There’s been a fair amount of movement within the club this past couple of months. Much of it outwards, an equal amount inwards too. But it’s fair to say that a lot of the club is only semi-recognisable from THAT Fleetwood game.
Which is why yesterday’s news that we’ve got in Shaun North for the development squad could be one of the most important signings this summer.
It took a while, but finally we’ve got somebody in that position that should directly affect the team in future years. It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that our youth development has close to a 100% failure rate, and for our sort of club that’s beyond unacceptable.
So, what do we know about him? Well, he was at the Pompey academy for 14 years, he’s been the assistant boss at Torquay and latterly Brizzle Rovers, and apparently he loves to coach the yoof.
On paper at least, he’s the right choice.
I would guess that his remit first and foremost is to make sure the youngsters we saw against Dartford and FCUM don’t get shunted to oblivion that previous generations have suffered at the club.
Somebody like Bamba or Jacquart, to name but two, do now have a chance to develop properly. I’ve no idea whether North will be asked/expected to produce one or two players a year for the first team, if only on the fringe, but I don’t doubt NA will want high standards.
It’s been said on here before, and will be said again – we’ve wasted far too much young talent in the past because we never properly closed the gap between the u18s and the first team. While there are some mitigating circumstances for that, there’s no longer any excuses.
When we’ve paraded youngsters who’ve signed at games, it’s been pretty hard not to feel sorry for them – they might find themselves starting in minor cup competitions for us, but are more likely to be released and end up at Staines.
That’s something North can properly work on. He’s obviously been put in because NA doesn’t want anyone who needs their hand held – there’s a level of trust in bringing in youngsters from elsewhere that are surplus.
With some justification, as he has more experience than most if not the rest of the club put together. He’s been a coach doing this sort of thing since AFCW was WFC, and in something that needs properly developing – you requires somebody who knows what they’re doing.
It might have taken the horrors of last season to finally bring it home how little footballing knowledge there was (and still is?) around the club. Even the employment of a rookie in NA was a gamble that thankfully paid off.
Any pretence that we knew best and we had cracked the Football League got properly kicked out of us. NA’s training methodologies are well documented, but we’ve gone for the guy in our youth development that we simply had to have.
The club could have been tempted to go for the enthusiastic youngster who’s a) willing to learn the job, and b) cheap. Or, just as likely, gone for a Marcus Gayle or Chris Perry type purely because of their past connections.
At this stage in our development, we needed neither. Instead, we’ve got someone with experience, and no doubt contacts, and who would have enough gravitas to tell others how it should be done 😉
How successful will North be? SW19 made the point after the season ended that it will be quite easy to do radical reform within the club, simply because what was there previously wasn’t entrenched and badly performing anyway. The slate we’ve had is easy to wipe clean, which is something many clubs can’t do.
We won’t see instant results, because youth development doesn’t work that way. The focus is on the individual rather than how good the team is, apparently. But as long as he’s given free reign – or as much without him becoming power mad and forcing youngsters to call him “Master” – we have a good chance of see Bamba and Jacquart and others getting first team spots.
As long as North isn’t a complete duffer, and he’s able to build up the production line. our development has taken a significant step forward. There’s always been a sense that it’s been swept under the carpet a bit, that it was always just “there”, and certainly not making us any transfer money.
Whether the plan is for North to prove himself and to become our overall Academy manager, we don’t know. Though it wouldn’t be at all surprising. And given that he took over for a time at the Memorial Ground, we might have also employed our next caretaker manager…