It comes as no surprise that Neil Harris has begun including players from Cardiff’s youth system in his matchday squads, having spoken promisingly about the path between the youth set up and the first team when unveiled as Cardiff manager.
Under previous manager Neil Warnock, the team chose itself; with only the occasional addition due to injury or suspension. Harris, however, has shown that he is willing to make changes and give different players opportunities.
Indeed Will Vaulks, Callum Paterson and Josh Murphy have all been given a lifeline by Harris.
As the Bluebirds undergo a transition under Harris, the inclusion of our best youth products may be more feasible than in previous seasons.
In recent years, Cardiff’s youth policy has undoubtedly failed, with the only one benefitting being Joe Ralls, who has established himself as a main stay in the team since being thrown in by Malky Mackay.
The one thing youth players need are minutes. Take Jadon Sancho, who at 19 has become the youngest ever player to score 15 goals in a Bundesliga season. Unable to establish himself in a strong Manchester City squad, he moved to the continent, and has undoubtedly become one of football’s hottest young prospects. Without those minutes at Dortmund, would he be the same player that he currently is? I would argue no.
A little closer to home, Rabbi Matondo is pushing for the same plaudits in Germany, having been scouted by Manchester City from the Bluebirds academy. Had Cardiff had a better youth policy, would we have seen a local Cardiff boy playing against the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League last season?
Perhaps blasphemous, but we could learn a thing or two about the Swansea academy, who have been utilising their youth successfully for the past decade. Most recently, Daniel James moved from West Wales to Manchester United for £15 million. While a lot has been born out of necessity, it has created a pathway to the first team for Swans academy players.
With the likes of local boys James Waite and Cameron Coxe being given rare opportunity to shine under Warnock, the latter recently featuring against Carlisle in the FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, is it time Harris’ looks toward the academy for inspiration rather than spending in the transfer market?
So far Harris has included 6 youth players in his matchday squad, a trend that could hold a lot of promise for the future.
Could we be seeing highly rated midfielder Ntazana Mayembe given his first senior appearance of his career at 17, or George Ratcliffe, who was awarded best Academy player of the 18/19 season, establish himself as City’s number 1 in the next 12 months? Only time will tell.
While Cardiff still have a chance of reaching the playoffs, they’ll need a lot of things to go their way. Whether they do or do not, it seems that youth is on the agenda for City moving forward.
Neil Harris has spoken about the club’s desire to upgrade the academy to a Category One academy, which would be a huge boost to the club and its young players. It’ll take some investment from the board – and fans may need to be prepared to be content with a lack of signings to fund this work.
In the long run though, it’ll no doubt be worth it.After all, there’s nothing quite like seeing ‘one of your own’ taking the field of play. How we’re crying out for another Aaron Ramsey, Robert Earnshaw or James Collins.
Harris’ appointment may signify a beginning of a new era at City, with a clear path from youth team to first team in the pipeline, which will no doubt benefit both Cardiff and the Welsh national team.
City fans may need to show a degree of patience. This is the long game.