BRADFORD (Park Avenue) may have drawn some ire on social media for their announcement of goalkeeper Liam Hall’s departure, but there was good reason behind it.

A video was created in the style of welcoming a new signing, so it looked as if the club were almost celebrating him leaving.

And while the merits of a post in that format on Twitter can rightfully be debated, as director of football Martin Knight and board member Paul Armitage pointed out, it was merely done to show what the academy at Avenue can help players achieve.

Hall joined League Two Hollywood heavyweights Wrexham, giving him exposure to a growing worldwide fanbase, the chance to develop under former Bantams boss Phil Parkinson and other top coaches at the club, and allow him to learn from an ever-improving crop of players.

Young midfielder Alex Hurst got his big break into the Football League a few years ago with Port Vale too, with the likes of Isaac Marriott and Lewis Knight stepping up to higher levels after leaving Horsfall as well.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alex Hurst, now at York City in the National League, had his talent noticed early by then League Two side Port Vale.Alex Hurst, now at York City in the National League, had his talent noticed early by then League Two side Port Vale. (Image: John Rhodes.)

Hall’s case is particularly interesting, as it comes as a direct result of a player being nurtured in Avenue’s own growing academy.

There are regular league fixtures for the youngsters, education programmes, scholarships for boys and girls, as well as a partnership with the world-renowned Steven Gerrard Academy.

Hall was one of the first of the academy youngsters nurtured by the likes of technical director Tom McStravick to make an impression and gain a promotion to the first-team ranks.

And while Avenue would have loved Hall to become a superstar in his own right in BD6, first-team boss Mark Bower knows the role his club play in the youth chain.

Asked if he was sad to lose Hall, Bower told the T&A: “That’s just the nature of football.

“It’s the same at all levels of football, that if young lads do well, teams above you look at them and think they can progress and make the step up in their set-up.

“We hope over time, young lads will look at us as a good option, where they can play and see there’s progression through the ranks from the academy to our first team.

“We’re not a full-time set-up though, and should those players have the option to progress, we’re not going to stand in their way if a good opportunity comes calling.

“It’s frustrating for me as first-team manager, as I’d love to keep those lads here.

“But if even one of the lads goes on and makes it big in the professional game, that could help secure the long-term future of the club and could set us up for years.”

Part-inspired by injury crises last season, a few of Avenue’s talented academy graduates aside from Hall have started to make an impression in the first team, not least Zak Kersey and Myles La Bastide.

Unlike Hall, the pair are very much still at Avenue, and it was Kersey who set up La Bastide for the clinching goal in Avenue’s FA Cup win at Consett last Saturday.

With Joel Auty on the bench too having just signed first-team forms, it was a proud day for the academy as a whole.

Discussing Avenue’s current youngsters, Bower said: “That crop of lads we have now is vital to us.

“Myles broke through last season and good things are expected of him.

“He might not be established yet, but he’s made a number of first-team appearances now and the most important thing is getting him out on that pitch.

“In the past, when the squad’s been stretched, we’ve not had any depth, whereas now we can call on the likes of Zak, who’s a good, dedicated player that trains well.

“He was prepared to come on at Consett and have an effect, and he did just that, helping us get a vitally important goal.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Zak Kersey showed promise on his handful of first-team outings last season, and made an impression last weekend too.Zak Kersey showed promise on his handful of first-team outings last season, and made an impression last weekend too. (Image: Alex Daniel.)

“I’m pleased for the lads, Joel included, and it’s nice to have good young players.

“There’s still a long way for all three of them to go to get really prepared for the first team.”

With more and more teenage talents making the grade at Avenue, expect to see plenty of them in first-team contention in the coming weekends and months.

Don’t necessarily expect them to stick around at Horsfall for too long though, as these hungry youngsters look to progress as far as they can in the game.

And while that is a shame for the first-team, as Bower said, one of these players could be the financial key to Avenue’s long-term future.