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Has the academy production line broke down?

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This week has seen a fantastically talented U19 side bow out of Europe in the last 16 of the UEFA Youth League (The U19 Champions League for better explaining) but as a fan of youth football and a huge fan of youth football at Middlesbrough I’m concerned for those players and those in our academy. Does Karanka trust in our youths? Does he trust those who have progressed through the academy?

 

There will always be an argument of experience over youth, especially when the club is on the cusp of the most financially rewarding league in the world, but do we as a club put everything we stand for aside for that reward? Or does the manager need to concentrate on everything the club has in achieving that goal? When George Friend broke his shoulder against Nottingham Forest there was talk James Husband whose loan with Huddersfield expired later that week would be kept to cover or that Academy graduate Adam Reach would be brought back. Karanka chose to go into the loan market and bring in experienced Leicester player Richie De Laet. Earlier this season the tone was set, with midfielders on the verge of suspension and Adam Forshaw injured Boro found themselves short in the middle. With youngsters Lewis Maloney (Northern Irish U21 cap), Bryn Morris (various England youth teams captain) or Callum Cooke (Another England youth international) ready to fill in Karanka turned to Manchester City’s Bruno Zucilini, a player with 30 minutes football to his name at City. Whilst Maloney made the bench for the Wolves game, Zucilini made 3 starts and 3 substitute appearances. In the time of need for a player to fill a short term gap the manager we have looks elsewhere first before what’s under his own nose.

 

Before the FA Cup game against Burnley Karanka again made it clear his thoughts on up and coming academy players. “I know them all but I want to win and if I choose to play players from the academy then we will not win, that’s for sure.” What a kick in the teeth for our young players and in case it didn’t get through… “Today it is impossible to play with players from the academy and win the games.” Now I am not even going to pretend I know the players anything like Karanka does, but I will stick my neck on the chopping block and say including one academy player in a situation where he is filling a gap will not always end up in defeat. Hell the proof of this was on the opening day of the season when young Dael Fry stepped up into the starting XI and Boro didn’t lose. Dael recently started against Leeds and Cardiff and guess what? They didn’t lose. Karanka seems to have missed this. Zucilini and even Stephens could have stayed at home for the influence they have had. Cooke, Maloney, Morris, Fry and Burn could all have filled in on the bench and for the few minutes that the pair played.

 

Adam Reach who played the most games in career in a season last term was quickly loaned out after the signing of Carlos De Pena. Whilst it’s great that Preston are in the Championship and Reach is gaining experience and playing every game one cannot but think right now could he not offer something from the bench? Whereas De Pena seems to have so far struggled greatly.

 

Harrison Chapman who today went on loan at Barnsley has been a shining light in the U18s then the U21s and has been to put it simply….AMAZING in the U19 UEFA Youth League run. Part of me thinks it’s brilliant that Boro have got a young player out on loan so early for once, but the majority of me happens to be concerned. He is a touch player, he loves to run at players, run at pace with the ball will he be able to do that in League One on their pitches? Wouldn’t it have been better to have thrown him in off the bench against tired legs on the far better pitch of the Riverside? Oh wait, course we cannot win with Academy players I forgot that.

 

With the big bucks of the Premier League visible at the end of the tunnel, the win at all costs evolution of football is it going to be harder and harder for our academy prospects to get first team football at Middlesbrough? Are the days of the home grown player being the backbone of the club a thing of the past for fans to remember fondly?

 

With many people concentrating on Middlesbrough’s championship challenge and possible Premier League promotion the future of many players is to be decided and the league Middlesbrough find themselves in may not make a difference to their contractual outcomes.

 

With 15 professional players out of contract this summer the futures of professionals young and old at the club will be under consideration. Yes, it’s true of that 15 there are only 3 seasoned professionals in Jonathan Woodgate (who retired and un retired last summer), Rhys Williams and Damia Abella (both of whom have just returned from long term injuries) but it’s the youngsters futures who should be concentrated on. Players like Jordan Jones who have made a first team appearance but seem to have been over looked despite great U21 form. Lewis Maloney who made it onto the first team bench this season, Mark Kitching, another who has made the first team bench and Bradley Fewster a striker whom so many screamed and shouted for first team inclusion and scored in a cup game last season.

 

Some decisions may have already been made on players futures, Luke Coddington played for Huddersfield U21s vs Leeds this week despite the club having the option to extend the keepers contract by another year.

 

Of course there are other situations at can force decisions regarding players. Coddington and maybe Joe Fryer may find themselves surplus to requirements due to Tom Dawson and Aynsley Pears becoming 3rd years (if they get extended deals) which will mean there are way too many goal keepers who are vying for a single U21 starting spot. Add into that mix Connor Ripley who will be returning from his loan at Motherwell.

 

It’s worth noting also that all the current third years are tied down on professional deals except Nathan McGinley who has returned this year from an injury ridden 18 months and Jordan Jowers. 4 of the 9 second years have pro deals, so only Dawson, Pears (as mentioned above), Lee Hetherington, Daniel Jardine and Niall McGoldrick have scholarships that expire this summer. They can either be given a final single years scholarship, sign a pro deal or be released by the club.

 

With so much at stake in getting to the Premier League, if we get there as a club will the academy return to what is once was? A system for bringing on players to supplement the first team squad, whilst bringing on players to become life professionals in the realm of football? Time will tell. 

 

Edit- Something id not put in regarding the Premier League is it could well be a saviour of the academy. Loan rules mean only 2 players from fellow PL sides and no separate loan window (although thats gone soon in the Football League) mean short term gap filling loans wont be available, so the likes of Maloney, Cooke etc may be more likely to be involved than the Zucilini types.

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I doubt any team in the prem will get a regular supply of players from thier youth teams ( if any). The gap is just too big. Most players will have to drop down for a couple of yrs before making the jump back

Just look at bamford. He will never get anywhere near the Chelsea team and is struggling to hold down a position at a relagation threatened club

 

There will always be that one stellar yr or player but not often

 

I think if our youth are good enough they will get picked. A few regularly train with the firsts so they get seen in the right environment and like Gibson,fry will play if they prove themselves

But I'd rather finish first or second with bought players than 7th with 3-4 of our youth

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If the academy players were good enough then we would have played them. When you are under as much pressure as the team is this season its not the place to be playing them.

 

Stephens played a full season in league 1 last season and Zucculini has played over 100 games already. Would much rather have those as back up over the likes of Cooke, Maloney, Morris or Burn. Unfortunately this is just used as another reason to criticise Karanka.

 

Its not like we had an amazing youth system before he came in. As good as people claim our academy to be, we have produced a handful of average premier league players and nothing more, hardly a fantastic achievement. People seem to make out that we were producing world class player after world class player until Karanka became manager.

Yes it would be nice to see Karanka giving these players a chance but its not that important really, they clearly arnt good enough or they would be playing. When they are ready and good enough he will play them, just like he is doing with Fry

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 When they are ready and good enough he will play them, just like he is doing with Fry

 

If Fry in the team because he's ready or is he in because Ayala's injured, Gibson's suspended, Nando and stehpens gone home and woody and baptistie can't walk and we didn't get the Hearts lad deal done in time.

 

That's not against the lad but I think Karanka has shown that he is absolutely the last resort.

 

Fry to his credit has played really well but he'll be back with the under 19's in a fortnight

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Does it matter why Fry is in the team? Last game he could have picked friend in the center and de laet on the left while Fry started over Kalas at Leeds. As Powlay says plenty of youth players are involved with the first team either through training or in the match day squad. We are battling for a top spot in one the worlds toughest leagues, and it really isn't the time for blooding youngsters in with no first team experience. We are doing the right thing in loaning them out to gain first team experience before including them in our own team.

 

Look at Luke Williams. He never really went out to gain experience and only ever got the rare game here hence he never made it. Gibson is the player to look at. Go out, get experience, grow some hair on it and cut your teeth at lower level before trying to stake a claim here.

 

I'll give you that the Reach/De Pena is a strange situation but reach has probably developed a lot more this season at Preston than he would here with very limits gametime.

 

I don't think AK is particularly against the use of the academy but he has arguably been told to get promoted and given a sizable budget to do so and that comes before given a youngster the odd game.

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Many very highly rated players have been loaned out to develop, not because their manager didn't have faith in them but because their managers felt it would be best for their development. It's the same with Chapman. I think he will learn far more playing far more regularly in League 1 than sat on the bench in the Championship. We've done it before with the likes of Downing, Johnson, Reach, Gibson, Wheater etc who developed out on loan and gained experience. The likes of Jordan Jones and Bryn Morris have been out on loan to lower leagues and failed to particularly impress so I wouldn't have faith in them coming into the side and doing a similar job to what a far better player like Zucculini did. Karanka didn't feel the need to bring in an extra CB for cover as he must have had enough faith in Fry, similarly he brought in Zucculini when we had Morris, Cooke and Maloney he cant have had enough faith in them being able to step into the side at this moment in their developments. If promotion is the objective then we need to fully commit to that.

 

Karanka gets a fair amount of criticism for not having faith in our youths but we need to remember that Ben Gibson has become a first team regular for him. He had a huge amount of faith in Reach last season despite a lot of criticism from fans for not being creative enough and he hasn't been afraid to dip Fry into the team when injuries and suspensions strike. When Chapman is ready then I'm sure Karanka will give him his chance to impress. A proportion of our fans seem to be bipolar with Reach as he's awful when he plays for us, yet he's brilliant when he isn't playing for us or is playing regularly for Preston. I've always rated his potential as I've thought that when if finds an extra burst of speed and a bit more end product then he'll be very good player. Hopefully his loan at Preston can push his development on as it is far more beneficial than getting a handful of cameo appearances of our bench.

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You will probably find out of most youth teams, only a few will make the transition to the higher level, that is the same at every team. I'm all for giving youth a chance but now is not the time, it is vital we get promotion.

Fry has been put in the side because Karanka rates him and has said as much, and he looks a good future prospect.

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It seems a really odd time to bring this up, now that Karanka has put trust in an academy product. The fact that you're using the fact he's played well as a stick to beat the manager with is bizarre.

In any case, when he gave that interview against Burnley, I'm fairly sure what he was saying was that we won't win if we play ALL academy players.

Now, as it happens, I do agree with you that putting a youth prospect on the bench, rather than someone like Zuculini, is a better short term option, but I can understand why the club made the decision they did.

To say Fry was only used as a last resort is equally disingenuous, as Kalas and de Laet have both spent time on the bench in the last two games to accommodate Fry.

As a few others above have said, there is a certain sensibility it giving players minutes rather than them sitting on a bench.

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It seems a really odd time to bring this up, now that Karanka has put trust in an academy product. The fact that you're using the fact he's played well as a stick to beat the manager with is bizarre.

In any case, when he gave that interview against Burnley, I'm fairly sure what he was saying was that we won't win if we play ALL academy players.

Now, as it happens, I do agree with you that putting a youth prospect on the bench, rather than someone like Zuculini, is a better short term option, but I can understand why the club made the decision they did.

To say Fry was only used as a last resort is equally disingenuous, as Kalas and de Laet have both spent time on the bench in the last two games to accommodate Fry.

As a few others above have said, there is a certain sensibility it giving players minutes rather than them sitting on a bench.

 

This 100%

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It seems a really odd time to bring this up, now that Karanka has put trust in an academy product. The fact that you're using the fact he's played well as a stick to beat the manager with is bizarre.

In any case, when he gave that interview against Burnley, I'm fairly sure what he was saying was that we won't win if we play ALL academy players.

Now, as it happens, I do agree with you that putting a youth prospect on the bench, rather than someone like Zuculini, is a better short term option, but I can understand why the club made the decision they did.

To say Fry was only used as a last resort is equally disingenuous, as Kalas and de Laet have both spent time on the bench in the last two games to accommodate Fry.

As a few others above have said, there is a certain sensibility it giving players minutes rather than them sitting on a bench.

 

This.

 

These aren't the words of a man who only played Fry because he had too:

 

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/aitor-karanka-compares-dael-fry-10955175#ICID=sharebar_twitter

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In a ever more competitive league where results are key and the timeframe to prove success is smaller, the chance to develop youth within your own club is harder and harder. Throw on top of that a promotion push (with significant financial backing) it's nigh on impossible.

So the players go out on loan. Karanka has done this well. I think Luke Williams would've progressed better if he went out to learn his trade sooner. Rather than GS2 filling his head with the idea he had already made it.

AK does what he can with the youth, a lot tho we don't see. Sending lads to Spain to work in Madrids set up was one. All the players that were here before his arrival have improved. Gorgeous is the best left back in the championship, Ayala and Gibbo have forged ahead as a defensive unit. Dimi is a new man (although that could be Leo's influence) so it's not hard to assume the youth development will prosper too. Didn't our U21 gain promotion last season? And the heroics of the U19 was there for all to see.

I feel our academy is as good as it's always been. The issue is the standard of the championship is so much higher now it's harder for the lads to break into the team. If we make it to the premier league that difficulty will be tripled. But like Fry and hopefully Chapman we'll keep producing the odd little gem

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If the academy players were good enough then we would have played them. When you are under as much pressure as the team is this season its not the place to be playing them.

 

Stephens played a full season in league 1 last season and Zucculini has played over 100 games already. Would much rather have those as back up over the likes of Cooke, Maloney, Morris or Burn. Unfortunately this is just used as another reason to criticise Karanka.

 

Its not like we had an amazing youth system before he came in. As good as people claim our academy to be, we have produced a handful of average premier league players and nothing more, hardly a fantastic achievement. People seem to make out that we were producing world class player after world class player until Karanka became manager.

Yes it would be nice to see Karanka giving these players a chance but its not that important really, they clearly arnt good enough or they would be playing. When they are ready and good enough he will play them, just like he is doing with Fry

 

I disagree with your comments on out the success of the youths. To get so many players playing proffesional football from such a small area is a tremendous feat. You'd struggle to find another academy that does it aswell. Ok Chelsea have loads playing but most are bought in. You can go all through the 4 div and find players that have come through our academy

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Had this exact same argument before the Burnley game with a number of different posters trying to make the point for chapman to star over de Pena and I was made to look like a fool, Powlay.

 

The basic line was "if they are good enough they will play". I too was and still am frustrated at the words AK used and do dear their opportunities.

 

I also don't agree with the if they are good enough to they will play because let's face it

 

HUSBAND is a far greater left back than AMORIEBETTA. Was loaned out and AMORIEBETTA played.

 

BASED ON REPORTS CHAPMAN is much better than DE PENA. Loaned out while de Pena gets weekly critism.

 

REACH is our smashing it on loan while nobody can hold down that left wing spot.

 

MORRIS I agree has played more competitive football for us than ZUCCULINI did for city. Basically replacing our OWN prospect for one of CITIES prospects with less first team experience.

 

So "if they are good enough they will play" simply isn't true.

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Had this exact same argument before the Burnley game with a number of different posters trying to make the point for chapman to star over de Pena and I was made to look like a fool, Powlay.

 

The basic line was "if they are good enough they will play". I too was and still am frustrated at the words AK used and do dear their opportunities.

 

I also don't agree with the if they are good enough to they will play because let's face it

 

HUSBAND is a far greater left back than AMORIEBETTA. Was loaned out and AMORIEBETTA played.

 

BASED ON REPORTS CHAPMAN is much better than DE PENA. Loaned out while de Pena gets weekly critism.

 

REACH is our smashing it on loan while nobody can hold down that left wing spot.

 

MORRIS I agree has played more competitive football for us than ZUCCULINI did for city. Basically replacing our OWN prospect for one of CITIES prospects with less first team experience.

 

So "if they are good enough they will play" simply isn't true.

 

I was going to disagree with you entirely, but then you put words in capital letters and it changed my mind.

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I think it's been echoed above really, but to bring through streams of youth at this level now just isn't possible in my opinion.

 

There's so much pressure on AK to win us promotion, and he has been backed magnificently in the transfer window so it's no surprise that the signings he has made are playing instead of bringing through our academy players.

 

It all depends on how the club are doing. If we were languishing mid table with no real pressure, you might have seen Karanka bring through some youth products as he will have had nothing to lose. But as we are finely poised to go top of the championship potentially, there's no surprise that he's sticking to the big guns that have got us to this position in the first place.

 

I think for the academy players, it's all about taking your chance when it comes about. Dael Fry has got such an opportunity now, and so far has been good. Ben Gibson did the same a couple of years ago and went on to establish himself as a regular first team player.

 

Ive loved seeing Boro born players coming through our academy and into the first team over the year, but unlike Mel Morris and Derby County, promotion needs to be our aim. By any method.

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