St George's Park boosting Burton's Academy ambitions

Joe Sbarra (left) has graduated from Academy to first team

Joe Sbarra (left) has graduated from Academy to first team

BURTON ALBION’S determination to build a team with a homegrown core has been boosted by the use of St George’s Park this season, according to club captain Shaun Barker.

The Under-18s have trained and played their home games at the National Football Centre, while the lower age groups have also made use of the world-class facilities there.

In October, during the international break, some of Burton’s Academy players even faced England’s Under-20s and Under-21s in practice games at SGP.

The club may have only been ranked 78th in our Academy productivity rankings, but it has certainly come a long way in a short time. Burton’s Academy was formed in 2010 and attained Category 3 status in February 2014.

Barker believes St George’s Park can be a major draw for a club competing for young talent against established academies, including nearby Derby County, which is Category 1.

He said: “This is not a Conference side or a League Two side, this is a side competing with the likes of Derby, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.

“They are huge clubs with fantastic history. Burton Albion have got to compete against them and young lads have to prove that they are worthy of getting the opportunity in a Championship club, but training at St George’s Park every day and having the opportunity to work with the first team is a massive plus for them.”

Coach Sam Rose, one of 10 full-time staff at Burton's Academy, agreed.

“The ongoing relationship with the FA and St George’s Park is something that the club values greatly and we believe it will help us generate the future players for our first team.”

And, crucially, there is a pathway to the first team thanks to manager Nigel Clough.

Graduates Joe Sbarra (above left), 19, and Matt Palmer, 22, have both been first-team regulars this season. Sbarra has played 10 times for the Brewers, while fellow midfielder Palmer has featured 14 times during the campaign.

“We have a manager and a football infrastructure where the opportunities are there for young players,” said Academy boss Dan Robinson, who took up his role in September 2016.

“If you are good enough and work hard this is a club where you will get opportunities in the first team. The Academy is in a really great place because we have got fantastic support from the club, the manager, everybody that’s involved.”

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