Matt Crocker: Why Southampton have moved away from loans system

Crocker was appointed by Southampton a year ago

Crocker was appointed by Southampton a year ago

SOUTHAMPTON Director of Football Operations Matt Crocker says the club have ‘moved away’ from the loans system and will rarely send young players to other clubs.

As TGG has outlined before, the loans system has become a major industry in its own right, with many clubs employing specialist loan managers to manage the process.

However, Crocker, who moved to Southampton from the Football Association at the end of last year, says the system has not worked for his club.

“If you look over the last 10 years, our statistics tell us, in the main, that the players come through our Academy, train with the first team, join the first-team squad and then play for the first team,” he told The Athletic.

“Very rarely have we had successful players who have gone on loan and then come back. We have moved away from the loan system.

“On the odd occasion we will do loans, but that won’t be because an agent has said, ‘He’s 18 now and needs to go on loan’. That’s just ridiculous. I sometimes hear this suggestion they should be sent on loan to grow up.

“If we haven’t helped them grow up in the last 10 years at the Academy, then we haven’t done our job properly.

“There is no point in us sending an 18-year-old kid — no disrespect — to a League Two club if they don’t play similarly to us. I’m not sure what we would get out of that unless there is a specific, physical or mental reason for us to do that.

“Maybe a player does need to go and experience a different culture and environment or maybe just needs to spend some time away from his mum and dad to go and live independently. But in the main, we can do that here and keep a closer eye on them.”

Instead, Southampton will look to develop players in their own B team. Crocker was instrumental in the decision to re-brand the Under-23s as a B team, which was announced in September.

They will still play in Premier League 2, against other Category One U23 teams, but this will be more than a name change for Southampton, as the B team will:

  • Use the same style of play, training methods and coaching as the first team, based on the SFC Playbook.
  • Have training organised so as not to clash with the first team, enabling manager Ralph Hasenhüttl and his coaches to watch and actively participate in training sessions.
  • Primarily play at AFC Totton, in order to get “regular experience of a stadium environment”.
  • U18s coach Carl Martin is on a 12-month sabbatical with the first team, allowing him to take methods and approaches back into the Academy next year.

Crocker said: “Academies can be seen as a club within a club, and the biggest thing we wanted to do as a starting point was to connect the top of the academy with the first team.

“The one thing I wanted to look at was to create an environment where our young players can see they are one step away from the first team. From watching the U23s the previous season when I was at the FA, the style of play looked very different (to the first team).

“What that means is that you are not necessarily able to prepare the players to have the full toolkit, so when they do step up to train and play with the first team, they understand the style and system and what’s required of them physically, tactically and mentally.

“There was definitely a void between those two styles of play. I guess one of the big wins was to come in and really remove the under-23s from the academy and place it as a B team connected to the first team.”

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