Brent coach believes leaving Neasden was the making of England and Liverpool star Raheem Sterling
PUBLISHED: 11:11 25 February 2015 | UPDATED: 11:11 25 February 2015
Growing up in Harlesden, Dean Sylvester was rated as one of the best players in Brent, if not London.
Aged 12, Chelsea paid Luton Town £18,000 in a tribunal to sign him. A short spell at QPR followed but he never hit the bright lights of the Premier League.
His former Brent coach, Peter Moring, told the Brent & Kilburn Times that Sylvester had more talent than Liverpool and England star Raheem Sterling.
It’s a compliment Sylvester, who is now working as a learning mentor/PE coach at Leopold Primary School, wishes he’d heard when he was younger.
He said: “If somebody had told how good I was when I was younger, and made me believe it, then maybe my whole thought process would have been different.
“I used to love playing football because I enjoyed it. My parents enjoyed me playing the game – it kept me out of trouble.
“My first match was for my old primary school, John Keble. I was in year 5 and I played for the year 6 team and did well.
“I remember my first Brent training session with Peter. He said to me, ‘you can’t play football but if you keep listening, you will be able to one day – just keep coming to training’. After one season I got a trial at Luton and they took me on.
“I was grounded. I understood the legalities about Chelsea having to pay a fee for me but there was a big expectation on me. Some people were saying I wasn’t good enough and others were saying I was the next Michael Owen.”
Sylvester added: “There were lots of positives coming out of playing football but on the flip side there were negatives because growing up in the area people knew my name. They didn’t know my face but they knew my name.
“There were people talking about me, which was a good thing, but there were some individuals who weren’t really into football who were quite jealous. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t make it as a professional player.
“That experience has helped to steer me in this direction of coming back and working with the youth.”
Sylvester believes Sterling leaving Neasden to join Liverpool aged 15 helped him to avoid some of the problems he encountered.
He said: “I don’t know him personally but I found out about Raheem when he first went to Liverpool and I admired the way he played.
“One of my neighbours was a friend of his and she used to show me clips of him on YouTube.
“I just saw this small, slim boy playing against these teams and taking on players with all sorts of skills and tricks and scoring goals.
“I just said, ‘I pray to God this child makes it’, and he did.
“I went to Copland School like he did. I used to get a lot of peer pressure in school from the older boys who were a bit rougher and I got into a bit of trouble.
“As a man looking back at that time now, it was actually physical and psychological bullying.
“There wasn’t any learning mentor or anyone you could go to for help. I just kept everything to myself and my answer was to defend myself.
“Some parents don’t understand football, education comes first. If anything goes wrong in school the first punishment is to stop the football. Sometimes there needs to be someone for the child to speak to. That’s what has brought me into working in schools.
“Football is great work experience. You can associate it to everything in life. You learn key skills like communication and you start to see how politics influences it.”
Sylvester now coaches the Brent Under-12 district team and, while still playing at South Kilburn, he is looking forward to starting a youth team with the club next season.
“I used to really get a spark from playing football, you forget about everything and from my first coaching session at the school I realised how much I wanted to get involved in that side of the game.
“I worked with Khaliq Callender in school and on his football. I think he could be the next Raheem Sterling.”
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