Are Walsall failing their academy players?

With players failing to reach their potential and a lack of progression in recent years, we ask if Walsall are failing their academy players.

The academy was once an area of the club fans were proud of, but a worrying trend is emerging, similar to that of that whole club.

There is also a concerning revelation from someone within the academy system in our latest episode below.

Apple Podcasts - ‎Yellow Ribbon Podcast: Episode 18: Are Walsall failing their academy players? on Apple Podcasts

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The failure of the academy has to be a big part in our demise. Even if they weren’t world beaters we use to consistently produce solid squad players like Alex Nichols, Richard Taundry or Manny Smith.

Now we literally produce no one good enough at first team level, which puts even more pressure on our budget.



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The academy system has changed way to much to expect that, I suspect, ever again.

Anyone with real talent will be plucked by cat 1 and 2 clubs by the time they’re 14-16.

The gap in terms of standard of players and standard of coaching between cat 1>2>3 is just huge.

The best chance we got now is using the loan system to get them a different route into pro football. The conventional route of schoolboy > 18s > 23s > first team is all but done for clubs like Walsall.


It really helps productivity when you have a reserve team which helps so much with that step up into the first team .
Also helping fringe players get minutes and find a bit of form .

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We are not failing the academy players. I’d hazard a guess the majority of players in our academy are the ones not good enough to be considered by Villa Wolves Albion Blues (Probably in that order) Further a field Cov and Stoke

Unlikely any of them will be good enough to make the grade even if we had Pep coaching them. If there are good any the big boys will snap them up.

Where Walsall have been successful in the past is having people who know the local scene and we are ready and waiting for when a Jamie Patterson is released from Cov or we know Everton have a lad called Scott Dann whose after a club

This knowledge has gone. Therefore the quality (and quantity) of players has reduced.


I totally agree with that I’ve been around the Academy system for the past 9 years now with my grandson like you say any talent is snapped up by the big boys Aston Villa for instance spread there net very wide and they don’t miss much I would suggest even Earlier I know of kids as young as 12 years old .they will monitor and watch kids right up to 16 years old .teams like Walsall will just end up with what they reject and they do reject a lot because the turnover is massive.all we can hope for is a late developer they might miss .but they don’t miss a lot I can assure you .they invite kids in droves to Bodymore Heath for trails .as do Wolves .and that’s not evening mentioning the competition they face from the elite academy’s City .Arsenal Chelsea .


Not a lot coming through in recent years. Maybe the hope of producing a Rico is the motivation, but probably a better option is to pick up rejects like Adebayo, develop them in men’s foootball and then sell them on.

Bates, Perry, and now Maher the latest in a line of promising kids that have not pushed on.


I think we did fail for several years hence the big changes introduced over the past 18 months. Whether that will make things better we will find out in a couple of years but reading the extensive pieces in the programme about the Academy we are certainly trying. The number of folk employed in coaching and other work with the young lads is impressive.
The fact that this season we have had these pieces in the programme is also a plus for me . We are clearly putting a lot of effort into this area.

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How poor our first team has been over recent years has not helped. Bates and Perry came into very poor first team scenes with the club in free fall. Very tough environment for young players to come into and develop.


A bit early to write Maher off in my view.


Fair comment. I included him as he was expected by many to be a regular in the first team squad this season, yet is struggling to get regular starts at Rushall.
It will be interesting to see if he stays here after Jan or goes out on loan again.

Having 2 kids who play grassroots football, I often see Shrewsbury, wba, dingle and villa scouts on a Sunday morning. I have also seen Rushall scouts most Sundays but very rarely see Walsall scouts at games. Surely they should be all over the Walsall junior league seeing how many teams/players that play in the league.


I really look forward to these podcasts, the downside is of course they look beyond the surface and it reveals the shambles that is Walsall Football Club.
We’ve had quite a few seasons of dross these last few years with not much to cheer about and the situation with the academy is a reflection of the club from top to bottom.

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Clearly you hadn’t read my post above about all the changes made to the Academy over the past 2 years.It isn’t a shambles. Whether it will bring about a major change in results remains to be seen but it is clear considerable investment has gone into that part of the Club. I welcome that.

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I wonder if the very fact that the neighbours you mention (other than Shrewsbury) are the reason scouts aren’t employed there by us. I could be showing my ignorance of scouting here, but if there are three competitors who we can’t compete with on money and status if a gem is unearthed, then is there much point to begin with? Especially if we could end up with their rejects anyway. Perhaps our scouts make a point of going where theirs aren’t.

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That could be true, its also down to the clubs reputation, where as wba and Shrewsbury are held in high regard generally at grassroots level.

Completely right i coached kids for 8 years from 2010 up to 2018 never saw a Walsall scout loads of Stoke and Wolves ones mainly occasionally West Brom.

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It isn’t good enough by any metric.

Go back 10 years and it certainly was. Likes of Deeney, Manny Smith, Nicholls, Westlake and Taundry had come through and established themselves as part of the first team for a few seasons.

Then after those the next generation of Grigg, Paterson came in and DS was exactly the right guy to guide them given that had been his job previously before the promotion to first team coach. The other young striker who came through in 11/12 and scored a couple early on (forget his name) I thought he’d have a better career than Grigg at the time.

Since then in nearly a decade only Kins and Baka are two who’ve had reasonable careers in the game.

Thought Llera in charge might have fixed things but he left and it’s been very poor since. Thought relegation to league two might help them get more chances at lower level but fizzled out for ALfie Bates and Perry.

Mitch Candlin probably a good case study. Had endless hype scoring millions of goals for the under age groups and England and people were demanding he started all these games when he was 16-17. Randomly went to Blackburn on loan, came back and little heard of since.

Youth set up badly needs an audit. I presume that’s one of the things Trivela been doing in their year in charge…?

Edit: Somehow typed all that forgetting Rico Henry! Now that is clear example of why you keep persisting with academy. Hopefully another of his type will emerge at some point in next five years.

It still happens though. Adebayo was floating around in Fulham’s youth system and hadn’t done much on loan but this was the chance he badly needed and now he’s good enough to be missing sitters from 5 yards against Spurs in the premier league! :grin:

One thing I don’t really get is the lack of co-operation with other Midlands clubs.

It worked a treated a decade ago with West Brom. At the time they were mid table prem so Sawyers, Mantom and Downing all dropped down and over a sixth month period all developed into really good league 1 players in their respective positions.

Was that all down to DS or were there people in the academy with excellent contacts with their respective counterparts at West Brom at the time?

Given Kinsella and Rico were coming through in that period half of the team is then made up of local young players so you then forge an identity with the fans.

The loans in recent times have been a disaster. Wolves don’t bother anymore given how little Ronan and Johnson played in their positions. Jack Fitzwater returning in Jan 2019 just to warm the bench was a fiasco and then got those YTS kids on loan from Birmingham and it was clear they were nowhere near league 2 ready.

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