York City will cast their scouting net far and wide, as Richard Cresswell tells DAVE FLETT.
RICHARD CRESSWELL has called on York City to follow the examples set by Walsall and Crewe in their approach to youth coaching.
The Minstermen's development consultant reckons that the Sky Bet League One outfits offer the blueprint on how to attract and nurture home-grown talent in the shadow of higher-profile clubs.
Despite having the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool on their doorstep, Crewe are well recognised for their academy's achievements in recent decades, with former England internationals Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton, Rob Jones and Seth Johnson having all come through the Gresty Road ranks, along with Premier League title winner Mike Newell.
The success of Walsall, an hour's drive away down the M6, has been less heralded, meanwhile, but has not gone unnoticed by ex-City striker Cresswell.
Over the last eight years, Walsall have collected almost £4 million in transfer fees from a production line that has seen the likes of Jamie Paterson (£1 million), Troy Deeney (£500,000), Scott Dann (£1 million), Dan Fox (£400,000), Matty Fryatt (£750,000) and Julian Bennett (£250,000) leave the Bescott Stadium for handsome sums.
The Saddlers also boasted 20-year-old youth-team graduates Malvind Benning, Ben George and Kieron Morris in their senior ranks last season, along with teenager Amadou Bakayoko.
Bigger clubs in the region such as Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Brom and Wolves must be looking on in envy and Cresswell is now hoping the Minstermen can follow suit be fending off the likes of neighbours Leeds United and Hull City as they look to recruit York's most-promising youngsters.
Highly-rated local lads Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor are recent examples of players lost to Elland Road and Cresswell believes that situation can change, saying: "We need to start producing players who go on to play in our first team and, hopefully, at a higher level and, sometimes, you need to look at other models and see how other clubs have done it.
"Walsall might not yet be known for their youth development but the history of what they have produced in recent times is pretty frightening. They have been bringing through player after player despite having the likes of Birmingham and West Brom on their doorstep.
"Everybody knows all about the success Crewe have had too, even though they are in the shadow of Manchester United and you have to ask yourself why that's happening. I think the reason is simple - it's down to the coaching.
"The parents must trust these coaches, the system they are working to and the football club's philosophy and, by providing the same level of coaching, you can stop kids going elsewhere."
Cresswell feels that the first step towards improving youth development results at Bootham Crescent, in the face of stiff competition, will be provided by a restructure that has seen long-serving coach John Stockton become the club's head of recruitment.
On that decision, the former England under-21 international added: "There is a big catchment of young footballers in this area with the Mitchell League and Mini Leagues.
"With my family, I have been involved in grassroots football here for the last six years and there's talent out there. In all honesty, we have missed out on a lot of it to other clubs in the area and we want to change that.
"John will be the head of recruitment and, as a coach here for more than 20 years, he has a great knowledge of the area. We know we haven't been there at tournaments as a club because, while we were out of the Football League, the budget wasn't there, but things are changing now.
"We will have a recruitment team and that will include five or six scouts just in York because we want to concentrate on this area.
"It will take time - it won't be a six or 12-month turnaround. It will be more like four or five years, but we want to get the kids at eight or nine-years-old and try and get them through to 16 by having a good retention rate.
"We are also going to reach out to the east coast. We have got scouts in place at Scarborough, Bridlington and Hull at the moment and the networks are building.
"There are a lot of good people who want to work for this club voluntarily and we will have a good presence locally. We will have ten scouts looking at seven to 18-year-olds.
"It is great to have them all on board and another step in taking the club forward."
Cresswell has also stressed that City will be carrying out their work with a strong emphasis on child welfare, explaining: "Having relationships with grassroots football clubs is so important.
"It is inevitable some managers might want to keep their best players to win trophies but, for me, it's about giving kids an opportunity to come to a professional club and have a chance to get a scholarship and, maybe, a professional contract. It's not just about taking though.
"After the players have been with us, we will give their clubs documentation on how the kids have done because we don't just want to throw them back into their clubs. We need exit strategies for all the kids because that is just as important as bringing them in."
Cresswell, meanwhile, has welcomed the appointment of his former City team-mate Andy McMillan as the club's head of academy.
"I am really happy with Andy's appointment," he said. "He was here when I was a player and is one of York City's legends.
"He has served a long apprenticeship, including being down at Barnet away from his family and at Notts County last season as the head of coaching. For me, the role has to be filled by somebody local, as the long hours involved mean you need to be on hand all the time.
"Andy fits that bill and has a passion for this club. He has got the talent to take this club forward and I am looking forward to working alongside him.
"He's a great guy who is very approachable and, on the coaching side, he is very strong tactically and technically, so I think there will be good times ahead."