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Greater youth investment generating top talent

4 Jun 2019
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Conference at Fulham hears how development of players and coaches is creating exciting homegrown talent

Increased investment in the development of youth football is helping to give young players the chance to thrive in the Premier League and for their countries, says a leading academy head. 

Under the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan, the League and its clubs have invested more than £800million since 2012 in youth development, enhancing facilities and increasing the number and quality of coaches.

Fulham academy director Huw Jennings says this level of funding is unprecedented.

"I don't think there's ever been a greater investment in youth, and in supporting youth talent, in the development of not only the player, but also of staff," Jennings said.  

"And you see from this type of event how dedicated the Premier League and its clubs are to ensuring that no stone is left unturned to help the best young players develop."

"I don't think there's ever been a greater investment in youth"

Huw Jennings, Fulham

Jennings was speaking at last month's 2019 Youth Development Conference, jointly hosted by Fulham and the Premier League.

Coaches from the 92 PL and EFL clubs met at Fulham's training ground to share best practice on youth development and learn from leaders in football. 

Among the leaders was England manager Gareth Southgate, who has guided the senior team to the last four of the FIFA 2018 World Cup as well as the UEFA Nations League semi-finals in Portugal, where they play the Netherlands on Thursday.

Southgate's success has been in part thanks to his policy of giving regular opportunities to young talents such as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell, who have developed at their club academies and youth national teams.  

'Top talent equal to the world'

Richard Garlick, the Premier League's Director of Football, believes the quality of the young players available to Southgate is second to none.

"We've had 41 homegrown debuts this Premier League season, our numbers are up on last season in terms of the minutes that those players have played," Garlick said.

"You only need to look at the successful England campaign in the World Cup where we got to the semi-final. And since then Gareth's shown that he's happy to blood those young players.

"Our top talent, our top young talent, is equal to anywhere else in the world."

The League's investment has allowed the number of full-time coaches in the Premier League and EFL to grow from 250 to about 800 at the moment, of whom many were at the event at Fulham. 

"The conference is so important because it gets all the academy coaches together," said former West Bromwich Albion manager Darren Moore.

"It’s wonderful and all clubs have their parts to play in it." 

Helping lower-league clubs

The Premier League funds investment in academies lower down the football pyramid, with funds ringfenced for youth development as part of the £140million a year that goes to the EFL each season.

It helps clubs such as Burton Albion, in League One, maintain an academy that can provide a pathway to the first team and beyond. 

"Obviously, Burton are a smaller club but the funding that we receive allows us to run a Category Three academy," Hannah Dingley, Burton's head of coaching, said.

"We've had an academy graduate in every League One game this season.

"None of that would be possible without the funding and support that we get through the Premier League and the academy system."

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