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Barber on the importance of the academy

Albion chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber has been pleased to see head coach Graham Potter place his faith in youth during the first few weeks of the season, and, speaking to the media at this week’s Leaders sports industry conference at Twickenham, he highlighted the importance of the academy to the club’s long-term future.

By James Hilsum • 11 October 2019

By Stuart Butcher
Paul Barber

Potter has given both Aaron Connolly and Steven Alzate their Premier League debuts this season and included seven debutants in the line-up against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup.

With that in mind, Barber insists it is vital that the academy continues to provide a conveyor belt of talent through to the first team.

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Barber on Connolly and UEFA reforms

He said, “We’re investing over £5million a year in our academy system. John Morling, who’s a former Ireland under-19 coach, is the academy manager, leading a team of very talented coaches, and in the past year we’ve brought in Dan Ashworth from The FA as John’s boss and the club’s first technical director to further boost our expertise in developing young players.

“We very much believe in developing our own talent. We think it’s going to give us a competitive advantage if we continue to improve our scouting network and unearth players like Aaron and Steven, who have made it into the first-team squad.

“We’re never going to be able to compete in the big transfer fee market, so we have to be a bit cuter and a bit smarter when we do buy players. It’s impossible for every transfer to work out, but if we get our academy system right, we should provide an opportunity to bring through more young players and save on future transfer fees.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Aaron Connolly celebrates scoring against Tottenham Hotspur.

Asked by journalists about Connolly’s emergence, Barber spoke in more detail after the Irishman’s first call-up to the senior Republic of Ireland squad, and emphasised that the hard work is just beginning for the youngster, who he hopes will have a long and successful career in the game.

“Our coaches would say Aaron has all the talent, but needs to continue to learn the game and keep his feet on the ground.

“Like all players, he has to make sure he looks after himself off the pitch as well as on it, and continue to work hard. At this stage, it’s early days and we want to see him hold down his place in the team.

“Aaron’s got great competition from the likes of Glenn Murray, who’s been around for a number of years, and Neal Maupay, who joined us this summer. There are a lot of options for Graham [Potter] in terms of attacking positions, but Aaron’s made a great start to life in and around the first team, we’re delighted for him, and we want to see him keep progressing for both club and country.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Paul Barber singled out Bruno as the ultimate example to follow.

The Seagulls chief executive and deputy chairman also spoke about having former players at the club for those youngsters to look up to, singling out former skipper Bruno as the ultimate example.

“There’s a real value to having people around the club as coaches that have played the game at the highest level. We look at Bruno, who was playing in the Premier League at 38 years of age, as an aspirational figure within the football club both on and off the pitch.

“The game needs former players to keep coming through and to keep filling coaching positions.”

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