Dear Roker Report,
Is there nothing that can be done to stop Premier League clubs hoovering up all our most promising talent just when they’re old enough to sign a professional contract? Stewart Donald stated his ambition was to run SAFC on the Borussia Dortmund model, fielding teams mostly made up with local talent brought through from the Academy. However, it’s all pie in the sky as long as they’re being snatched away before maturing into first team squad members.
Ed’s Note [Alex]: The grim reality is that a promising youth prospect on his corresponding youth contract can turn around and leave whenever they want. I was at a talk-in Charlie Methven held at Town End (when he was still a member of Sunderland’s senior management) and he told a few anecdotes about talented young lads we had at the academy, who finished training one evening and were nowhere to be seen the next day, only for their parents to ring up saying, “He’s not coming back because he’s had an offer from Arsenal,” or something along those lines.
However, helpless though we may seem in light of this, a lot of responsibility lies with those in charge of the academy’s player turnover - perhaps Richard Hill specifically - to convince the lads to stay and sell them the bigger picture that ultimately comes with adapting a ‘Dortmund Model’. Williams Kokolo, a former highly-acclaimed full-back, was the most recent to go if I remember correctly: he joined Middlesbrough’s development squad just a few weeks ago. Middlesbrough! We hardly lost him to a club contending for the Champions League; you’d like to think that we could prevent some of our brightest emerging talent joining a club fighting against relegation from the second tier. Blame might have to fall on Hill for situations like this one.
The implementation of the Dortmund Model is a noble ambition, but such statements ring hollow if - like you say - our youngsters are being snatched away before they break into the first team and we seem to have not done enough to prevent that.