Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How Can City Produce More Young Talent?

In The Times yesterday there was an interesting article on Premiership clubs developing ties with other clubs around the world in particular Tottenham Hotspur. It reported that Tottenham Hotspur were looking to develop “a relationship with FC Bruges with a view to using the Belgian club as a breeding ground for African talent, as Arsenal did with Beveren”. It mentioned that Fulham and West Ham United had also held initial talks with FC Bruges but it was understood that talks with Tottenham Hotspur had continued further.

The Times article went on to mention several Premiership clubs who are forming alliances across Europe and looked at Belgium in particular:-

Chelsea tied with KVC Westerlo
Blackburn Rovers tied with Cercle Bruges
Charlton Athletic tied with Germinal Beerschot
Manchester United tied with Royal Antwerp
Tottenham Hotspur tied with FC Bruges?
Arsenal tied with Beveren (ended recently)

It would appear that Belgium’s relatively lax immigration rules mean that it takes only two years to get an EU passport which is undoubtedly a help when clubs’ ever wider reaching scouting networks find a non-EU player with talent and potential. Premiership clubs do not stick just to Belgium and some have ties with clubs from around the world.

Apart from a two year tie (costing £100,000) with Ireland’s Cherry Orchard FC starting six years ago Manchester City do not to my knowledge have any close ties with other clubs. Since that time it is clear that our Club have made a concerted effort to concentrate on our academy with great effect. Our Club’s academy is one of the success stories producing more quality players than most academies in the land and that is a credit to our Club, Jim Cassell and his team.

Has our academy been lucky in striking gold so often or is there more to it than that? I would suggest that it has nothing to do with luck and that we have a real asset in the academy. We hear so much these days of brands, products and consumers but does City have a top quality brand/ product but no consumer? My point is this, can our Club use the knowledge gained and practices used by the academy to further effect? I think they can and I will explain.

At this point in time our Club is at a critical point finance wise and the fact that it has been looking for additional investment/ investors for over three years bears testimony to that. Being able to operate on a tight budget in the transfer market is very difficult and the production of our own players via the academy is as important as ever. The pressure is certainly on and I hope that the academy does not have a fallow year or two, if it does (and there is no indication that it will) then it could cause our Club problems both on and off the pitch. Perhaps then it is time to cast our net further afield and develop links with clubs in other countries?

Here’s the deal, to me it makes perfect sense. We have a proven model which has produced the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey Barton and Micah Richards in recent times, could we pass this on to similar clubs in Europe and the wider world in exchange for first call on their emerging talent etc?

If our scouting network was able to find a Non-EU player who was deemed an uncut diamond, perhaps our Club could purchase them and loan them to a club with which we had close ties and employed our academy model. That way the player is trained in our methods whilst he waits for EU qualifications and plays at a decent level during which time he will experience first team action.

Of course linking up with other clubs could work in other ways. Take for example Daniel Sturridge, a supreme talent but untested at Premiership level. Whilst we are in our “one step forward one step back” phase I doubt that Daniel Sturridge or others in our reserves will be tried in a Premiership match. If the club had closer ties with a European club, for example, perhaps Daniel and others like him could be loaned out for a year or six months, test them at another level in another country, experience another culture etc I’m sure they would come back better for it. It wouldn’t just benefit us, we could take players from other clubs on loan for similar reasons. If we liked them maybe we could do a deal!

Ajax are proven producers of talented players via their academy and have done so consistently over many many years. They have an extensive scouting network mainly concentrated on Africa and use Ajax Cape Town (which they 51% own) as part of their breeding ground for young talent.

Ajax do not hide what they are about. In their 2004-2005 annual accounts they make their position clear, when they cannot produce their own talent they buy in players to fill the spots their academy cannot. City are way off of this but perhaps with a little bit more effort in the right areas, spreading our model, strengthening the scouting network, working with other clubs around the world this could be achievable. Not only could a constant production line of quality players be achieved cost effectively but large sums of money could be saved on having to buy in players or pay large salaries to Bosman players to strengthen the squad. At the moment, we have to sell off our young players to balance the books wouldn’t it be great if we got to the stage where we sold off young players when we didn’t need to balance the books?

About three years ago I wrote to Alistair Mackintosh about the Ofex market and credit where credit is due, he replied within a few days and agreed about the liquidity problems etc. Having opened a line of communication I thought I'd ask him about the club developing closer ties with other clubs. In particular I mentioned a club (as an example) similar to ours in France, Stade Rennais in Ligue 1. They are consistent performers and have produced much talent over the years and I thought that by entering into close ties with clubs, maybe exchange ideas, maybe nick a player or two (!) would be a great and cost effective way forward for the club; I did not receive a reply (despite the Club charter!) but I would bet that our Club has thought of this. Perhaps the finance isn’t available at this time or our Club are concentrating on other areas.

So how does this relate to the proposed trust? Well when the trust is formed and raises money, perhaps the funds raised could be introduced to City and used to fund projects our Club doesn’t currently have finance available for. There would be nothing better than feeling that we as supporters have collectively contributed in a positive way towards the future of our great club and perhaps, just perhaps, we could see some of the funds we raised used on projects that bear fruit in the form of emerging young talent that we can support from the stands for the many years to come.

As is normal, please send us your comments, feedback and input to we look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes



At 1:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cherry Orchard are from the Republic Of Ireland (Dublin)

At 3:19 pm, Blogger Ollie said...

Thanks for pointing that out, I've amended the offending word!


At 7:54 pm, Blogger Danny Pugsley said...

An interesting article Ollie, and something I touched upon last season.

In an interview the club (I'm sure it was Cassell) stated that their sole focus was on the 'home' market and particularly the North-West when recruiting and attracting players to the academy.

If we are not actively scouting abroad for young players (something I believe we should be doing) would the club really consider a tie-up with a European side?

At 12:34 pm, Anonymous Harry Skinters said...

Interesting stuff Ollie. I was right with you until you used the word 'scouting'. If the Trust was the facilitator of a decent scouting network then it will have achieved the introduction of something that the club appears to have lacked since.....well, I'm not sure we've ever had one!


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