Are academies better than buying high-profile players?

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Clubs from all sports poach around to find their next star. For some, however, they are right in their back pocket.

A-League Men clubs have been throwing money around to high-profile players for years looking to improve their line-ups.

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The belief is the more prolific the player is, the greater the team improves. That’s not necessarily the case.

Penrith Panthers in the NRL are a prime example of breeding youngsters. Penrith’s line-up last season consisted of players plucked right from their academy after years of gelling together. Previous head of football at Penrith Gus Gould’s five-year turned 11-year plan paid off last season as the Panthers won the grand final.

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Notably leading the pack in the A-League Men, Central Coast Mariners have a rich history of academy stars progressing into their first-team.

This season alone the Mariners have debuted five of their academy players four games in. This shows coach Nick Montgomery has great faith in these boys producing quality performances for the club.

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Another example are Newcastle Jets. Their 11th-place finish last season gave former coach Craig Deans the right to turn to a couple of his academy youngsters.

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Deans gave the nod to 16-year-old Archie Goodwin and 19-year-olds Lucas Mauragis and Blake Archbold, who impressed instantly with some goal-scoring prowess.

A team in disarray provided the perfect opportunity for these youngsters to show their potential in the big league.

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Around seven years ago, Western Sydney Wanderers chief John Tsatsimas, academy director Ian Crook and former coach Tony Popovic created a plan to create Australia’s largest football nursery. Ten principles were devised to flow from their senior team down to the under-13s.

Following seasons sitting near the bottom, the Wanderers fielded nine graduates in their 2019/20 season. Giving the nod to their academy players displayed the culture they’re attempting to build and has seen many go on to better things because of it.

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Signing star players seems like a perfect plan though a notable cycle beckons. Player signs from overseas, club memberships and stadium attendances spike, player is announced in the team and then struggles to make an impact on the pitch.

Take a look at Daniel Sturridge. The former England striker signed with Perth Glory in September which saw membership and jersey sales spike. His first game against Adelaide United ended in a 1-1 draw, subbed on in the 84th minute. The 17,000 fans were disappointed to only see 10 minutes of play from Sturridge and now sits on Glory’s unavailable list.

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Central Coast Mariners on Sunday evening named nine academy players against Sydney FC in their 2-0 victory. There were seven on the field at one point. Central Coast’s academy players have been pivotal in this season’s successes and displays what the future is looking like in Gosford.

To sum up the ideology, Wanderers chief John Tsatsimas made this statement a few years back.

“It’s about providing an opportunity and then it’s about success.

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If you have those elements come together, you have a pretty special thing,” the Wanderers chief said.

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This goes to show that going out and buying all these high-profile players won’t necessarily buy wins. Breeding them in the backyard on the other hand, does build chemistry and that’s what often can get a team over the line.

Feature Image Credit: Kevin Walsh

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Mitchell Roese
Mitchell Roese
Sports enthuse currently studying a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at the University of Technology Sydney. Covering the Central Coast Mariners 2021/22 A-League Season

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