This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
West Brom’s promising academy is often a hot topic of discussion amongst supporters in the west Midlands – it has even been described as ‘enviable.’ That’s how highly-rated it is.
Amongst the current set up there is Nathan Ferguson, Rekeem Harper and Sam Field while the likes of Kemar Roofe, Tyler Roberts, and Saido Berahino all ply their trade away from the Hawthorns these days.
Earlier in the summer, the man to bring through all of those names left the club for pastures new as fellow Midlands outfit Aston Villa poached Mark Harrison.
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Sporting and Technical Director Luke Dowling patiently sought out possible replacements before finally plumping for Richard Stevens, who will be a perfect replacement if not one that can elevate the youth setup onto a whole new level.
He joins from League One outfit Coventry City, where he reportedly helped more than 50 players rise through the youth system into the Sky Blues’ first-team fold over the last 12 years.
In that cohort of players there are some big names too – most notably James Maddison and Callum Wilson, who are both Premier League regulars now, which is a higher level of football than pretty much every current or ex-Baggies graduate mentioned so far.
Maddison found his way to Leicester via Norwich and has featured 41 times in the top-flight. Last season no player recorded more key passes than he did with 100 – not even Eden Hazard, Christian Eriksen or Kevin de Bruyne.
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That should only signal good things for Albion – even if it means they are producing talent that goes on to play in the big time for another side. It really doesn’t matter too much.
Ideally, they’d like it to happen alongside their own promotion ambitions, but if the next crop of budding footballers in the west Midlands sees that West Brom are a club with a proven track record, more kids are likely to chance their arm at being the next Romaine Sawyers or now even the next James Maddison.
Stevens’ previous record at Coventry certainly dictates that this may be a perfect appointment for Albion.