Will Watt: Youth team set-up brings delight and despair

Mark Waddington during his man of the match display against Aston Villa
Mark Waddington during his man of the match display against Aston Villa
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Hopefully most of you have read our special in tonight’s Gazette about the superb work done by Blackpool’s academy.

The youth system has been a real shining light in dark times at Bloomfield Road, proving not everything is a shambles at Blackpool FC.

In Ciaran Donnelly and Richie Kyle, you couldn’t meet nicer or more dedicated blokes. They care deeply about the players and are pretty good at their jobs too.

Under difficult circumstances, competing against so many top clubs in the North-West, Pool’s academy has managed to steer four players into the first team this season, after Harrison McGahey did so last season.

But, as with everything at Blackpool, there’s a downside – the lack of ability to keep hold of the best young players.

Of the four who have made the step up this season, three are yet to sign professional deals and two are likely to walk away at the end of the season.

While the statistics tell us that at least half of these will fail to make the grade long-term, that isn’t the point. Blackpool should be rewarding the academy by giving these players a chance.

Mark Waddington and Dom Telford are prime examples of how Blackpool fail to do the simple things well. Both players were verbally offered contracts last summer, but the issue was not pushed and the pair did not have physical contracts to sign until well into the season. By then both had played in the first team, no doubt having their heads turned by agents with offers from other clubs.

This isn’t greed on the players’ part – we are talking hundreds of pounds, not thousands. It’s more that they didn’t feel wanted by Pool.

Blackpool should have rewarded these players with deals the minute they stepped into the first team reckoning.

By the time Telford had scored on his home debut against Rotherham and Waddington had been named man of the match at Aston Villa in the FA Cup, it was far too late.

The likelihood is both will follow McGahey in leaving the club this summer, which must be a real blow for everyone working so hard at the academy.

While chairman Karl Oyston may well see it as a chance to earn guaranteed compensation, if one of those players stayed longer and really made a name for himself, the club could be looking at millions in fees and not thousands.

Surely it’s worth taking a risk on someone like Waddington, who has been at Bloomfield Road since the age of nine?

Let’s make sure that in future Pool’s young talents are ours to keep.