Developing Story

THE future stars of tomorrow seem to be a very current talking topic in the world of football.

Particularly from an Argyle perspective, plenty of subjects regarding young players are understandably on people’s lips.

On one hand, you have the Checkatrade Trophy, and discussions about how the inclusion of Under-21 teams will benefit the potential future stars of English football. Mixed with that, closer to home, we saw an excellent first chapter to the story book of Alex Fletcher, who scored twice against Chelsea’s teenage starlets at Home Park on Tuesday. 

Saturday’s opponents, Southend United, will likely field former Argyle Academy graduate Ryan Leonard, who made just one substitute appearance for the Pilgrims following a decade-long development phase. Aged 19, he went to Southend, and recently clocked up 250 appearances for the Shrimpers. 

And then there is the curious tale of Isaac Vassell. Released by Argyle in the summer of 2014, Vassell spent two decent years at Truro City, two divisions outside of the EFL structure, with the number of dissenting voices at Argyle decision to jettison him barely audible.

Suddenly, via Luton Town taking a chance on him, Isaac has earned himself a move to Championship side Birmingham City – and jolly good luck to him, too. 

Add in the presence of Ethan Ampadu in Chelsea’s team – Ethan, son of former Pilgrim Kwame, recently left Exeter City’s academy to join the development side of the Premier League champions – and it was inevitable Argyle boss Derek Adams wouold be questioned on the topic. 

“I can safely say I’ve not one who I have let go who has gone on to do any better during my managerial career,” said Derek, confidently. “You’ve got to back your own judgment, and as a manager, at this football club, we’ve looked at every player that we’ve released and we feel they don’t fit in to our plans at that moment in time. It’s up to them to go and prove we’re wrong.

“At this moment in time it hasn’t happened. Will it happen in the future? You might get the odd one or two wrong, but it’s up to the player then. In my time here, youngsters coming through from the under-18s, that have been training with the first-team and been out on loan, haven’t moved on to anything better. It’s something we have to look at doing better – getting youngsters through the system and keeping in the first-team. 

“It depends how you run your football club. The supporters of this football club - we had 11,000 at home against Charlton – want us to be successful and they want to see a winning team. If the youngsters are good enough they will play in the side.

“Exeter have a different model. They are a yo-yo club, and quite happy to be in League Two, maybe flirt with League One, and take in income for selling a young player. The ethos at this football club is different because of the fan base that we have. 

“We have to try to do both if we possibly can: win games and take through the youth. But they have to be good enough.   We had Alex Fletcher the other night, playing against Chelsea’s under-21s, and scoring two goals. That is great for him. Now he had to continue that development. 

“He’s a young player that has done well, and has a good future ahead of him if continues to progress.”