Four players from defunct Brentford Academy in England U16s
Written by Simon Austin — July 24, 2018
FOUR of the England Under-16 team that beat Croatia last weekend - managing to do what their senior counterparts couldn’t at the World Cup a couple of weeks earlier - were products of Brentford's Academy.
Dermi Lusala, Levi Laing and Xavier Simons started the game, while Nile John came off the bench during the 2-0 win in Karlovac. All four could play again in the second instalment in Croatia tonight.
This should have been a source of great pride for the west London club’s Academy, only, of course, they don’t have one any more.
In May 2016, Brentford took the decision to close their Category Two Academy, running a B team instead. So Lusala and John departed for Tottenham, Laing went to Arsenal and Simons to Chelsea.
They weren’t the only gems to go. In the same month that the decision was announced, centre forward Josh Bohui went to Manchester United. The 19-year-old is now a regular for their Under-23s and is highly rated by Jose Mourinho.
Two months later, goalscoring midfielder Ian Carlo Poveda went to Manchester City, where he's a member of the Elite Development Squad and, again, tipped for big things.
These six alone represent an incredible amount of talent - and club insiders suggest there were several others who went too.
Brentford revealed they had received only £30,000 in compensation for each of Bohui and Poveda, as they had been too young to sign pro forms and this was all that the EPPP stipulated they receive.
Shortly afterwards, the club's football co-ordinator, Rasmus Ankersen, said: “That made us realise, hey, it is an unfair game.”
Yet others at the club believed at least some of the six would have stayed, because the coaching was so good and they had a better chance of representing the first team one day than they would at a Premier League giant.
In closing the Academy, Brentford guaranteed that they'd lose the players. They've saved £1.5m a season by closing the Academy (the Premier League also provided a subsidy of £0.5m) and now focus on recruiting players in the 17 to 20 bracket who have been released by Premier League clubs as well as the “undervalued overseas market”.
Last year they played some glamorous ties against the likes of Rangers, Anderlecht, Chelsea U23s and Manchester united U23s. So far there are only B team fixtures on their website up until the end of September, and they're a little less inspiring, against Southampton U23s, Fulham, Bournemouth U23s, Huddersfield, FC Nordsjaelland U19s and Watford.
Brentford undoubtedly continue to be a club that punch above their weight in the Championship, competing against teams on much bigger budgets. And there were understandable reasons for closing the Academy.
But seeing Lusala, Laing, Simons and John on the team sheet in Croatia reminded us that there were costs too.