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clubs have experimented in the
past with arrangements of this type
(Nottingham Forest and Arsenal, for
example) they have all abandoned
them for one reason or another. Clubs
such as Manchester United, Watford
and West Bromwich Albion are
leading the way in developing links
with schools that provide the required
curriculum fexibility.
Te approaches to accommodation
varied from club to club, but most
had a ‘mix and match’ structure. For
example, AJ Auxerre put their 16-19
year-old boys in club accommodation,
but they separate the age groups into
diferent buildings. Bayern Munich,
on the other hand, have only a small
hostel on site catering for the few
foreign boys and those boys from
other parts of Germany, with some
club fats that they allow the U19s
and slightly older players to use.
Tere is some merit in using group
accommodation in the frst year, to
allow the players to be inducted into
the club’s culture. After this, most
choose to place their players in ‘home
stay’ accommodation, allowing them
to switch of from football. A lot of
the academy directors expressed their
preference for either homes stays or
travelling from their own home. It is
probably prudent to retain fexibility
within this structure to decide what
will ft each individual situation.
I was interested to note that all of
the clubs I visited had adopted a ‘same
site’ system for their academy. Work
undertaken by Dr Martin Littlewood
in 2003 alluded to the fact that the
most productive academy clubs in
England at that time were those who
used a same site system.
We can learn a lot from the
practices employed by our European
neighbours. If, however, I could only
take one thing from my research it
would be that we, as a country, need
to make a greater commitment to the
development of our young players...
and the Barclays Premier League’s
Elite Player Performance Plan ofers
that opportunity. It’s clearly working
for Germany, the Netherlands and
Spain and I’m convinced that it would
work for us too.
Chris Sulley is academy manager
at Leeds United. A former
professional player (who made
more than 400 appearances
for AFC Bournemouth, Dundee
United, Blackburn Rovers, Port
Vale and Preston North End) he
gained a Masters in Business
Administration to complement
his move into management.
Chris has worked in youth
development with Preston North
End, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton
Wanderers, where he spent eight
years as academy manager. In
addition to coaching, Chris has
also lectured at the University of
Central Lancashire in areas of
high performance coaching and
performance analysis.