The Academy is only as good and productive as the first team allows it to be.
Managers don't give kids a chance to develop in the first team as much as they used to down to the demand of instant success nowadays. Unfortunately, even the more experienced players are failing. And rather than give a few of the kids a go, managers persist with those same failing experienced players (see Danny Ward this year as a prime example). Kids are lucky if they're given ten games a season in today's Premier League. They might get a run out in the domestic cups but, if like us this year, they go out in the first round then they're waiting from September till January before they get another taste.
The last manager who truly gave the kids a go was Dalglish. He had Flanagan, Robinson and Spearing all in the first team for a sustained run and none of the three looked out of place. Kenny was then sacked, Robinson disappeared completely from the first team set-up, Flanagan only got a run out when injuries forced Rodgers' hand and Spearing was demoted to play second fiddle to the likes of Lucas, Allen, Sahin. Now I know this forum won't agree with any of that and they'll bang on about how sh*t those three players were but under Dalglish (the only manager to win a trophy for the club in the past decade) they were all looking as if they could cement a place in the side for the long-term and that's because they had a manager who trusted them and gave them a sustained run in the side, rather than one or two games every couple of months.
Since then we've had plenty of prospects get the odd run out. All coming into the first team with a lot of praise from the youth and/or reserve team levels. But it then breaks down because it is just the odd run out and in some cases it'll be the odd run out of position. And on top of that it'll be the odd run out in games with fringe players who are being told they're not good enough for the League or European games and another handful of kids. There's never a run out with the first team, where the better players can provide the youngsters with that extra bit of quality needed.
Another thing I've been very critical of is the fact that the kids no longer train with the first team, they're off in Kirkby until they get the call up. There's bound to be nerves because they don't know the players they're joining up with and in most cases they're going to be starstruck. If they're training with the first team players every day, that disappears. Suddenly it's not Liverpool's saviour Sadio Mane that they're up against but just one of the lads. If, and when, Melwood finally closes it's doors and we move all our training facilities up to Kirkby then maybe that problem won't exist as much.
So any promising youngster is only going to succeed at a club that allows them to succeed. The odd chance here and there isn't giving them the chances they need to "make it". It's giving them nothing really because even if they perform well against Wycombe or Port Vale or whoever in the Cups, they know come the following weekend when the League is our main focus again that they'll be nowhere near the 18 selected.
But the fact we've had a number of kids given a game or two shows that the Academy is producing the talented players but the first team managers are failing the Academy by not giving them game time when they should be. Players don't develop by staying in the reserves, they stagnate. And they then get to the age of 21 where they haven't played enough football are considered too old to be given the chance. They need to be in the Premier League sides on a regular basis from a much earlier age. It doesn't mean 38 starts, it means at least half the season though, they are involved somehow - either starting or coming off the bench.
However modern football won't allow that. So for all the hype we give our youngsters, none of them will "make it" at Anfield until a young kid is allowed to play and develop in the first team. Alexander-Arnold looks like he could get the opportunity although he's very quickly fell behind Gomez (a natural centre half) in the pecking order and, probably, wouldn't even be on the bench if Clyne was fit. Woodburn looks like he could get the opportunity yet he's played more for Wales this season than he has us. Harry Wilson has been tearing it up at youth level for a number of years yet he has one Liverpool appearance to his name.
I know a lot of kids get loaned out nowadays, much more than they used to, which at the very least gives the players a chance to experience, competitive, first team football. But how many of our kids have gone out on loan and returned to stake a place in the starting XI? Very few because the managers don't give them that game time upon return. And that is what it boils down to, game time with the first team at Liverpool Football Club.
But that means football as a culture has to change. Us as fans have to accept youngsters are going to have the odd dodgy game but stick with them rather than writing them off as soon as they have their first below par game. Owners have to stick with managers who are looking to build something by developing their youngsters rather than sacking a manager every couple of years. And managers need to have a pair of balls and stick with the youngsters they think can be good enough in a few years time rather than hooking them out the side as soon as one result goes tits up.
I don't see any of that happening though and in five years time when Brewster scores his first goal for the newly promoted Divison Four side Luton, we'll be talking about how he never fulfilled his potential here. And how he's another one who never was good enough. And how he's found his level. But the owners, not just the current yanks but whoever we may get in the future, care solely about the money. So if they can snatch a kid from Bury for a couple of quid then sell him on for a couple of million, they're more than happy. So they're not interested in developing kids and the cycle of us not producing any quality first team players of our own will continue.
So back to my original sentence, the Academy is only as good and productive as the first team allows it to be. And in today's football, there's not many teams who can afford the luxury of trying to develop a youngster in the first team.