider things aren’t right, I’m in a position where I can say something. By the same token, if I see the Albion in a positive light, I can also comment.

Last Saturday, the Worthing under-18 squad were invited over to the Albion training ground for a training game.

After the game, I was taken on a tour of the facility by academy staff member, Mark Hendon.

I was extremely impressed by everything, none more so than the aspirational design of the building, where the youth players can see the senior pros at training and in their first-team restaurant and lounge.

While, ostensibly, what happens with the first team at the Amex is the key, the firm foundations built at Lancing are also an integral part of the whole set-up.

While a number of the existing 23,000 season ticket holders might be having doubts about renewing, a trip around the training ground might change their perception of the whole situation.

Outside possibly half a dozen top clubs in the country, where arguably young English players won’t even get a sniff anyway, the Albion now find themselves in the box seat when it comes to attracting young players.

That is a result of their facilities and their geographical location (we all know this is the nicest place to live in the UK).

The only downside of the whole experience was, in the academy restaurant, there was another aspirational aspect, in the form of a glass montage depicting all the players who had come through the academy to play first-team football for the Albion.

All the Withdean/Amex luminaries are featured but, perhaps the most poignant two being Messrs Cook and Elphick, who are now on the cusp of playing top-flight football down the coast at Bournemouth.

It is testament to the fact – and encouragement to any young local player let go by the Albion – that even the experts can sometimes get it wrong.

The final round of the Six Nations possibly produced some of the most exciting northern hemisphere rugby seen on one day. It was all on free-to-air TV, showing that not all top-level sport has to end up on Murdoch TV.

And, as thrilling as all three matches were, perhaps equally as uplifting was the fact that a large number of youngsters who play other sports saw professional sportsmen accepting every decision and treating the officials with respect.

Put that up against Saturday night’s edition of Match of the Day, when a number of managers felt it necessary to criticise referees, rather than look at the shortcomings of their own respective teams.

Not quite a bad workman blaming his tools?