It’s been a meteoric rise for Stoke City’s academy in the last few years.
The club struggled to produce Premier League level prospects during their first five years in the top flight. However, since gaining ‘Category One’ status in 2013, players like Harry Souttar and Nathan Collins have emerged from the Potters’ academy.
The duo recently became Stoke’s most lucrative academy exports following Souttar’s departure in January.
And the future continues to look bright – with Stoke City’s u15s making it through to the final of the PL National Cup on Saturday night. They narrowly lost to a strong Crystal Palace side, who are reaping the rewards of their investment made by Steve Parish in 2016.
Stoke’s head of academy Gareth Owen said it was an exciting time for the team.
He said: “There’s been a lot of work and a lot of effort that’s gone into making this possible. The lads have had the day off school which they get one day a week, they’ve been training with the U18s. It’s been a rollercoaster on the pitch and the first time we’ve ever got this far in the competition.
“There have also been a number of boys in there who have been offered scholarships already because we’re very excited by how they are developing.”
Furthermore, Owen said he was very proud of how the players represented the academy on Saturday night – praising their attitudes and will to get better.
He said: “It just shows how far you can go if you’ve got a group of young, hungry players who are capable physically and want to learn and make themselves better, because we’ve beaten Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City and deserved to.”
On the way to the final, Stoke beat Manchester United – who many consider the best academy in England – to win the PL Northern Cup and book their place in the final at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium. But this does not look like the end of Stoke’s rise for developing young talent.
Whilst the players would have been disappointed to lose the final, u15s head coach Darren Potter said it was a great experience for them to get to the final, which has helped them to deal with the feeling of defeat.
He said: “It was a tough game. Like always you never really know too much about the opposition unless they’re in your games programme which Crystal Palace aren’t.
“Winning isn’t the big all and end all for me, but the lads on their journey they need to know how to win and they need to know how to lose and how to be involved in big games so quarter finals, semi-finals, finals offer them that opportunity. The final last week shows they can handle that pressure beating Manchester United in the Northern Final.”
Stoke’s u15s players will go into the new season full of confidence with a trophy win vs Manchester United, and a final to look back on with pride against Crystal Palace. Most of those players have been offered scholarships and some are already pushing for an U18s place.