This article by Sheffield journalist Richard Sparling first appeared in the FA Book for Boys 1950-51:
In the industrial cities of the north the boys of a generation ago had only stretched of bare waste land for football pitches. County Football Associations have done something towards changing all that. But ‘Made in Sheffield’ has always been a proud term applied not only to steel but to footballers as well.
Youth football in ‘Worktown’ today is so well organised and directed that a younger player of a generation ago would rub his eyes with amazement. Any really ambitious youngster these days has a good chance of rising to the greatest heights. And for those not so skilful, there are immeasurably better facilities for playing regularly.
When a youth takes a job with many companies in ‘Worktown,’ for instance, he is immediately introduced to what I will call the Welfare Officer. This gentleman has a friendly chat with him, finds out his background, his ideas on sport, his height, weight, and age. If he is fond of football he is promptly made a member of the sports club and its football section. Whatever his age he will gind a suitable team in which to find football.
It was not always so. Not very long ago in the industrial north there was little organised football under adequate supervision for youngsters after they left school. There was no broad highway from schools’ football to senior football. Younger people in the main were allowed to drift aimlessly, often out of the game altogether, or into the hands of unsavoury persons who ran unauthorised teams and medal competitions.