It varies from club to club and is at their discretion. Many select youngsters from local youth leagues - for instance Sunderland's all come from the Russell Foster Youth League in Tyne and Wear. Arsenal invite members of their Junior Gunners between the ages of 12 and 16 for pre-selection trials. Manchester City meanwhile have recently appealed for ballboys and girls to come forward via their website. One City appeal last season asked for boys and girls age 11 and 12 (school years seven and eight) to apply. They needed to be: "able to attend every home game, be energetic, be able to quickly catch and throw a ball and be willing to sit in all weathers. And have parental consent." Newcastle United recently invited potential ballboys to be selected via a prize draw involving Junior Magpies or club members aged under 13, but also regularly draw them from local leagues.
None: it's up to the clubs. But invariably they are under 16 and often under 13. At the advanced age of 17, Charlie Morgan, the Swansea ballboy, was older than the norm.
Glenn Hoddle indicated so on Wednesday. "As a management team in European games, you will tell the people who are instructing the ballboys that if you are winning the game, don't get the ball back quickly," he said. "That's your home advantage, in a way." Swansea City are adamant that their ballboys were under no such instructions. "There was no agenda, absolutely not," said Leigh Dineen, Swansea's vice-chairman. "Certainly we don't line up the ballboys and ask them to waste time, definitely not."
Wasn't Stoke's use of towels a form of cheating?
A few seasons ago when Rory Delap's long throws proved one of the Premier League's most potent weapons, ballboys at Stoke City's home games would wipe the ball down with towels whenever Tony Pulis's side won a throw-in. It was something they were clearly instructed to do and the practice attracted complaints from rival managers. After Neil Warnock called Pulis's bluff by demanding that the ball boys offered his then QPR players equal use of the towels piled up by the touchline, Stoke briefly came up with a new system whereby players taking long throws wiped the ball on a towelling vest worn beneath their shirts. The FA did not take any action so the answer is probably no.
In Uefa's European competitions and the World Cup, the multi-ball system – which used to be a feature of Championship football – is deployed whereby around seven balls are stationed around the pitch and deployed as and when required by ball boys and girls if there is the slightest delay in retrieving an out of play match ball. This speeds the game up, but, when it was used in the Championship, visiting managers routinely complained of balls being introduced at excessive pace when their team was defending but the supply mysteriously drying up whenever they attacked.