IF Middlesbrough’s extensive injury list brought a positive with it this week, it was the emergence of yet more young talent seemingly destined for the first team stage.
Over the last 14-and-a-half years the success of the club’s academy system has been noted up and down the country, with teenagers making the step up regularly. That trend continued last weekend.
In the Middlesbrough team which overcame non-league Hastings United in the FA Cup on Saturday there were eight academy graduates among the 14 players who had a part to play.
Two of those were Bryn Morris and Jordan Jones.
And there is a feeling both youngsters have the ability, potential and character to go on to make further first team appearances for the club, even if they might have to wait a while before the next one comes along.
When Morris, introduced 21 minutes after his teammate in the closing stages, replaced two-goal Merouane Zemmama, he became the 39th academy player to have played for Boro’s first team since the academy structure’s inception in 1998.
That figure is actually 42 if Sean Kilgallon, Chris Bennion and Mark Hudson – who all entered as second year academy scholars in 1998 – are taken into account. Either way it is an fantastic number for a club which spent the majority of those years being boosted by Premier League status.
“If you are a young player coming through this is probably the best club in the country, without a shadow of a doubt, to have been with and playing for,” said Adam Reach, the last graduate to make his debut before Morris and Jones.
“There’s maybe not many teams in Europe that would match the conveyor belt of players coming through here. Just look at the other day, and both Bryn and Jordan came on.
“The game before that we had Paul Weldon on the bench. There’s plenty more names to come who will be out of the Under-21s and into the first team, I’m sure.
“That’s what it’s like here, players are given a chance.
The coaching staff here give young players an opportunity.
“You don’t get told what to do, how to play, if you have ability you are just told to express yourself.”
Reach, who had a fivegame spell with Darlington in the Conference at the end of 2011, has played 12 times for Boro this season, scoring against both Burnley and Blackpool.
His performances, including that against Hastings, have provided Mowbray with a different option down the left wing – reminding Boro fans of two other graduates who went on to play for England.
“I don’t try to think about any comparisons people make,” said the 19-year-old.
“Players like Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson have gone on to other things and were great players for this club.
“I don’t even think about myself following in their footsteps.
“The only way I think about them is to use them as a target. I look at what they have gone on to do with England over five or six years, and that’s what I think about sometimes. But I just want to concentrate on my own football.”
While there can be a tendency to rely too heavily on top prospects when they have emerged, Mowbray has deliberately taken them out of the first team picture after giving them an initial taste.
“I do feel part of the squad now,” said Reach, whose last three appearances, since December 29, followed almost two months with the Under-21s.
“Youngsters like me and Luke Williams, who also played against Hastings, can find ourselves not even involved in matches. We know we might not be, we can’t afford to get down and I don’t think we are.
“I think that’s why sometimes the manager leaves the likes of me and Luke out of the squad because he doesn’t want to put too much on us too quickly.
“By doing that it won’t go to our heads.
“We are all managing it quite well.”
Relegation from the Premier League in 2009 forced Boro to cut their cloth accordingly and put further emphasis on producing their own players.
As well as the obvious benefits of being able to field graduates on the first team stage, the fact that Middlesbrough have raised more than £37m by selling some of their youngsters has justified chairman Steve Gibson’s decision to invest in youth.
They have successfully applied for Category One status in the Elite Player Performance Plan – the revamped academy system – in the last year.
And their track record should ensure Dave Parnaby’s well-run academy retains that status when there is a viewing in the summer to ensure they are maintaining the standards expected of them during the three-year agreement.
THE MIDDLESBROUGH ACADEMY GRADUATES
WHEN Bryn Morris was introduced as a second half substitute during Saturday’s FA Cup win over Hastings United he became the 39th graduate to make a Middlesbrough first team debut since the academy system was introduced in 1998.
There were also three players – Sean Kilgallon, Chris Bennion and Mark Hudson – who made appearances for the club having been part of the youth set-up before the change to the way the system worked 15 years ago this summer.
But the outing for Morris, and introduction minutes earlier of Jordan Jones, was further evidence of how successful Boro’s youth system has been – particularly given the significant number of others to have gone on to play professionally elsewhere. Here’s a list of all the players to have made first team bows for Middlesbrough since joining the academy system in 1998.
|Player||Time at Boro||Current Club|
|Stuart Parnaby||1998-07 & 2012||Boro|
|Luke Wilkshire||1999-2003||Dynamo Moscow|
|Carlos Marinelli||1999-2003||Uni San Martin|
|Brian Close||1999-2004||Sunderland RCA|
|David Murphy||2000-2004||Birmingham City|
|Jamie Cade||2000-2003||Crawley Town|
|Andrew Davies||2001-2007||Bradford City|
|Andrew Taylor||2002-2011||Cardiff City|
|Tony McMahon||2002-2012||Sheffield United|
|Danny Graham||2002-2007||Swansea City|
|James Morrison||2002-2007||West Brom|
|Matthew Bates||2003-2012||Bristol City|
|David Wheater||2003-2011||Bolton Wanderers|
|Tom Craddock||2003-2009||Oxford City|
|Joe Bennett||2008-2012||Aston Villa|
Other academy graduates to have played professionally in the UK: Aron Wilford (current club: Beatleigh Greens, Aus); Sam Russell (Forest Green); Phil Gulliver (Kings Lynn); Leon Ryan (Spennymoor); Keith Gilroy (retired); Stephen Brackstone (retired); Gary Smith (retired); Andrew Kelly (unattached); Chris Brunt (West Brom); Gary Liddle (Notts County); Anthony Peacock (Spennymoor); David Knight (Spennymoor); Dale Roberts (deceased); Nathan Mulligan (Whitby); Kevin Burgess (Whitby); Harold Goulon (unattached); Stephen Thompson (Darlington); Nathan Fisher (Gateshead); Nathan Porritt (Stokesley); Sam Filler (Stirling); Ashley Corker (Cambridge); James Gray (Accrington); Charlie Wyke (loan, Hartlepool).