Man Utd's Nick Cox on topping TGG's Academy Productivity Rankings

Nick Cox has been Man Utd's Head of Academy since July 2019

Nick Cox has been Man Utd's Head of Academy since July 2019

ULTIMATELY, the majority of boys who engage with us do so because they have a dream of making a debut.

Knowing that we’re supporting them to achieve this aim on a consistent basis is an amazing achievement for our staff. Productivity is really important for our Academy as a world-leading youth development system. Like any school, we want to know that at the end of the journey there are some results. Debuts are the equivalent of our exam results.

At Manchester United, we have a long history of boys not only playing for our first team, but going on to play in other environments as well. We are really proud of this, because playing professional football at any level is an amazing achievement.

As Sir Matt Busby said, at Manchester United we strive for perfection and if we fail we might just have to settle for excellence.

Our record is not something that has happened overnight. The golden statistic for us is the over 4,100 consecutive games that Manchester United have played with a youth product in our first team. It is a phenomenal record, based on a consistent commitment throughout our history to helping young people and players to achieve their potential.

We have always had managers who have understood the club’s desire to use homegrown players. That was certainly the case with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was fantastic for the Academy.

He is a brilliant leader and always kept an open dialogue with the Academy staff and young players. Sixteen graduates made their debuts under him in three years - an amazing record that speaks for itself. This is our identity, it is who we are.

There has also been a succession of passionate and dedicated staff who have devoted their lives to developing young people.

Yes, we want all of our boys to play in Manchester United’s first team, but that is not possible for everyone. What every player does leave here with is a lifelong relationship with the club. We instil a genuine love of the game in our boys that ensures their passion for football never fades.

There is a fantastic support mechanism for players when they depart too. A number of our players have gone on to have excellent careers abroad as well and they would not be included in this particular productivity study.

We’ve got examples of boys who have won the Premier League and the FA Cup with other clubs. We’re also very proud of the young people who have used their experience with us to prepare for other careers in football, be it as a coach or physio, or away from the game altogether.

I would like to congratulate Josh and Training Ground Guru on the work they have done with this research, because it must have taken hours of dedication and research. It’s a wonderful barometer of where we are with youth development in this country.

Parents now have a fantastic choice of different development environments to take their children to and the information sometimes isn’t completely clear and transparent. This report is an ingredient that parents can use to make informed decisions on the best environment for their sons.

However, I would also add that productivity is only one measure of success for an Academy. Yes, it’s a central pillar of everything we do, but it’s not our sole measure.

Also, we have to consider that for some clubs the stats might not exactly reflect the work they are doing, because different organisations have different contexts as to what they’re trying to achieve and where they are on their journey.

So I would urge people to go out and continue to explore and learn about the great work that Academies do beyond productivity.

I think we sometimes don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve for our commitment to youth development in this country. The resource, time and dedication put in by so many is truly astonishing.

This year we've produced a hard copy of the rankings in a 16-page A4 booklet. It contains:

  • Mark Crane: Origin of the rankings.
  • Extra analysis including U23 table.
  • Nick Cox: Man Utd's Academy ethos.
  • How to measure the success of an Academy.
  • Hudl: How Bayer Leverkusen develop talent with tech
  • Full rankings.
  • Academy Directory: Full list of Academies and Academy Managers.

The cost of a copy is £5, which covers printing and postage (* delivery to UK only).

We’ve now had a decade of EPPP and people are starting to think about what the next 10 years might look like for Academies.

I think it’s highly likely that more transparent communication will be a part of that debate and that people will be happy with more freely sharing information. We are certainly very proud of the work that goes on every day at Manchester United’s Academy.

  • This article first appeared in TGG's Academy Productivity Rankings brochure, which was published at the end of November.

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