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…
The hierarchy at West Brom, most notably sporting and technical director Luke Dowling, were left with an important decision over the summer – aside from appointing a new senior boss, they too were on the lookout for a new man to spearhead their ‘enviable’ academy setup.
Mark Harrison was poached by fellow Midlands side Aston Villa after spending 13 years at the Hawthorns.
Under his leadership, the likes of Kemar Roofe, Saido Berahino, Tyler Roberts, Romaine Sawyers, Rekeem Harper, and Nathan Ferguson have all broken through.
To put it in perspective – last season West Brom amassed more England youth internationals than Manchester United and Liverpool.
The U18 squad managed to reach the FA Youth Cup semi-final for the first time in over 40 years with a team that had been mostly plucked from the Black Country.
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So it’s fair to say he leaves behind quite the legacy, but his replacement couldn’t have been more ideal as Richard Stevens takes the reigns after a similarly fruitful spell in charge of the Coventry youth setup.
As Football FanCast have highlighted earlier this week, he was the man to kick-start the careers of James Maddison and Callum Wilson, who are now both regularly playing in the Premier League.
Based on their successes, who in the Albion youth ranks is likely to follow suit?
One possible winner from Stevens’ appointment could be Jamie Soule, who we have tipped for big things in the past.
The young 18-year-old continues to light up the Premier League 2 with his goalscoring exploits.
He’s yet to feature for the senior side, but Wilson’s rise from being a non-league loanee to now being linked with Manchester United should inspire him to do the exact same.
Likewise, with Finn Azaz, who has Maddison-like attributes after being described as a ‘goalscoring midfielder’ and a ‘creative passer of the ball.’
No player recorded more key passes in the Premier League last term than the 22-year-old Leicester star and Azaz’s record from attacking midfield is actually quite impressive.
These are just two of the many promising talents that could receive a timely boost on their career prospects thanks to the arrival of Stevens.