Perth Glory education advisor Tony Hughes says the club is rising to the youth structure challenge identified by FFA Technical Director Eric Abrams in a recent FourFourTwo article.
Hughes previously worked as a Development Officer at English club Oldham Athletic and has been living in Australia for 27 years before he was hired by current Glory CEO Peter Filopoulos six months ago for his experience in education and football.
He says that he respected Abrams comments were valid when he said that "...coming out of a European football environment, I was very disappointed we have an A-League competition and these A-League clubs have no youth structure."
But Hughes says that the A-League clubs' progress must be considered in the context of the many decades of European academy development and that the local competition is still in its infancy.
“At Perth Glory FC, we acknowledge that challenges need to be met face on, in order to achieve our medium and long-term targets,” he said.
“We require suitable training and playing facilities and make this a priority of moving forward. Unlike most of our European counterparts, budget constraints in Australian A-League clubs mean that academy development requires resourceful planning and long-tern partners to ensure sustainability.”
Hughes comments coincide with Perth Glory’s release of their strategic plan that aims to see the club win the A- League within four years, and the AFC Champions League within six.
Regarding youth football, Glory aim to develop an academy for WA players and retain them something hitherto the club has struggled to achieve.
Players such as Scott Neville (Western Sydney Wanders), Mark Birighitti (Newcastle Jets), Trent Sainsbury (Central Coast Mariners), Eli Babalj ( Adelaide United) , Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners), Jesse Makarounas (Melbourne Victory), Brandon O’Neill (Sydney FC) and Scott Galloway (Melbourne Victory) are just a number of WA youth products that left the state and went on and played for rival A-League clubs.
Hughes hopes to arrest that trend in the near future.
“Our aim is to produce an A-League team that is made up of up to 75% local West Australian talent,” he said.
“We see tertiary institutions and local government as essential partners moving forward. We require an academy base that all levels of the club can call home. We are currently in discussion regarding options for a central headquarters that our National Premier League, National Youth, A-League and W-League teams can call home. Ideally, this will also house a training base for all our junior teams.”
Like other A-League clubs around the country Perth Glory is involved in the NPL WA competition.
Besides the NPL first team squad which draws on players from the NYL Squad and younger contracted A-League first-team players, Glory have a further eight teams in the NPL WA.
This includes junior squads from U12s to the U20s in the WA NPL, and hree players from the U18s have already been accepted into the FFA’s Centre Of Excellence .
With his background in education Hughes also revealed that Glory are currently working with tertiary institutions and schools to build educational pathways that will offer academy players the opportunity to gain elite athlete qualifications.
“We hope to have the program up and running in 2017,” he said.t
“Currently we are working on accredited educational pathways that will offer qualifications and further education opportunities to our academy players in Year 11 and 12 and an articulation pathway with a university.”
“This process will promote the development of football skills to the highest level and encourage academy players to be socially and intellectually astute.”
- Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.