From "Gun City" to Liverpool FC: Nathaniel Clyne's uplifting rise

'No Hunger In Paradise' author Michael Calvin tells Team 33 about the England international's tough early days

Nathaniel Clyne, Liverpool

Nathaniel Clyne, Liverpool. Dave Howarth/PA Archive/PA Images

As Michael Calvin's book No Hunger In Paradise reveals, the system of youth football often results in a "cruel process" which sees virtually 99% of players churned through the system and then unceremoniously cast aside.

But there are the rare feelgood stories of players who make it all the way through the system and onto careers in the Premier League. Next week's Newstalk Team 33 interviewee Darius Vassell was one of those rare cases to make it through every step of the system.

One of those that Calvin discussed with Team 33 this week though was Liverpool and England right back Nathaniel Clyne.

The 26 year old progressed away from an incredibly tough local environment as a child in London to join Crystal Palace en route to Liverpool via three years at Southampton.

Calvin relayed the player's story on this week's show: "One of the most uplifting experiences I had which was over 18 months research for the book was seeing hope in operation and that was in Brixton in London where there is a training centre there called Afewee.

"Clyne was quite typical in his way. He came from a gang controlled estate, he lived in a block of flats which was known locally as Gun City or Murder Zone in which you literally had 12 and 13 year olds going round with Mac 10 machine guns. Football was his way out.

"What I found uplifting was that this centre, boys were coming off the street. The principle of it is a guy called Steadman Scott who served six years and came out of prison with a real desire to try and save boys from the community that almost swallowed him up.

"It's a very harsh environment. Some of the boys told me they had direct experience of friends being murdered in gang related disputes. But Steadman has a very, very strong moral background and he's a typical Jamaican Dad by his own admission. He shouts and barks at these boys but there's a tenderness to him as well.

"He's got about 40-odd players in the academy at the moment and he's produced 20 pros. Now, Nathaniel Clyne, he spotted him at 8 years old and he was playing cage football and he saw - it's interesting when you speak to coaches about where they get their sense that there might be something special here and funnily enough a lot of them talk about the eyes, that there's that look in the eye. And Steadman saw that look in the eye of the 8 year old Nathaniel Clyne. He assessed his talent, worked on it a little bit, took him to Arsenal but they said he was too small. They took him to Tottenham and they said he was too small. But as you said earlier, he went into Palace, onto Southampton and onto Liverpool. And he is a great symbol of hope for those kids in that environment." 

You can listen to the full interview with Michael Calvin on the podcast player below: