NEWCASTLE United are prepared to invest up to an extra £1million a year in their Academy as they bid to create a regular conveyor belt of Andy Carrolls – and turn their backs on the era of £30million signings.
United owner Mike Ashley – who has already increased the Academy spend by £800,000 a year since taking over – intends to bump up the investment in an attempt to make them more self sustainable in an era of more financial accountability.
The Journal understands United are prepared to spend up to £2.8m a year on the Academy – a huge rise on the £1.8million spent. March is a crucial month for those attempts, with Premier League auditors set to decide whether they will be granted ‘Category One’ Academy status under the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) from the game’s governing body.
A United insider described attaining that status as “imperative” for Ashley’s future vision – with a nightmare scenario of their top-flight rivals stealing the North East’s best talent if they miss out on ‘Category One.’
The EPPP will scrap the current rule which means top-flight clubs can only recruit players under the age of 16 who live no more than 60 minutes’ travelling time from their city.
That has been a hindrance for Newcastle, for whom that catchment area includes the North Sea while rivals in London, Manchester and Birmingham have a huge urban sprawl to trawl.
Producing young players like Tim Krul, Andy Carroll (pictured left) and Steven Taylor is seen as crucial to
United’s future survival, with a great deal of unrest in the boardroom surrounding the lack of a suitable young centre-back to plug the gap during United’s recent defensive injury crisis.
Although investment will continue in the first-team squad, the club believe the days of mega-money signings are coming to an end with the latest plans aspiring to follow the Barcelona model.
Academy director Joe Joyce said: “Football generally, at some point, has to take a reality check.
“You cannot go on paying £34million for a player.
“Barcelona have shown they have a system for producing their own homegrown talent.
“That is not to say that will not come from another country but if you have a system and programme which can identify the player to start with and then produce the player to go on and play for your first team you are doing something right.
“It takes huge investment and that is what the owner has geared up his plan to do.
“He wants to bring in the best young players to produce for the first team is what the club needs to do.”
Joyce added: “We have predominantly recruited from the North East.
“With this opening of the recruitment network we now will operate on a much bigger scale.
“We need to make sure as a club we have our local area tied up – that we do not lose players.
“That the attraction of Newcastle to a boy from the North East is the biggest attraction.
“At the same time if there is a boy in another part of the country who we believe, who we have identified as a potential first-team player, we have enough to attract him to the North East.”
The extra £1m investment – the increase will be staggered over a number of years – will be spent on staffing levels, boosting facilities like playing pitches and scouting.
Transfer fees will also be set aside to bring in the best young players.
United want to make sure every age group is of sufficient quality to challenge for the first team.
Joyce said: “There is a ratio around the country which says we should be aiming for one player in the first team every year,.
“I think its very difficult to make those ratios. I would say in the time I have been here we seem to have worked in a two year cycle.
“We have had a really, really good group one year and then not as good next year.
“If I take Sammy Ameobi group, ten of those players went on to get professional contracts.
“That was a particularly good group – last year we probably did not have the same amount of quality.”