Newcastle United: Looking at the academy
Every club in the world should always look to have a quality academy setup. It's a solid base to every club and allows these teams to produce and develop stars of the future and eventually, place them into the first team or sell for profit.
However, Newcastle United's academy is no longer producing many talents for the future. The Under 23 side is currently rock-bottom of the PL2 division and there are not many positive signs for improvement in this area. What has happened?
The under 23's form
I made the decision to watch Newcastle's latest Premier League 2 Division 2 match away at Leeds on Monday. It was streamed on the Leeds United YouTube channel. Although the young Magpies showed plenty of fight in the second half, they still came up short in a 2-1 defeat.
Unfortunately, these defeats have become all too common this season for the U23's. They currently sit bottom of the second division having a played a game more than the two teams above - West Brom and Sunderland.
In fact, the Newcastle U23's have won just once this calendar year in a 3-2 win against fellow strugglers, West Bromwich Albion. This kind of form does not bode too well as a Newcastle United supporter who wants to see young players making a breakthrough into the first team.
Elliot Anderson is a player that has featured lately for the U23's, including Monday's defeat at Leeds. Out of all of the players in the youth set-up, he seems to be one of the players with the brightest future however, under Steve Bruce, he has still yet to properly break into the first team.
When will some step up?
As mentioned, Elliot Anderson does seem like a talented footballer at the age of 18. He operates as a central midfielder but so far has been extremely limited to 1st team opportunities. He made his debut as a substitute at the Emirates in January in Newcastle's defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup 3rd round. Since then, he has only made 1 Premier League appearance. Again, this was at the Emirates in a 3-0 defeat in January. Anderson was given 3 minutes off the bench as a substitute.
As a fan of the club, that is frustrating to see. When players such as Jeff Hendrick and Jonjo Shelvey seem to feature almost every game when the club is in a relegation scrap. Both of those players lack the passion and the fight in the middle of the park allowing Newcastle's midfield to be bypassed with little effort almost every game. There should be more trust placed on players such as Elliot Anderson to play these crucial games.
In fact, the only players who have recently managed to breakthrough into the first team (after coming through the academy) is Matty and Sean Longstaff. However, neither player has been able to hold down a regular spot in the squad this season let alone the starting XI. This begs the question, is this to do with Newcastle's academy not being good enough in terms of successfully bringing through young, local talent? Or is this a Steve Bruce issue where he lacks trust in allowing young players to properly step up into the first team?
Another young talent in the Under 23 setup is Rodrigo Vilca - signed from Deportivo Municipal after featuring for them 24 times. The Peruvian-born midfielder signed a contract with Newcastle on October 5th and was instantly put into the U23 side. Vilca is now 22 years old and we have still yet to see him feature in any of Newcastle's first team squads.
There are multiple Premier League teams who call on young players in their academies who are younger than 22 years old. Again, is the reason Newcastle are not giving these players who are 21 and 22 years old a first team opportunity because they are not good enough? If so, that's simply down to the club's academy setup not being up to standard. Honestly, that is such a shame when the North-East used to be considered a 'hot-bed' for football.
Other English Academies
Not every club in the Premier League produce a stack of young talent. However, there are numerous clubs in the league that Newcastle should be looking to emulate in terms of how they treat their academies.
For example, Aston Villa are a club who narrowly avoided relegation last season however, there are players who feature for them that have came through their youth system and are constantly improving. The major example being Jack Grealish. He is a lifelong Villa fan who has been with the club since he was 6 years old. He made his debut when he was 16 and now he is without a doubt the first name on their team-sheet every game. He is also a key player for Gareth Southgate's England after making his senior international debut last year.
Villa have also been featuring young midfielder Jacob Ramsey a lot this season. Ramsey is another example of how productive Aston Villa's youth setup is. He is only 19 years old and has now featured 10 times for Villa this season.
It's not just Aston Villa's academy though. Leicester City is another great example. At 23 years old, Harvey Barnes has established himself as one of Leicester's most influential players this season. He is a part of a dynamic partnership with James Maddison and is a product of Leicester's incredible academy. Barnes has now featured 80 times already for Leicester including 25 times this season with 9 goals to his name in 2020/21. Add to that all the professional football experience he gained at West Brom, MK Dons and Barnsley as well as receiving his first senior England cap against Wales last year.
Hamza Choudhury and Luke Thomas are also products of the Foxes' academy who have featured this season for Leicester. Clearly, there is no trust issues regarding playing youngsters for Brendan Rodgers.
It could be a never-ending conversation discussing how vital youth academies can be and how important it is for clubs to produce these players. However, there is one more team who should be mentioned who have one of the most underrated youth academies in the world - Southampton.
The Saints have produced some very talented players over the years who have went on to make a name for themselves including, Gareth Bale, Alan Shearer, Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Ward-Prowse and Matt Le Tissier.
Granted, not all of them players play for them now. Some are retired and some are at different clubs. However, it is an example of a youth academy doing its job correctly.
Hopefully, Newcastle's academy can improve in the years to come. For that to happen there needs to serious time and money invested into it in order to achieve some progress. As of right now, the only players in the Newcastle squad who are products of the youth academy are, the Longstaff brothers, Andy Carroll and Paul Dummett. Not that great is it?
Hopefully Freddie Woodman gets a chance soon. With a bit of luck, we might finally stop loaning him out by the time he reaches his 30s.