Looking good for the future

Buried deep amongst the TV schedule over the weekend was an unexpected treat for Rams fans – the U18s away to Liverpool on LTV. Not having the facilities myself, I got my Dad to record it and enjoyed viewing the 3-2 victory this afternoon. If you’re quick, it might still be available as I noticed it was still on rotation during the day. With the first team squad away, an almost identical line-up got the same result at Chesterfield reserves in the week. Callum Ball was the most senior player involved in either match and scored 4 of the 6 Rams goals.

Last season,Derby’s youth team were knocked out of the youth cup by Southend, who then played Liverpool in the next round -Liverpool beat them 9-0.  A few of the Liverpool team have graduated since then; but you only have to know that one of the Liverpool subs was an African signed from Portugal to know that for the Rams to win, whilst starting with a schoolboy in the ranks (Kwame Thomas), was no mean feat.

The Rams have had a few youth internationals in recent years but its difficult to get excited when none of them break through. However, the elevation of Hendrick and O’Brien this season has changed everything. Suddenly, it feels that the youth team could now be a production line for the first team squad rather than for the Blue Square North(hello Mark Dudley, Greg Mills and Jermaine Johnson – although Telford now promoted in Mills’ case before someone pulls me up). We’re not going to get a Huddlestone or Carsley every year but producing a Camp, Tuggy, Grant, Doyle (i.e. limited but solid Championship players) on a regular basis could save us a fortune whilst also alleviating the need for loanees to plug gaps all the time.

Hendrick and O’Brien are virtually new signings when you consider their previous involvement and what’s the going rate for two young players who can hold their own in the Championship? Well, if we cycle back a year, around £1m looking at the signings of Brayford and Bailey. Yes, B & B have far exceeded expectations but were signed to do what Hendrick and OB will probably do – play a handful of first team and develop. Or another comparison – Callum Ball has already made more appearances than £750k Liam Dickinson did.

The “house style” of development, i.e. teams at all age groups work to the same system, is always cited as a key to the success of Ajax and Barcelona over the years. The Rams U18 showed they’d been watching the first team with a goal that was almost a carbon copy of Steve Davies’ goal against Doncaster. Less than half a minute after the second half kicked off against Liverpool, Callum Ball was nodding home a back post cross from the left. The only difference was that it was Kwame Thomas swinging the ball in and not B-Diddy.

With 15 year old Mason Bennett already making the bench in the Carling Cup, maybe  Hendrick and OB are the tip of an impressive iceberg? Managers need a few years for their youth policy to blossom and Clough is probably the first in a decade to be given the chance. An often unseen by-product of stability but one which could be the most lucrative of all.

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Posted on September 4, 2011, in General Rams Comment and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. How did Kwame look? Saw him play a few years back at schoolboy level against my lad and he was so far ahead of all the others it was ridiculous. He literally won the game single-handed. Their team had an equaivalent to “route one” – give the ball to Kwame. Kwame score goal.

    • Difficult to say on what I saw. He seemed to be playing left half-striker behind Ball and as is the way when you’re playing someone good away from home, he wasn’t heavily involved. His cross for Ball’s goal was spot-on but the full back had gone AWOL, whilst his winning goal was a tap-in. So credit to him for goal and assist but it was rare that he had the ball at his feet.
      Not sure how long Ball has left at this level but looked increasingly like the big kid in the wrong age group – some of the Liverpool needed a step-ladder to challenge for headers… and that was just the centre backs!

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