Matt Crocker, who oversees the progress of all Saints’ squads as director of football operations, has suggested that a ‘hybrid model’ could be implemented for talented Island-based juniors who may otherwise fall behind due to geography.
The former FA head of development for England’s under-15s to U20s was in Jersey yesterday to meet the Island’s footballing officials and tour the sports facilities on offer. Following talks with the Jersey FA, he said executives from the Premier League and English Football League might need to be approached.
‘If there are one or two who we might want to register with our academy or regional talent centres in the girls’ programme, what discussions would we begin to have with the Premier League and the EFL around being able to register those players?’ he said. ‘And what could a programme look like for them from a welfare point of view, if you consider school and how many times they can come over?
‘We can have those conversations with the Premier League, over the reasons and rationale around disadvantaged children in sport in terms of elite opportunities. There is a Premier League rule allowing us to sign children at 14 who we think are talented and we can move them into our private school, which is close to the training ground, to become full-time scholar students and players with the club. But that is not for everybody – lots of children are not ready for that at 14 – so what does a good hybrid model look like for a child and their parents if they want to stay in the Island to be educated?
‘Previously, players would come over to us on a Friday, train with the team on the Saturday, play a game on the Sunday and then go back. You wouldn’t do it every weekend because it’s not sustainable, but there could be a coach here who could do some elite work with them. We can be creative. What we need to do is try and meet the individual needs of the player and their parents and we have spoken today about beginning those conversations with the Premier League.’
Crocker’s visit, alongside Southampton’s head of recruitment for U13-U19s, Dan Rice, and Andy Marks, an academy coach, came as the club attempts to ‘re-ignite’ links with Jersey and offer a greater number of opportunities for Island footballers. He also revealed that academy squads are now likely to visit Springfield more regularly and that training camps for the club’s Premier League squad might be considered if a full-sized, elite pitch is installed in the west of the Island, near the new multi-million-pound Strive facility.
Full interview to follow.