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Watch out for more exciting players following in footsteps of Bradford City striker Nahki Wells
Peter Horne believes City’s informal link with an American university coaching programme can unearth an exciting talent every year.
With the apprentices and youth players returning to training, the long marathon has kicked off for another season.
Horne will be back out on the pitches after recovering from health issues and cannot wait to get going again.
And he is also buoyed by the prospect of liaising with Richmond University’s RIASA project – effectively City’s free youth development squad.
The cross-over with the Leeds Met-based scheme will be more established this year, with former Bantams winger Mark Ellis – the head coach at RIASA – expected to have more of a foot in both camps.
Head of youth development Horne sees the tie-up as a “no brainer” and is confident of seeing other untapped youngsters following the path blazed by Nahki Wells.
The good thing for Phil Parkinson is that he can just focus on the first team and leave the rest to us. I guarantee he’ll get players from it. That’s the end resultPeter Horne
He said: “Every time I have a look at what they have done in the last couple of years, I’m a bit jealous. It’s not just the equipment they have but there are some great people working there.
“Nahki Wells might be the first to come through but he won’t be the last. Players in there have the right development and right coaching.
“I’m hoping to incorporate Mark Ellis into our coaching team. I feel it’s imperative that if we are going to work together the link needs to be more than just by telephone.
“I also believe there’s no reason why we can’t work together on the coaching side of things. I’ve got lots of players we’ll want to bring in aged between 18 and 21.
“Mark brings his better RIASA lads down and I bring in some trialists for the gaffer to look at. We all work together.”
The arrival of the Elite Player Performance Plan has altered the focus on the development of the next generation.
Voted in last October by Football League clubs, the EPPP’s grand goal is to improve the quality of the national team. By aspiring to the Spanish youth system, the English game one day hopes to emulate the success that has conquered all and sundry in the past six years.
How it will genuinely pan out is a moot point. Those clubs with well-established academies are not happy at the £100,000 compensation roof that will be placed on young starlets.
But the general aim is to improve the standard of coaching for players up to the age of 21, bridging that gap between youth and first team. Sound familiar?
Horne said: “It’s great for the club because 18 to 21 is a massive development period for players. A lot get lost in that area.
“We had a plan for the development squad earlier on which, for whatever reasons, has had to change direction.
“But the good thing for us, in our back garden, is Mark Ellis’s RIASA programme. It’s a no-brainer to work hand in hand with us.
“The facilities are first class and there are some decent players. That’s what we are looking for as a club.
“My view is that you give the better RIASA players the chance to appear in reserve games. That gives our gaffer the opportunity to watch them.
“We took two or three of their lads in a reserve-team friendly early on last season and they all stepped up to what we wanted.
“It was a tough game and I was looking at it thinking ‘I don’t think Nahki Wells is where it ends’.
“From what I’ve seen, we could possibly get a player a year out of that programme into our first-team squad and that would be a success for me.”
Crucially, those players being coached by RIASA do not impact City’s budgets. The club can effectively use them for free.
Horne said: “The other lads will look at Nahki now and think ‘I’ll want a piece of that’. The opportunity will be there.
“I’ll make sure that with working alongside Mark and David Baldwin, that feel-good factor is there in the relationship.
“The good thing for Phil Parkinson is that he can just focus on the first team and leave the rest to us. I guarantee he’ll get players from it. That’s the end result.”
Horne will be watching Adam Baker’s progress as a first-year professional with interest. There are high hopes for the rookie striker, who has come off the Valley Parade production line.
Horne said: “We work tirelessly in the youth department to bring players through and I think Adam Baker is going to be one of the best. We have failed if we don’t develop Adam now. He’s got everything it takes.”