Often Partisan

Five Scholars Earn Deals

Blues announced yesterday five second year scholars had earned their first professional deals ahead of the 2016/17 season.

David Popa, Corey O’Keeffe and Steve Seddon have all been awarded two year deals, while Beryly Lubala has been given a one year contract. Edjija Mbunga has been given a six month deal having missed most of this season through injury. Josh Tibbetts has been given a year’s extra scholarship having also suffered with injury while a decision remains to be made on Jack Challis. Khaleem Bailey, Jordan Potter and Leighton Smith are to be released.

Of the five who have been offered new deals I’m most excited to see what will come from David Popa. The 18-year-old Romanian striker has featured regularly in the u21 side this season and while still a raw teenager shows promise that he can follow players like Viv Solomon-Otabor and Charlee Adams in pushing into the first team.

With the emergency loan window firmly closed next season Blues have to have a good u21 set up to act as cover for the first team, and the trend in recent years to retain more players following the end of their scholarship has been part of a shift within football generally to extend player development further at the start of their careers.

While it is certainly true that most young professionals won’t make the grade I’ve always personally thought it’s harder to make a decision on how good a player will be at 18 than it is at 21 and I have to admit, I’m pleased that Blues are enabled to give players more time to develop into talent that can make the grade in the first team.

Blues have also utilised the idea of playing many more u21 games than purely just the professional development league to give players an understanding of how gruelling a league season can be; however I also think it’s given the club more opportunity to utilise a full squad system at u21 level to get the best chance to look at players as they develop. It’s given more opportunities to the likes of Popa, O’Keeffe, Seddon and Lubala to play in u21 games and to impress the coaching staff; in turn the u18 squad has utilised more of the first year scholars like Ronan Hale to showcase how far they can step up.

Blues may be going through some trials and tribulations on the ownership front but there really does seem to be a genuine continual improvement at academy and development level which will only bode well for the future of the team – and if we can keep producing talents of the level of Demarai Gray and Nathan Redmond – of the club itself.

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20 Responses to “Five Scholars Earn Deals”

  • Trevor Honnor says:

    Great article. Keep them coming Blues!

  • Big Al says:

    Credit to all the coaches, the management and the owners. Lets not forget how disinterested our former owners were in youth development and the women’s team.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Surprised to see Khaleem Bailey let go. He scored a cracker from 25-30 yards against Bolton last week. It’s quite exciting to think that some of these young players might get a chance over the next season or two.

  • Graham says:

    What happened to Reece brown?has he gone?

  • BlackCountryBlue says:

    It is good to see our talent developing and investment in / emphasis on the academy. Good point Big Al – It looks like the powers that be can see how important all age groups of the playing side are, including the women’s team. Give me that any day when compared to some ‘big’ clubs who basically fill their playing staffs right down to U18/21 squads with over paid foreign imports who rarely make it, or clubs that hoover up youngsters so no one else can have them just in case one makes it.

  • It is grand to see the club in such good hands .

  • Richard Granfield says:

    Odin Bailey (16) has also signed a pre-contract which comes into effect on his 17th birthday.
    I just hope Ronan Hale will sign a professional contract……The longer the better.

  • swissjonny says:

    Look at how well Man United did with home grown players. Totally different subject but did anyone see the Viles latest financial statements? That is looking like another accident waiting to happen-although sadly I guess they will be helped by the parachute payments. Seems to me unless you have a billionaire owner who simply doesnt care about money your going to swim in the sea of football survival. Clearly the game will suffer.Although I wish we had one such man at our helm!

    • Andrew says:

      Tell that to Leicester city

    • almajir says:

      I believe they’re in real trouble… heard they have no relegation clauses in their player’s contracts…

    • BlackCountryBlue says:

      Basically swiss football as we know it is on its way out. If you are not already in ‘the big boys club’ you will be dropped when ‘they’ (and we know who they are!) break away and form the euro league and take the TV money with them. The laughably named champions league which you only have to finish 4th to play in was always intended to be the first step.

  • mark says:

    Good news, any football supporter likes to see homegrown players make progress…….


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