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Talking Shop

Posted on 23 December 2001  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Director of Football David Pleat examines the structure and importance of a sound and productive youth development system.

WITH THE CURRENT instability within the game, constant changes of managers can also bring with it changes at youth level.

Youth coaches changes, administrators change. One fact to establish is, does club policy change with its view towards youth?

Certainly in the last few years the importance of instigating and developing a sound youth policy has been accepted as the way ahead.

If you look at the heart of the Leeds United revival with players who have come through the system, compare with Manchester United who, in the modern times, have had the confidence to push four or five of their youth school into their senior team you see the rewards these schemes can reap.

I recently watched Nottingham Forest and there was only two foreign players in the team, built mainly with younger players. Look back at Bobby Robson's golden days at Ipswich or even the wonderful Leeds United era of Reaney, Madeley, Sprake, Lorimer and Jones and you see that the development of youth was then - and is now - a staple recipe for success.

Howard Wilkinson has laid down a blueprint based mainly on the ideals from France, in which Gerard Houllier played a major part. The school at Clarefontaine has produced some of the best players in the world over the last ten years and there are many French players being exported all over the world as a result of their improved standards.

To have improved standards we must have good facilities and now there are superb facilities at the likes of Middlesbrough, Manchester United, Liverpool and Blackburn.

Matching them is a challenge for us all. We are now looking very closely at Tottenham at finding the best way ahead. Whether we have an independent Academy area, or whether we, as we do presently at Chigwell, combine both the younger boys and senior pros on the same site.

The problem with Academies is that some clubs, through no fault of their own, just cannot get enough boys from within the catchment area to satisfy the standards of excellence expected.

Only recently a result struck me that was obviously a major mis-match - Manchester United 9 Wrexham 0. No matter how hard Wrexham try, and their efforts have been admirable, to sustain an academy - it is going to be difficult for them to keep pace with the major clubs.

In the end I foresee the leading clubs forming a league within a league inside the adademy system. All the brave clubs like Millwall, Wrexham, Peterborough, Reading and Bristol City for example, may find the requirements demanded to meet the criteria is too exacting.

At Tottenham we have to face facts and realise the importance of this scheme. In the last four years alone we have sent away from here several million pounds worth of talent from the system - which more than pays for the work being done at youth level.

Most of the players have been quite successful since leaving, others are finding their feet and some find it more difficult.

For example, Jamie Clapham won a first team place at Ipswich shortly after being sold for £300,000 due to the competition in the left-back area, but so far this season he is finding it more difficult to retain his place in the side.

Rory Allen went off to Portsmouth for over £1m, but has been troubled by injuries as he was here. It was the good sense to loan him to Luton that saw him spring to prominence and attracted attention.

The two major outward transfers of this summer were both products of the Academy. Luke Young went to Charlton for £3m plus various future increments and he looks to have a promising career in front of him. Ian Walker was far more experienced and he now is probably getting all the work that he needs at Leicester City to project his abilities.

Further down the scale, Mark Arber left for Barnet for almost £50,000 and has played more than competently at that level. Mark Gower also headed for Underhill and I hope someone will one day recognise his abilities and give him another chance at a higher level.

We have sold Ian Hillier to Luton for a figure that will eventually reach around £60,000. I personally hope he does very well as Ian needs to play first team football and I'm sure at Luton he will get the opportunity to play for a club that is on the rise.

The income generated from our sales, around £8m, bears good comparison with the likes of other major clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal.

Players always leave with our good wishes and it bears testimony to our initial identification and coaching if they do well.

In the first team at the moment we have Ledley King proving the importance of the Academy system, as well as Stephen Clemence, recovering well from injury along with Stephen Carr.

The youth development at any club is a vital factor and identification of talent is paramount. It is this doctrine that new regime of Tottenham have pledged to continue and have gone on record emphasising the importance of developing our own.

Many supporters, particularly those hugging the touchline at the Lodge on a Saturday morning viewing the talent of the future, will agree with that philosophy.