FOR every young player that makes the grade, there are hundreds who are left devastated by rejection.
That was the driving force behind Zapsportz team leader Glenn Hoddle setting up an academy in Jerez, Spain in 2009 – to give rejected players a second chance. And a potential route back into professional football.
In his Mail on Sunday column, Glenn explains how difficult it can be for a young player to recover from setbacks…
‘As a manager, there is no worse job than telling a young player he’s not getting a new deal. You know you’re crushing his dreams.
And whatever encouragement you give, it can often be a decision that will live with them throughout their life, even if they do use it as a motivation to come back stronger.
And many don’t have that happy ending. They just drift out of the game or into lower levels of football, when actually they do have the skill to build a good career.
Clubs are set up maybe to produce one or two players from each generation; the rest of the youth-team squad can feel like extras.
And though things have changed a lot since I was involved in those kind of decisions and they attempt to ensure the best possible pastoral care, ultimately the club’s needs are often different from that of a player.
Sometimes they just can’t wait a couple of years for a young man to develop.
That’s why I’ve always believed that there should be a stepping stone back into the game for a released player. As Craig Eastmond’s story makes clear, when you don’t have a club, there’s no structure to get you back. He was fortunate to have an ex-pro like Jamie Lawrence to point him to Sutton United.
It’s why I set up an academy in Spain in 2009 where we took a group of 18-year-olds, rejected by clubs such as Wycombe and Lincoln, but who we thought still had plenty to offer.
Sam Clucas, now in the Premier League with Hull, and Scotland international Ikechi Anya, now at Derby, were among that bunch.’
GLENN’S MESSAGE TO THE FOOTBALL AUTHORITIES
We need mini academies around England, two in the north, one in the Midlands and two in the south, to pick up players who are in between clubs and under the age of 23. There’s enough money in the game to build them and enough good coaches connected to the League Managers’ Association and Professional Footballers’ Association.
If the academies were funded by the Premier League and Football League, you could make it so that any club which wanted to sign a player would have to pay a fee to the academy. My experience tells me there would be plenty of takers for these players.