Orient snap up young brothers for keeps
SQUABBLING over who plays striker can take hours for most young kids, especially those keen to recreate Dimitar Berbatov s latest solo special – but not for the Gottliebs. Young brothers Zach and Harry, of Muswell Hill, would sooner wear
By Jonny Weeks
SQUABBLING over who plays striker can take hours for most young kids, especially those keen to recreate Dimitar Berbatov's latest solo special - but not for the Gottliebs.
Young brothers Zach and Harry, of Muswell Hill, would sooner wear the goalie gloves.
Aged just ten and eleven, the pair have enjoyed glorious seasons in their respective junior sides - they scooped league and cup titles with Hampstead FC and were recently offered new contracts with Leyton Orient.
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"We're delighted," said their father Jim.
"The standard of training they are receiving is fantastic and it's a great opportunity for them."
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The Yerbury School pupils showed keeper's instincts from an early age, choosing to gather the ball with their hands rather than kick it, and have been involved in The O's youth system for two and three years respectively.
"I've always said goalkeepers are a different species and these two certainly are," said Jim.
"Keepers tend to have almost a suicidal urge. They have to throw themselves into danger areas without even thinking, and Harry and Zach are like that.
"They're not like strikers - they don't get their adrenalin rush from racing away from defenders and shooting, they get it from being the last line of defence."
But youth football carries with it risks as great as those in the Premiership.
Not long after Petr Cech was knocked unconscious and fractured his skull diving at the feet of Reading's Stephen Hunt, Harry was struck with an equally horrific injury.
Playing for Leyton Orient under 11s, he pounced on a 50/50 ball with two strikers bearing down on him, but took a boot to the face which shattered his nose in five places.
"His nose was on the side of his face, he went into shock and the quickest way to hospital was for me to drive him," said Jim.
"But his eyes started rolling up into his head and he went pale.
"We were worried because his cheek bone had been pushed back into his face and it was treated as a head injury, but he has made a full recovery."
You wouldn't know Harry had been through such trauma when you see him diving around on the pitch these days.
He displays the same commitment and enthusiasm in the face of danger as ever before.
"I don't even think about it at all. You have to be brave to be a keeper," he said, scrolling through photographs of the accident with a sadistic smile.
Harry's coach at Hampstead FC, Jamie Histed, said: "He's a tremendous goalkeeper - by far the best in the Camden & Islington League.
"He's quick on the ball which is great for counter-attacks, and his distribution is excellent. He's the backbone of our team."
Zach, who is an ardent Spurs fan just like his older brother, says he has learnt everything he knows from Harry. Little wonder then that he too receives high praise from his Hampstead coach.
Sean McCarthy said: "For a little lad he's very vocal and he's a good shot-stopper."
Nevertheless, Jim refuses to get carried away with thoughts of the future.
"As a parent you don't let yourself think about it too much," he said.
"I would say that one in every 200 kids who trains at the academy goes on to make it.
"I'm most happy because they're doing something useful with their time instead of playing computer games and watching TV. And they get a lot of confidence from knowing they are good at something."