There seems to be a resurgence of a generation of academy players who never made the grade at Gresty Road. Whilst the academy produces over half our average squad – 10 of those in the 18 man squad against Burton came through the club’s academy – it sees even more youngsters released; many before they’ve signed a professional contract, most before they’ve even played a professional game.
It just goes to show the true depth of the academy when you take into account the many youngsters still making their way back into the leagues having been brought up in the Alex academy. Only on Saturday did we see Ryan Austin in the centre of the Burton Albion defence, picking up the Man of the Match award at the Pirelli Stadium, five years after he was let go by Dario without pulling on a Crewe shirt.
You don’t have to go far to find others; Mark Roberts is currently captaining Stevenage whilst Gareth Evans is now a regular scoring at this level with Bradford City. Down the A500 in Burslem, even the pleasant lot at Vale Park are reaping the rewards of our academy. Defenders Adam Yates and Richie Sutton both products of the youth system, with Yates have a place firmly cemented in the Vale starting 11.
League Two isn’t the limit neither. This summer has seen former academy midfielder Andy Bond return to professional football, signing for Colchester United following his departure from Barrow. Bond never made a first team appearance for the Railwaymen but, after a tour of the non-league, he’s now fighting for promotion to the Championship at his new club. This BBC Blog gives a good account of Bond’s rise back up the leagues.
And he could soon be followed into League One with this week’s news that Amari Morgan-Smith is on trial at Carlisle United. Since leaving Gresty Road, Smith has had spells at Stockport and most recently Ilkeston, but with Ilkeston going under two weeks ago it’s left Smith with the perfect opportunity to return to league football having previously received interest off Derby County.
So, whilst we only see the crème de la crème, the academy continues to be as productive as ever for the whole of English football.