I could write this in a DM, a newspaper column or this way, so everyone could see, and hopefully make you think, react and listen. Why? I've been where you are and some.
If you're at a London football club, you can get lost in the crowd, with 10 or more clubs for journos, hacks to cover, privacy in other words.
Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle are goldfish bowls, so players go north or south of those cities to live and socialise mostly.
Birmingham has the centre of town, with one of the country's biggest clubs in it, 2 million people on the doorstep, and a village mentality that I didn't see living in London, Leeds or London. You're a big local fish in a very big pond in a very small area of town where everyone knows you, wants a part of you, wants something from you, reflected glory, a few quid , notoriety, and none of it benefits you.
When I moved to Brum, it was a disaster. Villa fan signs a club record deal, who was going to win the club the league.
They all came out of the woodwork, Long lost friends, old school friends, hangers on, "come to this party Stan, come to that club", every day, every week, while trying to keep focused as a footballer, while letting poor choices drag me down and eventually consume me leading to severe mental health issues.
I bet you've had the following?
Paid for your pals holidays?
Had them around you, with them telling you" I've got your back Jack?"
Girls throwing numbers at you in town?
Had parties in hotels where you're lucky if 1 or 2 people really give a fuck about you, Jack Grealish?
You're a baby in life and a talented kid with it all in front of you. Caps, goals, security, and a very proud family who I saw after the Cup SF at Wembley who were so proud it reminded me of my family.
They are all you need kid.
The school pals, the people in town, other players at other clubs( be especially aware of them, the shit ones will happily see you fail), get rid of them if they don't tick one box. Loyalty.
Loyalty towards a young footballer unfortunately is boring son. Loyalty is a pal coming round for a coffee or a game of CoD. It's never taking money, hospitality or encouraging you to be in a place where someone can take a video or photo of you flat on your back. Ever. EVER.
Some family members don't know how to treat a young footballer in the family. After all they pay the bills, buy the houses and cars, but if you've got anyone today who's said to you "You're going to lose it all if you're not careful, and I'm not happy with this continually happening", then keep them very very close.
Anyone who says "You're only young once, fuck them it's only fun, etc etc", they are the ones, whoever they are who need to go in the bin.
The last two youngsters I spoke to at Villa about the dangers were Lee Hendrie and Gareth Barry. One, like me, got the Birmingham village horribly wrong, the other has just played his 600th Premier League game.
Make your choice, stick to it and only keep the best of the best who've proven themselves by your side. Or you're finished, I guarantee it.
Good luck, am always here to chat.
Up The Villa, Jack.