Private academies are football’s new lifeline
From a market town in the South East of England, otherwise known as Oxford, to go to Seville, the artistic, cultural and financial capital of Spain, might sound more like a holiday to some of the richest out there.
As I Googled to find the distance between these two cities, I found out that it would take you less than a day – if you drive that is.
I am sure there are quicker routes to reach Seville from Oxford but one Scotsman probably took the longest available route, where it took him seven years to reach a place called Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville, Spain, from Oxford, England.
Rejected by Oxford United, who are now in the Conference Division of England, Ikenchi Anya last month signed a two year professional contract with Seville FC to play in the Champions League in the coming season.
A graduate from the Glenn Hoddle Academy based in Southern Spain, Ikenchi after being released by Northampton Town, was close to quitting football before being snapped by Hoddle’s Academy and now faces the prospect of being on the same field as Kaka and Ronaldo.
Like Ikenchi, there are a number of English professional footballers at the Gleen Hoddle Academy who were released from their respective clubs in England, trying to get contracts at Spanish clubs.
Ever wondered how much it costs a club to run a proper football academy?
With all the training and facilities provided to the young players, the expense of bringing up a footballer can be in the millions, and to give more worry to the clubs, almost half, if not more, will be released before giving a professional contract.
Yes, perhaps for clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, having a youth academy is necessary. But imagine for clubs like Cheltenham and Macclesfield.
Not having a youth academy might have saved them from going into administration.
So are we facing a time where more players will come in from private academies rather than the clubs?
How about the pride that Barcelona feels, winning the Champions League with six players in the starting line-up from their own Academy. But how many are there in the youth academy of Barca? Will everyone get a professional contract and get a chance to ply their trades at Nue Camp?
Academies set-up by ex and current football players are the answer to all the above questions.
When asked about these types of players, Glenn Hoddles said: “I could see there was potential going to waste that needed to be nurtured and coached right.”
And that is exactly what happened with Ikenchi Anya.
There was never a doubt about his quality and skills. It is academies such as this that will prevent players of such quality slipping through the cracks.