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Crewe Alexandra Academy

There were two more Wycombe fans at Crewe than reported as @Steve_Peart & I watched the game from the top of the Main Stand. We were guests of a former work colleague whose 2 sons both play in the Crewe Academy, one of whom has just earned his first pro contract.

Firstly, I thought a draw would have been a fair result overall but the fact we nicked a win made up for the Mansfield home game we never deserved to lose. I found it rather strange that the grass on the pitch was shaved so short as Crewe try to play pass and move football. The ball kept pinging around at far too fast a pace.

It was very interesting to get a view of the famous Crewe Academy. Despite their lowly L2 position the club is alive with youngsters at every level all in their Crewe kits on a first-team matchday. Apart from teaching them the rudiments of the game of football it gives the youngsters a real structure on how to behave and grow up respecting themselves and others.

A category 2 academy costs around £900,000 per annum to run. Although there are grants and subsidies available to offset part of the cost, it's a massive bill to find for small clubs. Unfortunately it isn't viable for Wycombe at the moment. 9 of the starting line-up & subs for Crewe yesterday came via their academy. It was lovely to see the pride of the parents, especially those of the Crewe no 24 who was making his debut yesterday.

Yet, although L2 clubs struggle to run an academy, Alexis Sanchez's monthly reported new contract (£505,000 per week) would pay for TWO category 2 academies for a year. With many of the lads coming from challenging backgrounds but being provided with a real chance to prove themselves it shows just how skewed football's priorities are.

A great three points for Wycombe yesterday but I sincerely hope Crewe stay up. They provide a great blueprint for how a small club can be of real benefit to the community while providing stars of the future via their excellent youth set-up.


  • Thanks for that interesting write up, @A_Worboys - I have always found it hard to dislike Crewe (though their manager is trying his hardest to change that!) Another example of the reality of smaller clubs, and the gulf to the big Hollywood clubs.

  • There's no chance Sanchez is on anywhere near that, that's a media lie based on City face saving briefings. But...totally agree with the gist of what you're saying.

    You'd think the Premier league chairman would think, hang on, if these league 2 teams don't have academies, they won't ever produce any players, and we won't have any potential starlets to pinch later on.
    You'd think even the dopiest chairman would think it'd be a good idea for them to add to a pot to fund all the lower leagues for an academy. Say each Premier league team contributes £1m or slightly more, an absolute drop in the ocean, and this is used (only) to fund league 1 and 2 team's academies.

  • Not sure what to make of the move away from lower league academies, toward only the big clubs having a huge youth development scheme.

    From a player development point of view I'm not sure the big teams would be better off subsidising (and then recruiting from) lower league club academies.

    I suspect that big academies with even bigger budgets does end up producing better players - Just look at the performance of England's teenage teams at recent tournaments. And if that means England are more competitive at mfull international level I'd probably say it is worthwhile.

    But it probably does produce a lot of waste and disappointment as well. And certainly from the perspective of keeping the pyramid competitive the move away from lower league academies is a bad one.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see more teams take our approach of focussing on good loans and free transfers from the top two divisions.

  • I think we need to work out why we would want an academy, though. Is it to bring on players for our own use? - in which case I think it makes no economic sense since there are such good players (LO9, Gape, Harriman, Pierre to name a few recent successes) available (either free or for modest signing-on fees) when they no longer command a contract or first team potential at larger clubs. Or is it to find the occasional star who can be sold on at a profit? I'm sceptical about this model now - the EPPP scheme means basically that the big clubs can siphon off the young stars for very little (it's most unlikely the Ibe deal would have benefited us in the way it did if it happened now, as I understand it); the chance of recovering £900k pa (or whatever the costs of running an academy are - although this figure looks about right) seem to me to be vanishingly small.

    Crewe's academy must be one of the most highly regarded, and most successful in bring players through into their first team, yet look at their league position. That would worry me, I think, although that may in part be an issue around the first team management.

    I think we are successful in attracting the "cast-offs" because of the skills of the current coaching staff in continuing to develop them and so we can offer them the opportunity of further progress; which means that the real conclusion here is that whenever Gareth moves on, as he eventually must, it's really important we recruit someone with a similar reputation and approach. Dobbo too, if he moves with Gareth when the time comes.

  • In the current climate where football is awash with cash I still find it really sad that Wycombe don't have a thriving youth set up. I saw yesterday a local authority in the South received a million from the Premier League fund to build a community artificial pitch. I wonder if Wycombe are eligible for this type of support.

    Bottom line is that the top sides don't need the lower league clubs for recruiting new players as they lure them all in at 12 and 13. The only use they have for us is to polish them enough for them to sell them back to us. If a top flight team paid us money to run a youth academy they would want input and then we would become a feeder club. That's not a path to go down either for me.

    I still wish I'll see a day when a Wycombe side contains home grown talent once again.

  • Your last paragraph @Wig_and_Pen says it all and is why we can revel in the current success, entertaining football and feelgood factor whilst harbouring a sense of apprehension about the longer term. - medium even. As will be clear from my occasional references to the 500 Club, I’m not sure that Wycombe fans in general are that enamoured of the supporter-owned model. The alarmingly large diminishing returns factor in that particular source of income seems to me to be a barometer for the future. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

  • @micra The 500 Club has confused me a bit - I thought it was a one off thing for last season? Now it seems to be rolling on?

  • @micra As inflation goes up above wage increases there will be fewer people able to contribute to these funding schemes. It is wrong to criticise those who don't join (not saying you are but some do) and the true supporter run model runs within its means.
    I don't know what the sellable elements of the business looks like (function/meeting rooms) but if they are as tired and beaten as the Woodlands Stand I'd be amazed if the club is reaching its full potential on this.
    Why do you think the returns are 'alarmingly' diminishing?

  • It was always going to do better in its first year, is anyone really surprised? Last year it was novel - people get apathetic to these things after a while.

  • @micra , I think a lot of Wycombe fans love the idea of being supporter owned, but sadly probably not enough to accept the financial consequences. And those of us who do believe fervently in the model can't expect a limited number of other supporters to continue to dip into their pockets to cover operating costs (trading losses, if you prefer!) of a fully professional football club. In time something is going to have to give; whether that's a slow slide down the leagues (see York, Torquay etc) or abandonment of the fan ownership model, who can say. Perhaps there's a middle course - a minority investor in the club, providing fresh capital but leaving control with the trust?

  • As a thought experiment, ask yourself whether you can imagine Wycombe ever being a sustainable Premier League team, with or without a wealthy benefactor.

    Assuming an answer of "no" to that, then ask yourself what is the highest sustainable level at which we could function, with or without the rich guy. If the level is higher with the putative donor, to what extent would you be willing to sacrifice the autonomy of the club to attain it? And would it really be a sustainable model given that that person could theoretically bail out at any time?

  • Why is a slow slide down the leagues likely without a rich benefactor?

    Each year we are paying off more and more debt, which increases our profit margin and sustainability. We are moving forwards, not backwards, with our current model.

  • @HCblue
    First paragraph. Think Bournemouth perhaps?

    Rich guy. I fear there are too many hypothetical variables (ie how rich, what degree of autonomy) for me to get my tiny mind round the question of what level might be sustainable. As an oldie with 45 years of non-league football in his background (and at the risk of inviting derision from those who crave promotion), I would be happy to gain promotion to League 1 (and to stay there longer than previously) provided we continued to play the entertaining football that we have seen this season.

    @Wig_and_Pen I’m with you on your last sentence.

  • @OxfordBlue said:
    Why is a slow slide down the leagues likely without a rich benefactor?

    Each year we are paying off more and more debt, which increases our profit margin and sustainability. We are moving forwards, not backwards, with our current model.

    Well said. I'd also add that our home attendances are up this season, even with fewer big away followings.

    I agree that there are constraints on being fan-owned and we're never going to reach the PL under this model. However, in my opinion, we can be a mid-table League 1 team who provide opportunities for young players, play entertaining football and connect with our local community. That would be enough for me.

  • As you will have guessed @Last_Quarter, I’m very much with you there.

  • @peterparrotface & @Right_in_the_Middle.
    Last season the 500 Club quickly reached the £75,000 target and facilitated the signing/contract extension of the likes of Sam Saunders, Dom Gape and Scott Kashket. This season 500-18 has struggled over many weeks to reach £27,000. All the 500 Club funds go on the playing side.

    There seems to be a widespread misconception @peterparrotface that last season was a one-off. I really wish more could be done to get this important message across.

    Members can pay £12.50 a month or a lump sum of £150 but some of the present contributors (?160 odd) appear to be chipping in slightly more.

  • @micra I can't afford to make a contribution. Does that make me a bad person? I'd say the current 500 Club total is much better than 'struggled over many weeks' to reach. I think off the back of last season it is very much in line with expectations.

    I just don't enjoy this narrative that people aren't contributing to the club because they can't be bothered or decide not to. The vast majority of people who don't contribute can't afford to. At what point is being a season ticket holder simply not enough?

  • I think it should be remembered that last season's 500 Club was swelled significantly by the FA Cup run and the Spurs match as some ticket priority was given to 500 Club members. This is a democratic and free country and nobody should ever point a finger at anyone who chooses not to contribute for whatever reason.

    I don't have a ST because I usually can only manage 50 to 60% of games, therefore I was willing (and able) to contribute to the 500 Club and I don't even think about what anyone else does. I have a feeling that there may be a few new additions to the contributors now that the team are playing exciting stuff and the new loanees are looking good for the future but I seriously doubt that it will match last season's total. TBH the 500 organizers didn't expect this season to be as well subscribed as last.

  • I'm not sure who is accusing anyone of being a lesser supporter if they haven't contributed

    anyone else other than Righty have this opinion?

  • £75,000 was the target last year based on simple arithmetic. I’m not pointing anything at anyone (Righty and others may be relieved to hear). I don’t know whether being a member last year was a passport to a White Hart Lane ticket but whether it was or not I feel that the loss of over 300 members compared with last year is an indication that people think the squad is strong enough. They may well be right. At least I stand a good chance of attending the supper with GA and the squad on 24 March this year!

  • Spot on @micra. 500 contributors (500 Club) each give £150 = £75,000, simples :-)

    You could be right about the feeling that the squad is strong enough at present, however, I would hope that there may still be something in the budget come the summer as we may need it then (hopefully). I too am looking forward to the supper on 24th March, hope to see you there.

  • The 500 Club was renewed for this season because of the number of fans who wanted to carry on their monthly payments of £12.50, £15 or £20 when they ended from the first scheme.
    Whilst the '500' still comes from the maths of 500 x £150 = £75000, it was never expected that last seasons total would be equalled.
    There were also one-off donors who were happy to do the same again this season.

    However all that is raised in 2017-18 will go towards the playing budget for Gareth to spend as, how and when he sees fit. if you want to join in.
    Thanks to all who have done - much appreciated and also that others are unable to do so.

  • I have a season ticket I don’t break even on and participate in the share scheme. I also have a 280 mike round trip to home games so I’m afraid I’m financially out when it comes to the 500 club.

    That said, I would join if one of the perks was priority queuing in the Woodlands for a hot drink at half-time Although the club would have to fork out for a second cash register. You can have as many teenagers as you like behind that counter, but if there’s only one till...

    Anyways, as a general observation, I’m aware of people who genuinely think they are offering great fan-ownership support by being a Trust member at £10 a year. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t more people who could chip in but agree we must be very careful not to make people feel second class if they don’t.

  • @AlanCecil Thanks for clarifying

  • It would be good to meet you @ValleyWanderer. @bluntphil has occasional get-togethers in London with several Gasroomers but my days of travelling to London are a thing of the past. I commuted for nearly thirty years from Denham (4 years), Basingstoke (2 years) and Wycombe (22 years).

    I have recently made the acquaintance of @HCblue and @EwanHoosaami and hope to join them on an away trip when the weather becomes a bit less cold. I know a few others including @TheChair and @Davieboy neither of whom post very often. Malone and I interact quite often on here but, as he/she frequently reminds me, I am nearly old enough to be his/her grandfather. Be good to meet him/her though! The supper represents an opportunity to put faces to monikers - more so than eg Trust meetings so, if anyone else is like-minded, by all means DM me.

    Meanwhile apologies everyone for this brief thread derailment.

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