Following last night’s dramatic quarter-final exit against Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup, Grant Nelson continues with the second part of a three-part profile of the Nottingham Forest Academy.

In terms of scouting, Forest have an interest in almost all major countries in Europe from France, Spain and Germany to the likes of Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. In recent times we have purchased a Bulgarian Under-19 keeper (Dimitar Evtimov) and a Lithuanian Under-17 winger (Deimantas Petravicius) in addition to a couple of French players of African descent. Our ties have always been strong with Northern Ireland and, in particular, the Republic of Ireland. We have a feeder club in Crumlin United in Ireland where we get a lot of boys on trial over the years and most recently signed a young left-winger, Jake Mulraney for our Under-16 side.

A major addition to our local scouting team has been David Webster who we persuaded to leave Derby County a few years ago. He played a big part in bringing a large number of players to Derby in arguably their best ever generation at academy level; players like Mason Bennett, Kwame Thomas and Nathan Bondswell and many more.

The people involved on a first-hand basis with the players from Under-15 level to Under-18 level are Eoin Jess, Steve Chettle, Steve Sutton and Steve Hodge. Jess is the Under-18 coach, Sutton is the goalkeeping coach from Under-15 upwards, Hodge looks after the Under-16s part-time while Chettle, as youth development coach, oversees the development of all the players from Under-15 upwards and is the assistant to Jess at Under-18 level.

Jess may not have been the greatest of players we ever had in a Forest shirt, having joined us right at the end of his career, but he always had a good technique and played football in a very clever manner. Clearly a very good coach, his footballing brain is a great asset to the youth — Forest have always been pushing for the title in our Academy League since he has been in charge, apart from this season. Two years ago when we won our Under-18 division, and subsequently beat Leicester in our semi-final to play Arsenal in the final at the Emirates, it was the first indication of his coaching ability. The reason I say that is because it wasn’t the most talented of sides at all — only Kieron Freeman (captain) and Danny Meadows remain at the club and both are very good footballers. Incidentally, Meadows was the only regular first-year (Under-17) playing for the Under-18s that season.

As there weren’t many internationals in the team and only Freeman training with the first team, Jess had the opportunity to have more time with the players as a group. He could work more on tactics, team shape and set-pieces for example. This season has been the total opposite where have had numerous players going away on international duty, an unbelievable amount of injuries and many players training with the first team with little time to work with players as a group. Not really surprising that we have done well in the FA Youth Cup when Jess has had the opportunity to have a week in the build-up to the games to prepare them for the fixtures.

With the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) on its way, it is vital that Forest get a certain number of full-time staff at the club. While there has been a lot of doom and gloom about EPPP, Forest had no choice but to vote for it as the Premier League was holding back on solidarity payments, crucial to funding the Academy. And while the Academy is the only part of the Forest business that has made a profit for the club over the last decade, it still required the solidarity payments and money from our former chairman and owner Nigel Doughty. Even though we are going for a Category 2 Academy it still entails the basics of what we want from the Academy, in that we can start bringing in players from the Under-9 age group and we are not restricted on bringing players to the club for any age group. Becoming a Category 1 Academy would require an operational budget of £2.5 million which explains why Forest aren’t aiming for the top status. It’s likely that only a very few of the richest clubs will seek to become a Category 1 Academy.

From a positive point of view, the 90-minute rule will be gone so we can also look at players from outside our catchment area as well as from within. The biggest gain is that our players will get more coaching time from younger age groups as clubs on the European mainland do. The hope is that EPPP will also help clubs foster links with local schools in order to help young players get the best out of their football education as well as the academic side. Doughty always felt that a young footballer could balance both football and education, and this is vital for any young man to equip themselves for a possible life outside football.

The consequence to the lower league teams is that clubs can lose players for practically nothing if they’re not tied down to a professional contract, or pre-agreement for pro-contract, when they turn 17. Forest have tied down all their current Under-14 players upwards to pro-contracts or pre-agreements already. However, from 1 July next year’s Under-14s and below could leave for minimal fees. The hope is that we can dangle the carrot to our young players and show that we are willing to give young players an opportunity so they can build a strong base to their careers, as we did with Michael Dawson and Jermaine Jenas, for example. Nick Marshall has stated himself that he is confident ahead of EPPP being implemented and that we can compete with many teams in the country, but obviously we will struggle to hold off the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. But Forest have proved in the past that it has a history of producing its own talent.

Click here for part three

Follow Grant on Twitter: @GazNffc

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