Director of Chesterfield FC Player Progression Pathway Liam Sutcliffe has defended the under-fire football development centre.
In an interview with the Derbyshire Times, Mr Sutcliffe has his say on the PPP...
AIMS OF THE PPP
LS: “I arrived here three-and-a-half years ago. The remit was to restructure the youth system at the club.
“We opened, through Chesterfield Football Club, three development schools at the time and those development schools have since through the structure seen a vast number of youngsters go in and play for our academy, sign contracts for our academy, but also for other academies as well.
“The other major remit was that the club, for whatever reason, required a different approach to working with grassroots football clubs. The club weren’t seen in a very positive light in grassroots football and it had a reputation of really not having a very good system.”
THE PPP AND CFC VILLAGE
LS: “We have 300 players, currently playing in what is now called our Player Progression Pathway (PPP).
“Within that, there are two progression centres (Chesterfield and Leeds).
“We started off with the limited company being called CFC Football Development Schools, that is still the limited company of which these operate under. But from a branding prospective, we have progressed that many players it seems silly not to name something with progression in the title.
“As well as the progression centres, which were formerly the development schools run from (ages) nine to 16, we also have an under 7s and under 8s pre-academy programme.
“We also have the International Academy. The International Academy is something that I will come on to speak about later.
“The primary objective of the CFC Village is to do three things.
“Number one is to give a second chance to players who have fallen away from the academy system post-16, of which there is a considerable amount.
“Two is to bring individuals to the football club in an education capacity and we do that by using football as a vehicle.
”The third part is to allow us from a professional football standpoint to have less obstacles on a week-by-week, month-by-month basis in terms of our player recruitment.
“The only way we can do that is if we can house players. Otherwise you will probably lose more players than you will gain based on by the fact that either the club or parent or somebody has to foot the hotel bills, transport costs and so on.
“This is a cost-effective way, and it will become cost-effective in time, for us to achieve those three objectives. We are already achieving those objectives on a daily basis.”
LS: “With the international academy, there is only one other entity of that type, and that is at Bolton Wanderers in the professional game in the United Kingdom.
“Why would we do it? Why not? We have all the facilities, We have the structure required to roll something like this out.
“Football to me appears to be a great deal about branding, it is no longer an isolated recruitment source anymore. It appears to me like we have a lot of people fishing in the same pond.
“We are competitive at that level. It makes a lot of sense to have players come in from all around the world from a variety of reasons.
“We have players from Germany, Bermuda, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Staveley.
“The international academy which, for whatever reason, has taken a considerable amount of alternative opinion shall we say.
“We have Bermuda internationals, Singapore internationals, people may question how do we do it, it’s what I do.
“What’s the difference in getting a kid from Staveley or from Honolulu? There isn’t. You have just got to know the right people and have the right product that a player from half way around the world would want to be a part of.
“What does that do commercially? Well it exposes the brand of Chesterfield, it takes the badge into climbs that it has never been into and it provides an opportunity for these boys to be educated, develop their social skills, their team work, their work ethic, their manners, develop as a gentleman and develop as a footballer.
LS: “Recruitment is the benchmark of what we do. And that is something that I have done for a long time.
“Our recruitment structure is that we have two progression centres and we look to try and progress as many players forward as possible.
“We have increased the exposure that we can receive, both the football and ourselves, because you have got to remember that effectively they are separate but they are incredibly close.
“There is also people that I or we know that might be in different countries that can be helpful.
“We have people watching players to make sure that we have the right quality. That will increase as time passes by.”
COACHES AND SCOUTS
LS: “We have changed it as time has passed by because initially we wanted to know as much about every player as we possibly could, so it was a little bit scattergun.
“Then we have stripped it back so we are focusing on quality.
“I suspect that there are a lot of people that don’t even see our scouts out and about. They don’t need to. They are there and they are doing their jobs. They are filing their reports.
“We have six scouts. Currently we have 20 staff. All happy. They are all moving in the right direction and the machine will continue to extend whereby yeah I do feel that other clubs will look and go ‘why are we not doing this?’, ‘should we do this?’ and ‘how do you do it?’ I suppose the only problem there’s only me that knows how to do it.”
LS “We do what we do and we are incredibly successful and I don’t think people understand just how successful it is.
“More than anything else we take 300 kids off the street every week.
“We also know that football is a closed shop. To work in professional football you are incredibly fortunate. That is where I take a lot of pleasure out of it because I understand how lucky I am to be in the position that I am. Maybe we also have a conveyer belt of possible talent for the football club but we also have a conveyer belt for possible people who will go on and become doctors, physios, coaches, conditioners, you name it.
“What successes have we got that we can tell you about? We have several players playing Non League now at first team level. We have had a number of successes
“Obviously people know about Myles Wright’s situation. He might not be at the club now but the opportunity was there for him.
“Rhyle Ovenden, he was here, he started here, he has since been offered a two-year professional contract at Watford Football Club and he has also been called up for Wales. They are just football success. We have players who have gone on to university. All we are trying to do is create more opportunities for players, for individuals, for physios and coaches of the future. Whichever way you look at it, it is positive. We have achieved a lot in a short space of time.
LS: “The foundations are laid so it is just a continuation of what we do every single day.
“It is a continuation of excellent coaching and development. Fun, enjoyment, the players will learn quicker if they enjoy what they do, which they do, they absolutely love it. We have got 300 and odd players at this club that love doing what they do.
“Nobody has ever said to these players ‘come to Chesterfield and we will make you a pro’. Come to Chesterfield and you will have opportunities but those opportunities will come in very different shapes and forms. Some of them will be incredibly talented footballers, all of them will be here for the experience and to develop, become better people, and what options they have after that is up to them.”