Ben Collett joined United’s youth system when he was just 9-years-old and developed in to a player with the potential of becoming a first teamer at the club.
He was given the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award in 2003, a prize that Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Wes Brown have all claimed in the past. The same year, our youth team won the FA Youth Cup, with Collett scoring in the first leg of the final.
However, his career was sadly ended with a tackle against Middlesbrough in a Reserves match and news of his compensation has been delivered today.
In May 2003, Boro youngster Gary Smith broke Collett’s leg in two places during a Reserve match. Aged just 18, he was released by United, with the youngster later trying to resurrect his career in New Zealand, playing for the New Zealand Knights and AGOVV Apeldoorn. However, he was forced in to retirement at just 23-years-old.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian McClair, Howard Wilkinson and Gary Neville attending Collett’s hearing where he was appealing for compensation from Boro, where it was claimed that Collett had been an “A-class footballer” with “outstanding chance” of becoming a full-time professional and household name if he had not been injured.
Middlesbrough FC and Smith both admitted liability through their insurers for the “negligent” tackle, meaning that the case at London’s High Court today was simply to settle damages, which is reportedly over £4.3 million, with there being every potential of that sum rising.
The court had heard that Collett could have earned more than £13,000 a week, making a total in excess of £16 million, if he had played until the age of 35.
Smith has since been released by Middlesbrough and following an unsuccessful stint at MK Dons, he now plays for Brentford in League Two.
“I thought the boy showed fantastic focus, a great attitude to work hard and they are qualities to give any player an outstanding chance in the game,” said Fergie, whilst Paddy Crerand claimed Collett had a similar style to Ryan Giggs.
Sadly, whilst plenty of players are so heavily focussed on the money in the game, Collett no doubt would accept a more modest salary if it meant he could continue playing football.