Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Thursday February 8 2007
I watched Ben Foster's first appearance in an England team with interest and a mixture of pride and embarrassment. Embarrassment because Stoke seem to continually let down the youngsters by never giving them the opportunity to flourish by playing for their club - Stoke City.
Ben Foster never ever played a first team match for Stoke and was never better than third choice keeper until he left 18 months ago - even though he did have loan spells at other clubs. Yet within a month of leaving he was first choice keeper at fellow Championship club, Watford whilst on loan from Man United. He is still there today even though Watford are, for now, in the Premiership. Other teams at our level realised his potential and gave him a chance - why didn't we?
This does not seem to be an isolated problem. Adam Rooney, Martin Paterson, Matthew Hazley and Adam Vass have all played at international level but have yet to be given a real chance in the Championship. In Vass's case, he now has two full international caps for Hungary and is Stoke's youngest ever full international - yet has not even been given a first team squad number.
With the recent revelation that the FA are considering withdrawing our Academy licence because our facilities are not up to scratch and with the departures of Noel Blake and Gordon Bennett this throws the future of the Academy further into question, despite assurances from the Chairman that the Academy is still a priority.
Johan Boskamp did introduce a policy at the end of last season of playing a couple of youngsters in every game. This bore fruit and culminated in Adam Rooney's hat-trick in the final match against Brighton and also brought Martin Paterson to prominence, yet neither have yet started a match this season. A small ray of light is the appearances of Andy Wilkinson and Carl Dickinson, both defenders have had opportunities to start this season, but only after they had both been sent out to Blackpool and proved themselves more than capable of regular first team appearances.
If we don't give the youngsters our support and encouragement by playing them more often in the first team - what message are we sending out to them?
Foster said as much this week when being interviewed about the England game and was asked about his time in the Potteries: 'It was my third or fourth year as a third or fourth-choice keeper. I was playing the odd reserve game here and there. You get into the mindset where you're thinking, 'If Stoke City can't see enough quality in me, then why would anyone else?'.'
Date:Thursday February 8 2007
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