Micah Richards hopes new Aston Villa team-mate Jack Grealish learns from his mistakes as he gets to grips with fame and fortune at a young age.
Midfielder Grealish, 19, burst onto the big stage with a series of outstanding performances late last season as Villa escaped relegation and reached the FA Cup final.
He is already at the centre of a tug of war for his services, having played for the Republic of Ireland at U21 level but having been courted by England manager Roy Hodgson.
But with all the plaudits came some negative headlines as the youngster was first pictured inhaling nitrous oxide and then, over the summer, lying motionless on the ground while on holiday in Tenerife.
The incidents earned him a rebuke from his employers and new Villa signing Richards, who also shot to fame as a teenager, recognises the pitfalls.
The defender, now 27, said: “It’s hard for youngsters coming through. I think he’s a very talented boy but when you are going from earning – I don’t know what it is now – 80 quid a week at 17 and you sign for big money, I don’t know what he’s on, but thousands of pounds, it’s like... you think you’re the man don’t you? You want a nice car...
“I was 17. I still enjoy my cars but I was going outside restaurants, parking on yellow lines and stuff. And I’m thinking now, 10 years later, what was I doing? There’s a car park just there!
“You’ve got a different mindset when you are young, giddy.”
Richards joined Manchester City at the age of 14 and made his first-team debut at 17 in 2005. He became a poster boy for the club’s youth system and a year later was in the England squad, becoming the youngest defender to earn a call-up. He was regarded as one of the top prospects in the country and played key roles as City won the FA Cup in 2011 and the Barclays Premier League the following year.
But injuries then stalled his progress and he spent last season on loan at Fiorentina before deciding to join Villa on a free transfer this summer in the hope of reigniting his career.
He now feels older and wiser and has learnt from the mistakes of his youth, something he hopes Grealish will do and go on to enjoy a successful career at the top level.
Richards said: “Your mindset does change. When you are young you are enjoying your life, but you’ve got to make mistakes to learn from them.
“And as long as everyone learns from them, that’s the key. Everyone makes mistakes.
“We are only human, you’ve got to enjoy life as well, but as long as you give 100% when you are on that field I think the rest takes care of itself.”
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