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Youth

Academy stars ready to light up the top flight again

12 Aug 2021
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Homegrown talents given opportunities to develop on and off the pitch through the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan

As anticipation builds for the start of the new Premier League season, one of the exciting storylines to look forward to is the prospect of young homegrown talents again taking centre stage in the top flight.

Over the last few years, young stars have come to the fore with the help of the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), a long-term strategy launched in 2012 to support the development of more and better homegrown players - both and off the pitch.

"It's a brilliant education programme, brilliant player care, fantastic coaching, fantastic games programme," said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters. "All that produces brilliant footballers and good people."

The benefits of the EPPP can be seen every weekend in the Premier League with the likes of Phil Foden, Reece James, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Mason Mount coming through the Academy system to hold down regular starting berths for their clubs.

And Academy youngsters who benefited from the EPPP played a key role this summer in helping England reach the UEFA Euro 2020 final.

Phil Foden, Mason Mount, England
Phil Foden and Mason Mount were part of the England squad that reached the UEFA Euro 2020 final

"Nearly forty per cent of Premier League starters qualified to play for England last time," Masters said. "That's the best numbers for 12 years.

"So what [England manager] Gareth Southgate is enjoying is a new cohort of young, really talented footballers.

"But beyond that, they're also good people and role models, because the other part of the Academy process is the education and player care they receive."

As well as providing top-class coaching, the EPPP delivers a wide range of educational and welfare activities designed to enhance learning as well as providing life skills.

Overseas tournaments are combined with educational trips. In 2017, Ofsted, England's governing body for education, gave an "Outstanding" rating to the Academies of all 20 Premier League clubs.

Liam Delap, Manchester City
Liam Delap was part of the Premier League's Season Launch event at the Etihad Campus this week

An example of the EPPP at work can be seen in the progress of 18-year-old Manchester City forward Liam Delap, who was named 2020/21 Premier League 2 Player of the Season after scoring 24 goals to help his side win the title for the first time.

Last season Delap also made his first-team Premier League debut, coming on as a substitute against Leicester City, while also featuring in the EFL Cup.

"It's a great period of time for us youngsters to be in the Premier League, and I think it's the best league in the world, the most competitive," he said at this week's Premier League Season Launch event.

"You've got all the help you need to be a better person and be a better footballer. Being confident in yourself off the pitch leads to being confident on the pitch."

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