Thursday, May 24, 2001


(24.05.01) Reporter: Trevor Green

On July 3rd Grimsby Town's Youth Team Coach, Ian Knight, will travel to Canada in his continuing mission to unearth future talent in the North American continent. He will travel to a town called London (about ninety minutes from Toronto) where a link-up between Grimsby Town Football Club and young Canadian players is in place.

The system takes the form of the increasingly popular 'feeder club' style operation. In this case however, an academy has been set up to showcase the talents of players from a variety of clubs across the region.

Ian explained: "We are offering advanced coaching on top of what they are getting at the moment. We are giving guidance to further enhance their programme - specifically tailored for Grimsby Town Football Club's requirements. It's about applying our measures to their training programme."

Ian's previous visit was back in December, and was encouraged by what he saw: "At the time, their training programme was fairly developed in terms of technical input, it wasn't too far removed from youth training in this country. It was properly structured for the different age groups, for example. We gave them ideas to which they were very receptive, it wasn't a case of ordering them to do this and that. They agreed to adopt our ideas and put them into practice.

"We have talked about assessments and a monitoring process. They will send reports back on the players based on a criteria that we are looking for, in order to ascertain suitability. The monitoring and evaluation programme they are using is the same as what we use. Hopefully I'll be coming away from this visit with some new reports."

Ian continued: "The programme is primarily targeted at under 14's, and has created a lot of interest over there - It is growing fast but is always going to be difficult. Although participation in Canada is high, the infrastructure of organised football matches is poor. That's why they wanted to set up this structure. They are capable of producing players, but having no real internal structure is difficult. The 14,15 and 16-year-old's lose interest. There is no structure to continue progression and no professional league to aspire to. They end up turning to other sports - a mass exodus to Canada's heritage sports of baseball and ice hockey.

"We are here to identify the better players, and give them the extra push in terms of personal development. The ultimate aim, of course, is to bring them over for a trial. They have to be better than what we've already got, however. Producing players through our own academy system is always the main aim - that will always be the case. We cannot rival the scouting networks of the big clubs. They have a scout permanently based in all the major countries, making it difficult for clubs like Grimsby town to pick up quality players. So any sort of link-up to other areas is a bonus. One of the key areas is the finance. They pay for all our expenses, so there is no cost at all to the club. All they are looking for is to give the kids an opportunity not on offer in their own country.

"It has always been a development idea rather than one which would bring instant results. Realistically, it will be 18 months or so before we will be considering any players for scholarship places here."


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