The football environment is about to change. With UEFA’s introduction of their financial fairplay policies coming into full effect, the recent big spends by clubs on foreign talent will have to be reduced.
The link between financial clout and success will no longer exist. Although ask any Manchester City fan at the moment and I’m sure they will dispute the link between cash and success. It may not guarantee silverware but no one could deny it gives an unfair advantage. It seems a club will suddenly need more than a Russian billionaire or Arab Shiek to have a chance of glory. So what facet of football will be the biggest factor in enabling a club to achieve great things in the future?
Surley the answer to this must be the amount and quality of young talent honed at a clubs academy. With a more financially level playing field the clubs that will be able to produce the best players surely will become the new English football heavyweights.
So what clubs have got the best academies in English football? Here are my five of the best:
West Ham United
West Ham United must have developed some of the biggest names of recent years. ‘The West Ham way’ of producing fine young footballers has unfortunately benefited other clubs in the search for glory more than the Hammers themselves. However the club must have reaped a large financial return. The ‘golden generation’ of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Micheal Carrick and Jermain Defoe are proof alone of the clubs ability to foster and nurture young talent. Current previous academy youngsters that have made the cut include James Tomkins and Mark Noble.
Bringing through youngsters has been one of the many areas Arsene Wenger has excelled at during his time at Arsenal. The Frenchman has never shyed away from blooding his youngsters in various club and league games. Jack Wilshere must be the most notable talent to arrive from the Arsenal youth squad in recent years. But before even Wenger star names such as Tony Adams, Ashley Cole, Paul Merson, Charlie George and David Rocastle have gone from cleaning boots to first team glory at the North London club.
They may spend more freely than Elton John in a record shop but Manchester City have put some of their fortune towards developing, as well as purchasing talent. City have produced a substancial number of pro’s and continue to focus on youth with their ‘Elite Development Squad’ set up.
It may sound more like cartoon task force but with players such as Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, Joey Barton, Daniel Sturridge and Stephen Ireland among the names of recent graduates, the academy seems to be flourishing.
It must be no coincidence that the most sucessful clubs of recent times also has a knack of bringing through and developing young, fresh talents. Of the current squad Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans must be the best examples of this ability. However if we mention the names of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville we can truely appreciate the work done by Ferguson et al.
Maybe not the most well known of choices but the League Two Cheshire club, under the guidance of Dario Gradi for more than 20 years, have a phenomental reputation for creating young talent.
The Italian-born manager and talent spotter has earned a reputation for being one of the best in the business at producing stars of the future and selling them on for a profit. Names such as David Platt, Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy, Robbie Savage and Dean Ashton must have made the club a pretty penny.
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