York City legend Andy McMillan talks to DAVE FLETT about his plans for a production line of homegrown talent.
YORK City’s new academy manager Andy McMillan wants Bootham Crescent to begin producing players of the calibre of Richard Cresswell and Jonathan Greening again.
City youth-team graduates Cresswell (£950,000) and Greening (£500,000) swelled the club’s coffers by a considerable, seven-figure sum when they left for Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester United respectively in the late 1990s.
Cresswell went on to play for Sheffield Wednesday, Leicester City and Stoke in the Premier League, while Greening won a Champions League medal as a member of the Red Devils’ winning squad in 1999.
Both have now returned to their first club to help McMillan in his attempt to revive City’s junior ranks with Cresswell the Minstermen’s development consultant and 35-year-old Greening, currently without a team after being released by Nottingham Forest, offering his assistance with coaching.
In the last decade, Lingdale-born Adam Boyes, now at Guiseley, is the only player to have earned City a transfer fee after progressing through the youth ranks, although fellow former Minstermite David Stockdale has found fame and fortune with Fulham, not to mention England call-ups, after being allowed to leave on a free transfer by ex-Bootham Crescent chief Billy McEwan, who also showed current Championship campaigner Byron Webster the door.
That trio have been the exception, rather than the rule, however, with McMillan also hoping to convince parents that City represent the best choice for their talented children, having witnessed the likes of highly-rated, York-born youngsters Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor opt for Leeds United in recent times.
On his quest to return City’s youth production line to its former glories, McMillan, a Minstermen legend himself as a Wembley 1993 hero and the player sitting second on the club’s all-time appearances list, said: “I am coming back home and I want to make sure this academy goes back to producing players like Richard and Jonathan again and we will do that by getting everyone on side and recruiting in the right way.
“We want people to know they can bring their children to us and they will be developed in the right manner because we are teachers of football and I want parents to trust us. We are getting everything in place to make sure we can make that happen.
“It might not happen overnight but we are committed to a long-term project. There are some really good players in this area but, over the last few years, the academy has not been recruiting as well as it could have done and a lot of youngsters have gone to Hull and Leeds instead.
“I don't want that to happen anymore. Those clubs obviously have a big pull, being in the Premier League and Championship, but we need to persuade parents again that their children will have a better chance of becoming a professional at York City and show them we are going about things in the right way.”
From last season’s youth team, just Halifax-born Cameron Murray, who only joined the club last year, was offered professional terms and McMillan admitted that the success rate from within the academy must be higher.
“I would like to see 95 per cent of all the scholars coming through our ranks from under nine to under 16,” McMillan pointed out. “We don't want to be sourcing players released by other clubs.
“We want to develop our own young players into scholars. We then want to get three or four on professional terms a season and one or two making their first-team debuts every year.”
With three sons who have grown up playing grassroots football in York – McMillan’s eldest now represents the county while the other two are on the books of City and Leeds – Bootham Crescent’s new academy manager has first-hand experience of the club’s recruitment policy in recent times.
During the Conference years, with resources stretched, scouting was often neglected and, as a consequence, McMillan has quickly moved to restructure the manner in which the club talent spots.
Previously dependent on recommendations, former under-16s coach John Stockton will now lead a team of scouts as the newly-appointed head of recruitment.
“The change in our recruitment policy aims at building better relationships with grassroots football clubs and the other soccer schools and academies working in the region,” McMillan explained. “We want their best players to come to us because they know they will get feedback on how they are doing and we will also encourage their coaches to come and watch them play because they have played an important role in their development.
“John knows the local area. He has been coaching for more than 20 years here and knows the type of player I am looking for.
“He has mapped out different areas and leagues and we will have scouts in every one of them with the aim to communicate with coaches directly. For example, if the U12s need a right back, we would look to source one, watch him and offer him a six-week trial.
“If he does end up going back to the club, we would then provide him, his parents and his club with a report, so he knows what to work on.”
McMillan intends to give the club’s coaches every chance to become the best they can be, too, stressing the importance of qualifications and knowledge in delivering his vision for the future.
“We are recruiting some good, young coaches who are hungry to do well,” he revealed. I have got my UEFA A licence and would like to do my Pro licence next.
“I think it is important to get as many qualifications and different experiences behind you as you can. Richard Cresswell has his A licence and Jonathan Greening will be doing bits and pieces too.
“They are massive names in the game. All our coaches are qualified up to their B licence and we will be encouraging them to do their A licences as well.”
McMillan’s application for his new position was not the first time he has declared an interest in heading City’s youth department but he now feels he is better equipped to achieve strong results in the role.
He was a coach in City’s academy back in 2005 before leaving for a similar role at Hull City, where he spent three years, until he was offered a job as the assistant head of Lincoln City’s academy.
Barnet was his next stopping point where, as U21s manager, he helped nurture the talents of George Sykes, Iffy Allen and Jamal Lowe, who all featured for the Bees’ first team last season.
Last term, meanwhile, he was head of coaching at SkyBet League One outfit Notts County.
On the journey to landing his dream job, McMillan said: “I feel that I have gone away and got myself an education to now fulfil the role and responsibility of an academy manager. It is a fantastic opportunity for me.
“I have had a few years away at different clubs and learned things from all of them. My last job at Notts County was in a very well-run academy with good people and the only job I would have left it for is probably this one.”
The South African-born 46-year-old also believes the club are in a stronger position to deliver excellent standards across their academy teams, compared to when he cut his coaching teeth at Bootham Crescent back in 2005.
“I have noticed a massive change in the mindset of the club since coming back,” he confessed. “John McGhee has been appointed as general manager and is pushing the academy forward, along with the chairman.
“The gaffer wants to know what's happening too and he's been down to watch the players and asked lots of questions. There is a very positive atmosphere at the club at the moment following on from a good season and the new stadium should also help the club push on again.
“With the improvements that are being made, there aren't many better training facilities around than Wigginton Road either. We are also trying to set up a partnership with York St John's University to use the new sand-based pitches they are building on Haxby Road because we want our young players to have access to the best facilities and equipment to help them become the best they can be.”