Saints searching for city’s hidden talent

Jack Green in action against Gosport Borough. Picture: Leigh Page

Jack Green in action against Gosport Borough. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans City hosting trials in the hope of uncovering another Jack Green

“We’re building a pathway that will evolve into something for St Albans, as a city, because we want to see local boys come through and play for the club.”

Those are the words of St Albans City’s U18 manager Mark Swales, the man who has organised two trials, the first on Friday and the second on February 13, for U16 and U17 players in the district.

He is hoping the talent he knows is in the district will come to the fore.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a pathway for local talent,” he told the Herts Ad. “So much talent gets missed out and, having worked in St Albans and the school system, I know there is so much talent out there - this is about evolving a pathway.

“We want to get more boys in the local area playing for the club’s U21 and first team. The fans see the likes of Jack Green pushing on, we want to find more. I dare say we already have two or three who are just as good and a couple of lads who could make an impact in the first team.”

He added: “We want to open it up and give local lads the chance to train, see what we’re about and listen to our philosophies on player development. Then we can see where they fit in, either by bringing them into the set-up or to a slightly lower club so they can experience senior football but with an eye to a future call-up.”

Most Read

The scheme fits in nicely with what first-team managers James Gray and Graham Golds have been preaching since moving up to senior football from the youth ranks.

In fact, Swales, a former director of sport at St Columba’s College, said it is because of their philosophy, and desire to develop the Saints’ identity as a community club, that the pathway will be created.

“In conjunction with James, Graham, [chairman] Nick Archer, we’re starting to create a philosophy and a programme to bring talent through,” said Swales. “We have three or four U18s who regularly train with the first team. We have U18s in the U21s, which creates a natural progression.

“There hasn’t been joined up thinking in the past. James and Graham had a great year with their U18s but it needs to be more than one year enjoying success and coming through; we want to keep a steady flow of local talent coming through.”

The club has put a cap on a 20-mile radius for players. While it keeps the net relatively small, it does fall over Watford, Wycombe and Luton. With clubs higher up the football pyramid in those areas, can St Albans compete?

“I think so; you see where the first team is - it is one step from being professional,” he said. “Clubs are constantly looking at developing talent from the Conference South and just below because the players have the desire to succeed. And, they’d be coming to an ambitious club, which has a desire to create this pathway.”