27th Oct, 2016

True Blue - Academy's importance continues to grow

Solihull Editorial 28th Jan, 2015 Updated: 21st Oct, 2016

WELCOME to the first of a new weekly column in which Birmingham City FC blogger Daniel Ivery offers his thoughts on events at St Andrew’s.

Daniel’s work is highly regarded and provides Blues fans with a considered insight into first team affairs and more at the Championship club.

In his first piece, Daniel looks at the work of the academy and its importance to the club.

THE PRODUCTION line of talent from the Birmingham City academy looks to have produced another gem in Charlee Adams, who has been offered a new professional contract.

The 19-year-old came to Blues from West Ham United in 2011 and made his first team debut as a late substitute in Blues’ 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup third round last season.

He has matured further on loan at Lincoln City in the Conference Premier, scoring two quality finishes and cementing his position in the Imps’ midfield.

There was a time when it seemed like Blues could not produce their own talent for love nor money. Players coming through from the academy seemed to be few and far between and, as the club battled for stability in the Premier League, Steve Bruce and then Alex McLeish seemed to put more faith into bringing in players than promoting from within.

Relegation from the top flight in the summer of 2011 coupled with the well-publicised money worries Blues have gone through have made it more of a necessity for young players to make the grade and under Lee Clark in particular more and more were given their chance.

Blues’ latest hot property, winger Demarai Gray, is a good example of a young player who seized their opportunity when offered it. Gray went from playing in front of one of a few hundred people in an FA Youth Cup game at Solihull Moors to playing in front of the St Andrew’s faithful week in, week out within a matter of months, continuing to improve further once in the first team and culminating in a sensational hat-trick against Reading.

Gray was proof that sometimes dropping a youngster in at the deep end can provide the right effect – that first team football could be the catalyst to improving his game to a level where he is not only considered a prospect in Birmingham City terms but attracting the attention of much bigger fish.

While Adams’ ascension has not been quite as dramatic, there is no denying that him playing week in, week out at Sincil Bank has benefited his footballing education greatly.

His long-range blockbuster finishes may have attracted fans watching on Youtube but his all-round game has had Gary Rowett purring. The youngster may not be one for the Blues first team this season, but offering him another new deal shows the intention that next season he could be given his chance – provided he keeps improving in the manner he has done.

This can only be good for Blues in the long run – the more young players that they can bring through the less they have to pay out to bring in talent. The better they develop, the more assets the club has to help keep the financial side stable despite some of the circus-like shenanigans that have gone on in the Far East.

Credit has to go to people like Richard Beale, Kristjaan Speakman and Steve Spooner who have nurtured and polished the rough diamonds of the youth team into new jewels in the first team crown.

On Friday (January 30), Blues’ under-18 side will travel to the Deva Stadium in Chester to take on Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup. It will be a tough tie for the young Blues, but hopefully it will be a chance for the next generation of talent to emerge from Wast Hills to stake their claim to progression up the ranks.

Daniel Ivery is the sole author and editor of the most popular Birmingham City blog online – Often Partisan – and is co-author along with Hong Kong solicitor Will Giles of ‘Haircuts & League Cups: The Rise and Fall of Carson Yeung’.

You can find him on Twitter @often_partisan and at his website www.oftenpartisan.co.uk, or read about his book at www.haircutsandleaguecups.co.uk.