SPIREITES: New Chesterfield academy boss vows to recruit top local talent

Chesterfield youth team coach Mark Smith at the training ground.
Chesterfield youth team coach Mark Smith at the training ground.
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Mark Smith has vowed to make Chesterfield more competitive when recruiting young players on their own doorstep.

Smith has experienced first hand the workings of neighbouring clubs who have swooped in to land the promising youngsters from underneath Chesterfield’s noses.

Chesterfield youth team coach Mark Smith at the training ground.

Chesterfield youth team coach Mark Smith at the training ground.

And, while acknowledging location is an issue with Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham not too far away, he is confident the Spireites can improve their recruitment.

“The better the recruitment part of the organisation the better quality to work with. There are three strands: recruitment; staff; facilities,” said the new academy boss.

“We are not too far off producing our own players. In the past, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday would consistently be bringing in players from Chesterfield, Hasland and the surrounding towns - that’s the area of the organisation we have got to be more competitive.

“Sheffield United have taken the best players before and Chesterfield have not known. We are in competition with them now but we can get better. Kids want to play for big clubs, unless they have a desire to play for their home town club, and parents want the best facilities.

“But, at last, we know about the kid. That’s not always been the case in the past. We’re not going to get everyone, another club may take them on but we’re part of the conversation now. That’s something we’re consistently striving to improve on no matter who we get in.

“We want people out there watching games, scouting for us and knowing when the tournaments are being played, the kids to look out for, the best Sunday League teams in the area. They will know the better teams and go to them. It’s hard work and need to be doing it.”

The success of the first team, with promotion from League Two, a Wembley final in the JPT and a sixth-place finish in League One, have helped their cause.

“It helps improve the product and when you are in competition for a player things like that matter,” he said. “If you are known to play good football, like we are, people will look deeper in to Chesterfield, like the facilities on offer, and hopefully want to come and be part of it.

“We have to be ready when the time comes to make the step up from a category three academy. The time’s not now but we have aspirations of going higher and as far as we can. People will look at us and think they’ve not only got it right on the pitch, but off it as well. We have to meet certain criteria like staffing levels; we need five or six full time members of staff at category three, that goes up to 12-15 in category two and up again when you get to category one status like the Chelsea’s of this world who have more than 30.”

Yet, regardless of category status, their objectives remain the same.

“We want to start producing a steady stream of young players who become professional footballers,” he said. “It’s always been our goal and it remains the same now. And for that to happen we need a structure in place from top to bottom, from the under-18s to the under-9s.

“We probably won’t be here when they’re ready to make an impact at first team level but we can give them the elements they need that will help them on their way. We can instil certain values in to them that will be to their benefit not just now but for the rest of their lives.

“I was in their situation back when I was on the books at Sheffield Wednesday. That gave me the grounding that I needed and those values are still with me now. Wayne Rooney will have gone through that, it won’t matter if you are 15 or 21, at some stage you will go through it.”

And he believes parents can play a big part in a young player’s development.

“We might get the nine to 16-year-olds twice a week and maybe a game,” he added. “What they are doing in between those times away from the academy is vital to their progression.

“We need parents to hammer home our messages and I will ask that of them. If the kids are doing the right things then it will lead to good things.”