This season both Aaron Connolly and Steven Alzate have progressed into the first-team set-up, while our Carabao Cup game against Aston Villa saw nine home-grown players make their debuts for Graham Potter’s side. It’s a clear indication that the club’s academy is going from strength to strength, so what better time to highlight some of the staff members playing a key role in the success, starting with the Seagulls’ academy manager...
Name: John Morling
Job title: Academy manager
Job description: To manage all aspects of the academy encompassing all age groups
What was your first job in football: At the age of 19 I was appointed Peterborough United under-9 coach and then two years later I became director of the Centre of Excellence.
Tell us about your move to the Albion: I arrived in August 2012 from Ireland where I was the national team coach for the Republic of Ireland under-16 and under-17 teams, as well as the player development manager where I was responsible for the 12 regional centres around the country for players aged 14-17.
Has your job evolved at the club: The whole club and academy has evolved, certainly since the opening of the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre at Lancing. This has meant we do not have to hire seven different sports centres around Sussex to train the academy players. We are able to provide a Category 1 programme now with the facilities we have and are fortunate with the resources afforded to us.
In August 2012 we had 13 full-time staff and approximately 20 part-time staff, whereas we now have 42 full-time staff and just over 100 part-time staff so it’s a much bigger operation but a very enjoyable and rewarding role.
What is the best part of your job: Seeing players make their first-team debuts for the Albion or playing for their countries for the first time after many years of hard work. Also watching the under-9s is great fun, especially their goal celebrations!
What has been the highlight of your time here so far: Watching those first-team debuts or, alternatively, seeing players make their debuts as professional footballers elsewhere. It’s also rewarding watching staff progress through the academy and into the first team arena or other senior positions at other professional clubs.
What are your hopes for the academy in the next two or three years: To have an environment where players enjoy playing for the club and that the academy staff look forward to coming into work every day.
Ultimately, though, we want to provide a steady flow of players for the first-team management as well as providing as many players as possible with the opportunity to play professional football, as well as having the tools to be successful in life, in whatever they choose to do.