THERE’S always the one that got away at every football club – and Alan Shearer was the perfect example at Newcastle United.
Shearer slipped through the club’s net as a youngster, and that proved a costly mistake.
More recently, Adam Johnson, now at Manchester City, was associated with the club as a schoolboy, but it was at Middlesbrough that he was given his chance.
However, Newcastle hit the jackpot with Andy Carroll, and owner Mike Ashley, understandably, is keen to see more local talent in the first-team at United.
Ashley’s not alone. With a chill financial wind blowing through football, and the Financial Fair Play rule coming into force, clubs are increasingly looking towards their Academies, and not an inflated transfer market.
“Mike’s been down to see the Academy and speak of his vision for the future,” Academy director Joe Joyce told the Gazette.
“He’s constantly given information about who’s progressing, and he takes a real interest in the whole structure, and the running, financing and productivity of the Academy.
“Ultimately, that’s what we’re here to do – produce players. It’s very difficult to produce players for a Premier League club, but we’ve seen Tim Krul this season make a big mark on the big stage. Sammy Ameobi’s had an introduction to first-team football, as has Haris Vuckic.
“I believe there’s one or two players in the Academy who can compete at that level.
“We’ve got to make sure that if we do get an Andy Carroll into the team and he moves on, we get the next player into his boots – that’s the long-term vision.”
The next stage in the Academy’s development is to be awarded Category One status, and the club’s getting audited next month.
Part of a radical overhaul of Academy football, the new system has its critics, not least from clubs outside the top flight, but Joyce believes the status will help United to recruit players from across the country.
“To achieve achieve category one status would mean that us, as a football club, will be involved only with other category one clubs,” said Joyce.
“If, for example, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa achieved that status, our games programme would revolve around playing those teams.
“The other main point is that it would open up the whole country for recruitment. If there was a player from Swindon, for example, Newcastle could bring that player in from the age of 12.
“At the moment you can only recruit from within 90 minutes of your training ground.”
However, it’s a double-edged sword, with the region’s talent also available to other clubs.
“What category status would mean is that the North East is opened up to the other category one clubs – Manchester United and Arsenal will be up here looking for the best talent,” added Joyce.
“What we also have to do is make sure what we have in the North East is the best the area can offer.
“And we can guarantee any young player who’s born and bred in the North East, and wants to play for Newcastle United, that the programme’s going give him every opportunity to become that next No9, if that’s the case.”