The Premier League Youth Development Conference that took place in Manchester last week welcomed over 500 academy leaders from 90 Premier League and EFL clubs to continue the great work being done to bring expertise together from across the academy system.
Hosted at Old Trafford with this year’s partners Manchester United, the event focused on "Creating Unrivalled Development Environments", with numerous speakers, including Premier League Hall of Fame inductee Sir Alex Ferguson, and break-out sessions held over the course of the two days.
United’s director of football, John Murtough and director of academy, Nick Cox, were among the guest speakers, along with Howard Webb, chief refereeing officer at PGMOL, Per Mertesacker, Arsenal’s Academy manager and Monique Choudhuri, non-executive director at Brentford.
The conference explored all aspects of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan, which reached its 10-year milestone last year.
With a number of thought-provoking sessions, delegates heard how development environments have continued to advance over the years and what opportunities lie ahead to further this progression.
There was also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements within academy football this season, with Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey the recipient of the Premier League’s Academy Graduate of the Year award.
Ben Cull and Oliver Stevenson each collected the Academy Alumni award, which recognises former players who have achieved success in a chosen career outside football following graduation from the Academy and celebrates the important role that academies play in the development of people and positive role models.
Cull had to give up his career as a player at Southampton's Academy in 2017 after he had a rare terminal bone cancer diagnosed. He is currently undergoing treatment to extend his life while also dedicating himself to charitable events that give money back to Cancer Research and to the hospital that has helped him. Southampton have made him the inaugural inductee to their Academy Alumni Hall of Fame.
Stevenson was released by Aston Villa's Academy 10 years ago but studied for a sports science degree before returning to the club, where he has progressed to become their first-team sports scientist.
Recognition was also given to those impacting the academy system both on and off the pitch, such as Man Utd’s Dave Bushell, who won the Eamonn Dolan Award for his outstanding work in youth development.
The importance of collaboration
Tony Scholes, the Premier League’s Chief Football Officer, said: “The conference is a great opportunity for all youth development staff to not only celebrate the achievements of the past year, but also to hear about priorities moving forward.
“This is probably the only opportunity for all of the staff from clubs involved in youth development to come together in one place to hear some insight from speakers, to discuss in breakout sessions, but as importantly to share with each other experiences and knowledge gained during the season.
“While football can be fiercely competitive on the pitch, it’s also evident that off the pitch staff are keen to share ideas with each other, to collaborate and learn together. The answers are often already in the room."
Youth Development Conference awards
PL2 Player of the Season: Carlos Borges (Man City)
Eamonn Dolan Award Winner: Dave Bushell (Man Utd)
Academy Graduate of the Year: Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa)
Academy Alumni Award winners: Ben Cull and Oliver Stevenson
Scholars of the Year
Archie Harris (AFC Bournemouth), Reuell Walters (Arsenal), James Wright (Aston Villa), Evan Ferguson (Brighton & Hove Albion), Charlie Casper (Burnley), Somto Boniface (Chelsea), David Ozoh (Crystal Palace), Jack Tierney (Everton), Luc De Fougerolles (Fulham), Cian Coleman (Leeds United), Jack Lewis (Leicester City), Luke Hewiston (Liverpool), Rico Lewis (Manchester City), Sonny Aljofree (Manchester United), Steven Bessent (Newcastle United), Finley Welch (Norwich City), Owen Hampson (Sheffield United), Kamari Doyle (Southampton), George Abbott (Tottenham Hotspur), Jack Grieves (Watford), Ronnie Hollingshead (West Bromwich Albion), Mason Terry (West Ham United), Owen Farmer (Wolverhampton Wanderers).