Reading FC Academy the blueprint to followBy Jonny Fordham
July 09, 2012
Not so long ago Crewe Alexandra were the model to follow for player development.
David Platt, Neil Lennon, Rob Jones, Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton and David Vaughan are just some of the stars to have graduated from the Railwaymen’s impressive youth set-up overseen by the highly-respected Dario Gradi.
But in a shift of power, Reading are fast emerging as one of the country’s leading powerhouses in youth development in the shadows of the usual heavyweight pace-setters.
One man who played a part in their growth, but is no longer with the club, is Nas Bashir.
Now running his own successful independent academy, Bashir helped lay the foundations for Royals’ own breeding ground for some of the game’s finest talent.
“It’s nice to look back and see the likes of Jem Karacan, Alex Pearce, Simon Church, Hal Robson-Kanu and of course Gylfi Sigurdsson do so well,” said the former Reading trainee.
“The players that I coach I always try to ensure they realise their potential to become the best they can.
“I look back at all the hard work that we did and it’s nice to see the club have had a lot of good players that have come through and will now get the chance to play in the Premier League.
“Reading had a great season after just missing out in 2011. It’s really exciting times seeing the club back in the Premier League.
“It’s becoming very hard for young players to break into Premier League teams now because of the wage structures at clubs, meaning the best young players in the world are likely to come to them.
“The lads next year such as Jem, Hal, Pearcey and Churchy have a chance to break that mould and I hope they do well and follow in the footsteps of Gylfi.
“We Brought Gylfi in after watching some clips on a DVD. He’s worked tremendously hard to get to where he has and he deserves everything he gets because of all the effort he puts into it.”
With the roll out of the new Elite Player Performance Programme (EPPP) academies are coming under closer scrutiny from footballing governing bodies.
Although the new scheme has its bonuses, the compensation that clubs may receive for having their players poached is seen as a negative.
And the top teams will now find it easier to attract the best emerging players from other clubs outside a 90-mile radius of their stadiums, a rule which had been in place in the past.
“Like anything there always has to be change and high standards,” explained Bashir.
“I think it will be a good thing. A lot of clubs have been multi-tasking jobs in the past where there were coaches running several different teams and juggling jobs.
“I think if you want to ensure the highest quality you need to give people roles where they have responsibility to get excellence out of a core group they work with.
“There’s a lot of money in football and I think if it is used wisely then it will benefit everybody.”
Bashir’s own academy, the FAB Academy, based at the National Sports Centre in Bisham Abbey, has been launched with the view that not all young players develop at the same rate.
Taking youngsters from seven to 15-years-old as well as running a full-time scholarship for 16 to 18-year-olds, the FAB Academy looks to carry on nurturing youngsters in the hope that they can go on to win contracts at professional clubs.
“The Academy is for above average kids who want to step up to the professional level.
“I started with 40 kids and now have more than 300 – we’re flat out.
“We have 22 boys training and trialing at pro clubs and it has been very successful.
“We also have our scholarship group that train every day.
“I took all the good things from working at the Academy to Reading and now I’m running my own and things are going really well.
“As well as taking guys that have been released from clubs we have others who have never been at clubs.
“We play against professional teams and if the clubs like any of our players then they can invite them to train with them and go from there.
“I’ve got some plans to make it more multicultural and I’m looking to bring some boys from overseas into the scholarship, it’s an exciting project.
“The next stage now would be for the scholarship guys to go into a club and forge their own career.
“In terms of the younger group of players we have about 12 boys who have gone on to sign for clubs.”
As well as over-seeing his own academy, Bashir still keeps his hand in first-team football by managing Blue Square Bet South side Hayes and Yeading United.
Relegation put a blot on Bashir’s first full season in charge, but he feels that the club have enough to bounce back and compete in the up coming campaign.
He added: “We gave it a good shot last season and everyone was very honest in what they did. We just missed out on staying in the league.
“We have a new stadium being built at the moment and hopefully we can build a solid club and progress back into the Premier.
“We had a very small budget last year as the club is in transition with the new ground currently being built, but some of the clubs have big budgets such as Grimsby, York City, Luton, Mansfield and Kidderminster.
“Trying to compete with those teams can be hard and players are of course attracted to the sides with the money.
“A lot of people don’t realise how good a league it is and I’ve been impressed by the standard of a lot of players.
“If anything, I actually think it’s a stronger league than League Two.
“There are teams who have come up and go straight up from League Two, like Crawley, and it just shows how competitive it is.”