Manchester United's new boy Daniel James is making his father proud

Anyone worried young Dan James may crumble under the pressure of joining Manchester United
will be heartened by his first experience of grown-up sport, aged 13.
When the little kid took the crease for South Cave First XI, captain Clive Bailey recalls the complacent adult opposition initially bowling half-paced and surrounding the bat for a catch.
'It never came and within a couple of overs, they were going at Dan full pelt. Unfortunately for them it was too late,' smiles Bailey.
'He had a fantastic eye and loved the late cut past gully. His timing was so good he could play off the back foot and drill the ball over his right shoulder. I remember him once hitting 50 coming at number seven when we were in a lot of trouble.
'As a fielder, I used him in the outfield for obvious reasons – he was lightning fast and never dropped anything.'
South Cave's cricket pitch was behind Dan's old primary school, within walking distance of the family home he shared with dad Kevan, mum Elaine and older siblings Hannah and Alex, a county standard badminton player.
Kevan, a proud Welshman and rugby fan who moved to the east riding of Yorkshire to work for a quarrying company, was omnipresent in Dan's life, his cricketing team-mate, his chauffeur to football practise, his daily guiding light.
It's a tragic element to Dan's otherwise fairytale story that his Dad passed away in May and didn't get to see his son pull on the famous shirt of United for the first time against Perth Glory on Saturday, impressing as he played the first 45 minutes of a 2-0 win that augurs well for the new season.
The blessing is Kevan lived long enough to know Dan was going to Old Trafford and had personally met Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and given his blessing to his son's £15million move from Swansea. Five days after officially signing, Dan attended his father's funeral at the Haltemprice crematorium in nearby Willerby on June 17. Not only did the whole village turn out, but Dan's former academy team-mates from Hull turned out too as a mark of respect.
Dan posted a picture of himself with Kevan on instagram, with the moving message: 'You are my inspiration and I wouldn't be where I am today without you. Thank you for everything you have ever done for me. I will make you proud I promise!'
Kevan's sister Denise poignantly wrote: 'You'll live on in your wonderful children.' It's something that will surely guide Dan in the years to come as the 21-year-old Welsh international tries to revive United's glory years after the dismal post-Fergie period to date.
Nobody who knew the James family doubts Kevan's influence. 'He was caring and gentle. Daniel used to dote on his every word and it was always quiet, never domineering,' says Bailey.
'The funeral was hugely upsetting but I am sure his Dad would want to make the point to Dan: 'Don't let this stop you, carry on. Make your own decisions in life.'
Kevan was a popular figure in the village, always good for a chat as he walked his two labradors, secretary of the aforementioned local cricket club for four years. He ensured Dan got a broad sporting education, cricket, athletics where he was a school sprint champion, and football. Academically, Dan also achieved GCSE's.
From the age of eight, Dan attended the academy at Hull City and Kevan was the most dedicated of all the parents.
'We trained Wednesday and Friday evenings and then Saturday mornings,' says Tigers academy coach Kris Blakeston, who still works at the club.
'Parents could go to a cafe around the corner after drop-off if they wanted but Kevan would always go up to the viewing area to watch Dan play.'
As Dan improved quicker than Hull's facilities, Kevan took the brave decision to let his 16-year-old son move to the other side of the country to continue his football dream at Swansea. It proved a great decision.
South Cave sounds like the fictional setting for a Disney movie. In reality, it's a picturesque village about 15 miles west of Hull, with clean streets and a couple of welcoming pubs and cafes. Some of Hull's current first-team live in the area.
Dan's football talent, particularly his natural pace, stood out early. He represented the East Riding schools from the age of 11.
'He was our baby-faced assassin,' acknowledges their manager Matt Simpson, with a nod to Solskjaer's own nickname.
'He was able to strike the ball cleanly with both feet and at times it appeared glued to his feet. You'd get four or five defenders swarming around him, we'd call it the beehive. The best I coached in 25 years.'
While he dominated local football, standards at the Hull academy were higher. Emphasis was placed on technical skills so that Dan wouldn't rely just on speed, though he was nicknamed Billy Whizz.
'Dan was popular but not one of the loud ones,' says Blakeston. 'When we took the team coach to places like Grimsby and Hartlepool, there'd be no mobile phones allowed. The boys would eat their packed lunches and have a good sing-song, all the Hull City chants.
'He had a lot of pace but we tried to teach him to know when to use that speed. From nine to 12, it was all about being comfortable on the ball.
'Dan learned to ride tackles, how to beat players. Later on, we took them on overseas trips to broade their horizons. Dan came in for some hefty challenges, it was a good learning curve.'
Hull's academy produced the likes of Tom Cairney (Fulham) and Liam Cooper (Leeds). But with the first-team heading towards the Premier League, first-team opportunities were restricted and facilities poor before their move to the current site at Bishops Burton college.
With Daniel allowed to leave for a fixed compensation fee of £72,000, Hull were powerless to stop him joining another club. 'It was easy pickings for another club to get him,' concedes former managing director Nick Thomson.
'We knew he had the potential to become a bit special but there were still no guarantees. The previous year we'd lost a lad called Harry Cardwell to Reading. Great things were expected of him but he's at Grimsby now.'
Dan signed up to the famous Stellar agency run by Jonathan Barnett and David Manesseh whose clients included Gareth Bale and Ashley Cole. Their northern representative, former Manchester City and Everton forward Imre Varadi, tipped off Swansea's head of recruitment David Leadbeater whose home was in Sheffield.
'I trusted Imre and he said 'This kid is going to make it. You have to come and have a look at him.' reveals Leadbeater.
'I watched Dan three times before recommending him. He was obtainable and the money wasn't stupid. His pace was frightening and he was willing to run with the ball and commit people.
'But he had a bit to learn about making the right decisions. He could get you up the pitch 50 yards but then cross into an empty box. He needed to make more right decisions.
'One of his assets was being a good listener and a good learner. That's why he's come on. His physical attributes were never in doubt. I'm told on this first tour with United, they are doing 50 yard sprints and he's first by five yards. He's maxed out on all the bleep tests. I think he could rip it up at United.'
Swansea were also in the Premier League at the time but unlike Hull were keen on signing youngsters in case they fell back into The Championship.
Dan wasn't an overnight success in south Wales, a loan spell at Shrewsbury didn't work out and it wasn't until last September that he started his first league game, shortly before his 21st birthday. From then onwards though, his progress was as rapid as his pace.
'We put Dan in to live with a host family and he benefitted from the team going back into the Championship. Last season we knew we had a star on our hands and to join United a few months later is comic book stuff,' says Huw Jenkins, long-time Swansea chairman before he left last season.
'His performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup raised his profile but the day it changed was at Rotherham in November, even though we lost. There was something special about him, he had the arrogance top players need. Every time he had the ball it was electric.'
Daniel, who had picked up good habits by watching senior Swansea players like Gylfi Sigurdsson at close quarters, thought he was joining Leeds in January until Jenkins pulled the plug because the Yorkshire club wanted to stagger £8million over three years. 'I've been thanked for that now,' smiles Jenkins. Five months later, a bigger United made their move.
Wales is integral to the Dan James story. The way he took the international stage, scoring an important winner against Slovakia in March, persuaded Ryan Giggs he had the right mentality for a club like United.
He's been part of the Wales scene since under-17s level, part of a bright new generation under youth Geraint Williams that has also included Harry Wilson, Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks.
'We'd invite the youngsters to watch the seniors train, get them right up close to Gareth Bale paractising his free-kicks,' says Williams. 'And after, Gareth would come over and chat, answer their questions.
'Dan stood out in one game against Spain, they came up afterwards to ask how old he was, because he was so good. But in the last year or two, he's become more savvy on the park. I saw him play Ipswich last season. He'd suck challenges in and when defenders came too close push the ball past and put on the after-burners.'
One of Daniel's Wales shirts is on display at the Hull academy and his name is on the honours board of those graduates who have played for their country.
'It's what dreams are made of but he always had it in him,' says Blakeston. 'I saw a headshot of Dan with United last week. He's let his hair get a bit bigger but not changed apart from that. What I see now is Dan at nine. This would have meant the world to his Dad.' 

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