Football is an extremely competitive sport and clubs have scouts all over the world searching for the best prospects. For European footballers, breaking into the highest level of the professional game is a challenge. Indeed it is so difficult to dislodge seasoned professionals that academy players often struggle to get first team for top-tier European football clubs.
The transition from youth academy to professional football is not an easy one to make and many academy players never make it to the first team. Managing to take that final step requires attitude, talent and, of course, the type of the manager who is willing to give academy players a chance.
Ultimately, it’s the coaches who decide whether to take a risk on raw talent or opt for more experienced players with a proven track record. Let’s have a look at 6 clubs who have given their academy players a chance this season.
Daniel Farke has given three academy graduates considerable playing time this season in Jamal Lewis, Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell.
Norwich are one of the smallest clubs in the Premier League and look set for a return to the Championship at the end of the season. Although their first season back in the Premier League hasn’t been a huge success, the Canaries should be applauded for resisting the urge to spend tens of millions on expensive players and instead sticking to their philosophy of giving academy players a chance. Indeed, their ability to identify young, talented players was a significant reason behind their promotion in the first place.
For the second season in a row, Belgian club Anderlecht will miss out on European football as they finished in seventh place. The club have been losing money and have been forced to give a chance to their academy players. However, despite a forgettable season, Anderlecht have certainly lived up to their reputation in trusting young players.
In fact they have given players under the age of 22-years-old 46.8% of playing time so far this season, according to the International Centre for Sports Studies Football Observatory (CIES). Regulars have included the likes of Yari Verschaeren, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Jérémy Doku and Marco Kana with Vincent Kompany guiding them on and off the field in his capacity as player-manager.
The days of John Terry as the only youth player in the Chelsea starting eleven are gone. The upside of Chelsea’s recent transfer ban is that their considerable depths of talented youth players are finally getting playing time.
Though the ban has now been lifted, many young Chelsea players have been given a chance by Frank Lampard this season and will continue to do so. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have become regulars in the first team while Andreas Christensen, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James are gradually getting more time on the pitch as well.
The Ajax academy is an institution long-famed for its prolific player output and pursuit of technical perfection, educated to play in their classic 4-3-3 system. Ajax Amsterdam has continued to churn out some of the most exciting talents in world football today with players the likes of Frenkie De Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Justin Kluivert in the last seasons. Currently, the Dutch record champions have academy players Donny van de Beek, Daley Blind and Sergiño Dest in its squad, along with Ryan Babel who returned to the Netherlands after he left Ajax in 2013 and is, unfortunately, playing a disappointing season.
The Tottenham Hotspur academy features a network of 35 scouts who are tasked with finding the best local, national and international talents. The biggest name to emerge from the Tottenham youth academy is, of course, Harry Kane. In addition to Kane, Harry Winks, Kyle Walker-Peters and Oliver Skipp have also been given game time this season.
19-year-old midfielder Skipp, in particular, is one of the academy’s brightest prospects for several seasons and is serving as an example of how a young player can rise through the ranks at the London club.
Manchester United are famous for giving players from their academy a chance in the first team and enough has been written about the famous Class of ’92. However, not every youngster can make the starting eleven at Old Trafford.
Man United have given more than ten academy players playing time this season, with Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay playing more than 1,000 minutes. Angel Gomes, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Axel Tuanzebe, Mason Greenwood, Andreas Pereira, Brandon Williams, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and James Garner are the other nine academy players to feature in the first team this season, although Paul Pogba has obviously done it after being brought back to the club for a world record fee after moving to Juventus.
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