Top 10 stories of 2023
Written by Training Ground Guru — December 25, 2023
HERE are our top 10 best-read articles of 2023.
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Stockport County will go into 2024 several points clear at the top of League Two. A decade ago, they were relegated into regional part-time football and their very existence was in doubt. Now they're one of the Football League's most innovative and upwardly-mobile clubs and much of that is thanks to their Sporting Director, Simon Wilson. At our Scouting and Recruitment Webinar, Wilson laid out Stockport's seven-year plan. This article was taken from that superb presentation.
Everton Director of Football Kevin Thelwell has had a year he won't forget. The Toffees narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League in May and were then deducted 10 points for breaching Profit and Sustainability rules in November. However, they end the year in fine fettle and would be in the league's top 10 were it not for that points penalty. Thelwell was our guest on Episode #58 of the TGG Pod, outlining the club's long-term strategy. This article was taken from that exclusive interview.
Our guest on Episode #50 of the TGG Pod in June was Des Ryan, the former Head of Academy Sports Medicine and Athletic Development at Arsenal. The Irishman delivered fantastic insights into how the Gunners develop Strong Young Gunners, like Bukayo Saka (pictured). This article was taken from that enlightening interview.
Brighton continued to make waves this year, with Evan Ferguson (pictured) their breakthrough star. The striker, who arrived from Bohemians in Ireland when he was 16, has become one of the most coveted young players in the Premier League. Former Academy Manager John Morling was instrumental in bringing him to Brighton and then developing him for them. Here, he outlined the identification, recruitment & management of Ferguson and team-mate Andy Moran.
Since retiring from management in 2020, Tony Pulis has focused much of his time on the Academy system and, in particular, the fate of released players. In March, he told TGG that clubs were “not doing enough to protect” released youngsters and that the Premier League needed to introduce a “dual scholarship system.”
One of our big themes of 2023 was Newcastle United's extensive revamp of their Academy recruitment department. This was led by Sporting Director Dan Ashworth (pictured), who has been intent on improving the club's Academy productivity since arriving in June 2022. In total, 13 new staff have arrived into the department on Ashworth's watch, including Head of Youth Recruitment Paul Midgley from Manchester City.
In the last two years, Manchester United have belatedly set about launching a dedicated data science department. Dominic Jordan, who joined in 2022, is heading it up as Director of Data Science. This year's big hire was Alex Kleyn, as we revealed in June. Kleyn joined as Decision Scientist, having spent the previous six years at Southampton, most recently as their Lead Data Scientist.
In June, our friends at Youth Hawk revealed that clubs had voted to bring in a one-tier 'Swiss-style' format for the U21 Premier League 2 competition. This meant promotion and relegation were scrapped, with all 25 teams seeded in five pots based on their historical performance.
Here it is: our best-read story of 2023! In August, we travelled to Liverpool's AXA Training Centre to meet Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders. The extensive chat filled two Podcast episodes and yielded many insights, including this one: that Liverpool had built a cage pitch, or 'gaiola', to recreate the spirit of the streets and improve their attacking play.