Friday 23 February 2018

McPhail sees business sense in youth plans

Shamrock Rovers' Sporting Director Stephen McPhail. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Shamrock Rovers' Sporting Director Stephen McPhail. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Jamie Holland

Stephen McPhail has travelled around Europe to research how Shamrock Rovers can make their project work.

And the Hoops Sporting Director has stressed that demanding a fair price for the players they produce is a crucial step if they are to make their plan viable.

The former Irish international is part of a new structure at Tallaght, working next to first-team boss Stephen Bradley and overseeing a broader plan that includes a growing underage academy and a new training base in Roadstone.

Rovers' focus on youth has led to some criticism, with accusations from outside that they have taken their eye off the ball in terms of assembling a successful senior side, although McPhail says that point of view is misguided.

The Hoops' results have picked up over the past month, and McPhail has stressed that Rovers should always aspire to having kids pushing for a first-team place.

In a lengthy interview with the LOI Weekly Podcast, he asserted that showing that pathway is available might encourage some of the better youngsters to stay at home for longer.

Ultimately, a long association with the Hoops all the way through the youth ranks to senior level would allow Rovers to demand substantial compensation if a UK club comes calling.

McPhail feels that is necessary if the club is to make the next step. He has visited a variety of overseas academies to learn lessons and was particularly struck by a visit to Belgian outfit Genk who have progressed to another level by earning huge sums from selling on home produced talent.

"We know where we are in the chain," says the 37-year-old. "We want to get young players in our first team as early as possible.

"We need to give the opportunities to 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds to get them to play men's football. That's where the business side of things can come into play.

"I go the likes of Genk and see what they've done and what they've achieved is amazing. They are selling players out of their academy for €14m."

Of course, the figures for an Irish player will always be smaller - Rovers are likely to receive bids for the promising Trevor Clarke this summer - but they are willing to hold out and look for a fee that is a fairer reflection of his ability.

"We know if we have an asset, the compensation is there - it's black and white," says McPhail, who was speaking on a show episode that also includes an interview with new Limerick boss Neil McDonald about his new challenge on Shannonside and his friend Sam Allardyce.

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Irish Independent

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