A few days before the Steel City Derby I was talking to a Wednesday-supporting friend (I do know a couple) about the contrasting productivity of the two clubs’ academies over the years.
Between us we came up with four graduates of Wednesday’s Academy currently playing pretty regular league football – Liam Palmer, Joe Wildsmith, Richard O’Donnell and Mark Beevers. There may be more, but I’m not an expert. They could count Jamie Vardy, I suppose, but they released him at 16 because he was too small.
On the other hand, there are currently seven former United youth players with Premier League clubs (Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton, Phil Jagielka, Matt Lowton, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Ramsdale) and four at Championship clubs (Billy Sharp, David Brooks, Kyle McFadzean and Stephen Quinn). In addition, United have George Long, Ben Whiteman and Louis Reed out on loan in Leagues One and Two.
Aside from this bunch, there’s Jordan Slew at Rochdale, Nicky Law at Bradford City, Ben Purkiss at Swindon Town, Jacob Mellis at Mansfield Town, Michael Tonge (still playing!) at Port Vale, Diego De Girolamo and Connor Dimaio at Chesterfield, Elliott Whitehouse at Lincoln City, Otis Khan at Yeovil Town and Jonathan Forte at Notts County.
And don’t forget Joe Ironside, Callum McFadzean, Kevan Hurst, Ryan Cresswell, Graham Kelly, Connor Brown, Adam Chapman, Kingsley James, Terry Kennedy, Ben Starosta, Jordan Chapell and Evan Horwood, who are all playing at a decent non-league level. Hurst and Cresswell both had long Football League careers. Aaron Barry and Keith Quinn are playing in Ireland, whilst Liban Abdi is in Norway, Aymen Tahar is in Portugal, Matt Harriott is in the USA, and Nick Montgomery is still playing in Australia.
So full credit to United’s academy and all the staff who have worked there down the years.