Thursday, 23 September 2010

DIGGING FOR GOLD

When Jose Mourinho described John Obi Mikel as Raw Gold, i didn't quite understand the need for Raw. I mean being label as Gold was surely a big enough superlative for a young player but i believe Jose saw a player that he could mould into one of the best regardless of his position.
What Jose also touched on back then was the lacklustre level of our Academy. It was obvious from then on that we needed to stockpile our academy with some more raw gold if our ambitious target of producing our own young players was to be attained.

However, if you wanted Gold you can't just get your pick axe out in the middle of Fulham Broadway. Or could you? So how is our search going? are there any hot spots? and how are our team of gold diggers (i mean scouts) doing.

Lets start with where Mikel initially came from Africa. it would have been worth a pop to go straight back but the sensitive issues of modern day slavery can rear its head if very young African players are being bought by big clubs. Secondly the current transfer rule prohibits the movement of young African players under the age of 18 and if that is not enough, getting a work permit is now a difficult task. Our attempts at getting around work permits failed with the likes of Emmanuel Sarki and Jefffrey Ntuka. So its not surprising that we have not recently recruited any youngsters directly from Africa despite our academy having quite a significant African influence. But if rumours are to be believed, Betrand Traore might be an exemption. The named Betrand is still only (officially anyway) 15 and was the youngest player to ever appear at the u17 world cup at the age of 14.

Its only natural that we will look closer to home initially and a litter of scouts across Europe means we get linked with every talented youth player going.

Lets start at the home country of our former Head of Youth Development, Holland. A potential gold coast with the likes of Gullit & Robben and many more world class players coming from there. Despite the opportunity to continously recruit players from there, the club has been largely selective. Jeffrey Bruma & Patrick Van Aanholt where names quickly recruited from Holland and while nobody has superlatively labeled them as Gold, their potential to be world class is apparent for all to see. They both are now largely regarded as squad members in the first team. Our last foray back to Holland however was not so successful according to reports. There was no surprises when we were rumoured to have gone back to Bruma's initial club Feyenord to try to acquire another youngsters in 16 year old Kyle Ebecilio. Reports that we signed him were premature and he duly joined our footballing neighbours in North London.
Despite no official confirmation, it seems our most active scout/advisor in that area is Piet de Vissier, a man rumoured to be very close to Roman Abramovich. Someone who does have official identification in the scouting ranks from the Netherlands is Hans Gillhaus, now in charge of our international scouting network.

Wandering eyes up north takes us up to Scandinavia and despite our initial failings in the acquisition of players like Morten Neilsen, we have not been totally discouraged. Marko Mitrovic and most recently Amin Affane are the latest imports from Scandinavia and while its still early days in their Chelsea career, Marko has shown enough promise to be consider one of the top strikers in Chelsea's junior ranks.

Morten Nielsen's father Benny was probably our most documented scout in Sweden but little has been heard of him since the younger Nielsen's departure.

While our scouser counterparts up north have gone a bit crazy with the recruitment of European youngsters, we have been a bit more selective. Little is known of our active scouting representation in newly emerging football nations like Serbia and Slovakia but whatever eyes we have on the ground there seem pretty good. The acquisition and subsequent sale of Miroslav Stoch was generally a good reference and Milan Lalkovic (at 17) is now almost a reserve regular. With the Czech Republic only minutes away, the initial monitoring of players like Jan Sebek and the newly acquired Tomas Kalas can be assumed to be down to the same scouting clique.
Serbia has yielded Slobodan Rajkovic and Nemanja Matic both currently gaining valuable experience on loan at Vitesse while Austria has given us Phillip Prosenik who despite an injury ravaged first season has made a prolific start in his second season with us.
A country where our scouting representation has never being short of attention is France with Guy Hillion being the most mentioned and quotable. "If I sign a player in the season, it will not be very good but a phenomena. " were his words when he confirmed that he is now scouting for us.
While it is too early to describe Gael Kakuta as a phenomena, it is obvious that he is gem. Guy Hillion initiated the move of Kakuta to us as confirmed by the player himself.

Hillion has tried to be true to his words and the other young French players that have made the move to us all seem to have the special talent label on them. Jeremie Boga was a name that resurfaced during the Gael Kakuta transfer debacle and when he was initially signed in 2008, the now overplayed labelling of young players 'the new ....' reared its head. The new Zinedine Zidane some reports quoted. The Zidane comparison might have been derived from quotes attributed to Hillion who described him as a perfect Number 10. Still early days for Jeremie to feature in any meaningful age groups, but he has already made his mark at his current level wining the most valuable player award at the Audax tournament in his age group. Another French youngster currently in our academy is Yann Gueho. personally i know little of Gueho, but the quotes below from his former coach at Cretiel points to the possibility of him being another gem.

When asked the question - Which player impressed you the most since you started the club? His answer reference Yann Gueho - Yann GUEHO "El phenomeno" an unpredictable player on all fronts. A character as strong as his talent as a player. With it, you're in the show, a treat, it will seem to you a little paradoxical, but trade with him was a real privilege, simply because it is an extraordinary character.

Italy has always being good to us with our hall of fame having a picture of one or two Italian. Despite the faded early promise of Dalla Bona, we now have Jacopo Sala and Fabio Borini on the fringes of breaking through. Vicenzo Camilleri was another Italian teenager but an inability to settle here meant the union was short lived.

Settling is a major issue in youth football as our Portugese recruit Kaby will testify, a difficult first year has now given way to progress but our first foray into that Portugal was not as reconcilable. Fabio Feriera & Ricardo Fernandes never lived up to their initial promise. However our newer youth recruits from Portugal have been slightly different, Kaby and our latest Portuguese import Boumesca are African born. With Kaby's adopted father our most active scout in the region, and both Kaby and Boumesca being born in the same country as the scout. Two and Two can be put together.

What is largely unmissable in our academy though is a substantial African influence despite our inactivity in that region. Nothing more than a case of geographical location and immigration. Players like Daniel Pappoe, Aziz Deen Conteh, Nathaniel Chalobah and Bobby Devyne were all born in Africa. All now settled in the United Kingdom and within FA regulated travelling distance from the club, their monitoring and scouting can be largely credited to the local scouting network. Not only has the local scouting network helped in the acquisition of these players, their work getting in other players from around the local and national area is largely apparent with good national representations at different age groups.

Josh McEachran might be another piece of raw gold if his first 3 appearances for the first team are something to go by and if he does go on to be a star player in the future, then our local scouts can give themselves a good pat on the back.

Have we found more gold? Well only time will tell!!!












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