15/10/2023 21comments  |  Jump to last

This article, for those who can access The Athletic behind their paywall, may be of interest as it examines a very human aspect of the Academy process that we often discuss: young players who are released – or 'de-selected' in the modern idiom.  

A 2022 Premier League study revealed that 97% of players at top academies never play a minute of top-flight football. Another showed more than 10,000 players aged between eight and 18 are released from academy football every year.

The Premier League Preparation Programme, is an annual camp at Loughborough University to assist players aged 16-21 who have been released by their clubs’ academies.

The camp is open to any player between the ages of 16 and 21 who has been 'de-selected' and not signed a professional contract. They stay for a week, making use of the university’s student accommodation, which means they properly get the chance to bond. During their time at the camp, they have a schedule of breakfast, training during the day, and then workshops and seminars right through the week. 

» Read the full article at The Athletic [£]

Reader Comments (21)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 15/10/2023 at 14:04:27
I'm struggling a bit with sums here:

More than 10,000 players aged between 8 and 18 are released from academy football every year.

From the context, I assume that means UK so all clubs with an Academy… 50? 100? 150 clubs in total?

Let's assume it's across 100 clubs. So that's an average of 100 players per club. Released… sorry, 'de-selected' each year.

Say 8 to 18 represents ten age groups in each academy. So an average of 10 players released at each level? Seems an awful lot.

I try to track the announced releases from Everton's Academy (nominally U18s and U21s) each year and I think they average around 10 players each year for the past 20+ years. I have no idea how many younger players we release but the numbers quoted in the article suggest an awful lot of youngsters don't last very long at all in the Academy. Tony?

Oh, and the other point is about that 97% figure, which should put into context the relative degree of success or failure achieved by the Everton Academy. Perhaps when compared across the board, it's not quite as useless as a number of posters on here claim?

Ian Jones
2 Posted 15/10/2023 at 17:34:39
You are right, the figures don't seem to add up.

I remember reading something about the Everton Youth/Academy system. I think it was said that even if players coming through end up playing at a professional/semi pro level anywhere in the world, not necessarily top flight, and able to earn a decent living from the game, that was considered somewhat successful.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
4 Posted 16/10/2023 at 16:28:52
So 100 kids invited aged 6 to come and train and learn. Some not invited back for the next season.
They have been de-selected. Might be 30-60 of them.
Brent Stephens
5 Posted 16/10/2023 at 16:45:49
Michael #1,

I cut (ready to paste) that stat about the 97% of top academy players never play in the top flight, then read your piece as I scrolled down.

As you say, the Everton Academy perhaps isn't as bad as we sometimes assume.

Tony Abrahams
6 Posted 16/10/2023 at 17:06:03
The older I get the more I have come to dislike the academy system, so I was pleased to hear that the Premier League have written to every academy suggesting that the younger kids should also be released to play grassroots football if they so wish.

My guess is that this will just bring in extra weekend training at most academies because I genuinely believe there is a lot of snobbery attached to the system and this can sometimes affect some parents who start to get ahead of themselves, imo. (Once this happens, then setting a child an example becomes more or less over.)

I could write pages upon pages, which might be able to be taken apart by people within the academy system. Although it's obviously nice to hear about the success stories, I'm amazed by how so few of the absolutely fantastically talented kids that do make it (considering most of them have been in the system from a very early age) have learned how to both kick and also protect the ball with either foot.

You could also definitely argue that the money generated from Everton's Academy, has helped to save the club on more than one occasion, and this is why I often wish the boy wonder had never played for Everton. The arguments could go on and on.

Michael Kenrick
7 Posted 16/10/2023 at 20:49:12

I think from the context, they are talking about players who had been accepted into the Academy system and spent some time there – probably years.

And they say 8 to 18, so I don't think intake rejects at age 6 would be included.

Ian Bennett
8 Posted 16/10/2023 at 21:03:21
We took our U8s to play teams at the Liverpool Academy a couple of years ago. They had about 30 odd kids at LFC in 5 plus teams. Visiting teams rotated around.

I'd fully expect Liverpool to be bringing in 300 kids a year at U6s, U7s and U8s a year, and whittle that number down to 30 per age group. That will get reduced further, but they'll still be bringing more players into challenge those current players. Kids at grassroots clubs new to academies, or clubs already in academies.

At older levels you'd expect less numbers to be let go, but even the U18-U21s sees a fair number cut.

The numbers in the article don't surprise me at all. It is a numbers game. Trent Arnold recently condemned it, and I have sympathy with that view.

Ian Bennett
9 Posted 16/10/2023 at 21:14:04
Tony, the release of kids to grassroots is voluntary. In reality players and parents are not going to displease the elite clubs by playing against their wishes.

If they train 2 or 3 times a week, and play once a week plus, the elite clubs won't want them being "over-played'. The intensity that they play and train is a different level to grassroots, but with a great toll on their bodies.

It might be okay at the bottom end, but not at the top.

The demands on these kids is huge. Regular training, playing away games 100s miles away, European tours to Europe. It is hugely demanding and, if you can't keep up – ended in a heartbeat.

Robert Tressell
10 Posted 16/10/2023 at 22:38:31
My son (9) plays against academy (not Premier League) sides now and again. They are extremely well drilled and organised in pass and move, beating a press, counter-attack, set-pieces and defensive shape. Not necessarily all brilliant individuals but you can see the difference quality coaching 3 (or more) times a week makes. They know how to play football.

My son is probably good enough to get into the academy system (lower league) and, as a tall very fast natural defender, could do well. But I don't have time for that commitment and he is also probably much better served in life doing his homework instead (poor lad!) and enjoying football (which he absolutely loves) as a pastime with his mates at a very good (but not great) standard.

Fair play to the families who manage the commitment of academies – it must be absolutely gruelling and absolutely miniscule chance of success too. Heartbreaking for the kids who drop out after years of effort.

Tony Abrahams
11 Posted 17/10/2023 at 07:59:16
This is exactly what I was trying to say, Ian. It's voluntary but it will probably also be frowned upon by most elite academies, and my guess is that it won't be long before these clubs bring in extra training sessions because they don't want their kids to be overplayed “by anyone else”.

The speed and intensity will obviously be much higher so it often puzzles me why a lot of kids struggle when they are released and then find themselves playing at lower level grassroots football.

It doesn't really puzzle me because I'm aware of the obvious difference between the way these kids are being taught, but because kids are not really being asked to think for themselves (I might be wrong) they suddenly begin to look like fish out of water once they are taken away from academy football.

The pitches are horrible and so are the kids who are used to the environment. I like the thought of making kids better, but my bigger belief is that these academies are ruining a lot more footballers than they are producing.

Robert Tressell
12 Posted 17/10/2023 at 13:34:03

I think they might struggle because (a) maybe some lose their oomph and (b) if you've been schooled in positional play, it's completely different to a looser structure which is more like playground football - where a player picks up the ball and tries to dribble forward, only passing reluctantly.

My son, for example, didn't shine so much at a lower standard - but has done really well at a higher standard. He is a passer more than a dribbler. At a lower standard, everyone is in the wrong place to receive a pass so he is forced to go long / safety first or dribble. At a higher standard, he can pick out a few options. At a lower standard, there often are no options.

This is basically how Guardiola organises play. His positional play tactics are designed to reduce player decision-making by ensuring players are geometrically positioned around the pitch at all times.

Although it sounds a bit rigid, I expect the likes of Gascoigne, Waddle, Beardsley, Rooney and other big natural talents would have thrived in this environment.

That said, Brazilian football is trying to get out of this approach – and get back to greater improvisation under their new manager.

There's pros and cons with all of this – but I would say that at the very top level the academy system is giving us a lot of intelligent technical players, possibly more than I can recall in volume. The England U21 9-1 defeat of Serbia was an interesting watch certainly…

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 17/10/2023 at 13:50:07
I'd just say, let your son keep developing, Robert, because once kids reach age 14, then I believe football changes rapidly, and it does the same again round about the age of 17/18.

Understanding the game has got to be one of the most important aspects, and it sounds like your son has got a bit of this in his locker. The older he gets, the more important this part of the game will become, just as long as he keeps enjoying it. 🤞

My son has just turned 10, and doesn't like passing the ball, but I'm sure this will change because he's just started showing me all the cuts and bruises on his legs, with the only sympathy received is being told to learn to "Pass the ball then, kid!"

Robert Tressell
14 Posted 17/10/2023 at 13:54:50
Thanks Tony, I'm learning as I go along with the youth football - but what I have learned more than anything is that there's a lot of volunteers out there who deserve OBEs for their services to the community. My son loves the football (which is the main thing) and I enjoy watching his matches more than I enjoy the Premier League.
Tony Abrahams
15 Posted 17/10/2023 at 14:14:09
The other side of the fence is that there are quite a few parents who need locking up Robert, but it’s getting better since they keep everyone away from the side of the pitch!

Kids can change in an instant. I think everyone always felt that I was a bit to critical towards my stepson, but I only criticize if I don’t think “any player” is working hard enough, and now the penny has dropped he’s become a different player.

It’s why I think that enjoying playing the game is so essential, because my view has always been that hard work comes a lot more naturally when we are enjoying whatever we do.

Dale Self
16 Posted 17/10/2023 at 15:49:09
Robert and Tony, Fabulous back and forth!

One day I would love to see this expanded on: ”This is basically how Guardiola organises play. His positional play tactics are designed to reduce player decision-making by ensuring players are geometrically positioned around the pitch at all times.”

I've been doing some remedial analysis trying to figure out the basic principle that guides situational positioning. That phrase is gold for that perspective. I obviously have not had the structured environment while learning the game and so this fascinates me.

Sorry if I jumped in early but that summary of Guardola's intent was beautiful.

Tony Abrahams
18 Posted 17/10/2023 at 16:40:23
Interesting, Dale, because, when I saw Guardiola's name mentioned in a discussion about young players, I was a bit put off, if I'm being honest, mate.

When I was younger, not many players left Liverpool and went on to better things and it was maybe the same with Forest when Clough was the manager.

Maybe this is why a lot of academy kids struggle when they leave this environment because suddenly they lose structure and maybe find it hard adapting to a completely different way of playing.

We could talk all day about it with my own thoughts being that, when Moshiri sacked Martinez, he missed a trick not employing him as the head of the academy!

Dale Self
19 Posted 17/10/2023 at 18:37:10
Tony, I think I did jump in too quick, sorry about that. My remark was solely about the system logic of the Guardiola Game and was a distraction from the academy topic.

On that topic, I think you are right. Guardiola is at that professorial stage and probably just insists on the best players without regard for fundamental development in the overall game. He does his part with massive contributions to the high end but leaves casualties as part of that pursuit. In many ways, he is an antithesis to what is needed at the youth level.

Tony Abrahams
20 Posted 17/10/2023 at 20:19:47
Unless he was given a role that allowed him to build the whole football club up maybe, Dale?

I loved what Arsene Wenger, did for Arsenal, and remember his younger players absolutely dismantling the Moyes team that came 4th, in a League Cup tie at Highbury many years ago, with fast aggressive, forward-thinking football that was played mainly on the ground and seemed to be ingrained into the whole football club around this time.

If my memory is correct, then I can't recall many of those young players who really impressed me that night, really making the grade. I suppose it would have also been very hard for any young player once they had to leave Arsenal because they had a totally different style of play to any other club around this time.

Robert Tressell
21 Posted 17/10/2023 at 22:09:53
Dale if you like this subject, try a YouTube channel called the Purist Football - two good recent videos in particular about each of the Fluminense manager (now Brazil) and the Malmo manager who he has inspired. A good one too about the 3-1-6 formation now being adopted to outmanoeuvre low block teams (which I think is what Arsenal did to us at home a few weeks ago).

They analyse both very rigid European systems like Guardiola's (or really Cruyff's) positional play and the very different style Brazil are now trying to develop and Ancelotti is expected to continue when he takes over.

It's interesting to see just how hard players like Bruno Guimaraes find the new tactics. So you can only imagine how difficult kids find it if they leave the City academy and find themselves playing a completely different brand of football elsewhere.

It'll suit some but not others.

Dale Self
22 Posted 20/10/2023 at 15:35:05
Tony, that is the standard in my largely discounted opinion. Wenger was the most distinguished manager in the English game. I don't know if that is considered heresy but I think I could argue a round or two on that. Good observation.

And thanks as always Robert, I will be viewing those later today with my adapted chess board trying to keep up. I've been a bit late to the party on youth issues but, given the apparent club stability on the pitch and my age, it is time.

Dale Self
23 Posted 20/10/2023 at 17:31:25
Yes, Robert, the Purist football videos are worth watching. Well constructed points and a gentleman's presentation. Thanks again, I'm looking for a specific Croatian analysis after the 3-1-6 thing.

I noticed Croatia's separation of groups creating space which allowed the famous walking football approach. This started my interest in these unusual formations. I can begin to see how these evolve from standard formations and their weaknesses.

Then at some point the simple game can undo the complex approaches in a neverending contest of strategy. The beautiful game is complexly simple, the world is simply complex.

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