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Why local lads lighting up football derbies are a thing of the past

The Boot Room

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Football fans were treated to a feast of football on Sunday afternoon. Eyes were immediately drawn to the two derbies; the Wear-Tyne derby between Sunderland and Newcastle and the Manchester derby as United hosted City. For all four teams involved, these two fixtures would have been the one that players’ and fans’ eyes were immediately drawn to when the fixture list was released. Derbies are one of the pinnacles of any season for a supporter and a win makes it even sweeter. The one thing missing from these two matches, besides goals in the Manchester derby, was a lack of local talent and academy graduates.

Out of the 56 players that featured in the two derbies, only four were local to their respective areas or came through the club’s academy. Just two of them started with the other two coming off the bench. For this to happen in what a many people claim to be ‘the best league in the world’ is ridiculous. These two fixtures were huge, not just at each end of the table, but they were and are huge for the identity and history of each club and their supporters.

Fans live for derbies. On paper they may not be the biggest matches but in terms of local pride, bragging rights and emotion they definitely are the biggest matches. They unite thousands upon thousands of different people who possess a shared love for their team and a shared hatred of the opposition. They provide emotion of the highest levels with fans behind every pass and feeling every crunching tackle. The only way that the emotion can be taken to a whole new level is with more and more local talent and academy graduates getting the opportunity to get greater first time opportunities.

Every fan loves seeing an academy graduate come through the ranks. At the beginning of this season, West Ham’s Reece Oxford made the leap into Premier League with ease and was heavily praised throughout the footballing world for his composure and quality.

Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane have all come through the Spurs academy and have become regulars and developed under Mauricio Pochettino.

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On top of that, Southampton have their famed academy with James Ward-Prowse featuring heavily for the Saints at the start of this season. There’s an extra buzz around the ground and amongst supporters when they see an academy graduate on the pitch and doing well. As well as their youth and exuberance, these young players bring a hunger and passion for their side that only supporters of the club can relate to. Those young players that have been brought up in that club have that fierce rivalry instilled into their personal make-up.

Despite coming through the Sunderland academy, Jack Colback started for Newcastle in the Wear-Tyne derby on Sunday. There was an extra spring in his step and a level of hunger for the ball that others just couldn’t match. Not only is that because Colback is an energetic player, but it is because he’s a Geordie. He knows what it means to be a Geordie and what the match means to the Newcastle supporters.

We’re all well aware that our beautiful game is a global phenomenon and its global outreach is increasing each and every day. But as football keeps stepping up onto the global stage, it is being taken away from the local areas that hold it so close. It’s just another example of the biggest games for real fans being taken further away from them.

This weekend saw us excited for and eventually let down by a stalemate in what was dubbed as the most expensive Manchester derby in history. The two line-ups and benches were scattered with humongous price tags with the total value around £550m. Let’s not forget that the two sides and that enormous total were without the expensive quartet of Luke Shaw, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri.

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The only two academy products to feature in the 170th Manchester Derby were Jesse Lingard and Kelechi Iheanacho who both made cameos off their respective benches. These are two clubs that are global superpowers in terms of wealth, facilities and a global fan base. These juggernauts of world football have the facilities and finances to produce spectacular talent but still seem reluctant to introduce youth into their teams. There has been an improvement as of late and obviously, it’s harder to introduce youth into a side when you’re a side at the highest level. However, teams at the top across Europe’s other big leagues still seem to be able to do it better than our clubs.

This Sunday, we felt lucky to have a huge triple helping of Premier League action on our TV’s. Admittedly, on paper they seemed a lot better than what they turned out to be. However, whilst we get engrossed in the aftermath of discussing whether Fabricio Coloccini’s challenge warranted a penalty let alone a red card, discuss the disappointment of a bore draw Mancunian derby and got caught up in Klopp-mania, there are hidden issues that need serious addressing. The two derbies further emphasised the need for change in terms of homegrown talent coming through club’s academies. This isn’t just the responsibility of the FA to implement laws and regulations. This is the responsibility of each and every club to do their bit for the good of our game. As the eyes of the footballing world descended onto the spectacular lineup of games on Sunday, it’s hard not to be drawn to the cracks within our game.

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Crystal Palace

Khouma Babacar would be underwhelming solution to Crystal Palace’s striker problem

The 25-year-old isn’t exactly a prolific goalscorer.

Max Cohen

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According to the Mirror, Crystal Palace are close to completing a £12 million move for Sassuolo striker Khouma Babacar.

The Senegalese forward scored just six goals in the league last season and would represent an underwhelming solution to Crystal Palace’s striker problem.

Last season, the Eagles struggled massively for goals, with only central midfielder Luka Milivojevic reaching double figures in the league. As for strikers, Christian Benteke scored just three goals in a hugely disappointing year, and Alexander Sorloth failed to score in his four appearances.

It is clear the south Londoners desperately need a prolific centre-forward in order to succeed in 2018/19, yet Babacar simply is not the right choice.

(Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images)

At 25 years of age, he has already been around Italian football for a long time, making his debut for Fiorentina in 2009 as a 16-year-old. Yet he struggled to nail down a starting spot and spent time on loan in Serie B and La Liga before enjoying a breakout season for Fiorentina 2016/17.

In that year, he banged in 10 goals in 22 league appearances while also netting four times in the Europa League. Yet disappointingly, he scored just four times in the first half of 2017/18, before being shipped off to Sassuolo on loan where he found the net on just two occasions in 13 appearances.

Far from an outstanding goalscorer in Italy, it is unclear where Babacar would fit in at Palace, and it is unlikely he could turn around the fortunes of the club’s struggling strike force.

Roy Hodgson would do well to pass on the signing of the £12 million Senegalese international and focus his efforts on a more proven striker with a better goal record.

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Everton

Three free agent goalkeeper options for Everton to add depth

Everton should consider adding depth to the goalkeeping department this summer.

Mathew Nash

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Everton currently have a fine goalkeeper in Jordan Pickford. Signed last summer from Sunderland he was the club’s player of the season last term and is now England’s number one stopper.

But it could be argued they are lacking in reserve. The veteran Maarten Stekelenburg has been an injury concern in recent times. Meanwhile, Spaniard Joel Robles has left the club at the end of his contract. It leaves youngster Mateusz Hewelt as the club’s current third-choice.

Considering his inexperience and Stekelenburg’s injury troubles, surely Everton should consider bringing in another goalie this summer?

Of course, they will not want to pay top dollar to do so.

So here are three free agent stoppers that Everton could target this summer…

Tim Krul

The Dutchman has struggled to find his way back into first-team football since a horror knee injury in 2015.

He spent last season as back-up to Mathew Ryan at Brighton and is now looking for a new club.

Since that knee injury, Krul has remained fit and would be a great back-up to Pickford.

(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Rafael

The first-choice keeper under Rafa Benitez at Napoli in 2014-15 the Brazilian found himself pushed down the pecking order over the past two seasons by Pepe Reina.

Undoubtedly a talented stopper with three Brazil caps to his name, he would be a solid option in reserve.

(Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

Miguel Santos

One Everton fans probably have not heard of, but perhaps the most likely addition.

Fresh from helping Fortuna Sittard to promotion to the Eredivisie the Portuguese talent will be known to Everton boss Marco Silva.

They worked together at Estoril when Silva was the manager. Santos, at the time, was a promising youngster but left for Benfica in 2012.

He had a spell at Port Vale in 2016 and a move back to England as Everton’s third-choice would surely appeal to the 23-year-old.

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Liverpool

Steven Gerrard called incoming Liverpool star Alisson ‘world-class’ in April

Liverpool will complete a world record move for the Brazilian this week.

Mathew Nash

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Liverpool are set to give the fans what they want by signing a new goalkeeper. A world record fee has been agreed with AS Roma for Brazilian number one Alisson this week. Liverpool will pay the Italian side £67 million for the 25-year-old. Sky Sports report he will undergo a medical this week and a deal will then be finalised.

It is a bold move from Liverpool, who for a number of seasons have suffered with mediocre goalkeeping performances from Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet.

Alisson is considered one of the best keepers in Europe and keeps Manchester City’s brilliant Ederson Moraes on the bench for his country.

He is certainly highly-rated by one former Liverpool player and legend. Steven Gerrard is a big fan of the player.

He spoke highly of the goalie whilst working on BT Sport as a Champions League pundit last season.


“This fella does deserve the praise he is getting of late. He makes world-class saves, he’s up quick, he makes second saves. A world-class keeper no doubt.”

– Steven Gerrard talking of Alisson’s quality in April 2018

 


Of course, Liverpool came up against Alisson and his Roma side in the competition. Over the course of two legs, the Reds put seven goals past the Brazilian. It led some fans to question whether Alisson was actually the right man for Liverpool.

 

But Liverpool needed a keeper with pedigree. Karius is simply too error-prone and his confidence must be at an all-time low after his Champions League final woe.

Liverpool fans will hope Alisson can live up to Gerrard’s ‘world-class’ tag and his price-tag next season.

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