Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 | 5:24 p.m.
In the 1980s then Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight watched 8th grader Damon Bailey play and called him a “hot prospect,” which all but cemented Bailey’s fate as an Indiana Hoosier.
The buzz Knight created compelled me and a friend to travel to Seymour, Indiana, to watch young Bailey outplay and outsmart his rivals, and outdraw the capacity of the high school gym in which he played.
Later in his high school career, Bailey would go on to score 11 points in an Indiana state high school tournament game in front of 41,000 people. At Indiana, he racked up 1,741 points to become the 7th highest all-time scorer in school history.
As seemingly crazy as that was then, there’s is another child star in the making across the pond.
Manchester United recently signed 5-year-old Charlie Jackson. Technically, professional contracts in big time European soccer are not permitted until a player is 16 by those who regulate these types of things. However, Manchester United has made room for Jackson to begin playing on the team’s developmental squad with seasoned footballers who are at least one year older.
My cousin’s son Joey, who was in town for a youth soccer tournament, brought the story of Charlie Jackson up over the weekend. He said Jackson can dribble with both feet which, when combined with his age, led to a rolling stream of one-liners from his mother Sue and me.
The string of jokes ended when 13-year-old Joey said this Jackson kid will probably end up on an episode of MTV’s Cribs. You win, Joey.
Manchester United says it first noticed Jackson when he was 3. But, one would suppose, prudence dictated that they would give it some time so Charlie could decide on his own what he would like to do.
Manchester United did return two years later. Reportedly, Charlie said thanks but no thanks. So at 5 years of age had Charlie decided to pursue a future in neurosurgery focusing on brain tumor therapies with an emphasis on neurogenetics?
No, Charlie is a fan of Manchester United’s rival Manchester City. Atta boy, Chuckie.
Initially rebuffed by the pint-sized prospect, Manchester United spent a few minutes alone with Charlie’s parents, and just like that, young Charlie became the first tot named Jackson earmarked for stardom since Michael and Janet.
Apparently, big time European soccer does this quite a bit. Manchester United’s move followed Real Madrid’s signing of 7-year-old Leonel Angel Coira. Many of these teams have development systems made up of teens, tweens and toddlers.
Still photos of Charlie show a form that is flawless and a face that is already beginning to look like Wayne Rooney’s. So as Charlie’s older teammates may wonder if he will be a team player or horde all of his Lego blocks, Manchester United fans have marked 2024’s season opener as a debut for the ages.