• A danger to Albion prospects?

    On the same day that Albion youngsters Jake Forster-Caskey and Rohan Ince starred in the Capital One Cup, the announcement heralding the arrival of the Albion’s latest midfield recruit, opens up a wider debate about club strategy.

    The first fact to acknowledge is that Gary Gardner, is a very talented young footballer. He has been talked about in expectant terms at Aston Villa for years, and has represented England at every age group, up to U-21, for whom he scored two goals in five appearances. Now 22 years of age, he would most certainly have progressed further, but for suffering cruciate ligament injuries, not once, but twice, during key stages of his development. Despite the setbacks limiting him to just sixteen Premier League appearances to date, his potential is such that Villa were still minded to offer him a new two-year contract this summer.

    So, Brighton are securing the services of a very good player, who will surely make a positive contribution on the field. Villa for their part, will hope to see some of that potential crystallize, through minutes on the field for a good side, in a competitive league. These of course, are the exact same reasons why Liverpool have agreed to Joao Teixeira spending the season on the South coast.

    Where these two loan signings differ somewhat, is the impact they are likely to have on the development of our own young prospects. Whereas the exciting young Portuguese has filled an obvious hole in the Albion squad, Gardner is joining a group seemingly well stocked with similar players.

    Teixeira’s arrival, and outstanding early form, could mean that Solly March will have a fight on his hands, to secure a starting berth, on his return from injury – but those two players, plus McCourt and LuaLua represent sensible numbers, for the two available spots, wide of, or behind the central striker. New signing Adrian Colunga will add further competition in those areas, and perhaps also Craig Mackail-Smith, if another attacking arrival pushes him out of that central spot.

    For the available slots in the midfield though, the competition is huge. Leaving aside Toko and Danny Holla, as specialist deep-lying players, there will generally be just two places available, for Gardner, Crofts, Bruno, Stephens (when fit), Agustien, Forster-Caskey and Ince to fight for.

    Unless there are plans for departures before the transfer window closes, the likely outcome of this overload will be a place on the bench at best, for Jake Forster-Caskey and Rohan Ince, at a crucial stage of their own development. Both players are younger than Gary Gardner, and each of them already have 30+ Championship appearances under their belts. Last season was one of great strides for both, progressing from fringe prospect and short-term contract respectively, to first team regulars – both rewarded with new long term deals.

    Ince has developed later, only being converted to a midfield role by Albion’s staff, after being released as a centre back, from the Chelsea academy. Forster-Caskey’s potential has long shone bright. He reputedly rejected the overtures of Premier League clubs, Arsenal amongst them, to sign for Brighton, at a time when his stepfather Nicky Forster was leading the Albion attack. He is very highly rated in the England youth set up, featuring at every age group, up to his U-20 tournament bow, alongside Solly March, in Toulon this summer.

    Allowing our young players to fulfil their potential at first team level, is essential to Brighton, on multiple counts.

    Primarily, there is the enormous financial benefit in finding, and nurturing your own stars. What would U-21 internationals Solly March and Jake Forster-Caskey cost us in transfer fees, and attractive wages, if we were to buy them now? In the era of FFP, the eventual sale of developed talents will become a crucial revenue stream for the Albion. The club will only achieve top prices for young players proven in the heat of competitive action.

    Allied to this is the general well-being of the academy system. A healthy academy set-up simply must include the opportunity for progression to the Albion first team, and possibly beyond. It is essential for the players currently in the system to see that incentive. It is essential that the academy staff see tangible results of their labours. Equally critically, prospective academy players need to see the Albion as a club that offers such opportunity. This is what they, and their parents and advisors, will hold dear, way over shiny facilities.

    Lastly, and most difficult to quantify, is fan affinity to home-grown players, in an era where the disconnect between the man or woman in the stands, and the highly paid, often foreign players, has never been greater. Seeing young footballers, especially local boys like March, Forster-Caskey and Lewis Dunk, progress from names in a youth report in the match programme, to fringe players, to first team stars, is something many fans hold very dear.

    The Amex era of the Albion will never see the like of Dean Wilkins’ team of Sussex kids, fielded as it was, through financial necessity rather than altruism, but the Albion shirt has to be what the young kids of Sussex dream of wearing. Players like Forster-Caskey are the embodiment of that dream.

    Balancing immediate success on the pitch, with the club’s long term progression, is the difficult path that the board and management team must carefully tread. Allowing our youngsters’ development to stall, by playing someone else’s prospects, in pursuit of short-term goals, is a decision not to be taken lightly.
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Diego Napier's Avatar
      Diego Napier -
      Some very good and thoughtful analyses spoilt only by a slightly patronising final sentence.
    1. Gully Forever's Avatar
      Gully Forever -
      As our squad was stripped to bare bones before the season started, It would make sense to bring in young talent as well as experienced players!. Sami wants Squad rotation!.. Especially as how many games there will be!..

      Jake forster Caskey, and the like, Aren't ready yet to face the stiffer opposition of the championship!. in many fans Opinion.

      So if they don't get game time, Then loan them out to a lower league until December!.
      Which is exactly what The premier leagues teams are doing!.

      Many think that our current youth need more experience!, But not at the expense of first team progress!.
    1. APACHE's Avatar
      APACHE -
      You can never have enough good players, they should push each other to perform to their best, last season the squad at times was down to the bare bonds and maybe this cost us vital points. Playing with good or better players will help the younger ones improve and just maybe the others in the DS are not quite ready to fill any gaps that may appear as the season goes on.
    1. hans kraay fan club's Avatar
      hans kraay fan club -
      Quote Originally Posted by APACHE View Post
      You can never have enough good players, they should push each other to perform to their best, last season the squad at times was down to the bare bonds and maybe this cost us vital points. Playing with good or better players will help the younger ones improve and just maybe the others in the DS are not quite ready to fill any gaps that may appear as the season goes on.
      Broadly agree - but, there is only ever one way to establish if the young players ARE good enough. If, for example, we'd had Teixeira and Gardner on loan last season, then March and Ince might have never featured, and the Albion wouldn't now be sitting on £5m worth of young talent.
    1. TSB's Avatar
      TSB -
      Jake will still get games. Rohan may not, but it's only his second season so a loan out would be fine.
      Competition can only be a good thing.
    1. LamieRobertson's Avatar
      LamieRobertson -
      Quote Originally Posted by hans kraay fan club View Post
      Broadly agree - but, there is only ever one way to establish if the young players ARE good enough. If, for example, we'd had Teixeira and Gardner on loan last season, then March and Ince might have never featured, and the Albion wouldn't now be sitting on £5m worth of young talent.
      It might be the case that if we had those 2 last season we would be considerably better off being in the prem
    1. royceyboy's Avatar
      royceyboy -
      Maybe the fact that we have an abundance in the central midfield positions is indicative of how sami wants to play this season. Maybe he is looking to play with less width, and more strength through the middle. During pre-season Lua-Lua was used in the hole behind the front players, and Teixeira is perfect for that free roaming position. With a 4-1-3-2 or 4-1-4-1 formation the wide players do not need to be permanently in position, and a more flexible midfield would keep other teams guessing.
      Ince and F-C proved themselves to be decent Championship players last season, but competition for places will see them improve greatly, and they will need to if they want to remain part of the team in the Premier league if we get there.
      So far McCourt hasn't seen a lot of play, and when he has, he definitely lacks the pace of March and Lua-Lua. But Lua-Lua is always going to be an impact player (wether he likes it or not) to bring off the bench. His concentration is seriously lacking when he starts, but from the bench he causes real problems.
      I don't think Bruno is going to see any more playing time in midfield. Him and Calderon are naturally suited to the right wing back position, and although both are lacking pace due to age, Sami needs to have two players in each position.
      So in my opinion, we have a pretty balance squad. We have at least two decent, or half decent players in each position. If we take a few hits through injury, we should still be able to field a competitive team. Only time will tell if Sami's tactics and formation work with the players he has. Personally, I think we will be in the mix at the end of the season, but I think a playoff spot is about as high as we are going to get.
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