There are lots of burning issues in football but none more important than youth development and relationships between children, parents and clubs.
That’s why I’m delighted that we have four speakers at our Rebuilding the Belief football youth development conference at the CGM Media Centre, Worcester on March 15 with a unique take on this vital subject.
Rebuilding the Belief is the title of the sequel to my 2009 book Every Boy’s Dream, which lifted the lid on the reality of life in England’s football academies and this is our third conference and meeting of minds before publication later in 2019.
Our keynote speaker is Tony Whelan, who for the past 29 years has been a key figure in redefining Manchester United’s academy philosophy towards youth development and the welfare of the children coached at the club.
Whelan and his colleagues have often made brave decisions to shape their own approach and have even commissioned academic research to support their actions, such as choosing the defy the regulators by playing home 4 v 4 games for their younger academy age teams rather than the prescribed 9 v 9 so their players can develop skills in tight spaces.
In my humble opinion, no one has done more to bring clarity and conviction to the way football clubs should nurture the needs of young people they aspire to turn into footballers – and few have achieved the same success.
Delegates will hear Tony’s personal perspective on how and why clubs should ensure children and teenagers get the chance to grow as people and enjoy a proper childhood.
Gareth Farrelly knows what it takes to come through the football development system, having progressed from Aston Villa’s academy to play for Bolton Wanderers, Everton and the Republic of Ireland – yet ended up suing his final club Cork City for unfair dismissal – a process that led to him deciding to re-train as a lawyer.
For a parent’s perspective we’ll hear from Simon Bywater, co-founder of PlayersNet which provides support for academy footballers and their parents.
The parent of a teenage player in West Ham’s academy, Simon voiced his concerns about the way his son Kieran was treated by the Premier League club, which has shaped the county councillor and former Royal Marine Commando’s view on seeking to help others in a similar position.
Our fourth speaker oversees the fastest growing junior league in the UK. Martin Brock is CEO of the NERF Junior Premier League, which started in the Midlands in 2004 and is now has more than 100 clubs on board nationwide, providing a useful bridge between children playing in professional club academies and non-League football clubs.
It’s going to be another fantastic day to match our previous events which attracted speakers from Borussia Dortmund, AS Monaco, Manchester City and Fulham among others.
We look forward to seeing you on March 15.