Often Partisan

Building for the Future

There has been a lot of press this week in the Birmingham Mail about the rising status of the Birmingham City Academy after Lee Clark handed a debut to Koby Arthur – the sixth teenager who has come through the Academy to have been given a debut this season.

The promotion of youth has been one of the happy side-effects of a turbulent season for the club. Will Packwood, Mitch Hancox, Callum Reilly, Koby Arthur and Jack Butland have all made their league debuts for the club this season having come through the academy system along with second year scholar Reece Hales who played a ten minutes cameo in the FA Cup away to Leeds. However, what is more pleasing is that the young players who have played well have held down their places – to the point that they are keeping out established pros and thus have blossomed further as young professionals.

Whilst I can accept that in some cases necessity has forced Lee Clark’s hand in handing out debuts, I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that necessity is the only reason so many youngsters have made their debuts. Clark has been unusual amongst Blues managers of late in that he attends every academy and reserve game that he can. Indeed, I’ve seen Clark and his coaching staff at every single non-first team game I have attended this year and I think it’s had an effect on the young players involved as they know good performances will be noticed and could see their elevation into the first team group.

I don’t think the importance of the under-21 league can be underestimated either. Reserve fixture squads prior to this year were mainly made up of fringe players and players returning from injury and thus the chance for young pros to play and to impress the coaching staff  was more limited – especially as Blues had pulled out of the reserve league system. This year, it’s been different – there are no more than three overage outfield players allowed and that along with the fact the squad is a little thinner than it has been before has meant that younger players have had to step up on a regular basis. There is also a lot to be said for making the fixtures competitive – it’s one thing to try to beat another team in a friendly; it steps up a gear or two when there are points at stake.

One thing I hope that the debuts handed out to younger players will do is help to convince more younger pros that Birmingham City is the team to try to build their career with. In previous seasons there has been a ceiling; it’s been difficult for players to break through and therefore it would probably disincentivize youngsters from joining the club as they might get the impression that there would be no chance of making it with the club. The change in attitudes to younger players should help convince more that it’s worth trying to join Blues Academy and that should continue to push standards higher.

As money pervades the game ever more I think it’s becoming more and more imperative that a club of Birmingham City’s size builds on its youth system as much as it can; Blues might find it a struggle to compete in the transfer market in the future as money is literally showered down upon the Premier League elite and thus the more potentially brilliant players that can be brought through the system, the more assets the club has that it’s developed itself. Lee Clark might have some faults but one thing that I know he has grasped having spoken to people around the club is the importance of the academy; it might just be that we’re thankful for his work with regards to their audits this year in the future.

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59 Responses to “Building for the Future”

  • StevieW says:

    I think grassroots is the future and one day perhaps that is how clubs will evolve but I doubt it will be in my lifetime.

    With LC I think we have a very good motivator of young up and coming football players, if he stays next season and the club endorses the use of young talent as the norm not just to get us out of a hole then the team for next year could be very interesting indeed.

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    Couldn’t agree more Dan

    ‘Clark has been unusual amongst Blues managers of late in that he attends every academy and reserve game that he can. Indeed, I’ve seen Clark and his coaching staff at every single non-first team game I have attended this year and I think it’s had an effect on the young players involved as they know good performances will be noticed and could see their elevation into the first team group.’

    Just sums up to me what a top drawer manager not to mention bloke he is. The leader of our club.

    • Masaccio says:

      He’s certainly turned a few of the doubters and moaners round with the second half performance, ask the managers who have been given a few months to make something happen and been sacked.

      He’s got to be in charge next season, just to see what happens over the summer months and the will he or won’t he go down CY story.

  • Agent McLeish says:

    LC has certainly paved the correct strategy for the club given the awful circumstances he has to work under. I can’t ever recall such a quantity youth talent that has come through to the 1st team. Also what with attending youth and development matches as well as managing the first team LC and his staff must be the hardest working we’ve had.

    Let’s also give praise to Kristjaan Speakman and the academy staff for the progress made in that area http://www.bcfcacademy.com/ . In my opinion I’d rather invest in the Academy than purchase some Billy Bigtime, the long term rewards and stability of the club will be much greater.

  • mark says:

    Maybe another point here is the club have saleable assets, even if we wish them all to play for our beloved club. Credit should go from top to bottom of the club. This just shows what a good young manager we have, and who works extremely hard under extreme circumstances. I am glad Dan you noted LC time spent because some fans think he does jack S**t …………Inclarkwetrust

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    The ‘benefit’ of the failure to challenge for promotion has been the opportunity to blood the youngsters. If any new owners are not overdemanding on promotion at all costs and are tolerant of allowing LC to build the squad around youth then it’s the one reason I would give him slack because seeing them in the first XI is quite joyous

  • DoctorD says:

    I’m impressed that Lee and his staff have been at all academy and reserve games this year. He doesn’t sound like a slacker. And you’re right about the ceiling — can you imagine being a youngster at the club two years ago when out of the blue the likes of Martens, Hleb and Bentley are brought in on massive wages. Now it looks like there’s a direct line into the first team – must be a great feeling.

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    Works for me on so many levels. Lee displaying such a high work ethic hopefully rubs off on the players around him. Gets the younger players trying harder as they can see a first team place being attainable not some distant dream and gets the older players having a go cos they no Lee won’t hesitate to try a youngster in their place. One of the things I’ve liked the most this season is that Lee has no favourites and drops out of form players.

    • zenzero says:

      To be fair I think LC did’t start the season like this. I believe he had his favourites and persisted with certain line ups but as a young manager, hes still learning and hes learnt that blooding youngsters are the future for a stable self susstaining club like ours. I like his new philosphy, I just hope the club get new owners and believe in his idea, rather than spend spend spend to get us back to the prem.

  • Oldbluenose says:

    Not too long ago, It was said that if, a club ” harvestered ” One youngster, every now and again, they were doing well, !!.

    Allready, we had Jordan Mutch, Redmond and Butland, come through the ranks, Now the dam, seems to be bursting over, ?.

  • Atahualpa is a BlueNose says:

    Good points made by almajir.

    It could be said that in some ways LC has probably been “forced” to bring the younger players into the team and squad quicker than he may have wanted to; obviously not all of them – some were ready and able to make the step-up, but even when LC was appointed manager he was repeating the mantra of how he wanted to “build the club up from the foundations and base the team around young, hungry players promoted from within”.

    Regardless of what you may think of him, he has extremely good knowledge, experience and skills of being around the higher reaches of the leagues with big teams (during his playing career), and has played under top managers. Surely he has picked up plenty of decent ways of working.

    That is a very good point by almajir – that LC and his staff take the trouble to check out those that are not in the first team, and that he’s the first manager in the recent past to do so. Good on him.

    But the biggest pat on the back should go to the academy staff for the sterling work they are doing with the youngsters. This is a re-occuring theme throughout the club that we have dedicated staff with a true love and desire to make a real difference. Those of us who can remember the 1980s and how the club was run then will know what I mean.

    Just hope that the off-field chaos can start resolving itself and then we can move forward.

    Some were even lambasting some of us who dared to suggest that having another season in the Championship might not actually be such a bad thing. We were then given schtick and accused of not being proper Blues fans!?!

    All in all plenty of things to be positive about, but the worry remains that off-field uncertainty can still throw a spanner in the works.

  • AR says:

    Villa have had an Academy for years, producing many first team players yet not been able to make a good team of them. Many have been sold and become Premiership players with other clubs.

  • andy says:

    The worry is that Birmingham turn into Crewe and become a feeder club by producing their home grown talent and selling them. Already Mutch and Butland have gone and clubs have already circled around the likes of Nabay and Arthur. Under Lee Clark I think Birmingham will have a bright future if he is able to do his job without having to sell the young talent.

    • Martin says:


      This is part of the game and we should be proud of our academy, if every club in England did this our national side would benefit, rumours will always fly around about young potential as clubs look at buying them young to try and save money before they reach the potential anticipated and cost ridiculous money.
      It is naturally disappointing to lose your better players, but then if we are good enough at developing raw talent there should be someone else busting a gut to replace them.
      Both Mutch and Butland could be playing in the prem next season, and if they do well done to them, and more importantly to us well done to everyone who helped them at blues, long may it continue!

  • ChrisG says:

    Building from grass roots insn’t a bad thing, Look at QPR, they’ve spent a fortune on buying players & on wages & they still look like they will be relegated, so just because you spend millions it doesn’t guarantee anything. With the youngsters we have coming through we have a group that is hungry to play football for the club they love. Looks really good for the future. KRO

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    It’s exciting to think about the kind of side we could have if we keep hold of the current crop (real shame about Butland) and give Lee a few quid to spend as well. Although some of his signings haven’t worked out others have flourished (which is normal) and I feel Lee could use any funding wisely to up-quality the squad to complement the existing and the youngsters.

    Sadly I take note and agree with what my learned fellow poster Andy says that we’ll probably have to sell our talent for the foreseeable future.

    • Ali Duncan says:

      which isn’t the end of the world if the club sustains itself and we can continue to produce high calibre talent through Lee and his team. The hierarchy in football is now firmly in place for the foreseeable future and even if Blues financial problems are sorted soon we won’t be smashing transfer records anytime soon I feel. As long as I’ve got a club to support that I’m proud of, players that try and from time-to-time I’m entertained then I’m happy.

  • StevieW says:

    I think as long as there are clubs who throw money at players to play for them we will always have that issue of talent staying, even going back to the days of Lord TF it was money that dictated the move.

    But I already have a tinge of excitement for next season based on the young guns we have, however I dare say the ownership thing will scupper any chance of evolvement next season.

    Life in a Blues scarf.

  • Tony says:

    We should never give Clark money to spend on players it would be a waste.

    • Atahualpa is a BlueNose says:

      Utter nonsense.

    • Agent McLeish says:

      And is your comment based on any facts or just that you don’t like LC? Me thinks the latter, therefore an utter rubbish post as usual.

    • Ali Duncan says:

      Got to agree with other posters Tony. Nothing like a bit of negativity to bring it all crashing down after the positive blog and comments from many others.

      What are you basing this on? How many players has Clark actually signed for a fee? The only one that springs to mind has been out injured for practically the whole season.

      Look at his loan signings and generally they’ve been excellent. How good have Fergi, Ravel and Caddis been? Look at the amount of assists that Hall got in his short time here. Try to be a bit more positive and look at what Lee Clark has dome right as well as hammer him for the things that didn’t quite go according to plan.

  • dave mann says:

    ive been totally fed up this week with all these arm chair supporters who have
    a go at my and all you loyal fans club. the futures looking bleak they say.
    up yours pal, our future looks brilliant , the kids comming through, lee clarks
    brilliance by giving them a chance. once carsons gone its happy days, and
    you lot who have a go can do one. KRO.

    • Ali Duncan says:

      Well said Dave. Couldn’t have put it better. Some peoples expectations are ridiculously off the scale and I often wonder if they actually realise how much up sh*t creek we are financially and what is really going on at the club. What Clark has had to work with and the way after an awful start he has turned things around that until Monday arvo we were talking about the play-offs was amazing!

  • Tony says:

    Future looking brilliant? fighting to avoid relegation into third tier football I dont think so

  • Marky mark says:

    As always Mr Mann you sum it up perfectly.

    Get rid of CY and Peter Pan

    Clear out the pensioners

    Let LC build his new team based on youth

    I agree the futures bright

    Times are changing at BCFC,

  • Lenoir says:

    The season will be over soon and it will be decision time for Blues not just off the field, but on as well.
    Lee Clark’s will have to decide who of the end-of-contract players he wants to offer new contracts to,or not.
    The loanees will go back to their clubs with the prospect of perhaps returning to Blues for one or two of them.
    More players will have to be brought in either as Bosman’s, loanees, or even transfer fee players (depending on sale of club).
    And this will be the time for Lee Clark to stand up and be counted because he will have experience of the tragedy that is Blues, he will know how to overcome adversity he will have players, staff, and above all the fans cheering him on to be a success.

  • Paul Carter - The Voice of Treason says:

    Not since the dark days of 88-89 have so many youth (YTS) players played in the first team. i’d much rather have this crop than the last – Mark Yates, Adrian Bird, Dean Peer, Simon Sturridge, Ronnie Morris, Paul Tait, John Frain, Ian Clarkson, Matthew Fox, Kevin Ashley etc No disrespect to any of these players as many are quite rightly held in high regard by us, but none went on to have a career in the top flight. We finished 2nd bottom in the 2nd division with 35 points. If memory serves Fred Davies was running the youth team with very, very small resources. Pales into comparison to the resources we have now believe it or not.

    Those of you that experienced 88-89 season, think back to how badly the club was run. no future

    Those reading this too young to remember, count yourselves lucky. We were awful, gates were regularly less than 5,000 in a ground that held 40,000+ (Standing)

    We’ll stay up this season, I for one have confidence in our young players. Lee Clark and his backroom staff. We have a very important summer coming up!

    • mark says:

      Ken welden, kumars (mark one) collagated walls around the ground, barb wire and glass along the walls of the ground…TOILETS were joke..Damn right about the attendances..Fans now dont know how lucky we are now……lambasting Sullivan and Co…. i AM PROUD TO BE BRUMMIE..PROUD OF THE HERIAGE OF THE CLUB..in sorrows and joys…..

    • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

      Why are you using my name to post?

  • Knowle Blues says:

    Also worth mentioning the commitment and desire these young lads have shown.. After been part and progressing through Blues academy ranks I believe these players develop a sense of belonging, care, show more commitment and passion for the club and results.. Just look at Mitch Hancox reaction after Blues second goal against Wolves.. Arms ‘windmilling’ looking across the park and motivating senior pros!!!

  • Macc lad says:

    Yep well said.
    Whatever Clark’s failings tactically, he certainly has done well to bring through so many young players without any of them looking out of place.
    This leads to two points. Firstly, if Clark can improve then we probably have the basis for a serious tilt at the play offs next season.
    Secondly, credit where credit’s due. The current much maligned owners are responsible for the huge investment at Wast Hills and in the youth setup. It’s not that long ago that our youth teams were scrapped when Barry Fry siad he could buy players cheaper.

  • dave mann says:

    tony pal, i think you miss read me.
    i said the future looks bright, when carsons mob have gone,
    not the present while were in the championship and is crew
    are still around.
    the future does look bright. I DO THINK SO. KRO.

  • KeepRightcroydOn says:

    It really is a no brainer, better for a youngster to join a club like Blues than Man C or Chelsea who want instant success and therefore invest in big names rather than bring through youngsters. I don’t think a single kid has come through, and had a half decent run, let alone establishing himself at Chelsea during the Abrahamovic era. In this respect we have to applaud Man U and Arsenal for the youngsters they’ve nurtured and brought through over the years. But because of this, these two teams do stand a good chance of tempting away promising youngsters from lesser teams.

    Thankfully i think that youngsters, their parents have wisened up. Even some agents are wary of the policy of some big clubs and are not promising untold riches to kids to go there and wither on the wine.

    • Ali Duncan says:

      Which is why a bright lad like Jack Butland went for Stoke instead of Chelsea. Continued development and more chance of being a first team regular and being in the England squad.

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    Don’t think Chelsea were in for him but had they been what a conundrum he would have faced.

    Gazillions in terms if wages or first team football at Stoke.

    Big call.

    • KeepRightcroydOn says:

      I remember saying to a Charlton fan when Paul Parker went to Chelsea that he was probably making a mistake as at best he would be on the sub’s bench. He was an established pro then, and eventually had to leave to get to properly ply his trade but not before he wasted a few years of his career and damaging his international aspirations. So if a decent PL player is treated that way by Chelsea, what chance academy lads. Others spring to mind, like more recently Adam Johnson at Man C.

      BTW I do recall reports as the transfer window deadline approached that Chelsea tested the water with Butland, and he indicated he was not interested, so looks like he actually made the choice of playing regular football over big bucks. He was also on record saying that’s why he chose Stoke.

  • mark says:

    Building for the future makes sense from within, coups like Fobay and Arthur reinstates the club desire too where it wants to go………………and our club offer more in their development… well done BCFC

  • oldburyblue says:

    The emergence of the kids is the ONLY spark of light in a very dark season. Without doubt Lee Clark’s hand has been forced somewhat in playing the kids but credit must go to him in that on the whole he has protected them as well by not flogging them to death. I well remember the days of Yates & Sturridge as our strike force but I have always held the belief that we ruined their careers by heaping too much pressure on them at too early an age.

    On a different note….Supporter of the Year. My vote is for a certain Daniel Ivery. Not canvassing, JIC it is against the rules, just thought I’d mention it.

  • dave mann says:

    sad to see jack going hes come on leeps and bounds since is
    early missdemeners, but in youmg townsend maybe weve got
    a ready made replacement for the future, if not this season
    then maybe next.
    the brummie babes will be here very soon, and next season
    will see the rise of birmingham city to the prommised land
    of premiership football
    you never win anything with kids they say, well lets see.KRO.

  • Paulo says:

    The involvement that LC shows to the academy is top drawer, and although his hand has kind of been forced (finances), in my opinion he has shown that he has the bottle to go against the norm and not only select the odd youth player, but be part of the process too. Massive respect. I don’t think Birmingham has ever had a manager who has had this kind of support to the young academy kids before. All we see when we’re at the ground is the appearance of new faces and a few wise cracks from the surrounding crowd, but I will bet there is so much more going on behind the scenes that not even we can figure out why LC is putting the time in to them. If I was to choose one reason of my own, it would be that LC has a personal admiration and deep respect for the academy system in general; giving a chance for young kids who come from everyday, working class families in cities through the country, and showing them that they can achieve their dream by offering an appearance in the first team. This shows other young kids that hard work and determination does pay off, and they don’t have to slack off feel they have to belong to a certain group of ‘friends’.
    I wish Kobe Arthur all the best and congratulate his fine appearance against Wolves, and I do hope our results go in our favour and we survive this seasons trapdoor. It is also a good time to point out that LC can’t really be ridiculed or compared to anyone really, as he has had to operate on a tighter budget than many, and it is all connected to CY and PP (ie: BIHL). Should he stay, and we have new owners / investors, then he will have a more level playing field to others, so he would be judged more fairly that way. He has had criticism and abuse, yet I don’t see how we as blues fans could have expected promotion this year anyway. LC is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, whatever selection he makes. I’ve never said I wanted him out, I simply said he was the wrong choice of manager at that time, as Pannu was not prepared to spend the compo and salary on an experienced manager at championship / premier league level.
    Let’s not ignore the good things LC has achieved.

  • dave mann says:

    lees lads is good, but lets hope lees lads are future legends.KRO.

  • jason says:

    The good news for me is that the youth players coming through will not stop here, going through the ages we have some extremely good players in the younger ranks, namely 2 central midfielders, george oneil (16) and mathew tubb (15) who i have both witnessed first hand completly dominating every match they have played in. we also have the likes of reece brown in the older age groups. i for one am completly looking forward to the next few seasons for blues! kro my fellow brummies!

  • Blueboy 88 says:

    Almajir , do you know what length of contract the following are currently on ?
    Will Packwood, Mitch Hancox, Callum Reilly, & Reece Hales

  • Paulo says:

    Clarky’s kids?

  • Tony says:

    Hopefully they will have more talent as players than Clark has as a manager,but I have my reservations

  • almajir says:

    I’ve let this one go for now, hopefully people have the sense to move on.

  • sutton apex says:

    clark’s babes will set the championship on fire next season – just wait and see
    ( they need to cos everyone will be sold in the summer !! )

  • mark says:

    Our city, Our club, Our destiny, United as one, we will prevail………Millwall here we come……KRO


  • d says:

    hi al

    great report as ever

    any news on season ticket renewal dates / new strip for next season?

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