Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Tuesday March 6 2007
Stoke City have launched a recruitment initiative to increase the number of members of the Potters Foundation which helps support the running of its Academy.
The Foundation is aiming for 2,500 members which would raise a total of £200,000 a year towards the running costs of the Academy. The Academy currently costs £500,000 per year and is now training over 150 youngsters from the age of 9 upwards.
At a meeting on Tuesday night, Club Chairman, Peter Coates and Chief Executive, Tony Scholes made an impassioned plea for Potters' fans to sign up and were joined by three current first team squad players who have made it through the Academy system: Martin Paterson, Adam Rooney and Carl Dickinson.
Paterson has just returned from a very successful loan spell at Grimsby, Dickinson has been on loan at Blackpool, and Rooney has made several appearances from the bench and was the runner-up on Sunday night in the Football League Awards for 'Best Apprentice Player'.
Whilst manager Tony Pulis was absent from the meeting - he was away watching Norwich - Peter Coates was being asked by members of the audience why his manager did not seem keen on playing the three youngsters present at the meeting and why, in particular, Adam Vass had not yet been able to break into the first team squad yet was deemed good enough for the Hungarian full international squad.
Coates responded saying that he did not believe that this was the manager's view , saying: 'I don't know any manager that would not play his best players if he was able to'.
He continued to say that Tony Pulis was fully behind the Academy and it's aims and had insisted that he was involved in the Academy management, something that he had not been able to do under the previous owners, who had been determined to close it down.
It still leaves several questions that have yet to be properly answered. The main one being that recently, whilst the Potters have been desperately trying to bring in another striker, two home grown, talented and proven ability strikers in Adam Rooney and Martin Paterson are finding it difficult to even get off the bench, let alone the starting eleven. Yes, they may still be young, but surely they could be given a chance?
The meeting was told that one of the stated aims of the Academy is to enable the manager to choose home grown 20 year old players, rather than bringing in 'expensive 20-30 year olds'. Yet, here we have a manager trying to bring players from outside and seems to be ignoring the home grown talent.
The worry is that all this talent will end up benefiting other clubs in the future and not Stoke City as has already happened in the case of Ben Foster who was sold to Manchester United 18 months ago for £1m without ever playing a first team game. Within days, he had been loaned out to Watford where he was (and still remains) first team keeper and now has an England cap to his name. Good business for the club, I'm sure, but having nurtured that talent we should have been able to benefit from it on the pitch as well.
Date:Tuesday March 6 2007
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