Home help crucial for clubs like Derby County, says Nigel Clough as the Academy delivers the goods
NIGEL Clough believes producing home-grown players is the best way forward for the majority of clubs.
Clough has stressed the importance of the Academy to Derby County in a week when 17-year-old Will Hughes has made most of he headlines.
Hughes has been a regular starter for the first team this season and he was capped by England Under-21s for the first time on Tuesday when he came off the bench against Northern Ireland.
He is a product of the Academy, as are Mason Bennett, Jeff Hendrick, Mark O'Brien and Callum Ball, who is on loan at Coventry City.
The development and progress of young players is a feather in the club's cap.
"It's brilliant," said Clough. "There has been a concerted effort with the Academy in the last three or four years to get it back on track and to start producing players.
"This is something the owners have been very keen on from day one and it makes the best financial business sense to produce your own players.
"It is the cheapest way to do it because if the youngsters go on to become £1m-rated players, great. If they go on and play for your first team for five or six years, fantastic.
"There are very few clubs these days, apart from the big boys, who can go around spending money left, right and centre.
"There are a few clubs in the Championship still doing it but for the long-term future of the club, let's produce our own."
Hughes in many ways breaks the mould when it comes to Academy players.
"We don't just look at the physical side, which is maybe the case with some academies and may have been the case here a little bit when we arrived," said Clough.
"We look at their ability, because they will develop at different stages. It can be difficult for 14 and 15-year-olds, who do not have the physical stature.
"Sometimes they can get lost and fall by the wayside but we are encouraging those sort of players because when they catch up physically, we will see them flourish.
"That's why we try to keep them in the system as long as we can."
Clough uses Everton midfielder Leon Osman as an example.
Osman has played more than 300 games for the Merseyside club and won his first full cap for England at the age of 31 in Wednesday's game against Sweden.
He was a late developer. He made his debut at 21 and became a first-team regular for Everton at 23. Inbetween, he spent loan spells at Carlisle United and Derby where he gained valuable experience.
"How easy would it have been for Everton to release Leon Osman at 19?" said Clough. "They could easily have said 'you're not strong enough, not good enough'.
"They didn't and he is a great example of a club hanging on to a player because they knew he could play."