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Erik on producing our own

19 August 2015

Programme notes from last night's match

In his programme notes from last night’s match against Cambridge United, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson looked at the success of our academy and the issue of compensation for young players joining bigger clubs.

From time to time we republish articles of importance that have appeared in the programme and Erik’s “From the Boardroom” notes features in full below:

With Academy graduates coming through into the first-team squad in numbers now, I thought it was time to talk about our Academy.

The FA recognises four categories of Academy with Category 1 the highest; ours is Category 3. Every Academy receives funds from the Premier League on the understanding that it will spend, in our case, £1 for every £2 the PL contributes. I want to concentrate on the development of young players, not the finances, so I’ll just say that we spend substantially more than that. We have no choice, because the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) regulations that apply to academies specify the numbers of full- and part-time coaches and levels of qualification; these can’t be delivered without further substantial expenditure.

Our youngest academy players are the U9s. From that early age and throughout their time with the club they are immersed in the academy’s culture of developing players with two-footed technical excellence and football intelligence. The intention is that by the time they reach the Under-18 team they will be technically accomplished players, ready for the finishing school that is our Under-21 side, the development squad.

It is at this stage that players who have developed their skills under the oversight of Mark Robinson, the Academy Head Coach who also coaches the Under-18 team, move on to Alan Reeves, the development squad manager. Alan’s job is to give them the practice and experience that will make them ready for league football.

Of course, Alan works closely with Mark as the young players develop, and it’s not unusual for some of the younger ones to be given early experience in the development squad. And as you’d expect, Alan is working to an approach that is agreed in detail with Neal, who is totally supportive of the academy’s work. The inclusion of six academy graduates in this year’s first-team squad is testimony to the investment of time, money and care in our young players over the years.

Dan Agyei’s recent move to Burnley at the age of 17 has led to questions about what protection we have against losing our best young players to other clubs. There are two aspects to the answer. The first, and most important in my opinion, is that our young players need to see a development path through to the first team. We can’t allow ourselves to be one of those clubs that run an academy where no, or very few, youngsters make it to the first team.

The second protection is that if a club offers terms to one of our registered players they must compensate us, according to an EPPP formula based on how many years the player has been with us and the age groups he played in. There are also amounts specified as compensation for a sell-on and for appearances: for example, if a player of ours went to a Premier League team and played 100 games for them, we would, ultimately, receive £1.5 million.

The more senior boys in the academy are scholars, who receive education as well as their football development. At the end of their scholarship they may be offered their first professional contract; if they decline then they are free to play elsewhere, but any club that signs them must pay compensation which must be negotiated – the EPPP formula doesn’t apply in such cases. If a fee can’t be agreed, the other club can sign the player and the fee will be decided by a tribunal. Dan Agyei’s move was one where we negotiated mutually acceptable compensation.

Bringing our “homegrown and hungry” players through into the first team is a key aim of the club. This comes at a substantial cost, and Academy Manager Jeremy Sauer, Mark Robinson and Alan Reeves are all very aware of the resulting pressure on them to deliver good young players. I think you can see that the number and quality of young players in this year’s first-team squad demonstrate that they, and all the academy staff, are doing an excellent job.

And lastly, isn’t there just a special sense of satisfaction in seeing one of our own young players make his debut?

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