Often Partisan

Further Development

Birmingham City Academy striker Ronan Hale scored four times in the U18 side’s 4-2 win over Coventry City at the weekend. The 17-year-old Northern Irish striker is now up to 13 goals in 13 league and cup games for Blues U18 side having signed from Crusaders in the summer.

For those of you who haven’t seen the goals, the club uploaded this clip to Youtube yesterday.

I can’t honestly remember being this excited about the continual in flow of players who have come up through the ranks. While I’m more than aware that there is a big step up from u18 football to the Championship Blues do seem to have more and more players who have the potential to push forwards into the first team than I can remember for a long time.

It’s taken a fair while to get the Academy in full flow after the Golds and Sullivan had it closed down in 1996 due to their belief that the Bosman ruling would make the Academy pointless and they’d be better off spending the £250,000 per year it cost elsewhere. As much as people praise the former board for keeping Blues on the straight and narrow I do believe that stuff like this proves just how penny-wise and pound-foolish they could be. It took the insistence of Trevor Francis to get the Academy reinstated and it was 1999 when Blues got a licence off the FA.

Contrast that with Carson Yeung, who I understand was due to buy Wast Hills from the University of Birmingham for a seven-figure sum just before he was arrested. The Academy now runs on an annual budget in seven figures as the club is making strides to try to take it to Grade 1 level in the future – and that money is being repaid in the continual flow of players into the first team.

I was intrigued by something Gary Rowett was quoted as saying on the official site yesterday about new development squad signing Luke Maxwell.

“He [Luke Maxwell] trained with the First Team this morning and looked very comfortable, so again he might be a little bit of a surprise that could accelerate his progress being full time in this type of environment and give us something different this year.

Maxwell has been brought in to develop as a player at Blues, in a deal which sees him back playing in the National League for Kidderminster for the remainder of the season but also training with Blues for a couple of days a week. It’s a really clever usage of the youth loan system, which allows young players to get first team action down the league ladder while still getting coaching from their permanent club.

I’ve been a big believer for a long time that the u21 side should be a further extension of the Academy and it appears that Gary Rowett agrees with me. While it’s great to see players like Demarai Gray come through the team from the age of 9, it’s also good to see we can pick up players at 16 or 17 and turn them into first team pros – Viv Solomon-Otabor and Charlee Adams being two recent examples. If we can repeat that with players who are 18 or 19, then it bodes well for the club becoming even more self-sufficient. Let’s hope players like Ronan Hales and Luke Maxwell prove this theory right.

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34 Responses to “Further Development”

  • swissjonny says:

    Couldnt agree more Daniel. We cannot possibly compete with Clubs with mega budgets so this is clearly the way forward.I feel that the back room team that Gary has will really bring on our talented youngsters. One word of advice to them though-dont blow your chance of a dream career by playing the prat.GR has made it clear that if you want to be a professional you have to be professional.He is 100 per cent right.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Seeing one of our own coming through the ranks into the first team, is just as satisfying as paying £1.5m to bring a player in, maybe more so. I look forward to the day we have a nucleus of our own players in the team (that’s if they’re not sold first.) The Academy are doing a fantastic job and long may it continue.

  • Neil says:

    Great post Daniel and when these young lads read posts like this will only fill them with confidence .

  • Womble Joe says:

    Blues have nailed this and are reaping the rewards.

    All I would ask is that our fans don’t try and rush promising young lads through and let Gary make that all important call.

    In Rowett we trust

    KRO

  • Trevor Honnor says:

    It still amazes me why in a country of football addicted kids (girls too these days) that the bigger clubs spend £20m, £30m, £40m + on absolute unknowns from the far reaches of the world. OK there are some good ones but there are also a lot who are only as good as the neighbour’s kid who is on trial at Wolves or Blues.

    The end of the loan window (next season) is bound to uncover a few more local gems.

    On this note, I could read stories like this all day about kids coming through our academy, long may it continue.

  • Bluedad says:

    Good Post
    It was said you win nothing with kids that may have some truth but you do not progress at our level without them. these kids are our future, and it looks sunny.

  • Richard Granfield says:

    I have seen Ronan Hale play and I detect similarities in his game to a young Michael Owen.
    Ronan has that goal scoring instinct that cannot be taught.
    He shoots first time when non-goal scorers take a touch or two and the chance has gone.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      The best strikers are those who aren’t afraid to miss… ie Kevin Phillips. They know they’ll always get another chance.

  • I think the football league rules need changing to be a mite fairer to less richer clubs , children can leave home at sixteen so I can’t see why they can’t sign a football contract as long as it is through a football league registered agent….that way if a boy leaves home at sixteen he could secure a job in football straight away if he is good enough , just bouncing ideas ..

    • almajir says:

      I think the absolute opposite. I think players shouldn’t be allowed to sign contacts until they’re 18… and if I was absolutely honest, I think it might be better to follow the US system and attach academies to educational institutions. Nearly all Academy players will not make it, so giving them an education as a backup is absolutely essential imo.

  • Bluenosesol says:

    One thinks of Trevor Francis and more recently Dele Alli who both had their first team debuts at 16 years of age. When I saw Francis for the first time, I was shocked and I thought with his slight build, he wouldn’t last his first tackle. I wander what are the qualities that the coaching staff see that differentiate between a kid who is worth a punt in the first team very early doors, versus one who is expected to serve a long term Under 21 graduation? Regardless this is the best time I have felt as a Bluenose since the League Cup Final!! KRO!!

  • ChrisG says:

    I do think it’s time the influx of foreign players was stopped by the powers that be, there are far too many imo, some premier league clubs don’t have any british players in their 1st 11. The amount of youngsters that get tossed onto the scrapheap each year is criminal. Blues should be commended for the way they have nurtured their young, Mutch, Butland, Redmond & now Gray have come through the acadamy & are now at premier league clubs, which shows what can be done with the right care & attention.

  • .KC says:

    Yes great post Dan. We might not have the biggest scouting network but we seem to have an eye for spotting these youngsters from all over the place. Don’t care where they come but good if we can also pick up the best from the Brummie homeland.

    At the other end of the spectrum just by chance was reading some fairly recent stuff on N’Zogbia. Who ? As I understand it he turned us down before he then went on eventually to join the Vile. Gosh that was one big piece of luck for us but great for the Vile.

  • I started work at fifteen and had to work out of town at that age at Oxford , I kept working out of town at Edinburgh, Bristol ,hull ,Newport Wales , hull , Tilbury .Plymouth,and many other towns before I settled down , it never did me any harm starting at 15 ,and I had no regrets ,

  • Big Al says:

    We lost a decent player when the academy was shut down – went on to play for Cov I think. Can anyone remember his name?

  • Bluey says:

    The problem is that we develop players but are in no position to keep them when the bigger clubs come along.It feels as though we`re bringing these players on knowing that if they do well they won`t be around for long.We have neither the financial clout or perceived stature to stop this happening.

  • Steve in Yorkshire says:

    Great article Dan. I too love watching the youth clips on Youtube. I do like what I have seen of Hale. Seems to like his little Gazza v Colin Hendry (Scotland) flick over the defenders’ head too!

    Was anyone else amused by Koby Arthur’s interview on the main site? Seemed like a stream of consciousness rather than the usual clichéd sound bite interviews. I love the way they quoted him saying ‘tossing it off’ Maybe he was referring to Reece Brown!

  • Tonyd says:

    How well did Hale put away that penalty! He’s really encouraging, and may leapfrog the u21 strikers. Doubly encouraging is his partnership with David Popa, who’s also well worth looking out for.

  • I can see where you are coming from ,with the US academy DAN , what ever way it needs to be fairer

  • Ted says:

    I absolutely agree with this piece Dan. On a slightly sour note we must remember that however gifted the kid is once they get the opportunity they have to grasp it and understand that attitude and dedication are as important as raw talent. Everyone knows who the elephant in the room is here. Sad but we must focus on the lads who knuckle down.

  • Andrew says:

    being a huge city with the diversity in culture its only natural for blues to have a good supply of talent in the local area, we need to just keep nurturing and investing in this for the future. I like how we are gaining a reputation as a strong youth academy for homegrown.

  • Art says:

    Good post Dan,

    I’m afraid I can’t see the point in developeing players then selling them on for a third of their potential value.

    I can’t get too excited about this post or the academy.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      If you are referring to selling Gray for nearly £4m it makes perfect sense if it provides the funds to bring in Fabbrini, Vaughan, Shotton, Buckley and possibly Tesche in the summer. The squad is significantly stronger now that that it was a few months ago. While Vaughan, Shotton and Buckley are on loan they are all with a view to a permanent move. Given the lack of investment coming in to the club how else are we going to raise funds to strengthen the squad.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        Agree. The Gray deal was a good one for us and has allowed us to make that extra kick for the play offs that we may not have had before he left. Players leaving doesn’t always have to be a negative… in fact, I dread to think where we’d be now if we hadn’t sold the likes of Mutch, Butland and Redmond. The Gray money has funded us to, hopefully, the next level.

  • I think shotton must play against S.W. if nuhiu at 6′ 6″ plays with two 6′ midfield players , and two 6′ 3″ centre backs , and mcGeady and wallace on the wings we could find us a bit short with crosses , KRO

  • Wonderful comment about Gold,Sullivan era Dan.Supporters tend to forget that the baulk of the money for development of the ground came from the football trust after the tragedy at Hillborough.They could not get out of town quick enough when the council would not build them a new ground.They decamped to London and have had a nice little earner courtesy of the taxpayer.I doubt very much that Lady Brady will be denouncing the deal on behalf of the taxpayer.

  • I would like to see a super cup of the Midlands , staged every four years , with all the Midlands teams in the league making up a team of 18 to 21 year olds each team being graded by the league division they are in with the 2nd division teams having more 2O year olds in them. and the teams in the top league having more 18yo in them , this would give the youngsters something really to look forward to and bring them on at the same time ,what do you think DAN…

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    The thing about watching reserve / development matches is the good players stand out over the general mediocrity. Hales is one. Also the Coventry left back did a peach of a pass for their second goal.

    I remember see a game at Solihull and being very impressed by a central midfielder called ‘A Triallist’ who ran the whole show despite holding a piece of paper throughout. When he attacked my end in the second half I realised that it was ‘sicknote’.

  • swissjonny says:

    Yes Julian it was a great pass.Sign him up!!

  • Anybody that is manager of a youth football team deserves a medal , I was a cub and scouts group football manager for about 4 years , All those mood swings , and that was just the parents when you didn’t pick there sons ,

  • Dave Mann says:

    Been there and got the T shirt mate .. I coach many sports and you go with your instincts . KRO


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