Baird tells hotshot Sam to be fearless at Fulham

By Wendy Gee -

IAN Baird has advised Eastleigh’s teenage striker Sam Wilson not to feel daunted when he returns to Premier League outfit Fulham on Thursday.

After impressing on an assessment week with the Craven Cottage club, the former Wildern schoolboy has been invited back for a trial game this Saturday which, by coincidence, is his 17th birthday.

“From what I hear Sam has gone up to Fulham last week and done alright, which I always thought he would,” said Baird.

“As far as I know he’s going back up there to train this Thursday and Friday and then playing a game on Saturday morning.

“I don’t think it will faze him. I told him not to go up there and feel inferior because he’s got a lot of very good qualities.

“He’s a hard worker and he believes in himself, but he hasn’t got an inflated opinion of himself.

“A lot of these kids at professional clubs have been in the system since they were ten and they all get told they’re going to be the next Bobby Zamora or whoever.

“But I think Sam will have qualities that they haven’t got. Just like Aaron Martin (sold by Eastleigh to Saints) he’s got a real desire to be a professional footballer.”

Admitting he is “not a great advocate” of the academy system, former Saints and Leeds United striker Baird argued: “It has taken away from the days when all young lads were trying to do was earn a contract to play professional football and make a good living.

“These days pro clubs are having to entice these lads to join them by giving them a hell of a lot of money.

“If you give a lad X-amount of pounds before he’s achieved anything, where does the desire come from?

“In some of these academies you’ve got people earning upwards of £500-£600 a week. It’s a real vicious circle.”

Wilson was an academy lad himself with Portsmouth before joining the Eastleigh youth set-up last season.

He had a chance to go back to Fratton Park in the summer but felt he had a better chance of progressing with the Spitfires who, in the last four seasons, have helped Martin, Brett Williams, Mark Marshall and Damian Scannell into the pro game.

“Sam’s come to us and he reminds me very much of Aaron with his unquenchable desire to succeed,” said Baird.

“I’ve told him to go to Fulham and show his peers no respect whatsoever.

“I said there’s massive improvement in you and they can’t buy what you’ve got.

“I wish Sam all the best. It’s good for him and good for the club that the module of bringing young players through is working.”

West End-based Wilson played for the Spitfires in the FA Youth Cup against Salisbury City last night and scored a penalty in a 1-0 win.

In the FA Cup, Baird’s men have landed a home draw against Evo-Stik Premier high riders Oxford City in the third qualifying round on Saturday week (October 15).

“We’re at home against a lower league side, but Oxford are going well and we know how difficult it will be,” said Baird. “We’ll have them watched this Saturday and take it from there.”

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