By Ian Hemmens
Isn’t a great feeling being a Bradford City fan again? After the years of depression and drudgery we’ve had to suffer, Phil Parkinson came along two years ago and has enabled us all to walk tall and feel proud again.
A nice little extra bonus this year is the performance of the youth team. Due to the work going on down at Apperley Bridge, the team had played every fixture away from home and yet have managed to win every one (their belated first home game, on Saturday, a 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe). That form has put them clear at the top of the table. Add to that another away victory at Scunthorpe in the FA Youth Cup, and this team seem to have something going for them.
Not only do they have their goal machine in Oli McBurnie (17 goals in eight games, the hotshot travelled with the first team to Crewe on Saturday) others are beginning to be noticed. The midfielders Jack Stockdill and Calum Chippendale, the defenders Sam Wright and Niall Heaton along with McBurnie’s strike partner, Nathan Curtis, who has already appeared in the first team during the League Cup adventure last year.
This bunch is being backed up by younger players; 13 of which have already committed to apprenticeships at the club. They have been helped by the strong Bradford Boys team that won the English FA Schools Cup for only the 2nd time last year. The first being all the way back in 1916 (although we did share the trophy in the early 90s).
If this group continue to excel, the senior management will have some hard decisions to make when the time comes to handing out pro contracts. With McBurnie already tied to a deal, the incentive is there to the others to progress to the next step.
What will City’s strategy be though? Having made decent deals by selling Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley, Andre Wisdom, George Green and others, City found a way to make money from their youth development – but it came at the price of having no local youngsters breaking into the first team by any degree, at least since Luke O’Brien.
With the rising costs within the game, a lot of clubs are now turning to youth development; and it could be to City’s benefit to accommodate these promising youngsters into the squad in future years. The drop out level at youth football is a large percentage and not all of the team will make it, and the type of the success rate that Manchester United had with the likes of Beckham, Butt, Scholes & the Nevilles come along once in a generation. But even if we could get two or three of the group of players through, the crowd would identify with them immediately.
The club gain by either getting players through rather than spending on signings and, if the players turn out to be stars in the making, they can cash in at a later date.
Let’s hope the current crop of youth player can maintain their progress and that Peter Horne and his staff can create a conveyor belt of talent for City in the future. It gets harder to compete every year, and the higher you go in the football ladder, the more this could be the answer for City.
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