Things we love to see.
I’ve got to say, when my youth intake preview dropped into the inbox, awash with green text, I didn’t allow myself to get excited. Quite often, what the Head of Youth Development believes constitutes a ‘golden generation’ washes out to be nothing more than a damp squib. For me personally, it is one of the most frustrating aspects of the game – getting excited about your golden generation, and finding that, in reality, there’s not a lot there to get excited about.
That being said, I believe this season’s intake might be different. Over a series of blog posts spanning the next few seasons, I want to track the development of the star of our ‘golden generation’. Ercan Ay is the man pinpointed by my Head of Youth Development as the shining light from this season’s intake:
I’m not going to lie, when I first saw this kid’s profile pop up on screen, I was buzzing. Sure, he might be a bit shaky physically in terms of his strength and endurance, but he has a good spread of mental and technical attributes, and he looks like he has substantial room to grow.
As I’ve previously spoken about, a lot of the focus of this save is youth development, and bringing our own players through the ranks to either play first-team football, or sell them on for (hopefully) massive amounts. To that end, my plan with Ercan is to focus firstly on his technical development, and allow his physical attributes to increase as he matures. Part of the reasoning for this is that I believe a tactical approach can, to some extent, compensate for poor physicality, but there’s not a tactical system out there which will compensate for a centre half that cannot tackle.
It might look counter-productive training a defender in Ball Control, however I feel that it gives him the best spread of technical development and should help him to become confident in possession and minimise errors when playing out from the back. The positional training for a Central Defender works on a lot of the mental attributes already, and it also has the benefit on focusing on two of Ercan’s weakest physical attributes as well.
In my head, I have a model for how long each player will spend at each age group, with their playing time planned from Under 19s through to Senior squad. The plan is that each new player will spend 2 full years in the Under 19s (16-19) before moving into our reserves, where they will spend at least 1 season, and then their development will be assessed on an ongoing basis to decide whether they need a loan move, or are ready for first-team football.
I am hopeful that working player development with a clear pathway will give our youngsters time to develop physically and mentally before stepping up to the first-team, and will enable them to integrate more seamlessly into our senior setup.
All that said, we will track Ercan’s development through the pathway over the next couple of seasons; he may develop faster than expected, or he might flop…but I think it’ll be interesting at least!