The fan - Hunter Davies on Chealsea's latest recruit, aged eight

Miles has a contract and a transfer value of £2,000. He's aged eight

I go to this cafe called Polly's beside Hampstead Heath most afternoons in the season, ie, the season when I am in London, walking around Hampstead Heath and going to cafes. Pat, the manageress, is my friend and I tell her about my two granddaughters, they are so advanced, so talented, can draw and act, amazing, and she tells me about her four grandsons who, surprisingly, are equally advanced. One of them, Miles, is very keen on football, so at Christmas I let her have one of my football books, no, not a remaindered one, a new one. I always get excellent service, my cappuccino brought to my table at once, without asking. Now and again she lets me read her Daily Mail. My wife doesn't allow it in our house.

For two years, Pat has been telling me about Miles and his little football teams and I've nodded and smiled, while wanting to get on and read her Mail.

Last week, guess what - Miles signed for Chelsea. Aged eight.

Turns out he was spotted by Arsenal when he was six. He'd gone to a little kids' tournament where his elder brother was playing. Miles, being too young, was just messing around behind the goals, kicking about. An Arsenal scout saw him and arranged a trial. He's been training with Arsenal once a week for the past 18 months, getting £4 each time in expenses. It's been very awkward for his mother, Mandy, to drive him there. They live near Heathrow and it used to take her a good hour to get to Arsenal's training ground after school. Several times Miles fell asleep on the way there.

They were thrilled when Chelsea came along, as that happens to be Miles's team and their training ground is minutes away. He and his parents went to the very posh Chelsea Village Hotel last week, along with nine other eight-year-olds and their parents, to sign the papers to join Chelsea's academy. No expenses this time, but he does get all his kit and travel by coach from pick-up points to training and games. They play against other academies as far away as Norwich.

He'll go training one night a week and Saturday mornings, plus a match. He can still play for his school, but not his Sunday league team. His parents have been promised a pair of tickets for Chelsea three times a season, while Miles came away with a Chelsea mug and a Chelsea pencil case.

His contract lasts only a year, by which time he could be out, on the scrap heap. If he gets it renewed, year by year, the chances are still hugely stacked against him ever becoming a professional. Might it not affect his school work, then ruin his confidence, his life, if he fails eventually?

"We've thought about that," says Mandy. "But we think he'll get a good training and be in good hands. He has physios and doctors to help and he'll be taught about a healthy diet. At the moment, he does like his McDonald's, like most eight-year-olds.

"But you never know, at 14 he himself might give up. When girls kick in he might lose interest in football training. We've made it clear it's up to him. We'll back him if he wants to carry on, but we're not pushing. Personally, I'm a Spurs fan."

He was told to keep it all quiet until he had actually signed, not go around telling everyone at school. Other kids, and parents, can get jealous. Mandy did worry how Miles's older brother would take it. "He's been fine so far, but we're going to get him to join something else. We're thinking of sea cadets."

One of the things in the agreement is a £2,000 compensation payment to Chelsea if he leaves. That did seem a bit steep, but I suppose he'll have had the benefit of all that training and dietary instruction. But I'd misunderstood. Mandy says the family won't pay it. It's more like a transfer fee: another club would pay it if he gets tempted away by a rival academy.

God, it's cut-throat out there.

I would have loved it myself, aged eight, if Carlisle United had asked to sign me, not that children of eight could be signed back then. We were all down the pit, or up chimneys. But would I be pleased today if it happened to my own eight-year-old son? Hmm. Hard one, that.

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