A chat with Tom Curtis
One of the big stories to come out of the club in recent days is the fact that another of our promising youngsters, Olly Mehew, looks set to join Premiership side Norwich City.
He will, therefore, be following in the footsteps of former youth team goalkeeper Matt Macey, who signed for Arsenal earlier in the season.
Far from being a negative story, though, there are so many positives we can take from the fact that two of our players are embarking on what we hope will be a successful Premiership career.
They will be missed, of course, but we wish them well as they attempt to forge careers with Premiership clubs, and pay tribute to the staff who have worked with, and nurtured, their undoubted talent.
The Head of our Academy, Tom Curtis, agrees and says; “we would like to think that their departures for Premiership sides is something of a compliment to the work of our Academy staff.
“Although it’s frustrating for the manager and some of the supporters unfortunately, within the rules of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), Category One clubs and those higher up the leagues are able to take our players as long as they pay us a set amount of compensation.
“It is a feather in our cap because, effectively, what we are doing here in the Academy is producing players of Premiership quality. Matt has gone to Arsenal, one of the best clubs in the world and Olly, it seems, will end up at Norwich City a really exciting and ambitious Premiership club.
“I think we are being successful in terms of producing those players and others who are able to play in the Bristol Rovers first team.
“For example, of the squad of twenty travelling to Morecambe for this weekend’s League Two fixture, no fewer than nine have cone through our Academy.
“That’s a real positive for our Academy and a huge compliment to the full and part time staff, coaches, and support staff.
“I think it’s also important that we recognise that the club has been extremely pro active in funding, and promoting, our Academy and this is a really positive story everyone connected with the Bristol Rovers.”
Whilst some may see it as a negative in that two promising youngsters are moving to Premiership clubs, we are immensely proud of the fact that they are going to one of the best leagues in the world.
“The departures of Matt and Olly will see the club receive significant revenue from their sales and it could be more if they go on to make appearances for Arsenal and Norwich or, perhaps, move on beyond those two clubs because under the terms of the EPPP rules of compensation Rovers will continue to receive income if that happens.”
The fact that the club are producing players of Premiership quality and players for their own first team also has a positive effect on recruiting talented young players into our Academy.
“We don’t have the recruitment network of some of the bigger clubs, who have paid staff to go out and see lots of games, but stories such as this, and the success of former Academy players in our first team is positive, and extremely helpful, in terms of recruiting players.
“We are already in competition with a number of clubs in the area for the best young talent. Bristol City and Southampton are big rivals when it comes down to trying to recruit the best, and West Bromwich Albion have an increasing presence in the area as well.
“It’s important that players and parents can see a really positive future from boys coming into our Academy and with Matt and Olly going to great clubs, their successes is beneficial for us as an Academy.”
Academy staff think highly of the two players in question."
“Matt,” says Tom, “was a real worker and a perfectionist and don’t think I’ve seen anyone work as hard as him in the U-18’s.
“Olly is an exciting centre forward who runs past people for fun at the moment. He has a lot of pace and scores goals, so I’m not surprised he has attracted a lot of attention.
“Norwich weren’t the only club to look at him as a number of other big clubs were as well. He has done well in U-16 group and also did well at U-14 and U-15 level. Naturally, he experienced plateaus in terms of his performances, but we understand that all young players go through highs and lows as they develop.
“Our Academy staff are excellent in recognising that and they have made some really good judgements on players in the past and really helped develop those players.
“To have nine Academy graduates in the first team squad and two more moving to Premiership clubs is something we are all immensely proud of.”
“The full and part time coaching staff at the Academy deserve a huge amount of credit for the hard work they have put into the development of the younger players at the club.
“Bristol Rovers Academy is one of the most productive in the South West, and with the continued support of the club and directors it will be a key part of first team success in the future.”