Albion v Wolves: A real Black Country divide among football-mad brothers

Forget the World Cup – a Wolverhampton nurse has a Black Country derby every day because of her football-mad sons.

Alfie Round, left, mum Steph Friedl, and Alfie’s younger brother Samuel Round
Alfie Round, left, mum Steph Friedl, and Alfie’s younger brother Samuel Round

Alfie Round, 13, has been signed at West Bromwich Albion since October 2021 and now plays in their under-14s, while brother Samuel Round, 10, has been with Wolves since the age of eight and plays for their under-10s.

Their mum is Steph Friedl, a paediatric oncology clinical nurse specialist at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, and with IT worker dad Steven Round, 46, they live in Wolverhampton.

“The boys generally get on quite well but they have the usual siblings’ arguments regarding each team,” said Steph, 45.

“Alfie likes watching all the top left-sided players like Joao Cancelo at Manchester City and Andrew Robertson at Liverpool, but when visiting The Hawthorns he looks out for Connor Townsend to see what positions he takes up when defending and attacking.

“Samuel admires Ruben Neves [Wolves captain and midfielder] but being a Wolves fan he loves all the players.

She added: They’ve visited some of the best academy facilities in the country and met famous footballers including Wayne Rooney, Thiago Silva, Michail Antonio and boxer Tony Bellew, and players from their respective clubs.”

Samuel had interest from Aston Villa and West Brom, but committed to Wolves as he’s a fan and the family live locally.

Alfie, who supports Manchester City and now Albion too, started on trial at West Brom towards the end of 2020.

Alfie played grassroots football from the age of six to 12 and also played for the Wolverhampton schools district team when he was in years five and six.

“They both thrive at maths and probably enjoy that subject most after PE,” said Steph.

“Alfie is a typical teenager, while Samuel is a bit more feisty and confident than Alfie was at his age.”

Alfie is a year nine student at Thomas Telford University Technical College in Wolverhampton, and Samuel attends Oakmeadow Primary School in year five.

The pair play different positions, with Alfie mainly left back or left wing in 11-a-side, while Samuel, who currently plays seven-a-side, operates on either wing or in defensive positions. Alfie is predominantly left footed and Samuel is right footed.

Dad Steve, who works in IT for IRIS Software, played for Birmingham City from the age of 13 to first-year professional and Steph used to swim for Bilston Swimming Club and represented her schools at different sports.

Steph, who has worked with the community children’s nursing team at New Cross Hospital since 1999 and in her current post since January 2020, said: “Alfie felt he wasn’t up to the standard of the other boys, but his confidence is getting better.

“Since being at West Brom, he’s suffered with growth-related injuries, but he’s really enjoying his football and is constantly trying to improve. Samuel is confident and will show off with tricks and skills.”

She admits the demands and logistics of having two sons playing academy football requires dedication and planning.

“Academy football is a massive commitment, including grandparents who help with getting the boys to training and matches,” she said.

“They generally play matches on the same day which means we cannot watch both of them. So we alternate each week between us.”

Both boys have individual targets to work on and all matches are recorded for coach reviews. Being in an academy also affects their daily lives in other ways – for example, they can’t play for grassroots football clubs like their friends.

​“Academy football is very disciplined and requires a lot of dedication,” added Steph.

“They have to eat a well-balanced diet and get plenty of sleep. It’s a highly-pressurised environment.

“The boys have coaching staff, physios, sport science staff, psychology staff and the academies host parent workshops around diet, psychology, safeguarding etc.

“Overall the boys really enjoy their football experience and are very lucky. We’re very proud of what they’ve achieved, not just for football but in school too.”

Steph insists the family remains grounded as to the boys’ chances of making it to the big time.

“It’s so competitive and the statistics for them to do so are very low,” she admitted.

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