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Growing Our Own!

The Youth System - Who Is Failing Who?

By: Chris Parker
Date: 20/07/2005

HOW long is it since the youth system produced a genuine first team player? One or two have had a sniff of the first team and made a handful of appearances, Jonny Rowan for example, but who was the last genuine first team player. John Oster?

Home > Features > 2005 Features > The Youth System

In days of old we had an excellent reputation for producing our own. The Moore's, Ford, Drinkell, Lund, Kev Donovan. At a similar time Glen Cockerill and Paul Bartlett were products of the area and later Paul Emson. Bryan Klug would have added to the success had injury not savaged him but he has still made a good career in the pro game with Ipswich where he is head of their academy.

In reality we have produced nothing of note for 25 years. Why?

I do not profess to have the answers but I do wonder if the School of Excellences have a lot to answer for. When the Town was producing the quality, the club did not really start to take an interest in the players until they were 14 or 15. The schools had more say. The Grimsby boys side with Bartlett and Drinkell up front terrorised the area teams from much bigger towns and cities well before the professional clubs got hold of them.

Now the so called cream are taken away from the local teams and taken under the club's wing at 9 &10 years of age. Have the children had time to develop by this age? Are they ready to be heavily coached? Would they be better off developing at their own pace with their mates rather than being singled out as a future star? Reality is often very different.

Having to be at Blundell Park on a Sunday at 6.45am to travel on a coach to say, Darlington. only to play 15 minutes football. Is that the best way forward? Is that the best way to develop players?

Who is singling out the first batch at 10 years of age? People with coaching qualifications? Yes, certainly. People with the best interests of the kids or are they just doing their job? There are some excellent people involved with the School of Excellence but their are others who may have a qualification but do not possess the skills to get the message across to the kids. There life and people skills are not as good as they should be.

I know part of the reason why the club take the players so young and that is fear. The fear than a bigger club will move in and take a superstar off GTFC's doorstep. The Club would be slagged off by everyone if that happened so from each school year they take a group of up to 18 players. At the outset the aim is probably to get 2 or 3 to still be with the club at 18. What are the rest ? Cannon fodder? Clearly the club cannot take the best 2 or 3 because they wouldn't be able to play against anyone. They need the rest to make up a squad but despite what parents may think the majority have no chance from the start. Do the lads feel good? Part of the elite? Almost certainly. Do the parents have bragging rights? Definitely!

Would the lads be better off being allowed to develop with the local clubs? The Clee Communities. The Discoveries or the Waltham Juniors? The downside may be that occasionally they would be with a team manager who would not have coaching qualifications, and may have little knowledge of the game but they may allow the kids to develop in a fun environment were encouragement and enjoyment are more important than zonal marking. There are some local managers who are possibly unsuitable but there are many more excellent people who do a fantastic job with the kids and are no worse than some working with the School of Excellence set ups.

Would we save any money by starting the School of Excellence at Under 14's? Possibly not, as much of the cost is provided by grants and sponsors but clearly we are not producing players for the first team, which surely must be the primary aim of any clubs Youth set up.

With the new transfer window it seemed strange that Town had another clearout of the YT's rather than offering one or two short-term professional contracts. Hyam, Lightowler and Parker may have been worth another 6 months to see if they could respond to the daily sessions with the first team.

The decision to release them appears to have been one of finance as much as anything else. Could we not have offered them a 6-month deal at £100 a week? Is the likes of Lamb & Ashton going to go the same way. Are our products so far away from the likes of Palmer produced by Stoke City? If so, then why? Is the raw material not good enough? Is the coaching sub standard? Or are we so skint we cannot take a gamble at £100 a week? >p> Can we not take the hunch of the youth team coach that one of these lads could make it? Is it not time for a gamble given our current financial state?

Whatever the answer the current set up is not producing. No one can doubt that. I don't believe for one minute that similar views are not expressed around the country as this certainly is not an issue peculiar to GTFC.

There are so many questions.

Answers anyone?

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