RED DEVIL:Striker has always been Utd fan
MANCHESTER Danny Welbeck’s contribution to the current mind games between title rivals Manchester United and Manchester City is more slapstick than sinister. ‘City custard-pied me as a kid,’ says the young United striker, referring to the day he went for a trial there as an eight-year-old and was rejected.
‘My Dad didn’t tell me at the time, it was just before Christmas and he didn’t want to break any bad news. It wouldn’t have mattered though. I am one of those people that if you are going to say something, just say it. I take it on the chin.
‘Straight after Christmas I played in a tournament for my local side, Fletcher Moss, and that’s where United picked me up. I went for a trial and have never looked back since. I was always a Red anyway.’
The next few weeks could see City live to regret their decision. From being the sixth-choice striker at United a year ago, Welbeck is now Wayne Rooney’s established front partner, ahead of Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen in the pecking order.
No wonder Sir Alex Ferguson believes he has finally achieved his wish of uncovering a great Mancunian striker at Old Trafford.
Welbeck has scored 10 times this season and set up many of Rooney’s 28 goals. Unusually, he has all three attributes a top striker would like - speed, power and technical ability - and looks a certainty to go to Euro 2012 with England.
The dramatic rise of Welbeck, who is still only 21, should inspire any inner-city boy running around the streets with a ball at his feet.
Growing up in Longsight, three miles from Old Trafford on the road to Stockport, Welbeck and his brothers used to play in Markfield Avenue with the Brown boys, the oldest of whom, Wes, was a Manchester United trainee. Young Danny was five at the time but grew up fast playing with and against the older children.
‘Playing on the streets back then you would do things in the little games and think, “I’ll do this at Old Trafford”. Now it’s finally happening - it’s the stuff that dreams are made of,’ says Welbeck.
‘I could see what Wes was doing, he was going off to Lilleshall with England and then going away with United. It was really motivational. Here was a guy living directly across the road from me so I used to think, “If he can do it, why can’t you?”
‘Longsight was pretty rough. But where we lived on our estate, everybody knew each other. It was a close-knit community and at that age you’re immune to other stuff going on around you.
But without realising, it makes you street-wise, you know what to do in certain situations and that has helped me through life.
‘I still talk regularly to people I played with there. Reece Brown [who is the younger brother of Wes and a Manchester United reserve currently on loan at Oldham] is still one of my best friends. We grew up together. We have come from the same stuff.’
Welbeck was never likely to stray into the drugs and knife culture others in Longsight might have succumbed to. He had his footballing ability to count on and the influence of his religious parents, Victor and Elizabeth, who had emigrated to England from Ghana before Danny was born.
‘My parents made me who I am. They are kind, generous, loving people,’ says Welbeck warmly. ‘They work very hard [both are social workers] and want the best for people around them.
They always wanted me to work hard on my education but supported in my football as well. I just want to repay the faith that they showed in me.