Boro Graduates Point To Bright Future

WITH AN injury crisis leaving the national team short, Boro have been cast as the unlikely saviours of English football. The club’s approach to grooming talent all the way into the first team is being hailed as a template that can turn the tide of the foreign invasion.

The need to draft left back Gareth Barry into central midfield and give a shock recall to Boro’s Nemesis Emile Heskey for the crunch qualifier with Israel has led to widespread ‘why oh why’ hand-wringing over the dearth of top class domestic talent available to coach Steve McClaren.
Just a few injuries had left the squad looking alarmingly thin.
And, shouting above the sound of a giant rouble dropping, FA director of development Trevor Brooking has forecast the collapse of England’s football future as the stream of prospective stars slows to a trickle. The Soho Square kingpin is in charge of youth and grassroots football so is in a position to see the decline at first hand – and he is in no doubt that the root of the crisis is the impatience of the big clubs and the habitiual import of ready made talent.

“The national team has to be under threat – the numbers show that. I don’t think you can underestimate it. It’s a major concern. Last year about 40% of starting XIs in the Premier League were English and with all the buying over the summer that will probably fall to under a third. Will there be first-team opportunities for some of our youngsters?

“If you look at Italy when they won the last World Cup, I think they had over 70% of their league made up of domestic players. Spain, France, Holland, they’re all up there too. Germany aren’t much better than us but we’re the lowest. The more that goes down, and the pool of choice reduces, we must come under pressure. In 10 years’ time you don’t want us just being pleased to qualify for tournaments.”

Given that backdrop the concerted efforts of Boro to focus on the Hurworth academy to produce home grown heroes and the club’s eye-catching success in nurturing exciting kids into the first team squad is being hailed as a role model that can help turn back the tide.
The number of England qualified players in Premiership squads, dropping gradually since the day the Premier League kicked off in 1992, is now nudging down to just a third of the total and that has belatedly set off alarms bells. There were only 12 foreigners starting on that first day, but in this term’s opener 121 – 56% of the total – kicked-off.
The stark warning and the unanswerable statistics have put the spotlight on Boro – and for a change the club can bask in the praise of a positive press. In the wake of Brooking’s comments the BBC, Sky Sports and a string of national newspapers have pointed to Boro’s careful husbandry as a possible antidote to the quick fix option of importing ready made talent while the Sunday Times despatched chief sports writer David Walsh to write a glowing colour piece about the Hurworth academy.
And it is worth echoing that praise closer to home. Amid “the cloud of negativityâ€? that envelops Planet Boro at times and the white noise of our constant internecine squabbling over prices, engagement and atmosphere we should not forget the incredible progress that has been made to develop a system that is now the envy of far bigger and richer clubs.
The careful investment of an estimated £1m plus per year in the infrastructure of the academy for coaches, facilities and a productive scouting network for over a decade has helped put down the building blocks for a sustainable future.
We know that Boro can not compete with the real big boys for the best players, a problem that has become more pronounced as foreign billionaire speculators close in on the cash rich Premiership and push the stakes higher. Recently Steve Gibson revealed that to satisfy Mark Viduka’s wage demands would mean giving over half the season ticket income every year while over the Summer boss Gareth Southgate repeatedly stressed that the club could not and would not chase the rising market and spend money they did not have on inflated transfer fees.
But Boro now regularly include five or six homegrown players within the matchday squad – on the opening day against Blackburn the 16 included Andrew Davies, Andrew Taylor, David Wheater, Stewart Downing, Seb Hines, Lee Cattermole and Adam Johnson plus academy polished Aussie Brad Jones – an enviable feat that has saved millions of pounds in transfer fees and, as most are just youngsters and still at the just about comprehensible end of the pay scale, also in the wages their imported equivalents would demand too.
The academy hitting pay-dirt is a financial boon for the club that helps them compete – but the youngsters are not just the cheap option. They are in the team on merit. Downing, Taylor and Wheater would be pencilled in on almost every fans’ first XI while Johnson and Cattermole have their champions for a starting role ahead of big buys too.
After the impact of Downing in his first season, James Morrison, Stuart Parnaby and then Cattermole and Johnson last term, Wheater has been this seasons revelation with a string of displays that suggest he has stepped up in style.
Drafted in to answer a central defensive injury crisis the imposing Redcar lad has slotted in smoothly with an unflappable physicality that brings to mind a young Tony Mowbray.
The strength in depth of the set up is illustrated with every England squad. When was the last one unveiled at any level without a Boro presence?
In the current round of internationals Downing is in the senior squad (and but for his Summer operation Jonathan Woodgate would surely have featured too) while Wheater, Taylor and Johnston were included in the Under-21s and Jonathon Franks, Jason Steel and Nathan Porritt were all in the Under-17 set-up. A year ago Boro staged a photo shoot and could call on 17 England internationals at all levels who had come through the academy set-up.
Perhaps more significantly Boro can point with pride the achievement on the final day of the 2005-06 season in which they fielded a complete team of their academy graduates.
They started the narrow 1-0 defeat at Fulham with ten – Ross Turnbull, Davies, Matthew Bates, Wheater, Taylor, Morrison, Cattermole, Jason Kennedy, Johnson and Danny Graham – then Malcolm Christie made way for Josh Walker to make up a full complement and push the average age down to 19.
Yes, they were filling in as regulars were rested ready for the UEFA Cup final, but they held their own in a spirited display and put down a marker on what is now a well trodden path. Over the past five years 13 Academy players have made the first team and all but Brad Jones hail from within 30 miles of the Riverside.
Of course, the academy can’t be rated as a complete success until it is paying for itself and even becomes a regular source of significant income. The sale of James Morrison to West Brom for £1.5m in the Summer was a major step towards that but it will take more sales, and ultimately bigger ones if the club are to take the concept to its logical conclusion and become a giant version of Crewe, a self-sustaining set-up with areputation for excellence.
But the academy it more than just a financial arrangement. The academy conveyor belt is ensuring that Boro continue to be a team with a core of local lads who understand the traditions and passions of the club and who can relate to the supporters, players who give it the fighting spirit that strikes a chord with the crowd. At a time when fans are increasingly alienated from the millionaires who wear their shirt that emotional link is a factor that is priceless.


38 thoughts on “Boro Graduates Point To Bright Future

  1. Just look at west ham to see about producing the good. They have sold players for millions. Man city have had a few too in Richards.
    Where did the likes of Heskey, SWP, Crouch and so on start their careers?
    Just how many of those at Fulham will hold down a place in the premier league remains to be seen.
    Even I could assemble a team of local lads that go to Fulham and get beat.

  2. Dave – go and support Sunderland you don’t deserve to support Boro with that crass attitude.
    The academy is fantastic, and credit where it is due the club deserves a huge pat on the back for having the foresight to develop it.

  3. The academy is excellent PR for the club but is it any more productive than the old system?
    We can all remember the Class of 1986, YTS lads signed up from Marton Juniors or wherever, all stepping up to the first team and some of them (Pally, Coops, Rippers) going on to win England caps and the bulk of the rest (Kerny, Mohan, Parky, Gill etc), making a decent living and reputation in the game.
    That is the benchmark for me. The academy up to now has produced very little in the way of first team fixtures.
    At the minute we have Downing, well deserving of his place and probably worth a shot for England (a cert if he played for some other clubs) but beyond that it is less certain.
    Morrison was never really a top flight player, he had pace but couldn’t cross, didn’t have the physical presence and (apart from once) never put a tackle in: Davies is a Championship player who drops too many blobs, McMahon and Bates are always injured, Wheater I love but he is playing above himself right now and is more brawn than brain and maybe not good enough at this level, Johnson is unproven and Taylor looks a very bright prospect but is far from the finished product. Brad Jones is a player I wouldn’t have in a lucky bag.
    Up to now the academy has produced one star, one decent first teamer and a few subs. The vast majority of its graduates are destined for the lower leagues and non-league. How is that any different from the old system?

  4. I think that the academy is doing many, many positive things and has produced some decent players over the last few years.
    But we will have to see how it all pans out and I really don’t think that you can yet hold up the academy system as the saviour of English football or as a template for others to follow. I think that’s taking it way too far.
    I don’t think the likes of those mentioned would yet be playing were it not for the fact that they are local lads and because we have players injured and no one else to take their place, and I really don’t think that any of them would yet be good enough to get a game at any other established Premiership club that had injury free squads.
    That said, I think praise where praise is due. These young lads have come in and done a good job given the massive step up from the academy and into the fire of Premiership games and all the pressure that goes into it and to expect them not to make rookie mistakes is asking a bit too much.
    But fair play and a big, big well done to the club and all those involved at the academy for producing decent lads who may well develop into real quality contenders for Premiership football here or at other clubs. Fair play also to the club for giving them their shot in the first team.
    Hopefully these young lads will learn from the experience, be very excited, and really go away with the overwhelming burning desire to really kick on and improve.
    At the very least its fair to say that the young lads at the academy who have yet to break through can rest easy knowing that their time will come because they are at a club that really does believe in them and will give them a go when the time is right, and for this I think the club do need to be very highly praised for.
    So far so good, but still lots of work to be done and if we can really teach them about diet, nutrition e.t.c. and keep them out of the drinking culture then I think things will only continue to get better.
    Education is the key for me. Lets keep on investing and keep on improving the level of the coaching they are getting.

  5. Boro have been producing youngsters for years that everyone gets exited about only for them to dissapear into the lower leagues.
    We have only produced one good premier league player so far so I can’t really see the difference between us and many other premier teams, apart from we give our youngsters the opportunity to play because we have such a paper thin squad.
    I think it is great that we are producing players, but I hope that we can get some coming through that are of real premiership standard.

  6. red rebel the class of ’86 were relegated from the old first division because they weren’t good enough.
    Since then how many good Boro born players have made it into the first team before the academy output started?
    If the national press are praising the Boro academy then it must be doing something right because as we all know the national press does not praise Boro readily.

  7. Nigel, no need to have the same attitude as keith lamb.
    How many through the academy actually go on and hold a place down in the team on merit and not because of injuries to other players? Only taylor and downing really.
    We have already seen players like cattermole get pushed out by Southgate signing midfielders like o’neill. Seen morrison forced out already.
    Although not English, brad Jones hasn’t really shown much and isn’t good enough. Playres like Davies are just there as cover. Very few of them will make it.
    I am sure if you go through the teams of the top 2 league a lot of clubs have as many local lads playing regularly. It is only the top 4 who have the money to go out and spend big on foreign players.

  8. Red Rebel
    The class of 86 got relegated, they werent the finished article either and many left to develop their careers.
    The most succesful was Pally, the rest had good workmanlike careers. Coops and Ripley got England caps but were not regulars.
    I wont denigrate our current crop nor do I expect many to become regulars in the England team. As we all know it takes many years to develop the academy to start bringing through players, both Robbo and Mac played their parts alongside Gibbo, and we are seeing a growing number of them exerting pressure on the established players.
    ManU had a golden generation. Giggs broke through quickly as did Downing, Beckham went out on loan and wasnt until his early twenties he came to prominence. Cat and Johnson being on the bench at such a young age is very unusual at any club. Taylor is already a regular
    Wheater is doing as well as can be expected and I see no sign that he will slip back. He looks as if he will keep developing and he certainly isnt just a bruiser.
    I agree about Davies and it may be worth taking money on offer. We did that with Morrison. No problem with that.
    If we get two or three establishing themselves each year that will be fine by me. If we also sell on some each season that is good business. What you wont get is instant progression from Youth team to regular first team in the same season. There are not many Rooneys about.

  9. “If we get two or three establishing themselves each year that will be fine by me.”
    That is pretty difficult to achieve.
    If you look over the last 6 to 7 years only Taylor and downing have managed to hold down a place. So that’s really 1 every 3 years or so.
    2 ways of looking at the point of the academy
    1) to create regular 1st team players.Up to now very limited success
    2) to create squad players to prop up the team when we have injuries. Relatively cheap wages. Then sell on a few every so often at a profit and so the academy makes the club money.
    I think the 2nd point is the most likely route to go.
    But looking in detail is our academy any better than say southampton who have sold a couple of players for big money recently?
    **AV writes: The only significant sale so far has been Morrison for £1.5m. Perhaps a good way to measure the productivity is calculate how much would it have cost to buy Downing, Taylor, Davies, Parnaby, Morrison, Johnson, Wheater, Bate and Cattermole.

  10. Interesting article and comparisons are inevitable. The class of ’86 have (rightly)achieved legendary status on Teesside but they did so in the second and third flight of English football. Few of that team went on to become top class players in the top league for any length of time.
    For many years few, if any, ever came through the youth ranks (Jamie Pollock!), a source of much frustration for us fans.
    Now, the sheer volume of players ‘with a real chance’ coming through is staggering and I would except Downing, Taylor, Wheater, Cattermole to make it at the top level with the majority of the remainder playing at a good level or joining the afore mentioned, raising much needed funds in the process.
    Sure, West Ham produced (and sold) an incredible number of players that in different circumstances could have followed the ‘golden generation’ example in Ian’s post.
    Saints have an excellent academy (again all sold, but we should try and pinch Surman). OK, so a couple of academies may be better but we should celebrate the fact that we have, for the first time in my four decades, a crop of local boys, playing an active role in maintaining top flight football at our club.
    Perhaps we haven’t yet found a Wayne Rooney but players like him happen once or twice a decade. Celebrate what we have for what it is, and pray the good work continues.

  11. Guys, guys….
    There are plenty of things to be critical about with MFC.
    The Academy isn’t one of them.
    Even grumpy old me sat back and read the positive piece in The Sunday Times – the first in how long in a national Sunday? – with some pride.
    But let me not finish without a grump – I think that the problem in bringing the kids through from the Academy to the first team is more about the first team coaching than the Academy output.

  12. Dave, I am Keith Lamb.
    I don’t know about the Championship but I do know there isn’t another premiership team that can field four players born within 30 miles of the town that are good enough to be in the team on merit.

  13. Dave
    The academy was started by Robbo and Gibson, the first generation of academy kids was Downing’s – the period we started appearing in the final stages of the youth cup – and he became established in the squad 3 years ago as did Parnaby.
    Since then we have seen Johnson, Cat, Taylor, Wheater, Davies, Morrison (now sold), Bates, McMahon with several more from the next sets on the fringes. That looks like 2-3 a season to me.
    It may come as a surprise but they dont come in to the academy at ten and appear in the first team the next year. As Wenger says it takes many years for the first crop to start coming through.
    At this stage they have started to come through in significant numbers, if in a couple of years we have no first team regulars or have not sold on for profit we should be worrying. As John Powls states we should always be looking at how much we are doing to improve them.

  14. “Since then we have seen Johnson, Cat, Taylor, Wheater, Davies, Morrison (now sold), Bates, McMahon with several more from the next sets on the fringes. That looks like 2-3 a season to me.”
    But how many of them will be first team regulars. i.e. do not need the manager to go out and bring someone in ahead of them. Downing and, just, Taylor. Pogi and huth ahead of bates and wheater. O’neill ahead of morrison, johnson and cattermole. Young ahead of davies,parnaby and mcmahon.
    See my point? the manager still brings players in players who he thinks is better than the academy players. Where did o’neill and young start off? How many players (playing regularly and not just a squad member)in the premier league started out at boro.
    Ask yourself this question: in a full team how many of these academy players will get a look in?
    Remains to be seen if the academy actually really makes that much difference to quality of players we bring through.
    Stil a long way to go to reach the levels of 1986. with mogga, cooper, pallister and ripley.

  15. “I don’t know about the Championship but I do know there isn’t another premiership team that can field four players born within 30 miles of the town that are good enough to be in the team on merit.”
    But how many of them are first choice? What about some teams in london that play london players. I think you wil be surprised at how many teams field players within 30 miles
    In the end southgate still buys players instead of much of the local talent. I expect 1 every 3 years to make it properly. At the moment it is downing and taylor. As morrison shows you arn’t good enough if you can onlky show it in flashes.
    I expect cattermole to push on and claim boateng’s role. But after scoring at fulham southgate prefers players he has bought in.

  16. I think too many people are missing the point. The fact that we were able to field a team of youngsters capable of competing at what is recognised as the highest level of football, is amazing.
    Not one other club in this league could have sent a team out last season containing 10/11 players that have developed from our academy.
    Ron Bone and co are doing a cracking job. The figures would read even better had Woodgate not slipped through the net, as well.

  17. Go East Go West – Home is where the Heart is!
    My lad would “bust a gut” to play for the Boro.
    20 years ago he may have got his chance – now – NO CHANCE – but all credit to the club for developing our local talent.
    Local heroes at any level of footy or any sport for that matter always stir local emotions.
    Keep ’em coming Hurworth!

  18. Dave
    Still a long way to reach the levels of relegation in 1986/7.
    In September 1986
    Mogga aged 23
    Pally aged 21
    Coops aged 19
    Ripley aged 20
    None of them made the big time at Boro, we were relegated at the start as we built to the future. They did not play in a first division with the quality of players in the current premiership
    Obviously Wheater, Adam Johnson Cat etc are mostly younger than these players. Give them some time. It would be wrong to say they are better than the previous players. It is equally wrong to say they will be worse.
    It is wrong to compare generations, my Dad talked about Mannion and Hardwick but we still won nowt. Mogga and co are folk heroes of their time, they played 20+ years after I started supporting Boro. All the good players are heroes, especially the local lads

  19. Dave
    I’m a bit surprised that you think Andy Taylor will only just make it. He’s already our established number 1 left-back (much better than Mad Dog in that position, and a regular in the England U-21 side.)
    I rate him as at least as good as Franck Queudrue, both defensively and creatively. He has just as good a left foot, good positional play, good tackling and passing. Perhaps only his heading isn’t yet up to Franck’s.

  20. A quick interlude.
    Back to discipline, England and South africa will lose Vickery and Burger respectively for disciplinary offences after being cited for foul play. It was all done and dusted in a few days.
    Hands up all those who think football will take on such prompt and effective action?

  21. Only just made it in last 12 months. Downing broke on the scene about 3-4 years ago. I expect no one else to establish themselves in the team for another 2-3 years. Hence, why i said about every 3 years someone comes through.
    Ian Gill, have a look on the internet on the career of those 4 players what they achieved.
    It is a big season for cattermole, just like it was for morrison last season. At the moment southgate prefers boateng and o’neill on the right. I will be surprised if cattermole’s role becomes more than utility sub player.
    Wheater show slots of promise but it will be tough on him once pogi and huth are back fit.
    When will johnson get a run in the team? Again there are better option and he will end up a player who comes on for 10 minutes.
    Let us see end of the season if any of these players establish themselves. We have seen it all before with players showing lots of promise but then fail to hold down a place and end up in the lower leagues

  22. Dave – Two points, firstly 50% of Englands population lives within 50 miles of central London, that’s around 20 million people. If the London clubs can’t find 3-4 prem. players each from a population that big there is something wrong!
    Secondly, Arsenal certainly haven’t got any Londoners in their first team, most of the time you are hard pressed to find any Englishmen at all in it. Tottenham have a few, Chelsea have Lampard, Cole, and Terry not sure about the rest. Its hardly a resounding success rate is it?
    It certainly isn’t a fair comparison to compare London clubs who have around 15 million people within 30 miles to Boro who have 500000 within the same distance.
    The fact is Boro are head and shoulders above the vast majority of the premiership and the best in the league at developing young local talent and that opinion is bourne out by the fact that Boro regularly field 3-4 Teessiders in the first team as first or second choice and who we as fans have confidence in and know they are in the team on merit.
    And lets face it despite the fact that we love our foreign stars such as Juninho (who I think is actually a Teessider now) there is no bigger buzz than seeing a David Wheater score, or Stewie playing for England etc etc.

  23. John Powls
    I will tell you when AV’s Blog will really shine home.
    Our Academy players are the jewels in the crown, which is why we will become some force this season as they further develops.
    If young Taylor was bought by say “Manchester Unitedâ€? for the many millions which he is worth, then he would now be knocking on the England door, if there was a crisis at left back for instance.
    Profile must have a say, because the names around you must sway things in one’s favour.
    I would like your open opinion on that please AV?
    If our academy team manage to produce a centre forward out of the same mould then the cup belongs to them, because magnificence is not to stronger a word.
    Finally I can’t wait for that Scottish Mackem Goal Keeper to arrive, because its kippers for tea.
    **AV writes: There is no doubt that playing for a bigger club enhances the CV and blinds the media to any minor imperfections as they start to push their bandwagon – although to be fair it also demands a higher level of consistency and on a bigger stage.

  24. They missed a bit of a trick when McLaren let Brunt go to Sheff Weds on a free without any sell on clause, he’s now gone to West Brom for £3m, almost twice the amount for Morrison & with no premiership experience.

  25. Dave
    I do look at these matters, I can use the internet and the group of 86 are folk heroes.
    I stick by my points that these people got us relegated, they were not good enough as a group to keep us in the first division, they were older as a group than our current crop.
    Judge like for like, it was you who said anyone can send a team of local kids out and lose, that is precisely what the class of 86 did. Lost many matches, got relegated, left the club. You are judging the current crop of kids as a group collectively against a selected group from 1986 with foresight.
    Read what I said, if in 2-3 years time they havent made it then judge them, not now. Even then, how can you compare one generation against another?
    **AV writes: You could just as easily argue that the Class of 86 got relegated because the senior players around them weren’t good enough. Maybe in a stronger squad they would have had the luxury of time to blossom.

  26. Dave – How can you say that at the moment the manager prefers Boateng and O’Neil on the right? Boateng or O’Neil maybe. George will be lucky to be on the bench if Rocky and Arca continue in their current form.
    George will only be back if Southgates new formula starts to falter and he goes back to McClarens favourite 4-5-1 routine

  27. AV
    Totally agree but you cannot make blanket statements that one group are far better than another separated by 20 years one of which have careers that have ended and the other are even younger and just started. How on earth can you compare them and criticise the current crop?
    I personally enjoyed the group of 86 and if we had managed to stay up may well have kicked on to be highly successful. But it didnt happen.
    The comments that one group are better than the other are invalid and I was just applying reverse logic.
    **AV writes: I wasn’t suggesting one group was better than another, just pointing out that there are other variables that make a comparison problematic.
    Personally I think we will know that the academy is really working when its graduates get offers to leave Boro for bigger clubs rather than smaller ones.

  28. AV – surely the academy is working now, it has allowed GS to put together a squad which has strength in depth, where as in the past with the players he has bought we would have had a decent first eleven with nothing to back it up, so when the injuries piled up in January our results would have fallen through the floor. Hopefully that won’t happen this year.
    Also having genuine competition for places has bourne fruit already because some players are clearly performing at a higher level because there is someone breathing down their necks for a place in the team.

  29. “Personally I think we will know that the academy is really working when its graduates get offers to leave Boro for bigger clubs rather than smaller ones. ”
    Very true. I wonder how much the running costs are for the academy. I won’t get carried away as lots of young players have come through the team and made the odd few appearances then to disappear. Steve baker, summerbell and so on..even under lawrence it was the same. Lets wait until we see the big clubs offering £10-£20 million for our players.
    something to consider is that MFC is a bigger club with more financial clout so we can take on more youngsters and we are more attractive to parents now that we are an established premier league club.
    But in the end we are still buying players to play over and above most of the local lads. just look at cattermole and morrison

  30. AV
    It isnt just the kids, we have posted before about the fact players we have bought in for substantial sums have been given away. It has often been the case that we havent improved them, we have actually made them worthless.
    I still stand by my original point, give the current crops a chance to flourish before we write them off. If in a couple of years we dont have more first team regulars and/or sold on for some decent money then it hasnt worked.
    If we assume they have talent (2-3 in each England age group squad would back that premise -historically one player in any age group would have been cause for celebration), it then falls back on John Powls point – do we have the man management and coaching skills to take them forward. I feel a Tony Black posting is imminent.

  31. A goalkeeper in January maybe, but a striker we have banging on the door to get his chance.
    Yes, it is me again on the Tom Craddock campaign.
    I know, it is a major gamble, he is only young and inexperienced, but Wayne Rooney was only a nipper when he got his chance.
    I hope Egypt don’t qualify and Tom eventually gets a chance to partner Mido up front. I am convinced it would be goals galore….
    The sceptics will come back and say Danny Graham banged the goals in for the reserves but couldn’t break into the first team. I agree, and Danny will make an excellent League 1, perhaps, Championship forward one day.
    However, every now and again a gem does make it, and I think Tom Craddock is well on the way to being that Gem.
    Once again, I have to reiterate, I am not related to the lad, but watching him play and his naturally gitfted eye for scoring goals reminds me of a young Michael Owen.
    Not all the gifted talent comes from the NorthWest, London or Africa !

  32. Dave
    That may depend on whether Aliadiere scores between now and Xmas.
    Bendtnar – now maybe available on loan with a view to a permo deal – is the best bet for the January window and gives us a natural competitor for Mido (or replacement whilst he’s away at the African Nations).
    Seems to me that Craddock would do best playing off a big man.
    Mido, Bendtnar, Aliadiere, Tuncay and Craddock gives us real options, cover and pressure on places. Lee is never going to make it and needs to be released.

  33. John
    Despite Dong Goal Less morphing into One Goal Lee as he is unlikely to get the golden boot this season he should receive one of a more mundane variety. Cant fault his effort and attitude but doesnt have the physical attributes to play up front against top quality centre backs.
    It is time to focus our attentions on the trip to West Ham. Not our happiest hunting ground though to be fair travelling hasnt been our strong point.
    The key as usual is turning up at 3.00pm, Boro against Brum and England have shown what happens if you start positively. Dont have to play hell for leather, headless chicken football but play with a purpose. Impose ourselves on the game.
    If the Hammers play really well and beat us I can cope if we have made it hard for them. An awayday capitulation will see the Powls household grumpy all week end. Hopefully we should be ok and raring to go.

  34. Dave
    I’m not suggesting Craddock plays in place of anyone, what I meant was that if injuries dictated, then he should be given a chance.
    In addition to which, if players suffer a dip in form, (like Yak was very good at) then it would be a good time to give him his chance.
    Too many times in the past have Boro stuffed the square pegs into round hole routine. If we have round pegs itching to go, then lets give them a go.
    John’s view of striking options is quite interesting. Whether Bendtnar would want to escape the Capital remains to be seen, however, it looks like Wenger is taking loan requests for the January transfer window already.
    Might be worth a punt.

  35. In support of the academy, several contributors have mentioned the lack of youngsters coming through after the class of 86 until those produced by the academy over recent years. But have they forgotten what a mess the club was in post-86?
    Ravanelli quite rightly pointed out the lack of training resources. Is there any wonder nothing came through for over 10 years? It was partly that provocation that led to the establishment of Rockcliffe and, only now (10 years is seen as normal), we are seeing some benefits.
    Is the academy more successful than the system in the 70s and 80s? We seem to be getting an established first-teamer every year or two (e.g. Downing, Taylor).
    On top of this, the pattern appears to be a decent squad player coming through most years (Cattermole, Wheater, Bates, McMahon) plus 1 to be sold off eventually (e.g. Parnaby, Morrison, probably Davies eventually). At first sight, this seems little better than the old system.
    However, Rockliffe has only seriously been in business for about 8 years, so these are the early results. By reputation, the current crop of 17-20 year olds promises great things. Perhaps we can only evaluate properly in about 5 years. Time will tell.

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