Is the poaching of Bobby Clark a sign of things to come?
As a Newcastle United fan, I’m used to ‘bigger clubs’ taking our young talent, whether that’s an Alan Kennedy, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, or an Andy Carroll.
What has changed is that these ‘bigger teams’ are spiriting away our talented young players before they even reach the first team, with Bobby Clark (son of former NUFC star Lee Clark) seemingly on the verge of following in Lewis Gibson’s footsteps and moving to Merseyside.
Is this a sign of the things to come?
The poaching of players from other clubs’ academies has been going on for a very long time in the Premier League.
Liverpool themselves were banned from signing players from other academies for two years in 2017 after they were found guilty of tapping up an 11 year old at Stoke City. This only came to light after Liverpool reneged on an agreement to pay the boy’s private school fees and the parents complained.
However, with Brexit meaning that clubs can no longer sign under 18 players from other European countries, the top clubs will be concentrating their efforts on cornering all the best young talent in this country.
We’ve already seen Chelsea trying to do this by linking up with a junior club in Newcastle.
You would think that Newcastle United may be particularly vulnerable to losing young players due to the club’s lack of ambition, sub-standard training facilities and poor record in bringing young players through to the first team.
This situation is only likely to get worse, not just for Newcastle United but for other ‘smaller clubs’ and I believe this is something that the Owner’s Charter, or the government’s review of football ownership, need to address.
Not only does it make the Premier League less competitive but it is also a disincentive for clubs to invest in their academies if ‘the big clubs’ can simply take their best young players with little or no financial compensation.
The owner of Huddersfield Town came to this conclusion in 2017 when he scrapped their under 18 team. He said it was difficult for a team like his to compete when Manchester City had more scouts in the Huddersfield area than they did.
What makes this situation particularly galling is that the big clubs will often then loan out these young players, or they might sell them on to other clubs making a tidy profit for themselves, which just increases the inequality in English football.
The Owner’s Charter and the Government have talked about the importance of the football pyramid but the actions of the big clubs are undermining it’s foundations, if most of the money and the young talent is going to be going to a small number of ‘elite’ clubs.
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