Home » Nick Cox explains innovative development scheme for Manchester United youngsters

Nick Cox explains innovative development scheme for Manchester United youngsters

by Colm Murphy

With 97 percent of academy players never making a top flight appearance, the goal for most is just to forge a professional career in the game.

Manchester United have often topped the charts for academy products who have played professionally in the top four flights of English football and this is down to the innovative development ideas used in the academy.

One such idea was the implementation of work experience training, initially implemented by Justin Cochrane who departed for Brentford this season.

The initiative sees United’s academy players train with lower league clubs for up to a month. The idea is to broaden the player’s experience beyond the walls of Carrington.

Nick Cox, United’s director of academy, explained it to The Guardian, “If a player is in our programme from a really young age to 19-20, they have only ever seen one version of what football looks like and the version at Manchester United is very different to what it might look like in the rest of the world.

“It is about showing the boys the realities of senior football. The reality of what it means to have to be selected, to be in a team on a regular basis because it is your job and you are fighting for your contract.

“That helps our boys should they be ready for our first team and it helps our boys if they are not ready for our first team and they have to go find a career away from us.”

The programme has seen clubs such as Stockport, Altrincham, Barrow, Doncaster, Preston, and Ipswich welcome players from United’s academy for training.

The partnerships with locals clubs has worked to the benefit of both parties with United able to expose players to different environments.

Stockport’s director of football Simon Wilson explained that, “the benefit from our side of things is that we will get an early look at players that are potentially available for loan, or if they will be available later down the line if they do not get extended at United.”

Altrincham were so impressed with United’s young players that they signed three of them to loan deals in January with Maxi Oyedele and Joe Hugill already scoring for the National League outfit while Sonny Aljofree has yet to make an appearance.

It isn’t just the young players that are being shared by the clubs though. Stockport and Salford City have both taken advantage of the Carrington training grounds while theirs were unusable.

Cox said, “We have a duty to support our ecosystem of clubs around us, there is some gain for us but we think the greater gain is for those around us.

“That includes grassroots teams, non-league teams, professional teams, because we want to have a really healthy ecosystem in the north-west that is to everyone’s gain.

“If we can support Stockport or Altrincham with a training pitch and help them to keep going, send a player on loan, share knowledge that we might have or drop a member of staff into their organisation for some professional development, that works great for them and great for us.”

Cox emphasized that the duty of the academy is not just to produce stars like Marcus Rashford but to look after every young player who comes through the set-up.

“We take great pride in seeing our boys progress and build a career away from us, as much energy goes into the boys who might fall short of our first team as it does those on track to debut.

“I am not shy in talking about the fact it will be a minority of boys that become professional footballers out of our academy.

“We are really clear with boys when they join us that it is a tough challenge, but the challenge is an amazing one because striving for excellence brings about an amazing amount of personal growth and the academy process is one that can be life-changing, life-enriching, regardless of whether you make a debut at the end of it or not.”

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