A few years back, I posted a similar article for discussion; at that time, the likes of Leo Chambers, Zavon Hines, Jordan Spence, Freddie Sears, Junior Stanislas and Elliot Lee (amongst others) were mooted as candidates with the potential to become regulars in our first team. Stanislas obviously features for 'Premier League' Bournemouth but none of the above have become WHU stalwarts, in the mould of say Mark Noble who is, perhaps, a dying breed (as a homegrown one club player).
Looking at the current crop of promising youngsters, from our youth system, on the fringe ... Burke, Oxford, Martinez, Makasi, Cullen, Rice, Quina, Kemp, Trott etc ... one wonders if any of these will be given the chance to break through and become regulars.
Oxford seems to be the one most likely (albeit not imminently - BMG), with perhaps Quina, Cullen, Rice, and Burke too. However, given our recent track record of bringing youngsters through, it is highly unlikely that such a high number of players will come through at the same time.
I saw the last 20 minutes of the Fulham friendly, just recently. Burke was one 'youngster' that caught the eye ... in particular, looking assured in possession/distribution.
Supposedly 'big' clubs (for the want of a better phrase) such as Tottenham, Everton, Man U and Liverpool have all brought youngsters through in recent times. Southampton, similar to us performance wise, have also brought through a plethora of good youngsters. Thus, it can be done.
As such, if youngsters are not breaking into our first team, is our youth set-up worth the costs it undoubtedly incurs (I have to admit I know not the costs)? Is it fit for purpose?
Sullivan says our debt is approximately £100m (I'm not sure of the basis for calculation) ... and yet, we spend £20m-25m on Arnautovic, having spent £10m on Snodgrass to give but one example of profligate spending. The current level of spending is, as Daniel Levy rightly says, unsustainable; bear in mind that debt has to be serviced ... not everyone has a long term 'magic money tree'.
Perhaps the route should be to sign youngsters from the academies of other clubs ... we have some recent 'form' in this area with Fletcher (United), Fernandes (Sion) and Holland (Everton). This done, 'our' job is then to get them into the team, regularly ... Fernandes has had a few chances to be fair.
Aside from buying youngsters from other clubs, the only plausible antidote (to spending increasingly exorbitant prices for 'mature' players) is for clubs to produce their own youngsters.
With England being relatively successful at U-19, U-20 and U-21 this summer (current WHU youngsters Nathan Trott and Dan Kemp both featured), the talent is obviously there.
So, who is likely to be given the chance ... if the answer is no-one, what is the point of spending money on the youth set-up ... merely to produce players for other clubs (Stanislas - Burnley/Bournemouth)?
I appreciate that there ought to be a balance in our approach and that circumstances e.g. a lowly league position can often prompt action (mid-season) but, for me, too few youngsters have come through in recent years.
Perhaps the Ferdinand, Cole, Carrick and Lampard era will never be repeated. Yes, post relegation they were all sold ... but Tony Carr's academy produced them ... perhaps his retirement shows that he is irreplaceable.
I know Noble has, from time to time, his detractors, but, for me, teams invariably benefit from a smattering of homegrown players, such as Noble, that are not only good players but love the club.
Is there another homegrown stalwart on the horizon?
I hope so ...