Author Topic: The Athletic  (Read 19902 times)

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Baggies

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The Athletic
« on: August 05, 2019, 07:29:48 AM »
For those who haven't been following the slow, drawn out "worst kept secret in sports journalism", US sports publication the Athletic are opening a subscription based website in the UK covering football. They have hired a large percentage of the biggest named sports writers in the country for their wider coverage, but they have also head hunted a number of the top local football corrospondents from the different regional papers.

Steve Madeley (ex Express and Star) has now joined them as their dedicated WBA corrospondent, so we have another journalist who we can follow for our Albion news.
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Jeremy Roland Peace

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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2019, 07:51:08 AM »
his article on the segregation of the academy from first team is interesting. doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know but does start naming people behind the scenes.

wonder if the athletic will start stirring up some trouble in the journo world.

either way it's better than '5 things we learned' by the Birmingham Mail

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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2019, 12:46:10 PM »
his article on the segregation of the academy from first team is interesting. doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know but does start naming people behind the scenes.

wonder if the athletic will start stirring up some trouble in the journo world.

either way it's better than '5 things we learned' by the Birmingham Mail

I haven't read it all because of the paywall, but I saw the opening two paragraphs and there was more information and detail in it than any number of E&S or Mail articles recently.

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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2019, 12:59:29 PM »
I haven't read it all because of the paywall, but I saw the opening two paragraphs and there was more information and detail in it than any number of E&S or Mail articles recently.

He'd managed to see a copy of the letter sent out to employees. I'd imagine the E&S & Brum Mail Journo's have also seen it, but have been embargoed from printing it. ( As I understand it, Luke Dowling was planning to make a statement about the academy after the transfer window closes)
It will be interesting to see if Madeley gets any more info from the Albion.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2019, 01:02:15 PM »
I haven't read it all because of the paywall, but I saw the opening two paragraphs and there was more information and detail in it than any number of E&S or Mail articles recently.

Here you go:

'West Bromwich Albion’s academy is in the midst of the biggest shake-up in its history. The radical changes, instituted by the sporting and technical director Luke Dowling, have not come without controversy and anger.

In mid-June, the long-serving academy manager Mark Harrison agreed to leave The Hawthorns to join Aston Villa. A week or so later, on June 20, came an email that signalled a major cultural shift for the academy that was founded by Aidy Boothroyd in 2003, had its foundations laid by Dan Ashworth and was developed by Harrison in his 13 years at the helm.

The memo to all staff, which has been seen by The Athletic, banned coaches and players from the under 23s and academy from using the main entrance at the Baggies’ Great Barr training ground. They were forbidden from using the main staff canteen and meeting rooms at the training ground, while young players were told they could no longer use the main car park. All were privileges the academy had previously shared with the first team. The decision to revoke them left some staff feeling, in the words of one, like “second-class citizens”.

What followed was an exodus of senior academy figures, which some colleagues have claimed was prompted by Dowling’s decision to distance the academy from the first-team staff. The club dispute the link, insisting the exits of under-18s manager Mike Scott, under-23s coach Jamie Smith, long-serving youth coach Jimmy Shan and academy goalkeeping coach Mark Naylor were a predictable reaction to the loss of Harrison and the natural end of a cycle.

West Brom have stressed that Dowling’s changes are designed to create a culture of greater aspiration for the club’s scholars. Shan chose to move on and seek senior coaching roles, Scott has a new job at Derby and Smith is Darren Moore’s new assistant at Doncaster. Aston Villa are keen on Naylor, with Albion insisting promotion and pay rises are clear incentives.

Yet the loss of almost the whole management team takes Dowling and Albion back to the drawing board in the sphere of youth development. It marks the end of an era for an academy that began life playing catchup against its West Midlands rivals but enjoyed a string of success stories, even if more than they would have liked were ultimately played out at other clubs.

Whether or not the offending memo, sent by assistant club secretary Vanessa Gomm but understood to have originated at board level, is partly responsible for the mass departures or is merely a coincidence, there is little doubt it shook the established order. It spelled out a “new policy for the use of the training ground” and instructed all employees that “all academy and U23 players and staff should now use the alternative entrance to the training ground located at the rear of the canteen”.

It continued that all meeting rooms and the main canteen would be for the “sole use of first-team players and first-team staff”, with an alternative dining room provided for the academy in a former press conference room. And it spelled out that academy players would now need to park in an overspill area outside the training ground’s main gates, while academy staff would be given main car park spaces on a first come first served basis.

Unhappy staff pointed out the new instructions created grey areas. Where, for instance, did Jonathan Leko and Kyle Edwards, under-23 players who had made first-team appearances, fit into the new hierarchy? How would Shan, an academy coach who ended last season in caretaker charge of the first-team in a Championship playoff semi-final, be affected?

These staff members claimed the separation of the first team and academy would endanger the family atmosphere and obscure the clear route to the senior ranks that has given Albion an edge over their bigger-spending rivals in the talent recruitment and retention stakes. They believe the changes triggered the decisions of senior staff to seek new challenges, while the club claim Harrison’s exit was the driving force for those resignations.

“All that infrastructure that Mark has created has almost single-handedly been dismantled in five weeks,” said one insider. “It wasn’t broken so I’m not sure why it needed fixing.”
Another added that staff felt the changes were designed to “put them in their place.”
Dowling, though, believed something was broken, or at least that things could be made to work better. He was the first to take such drastic actions but not the first to suggest them. Tony Pulis, the former head coach, mooted the idea of segregating the training ground before first-team struggles took priority and the proposal was shelved.

Around the same time, some senior players voiced concerns about the ready access younger players were afforded to first-team luxuries. While many were happy to share their knowledge and experience, others believed such a comfortable co-existence created an impression that teenagers had ‘made it’ long before on-field results said the same. They pointed to Saido Berahino, the supremely talented ‘enfant terrible’ who became both one of the academy’s biggest successes and one of its biggest frustrations, as a prime case in point.

“If anybody thinks that Sam Field, Nathan Ferguson, Rekeem Harper and players like that aren’t decent human beings, we would argue that all day long,” retorted an academy insider, referring to the most recent graduates to break into the first team. Ferguson, who became a YouTube sensation while in the under-12 team for his breakdancing ability, was man of the match on his first-team debut against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Berahino’s first-team breakthrough remains the most sustained and significant in the academy’s story – a fact which cuts to the core of a second debate over just how successful the project has been. No-one disputes Ashworth, Harrison and their staff achieved plenty, building a structure from the ground up and recruiting and nurturing a steady stream of impressive West Midlands-born talent, supplemented with prospects lured from other parts of the country.

Yet while champions of the academy believe it consistently punched above its weight, more skeptical staff members insist it did well but no more. They point to a shortage of sustained first-team impact as a glaring hole, with Berahino’s 63 league starts and 23 goals the outlying statistic. Izzy Brown and George Thorne made a handful of senior appearances, while Sam Field and Rekeem Harper are early into their quest to become established.

It is a fact that frustrates academy employees too, but staff also point out that Albion games are just part of the story. A string of youngsters, from the Liverpool-bound Jerome Sinclair and Yan Dhanda to Brown, now of Chelsea, and Louie Barry and Morgan Rogers, who have joined Barcelona and Manchester City this summer. Rogers moved to the Etihad Stadium for £4.2 million, which added to good fees received from Derby County for Thorne and Leeds for Tyler Roberts, plus more modest sums for Kemar Roofe and Luke Daniels among others.

And defenders of the academy say productivity statistics place Albion in the top five of England’s 14 category-one academies, given it works on the smallest budget, and they claim that, while Barry was determined to join Barca, Rogers could have been persuaded to stay and commanded a much bigger fee in the future.

“The one thing that people have praised over the last couple of years is the academy,” one employee said. “We are producing really good players. If they’re not getting into the first team then that’s another argument. There is something not quite right at the club.

“Years ago the club wasn’t ready for that level of players because the club weren’t in that place. We’ve got better now but we do still get the odd one that leaves. If the big clubs have a player that they think will play in their first team they will come and get them. The only way you can stop them is to get them in and around the first team quickly.”

In the coming weeks a new leadership team will emerge to take over an academy with a crop of under 23s for whom outgoing staff have high hopes. Strikers Jamie Soule and Nick Clayton-Phillips, attacking midfielders Finn Azaz and Rahaam Tulloch and defenders Tom Solanke and Ferguson are all said to be potential first-team players.

It will be up to Dowling and his chosen lieutenants to take over their development and that of the younger players coming through. For the first time in its history, an academy that has prided itself on continuity is changing direction. An exciting blank canvas or a worrying void? Time will tell'.

In truth there's very little there that couldn't have been cobbled together from reading tw@tter and a variety of football forums.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2019, 01:27:33 PM »
Here you go:

In truth there's very little there that couldn't have been cobbled together from reading tw@tter and a variety of football forums.

Cheers mate.

I don't know, I think there are things there that have only fallen into the category of hearsay so far - it's frustrating that the locals can't / don't want to hold the clubs to account anymore, and won't put out an article such as this in favour of clickbait.

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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2019, 02:58:48 PM »
Cheers mate.

I don't know, I think there are things there that have only fallen into the category of hearsay so far - it's frustrating that the locals can't / don't want to hold the clubs to account anymore, and won't put out an article such as this in favour of clickbait.

i think the club were very clever a few years ago when they appointed Swain and Lepkowski to roles within the club.
they were/are 2 very good journalists who would ask the right questions and be quite informative to us the fans.
the replacements for these 2 have been average at best and through this the club have been able to control a lot of information that gets out.
John Percy at the Telegraph is always bang on with what he reports on our club to the point you must think that he has some very good contacts within the club/game.
there is a guy at the Daily Mail whos name i can't remember who isn't as good as Percy but did break the Holgate deal day before it happened.
with how scared the local journos are to ask anything these days other than toeing the party line maybe the athletic could be one that does write the stories that do hold the club to account but time will tell.

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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2019, 04:08:00 PM »
I agree about young players using a different entrance to give them an incentive to progress and work harder, i'm sure at the training ground they have separate changing rooms anyhow where only certain named players are allowed to use the first team one (or they did a few years ago when I and others on here were there) but the staff is a different thing, they are there to do a job and should be treated the same as any other member of staff. I'm sure other clubs do the same thing with the young players, Man Utd amongst them.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2019, 04:16:42 PM »
Agree, if you're going to have an academy then the coaches there are almost equally important and more importantly must be able to talk to the senior team coaches over lunch about their young charges.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2019, 05:07:00 PM »
Reminds me of many companies of 40/50 years ago when there were three separate entrances for senior management, staff and works.

I thought it pretty pathetic then and I think so today.   

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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2019, 05:21:37 PM »
Second class citizens? I think another case of Snowflakes being offended. Players should only be allowed to use the facilities of the senior players when they earn it, otherwise they become famous before they are famous like Saido.
The incentive to walk with the elite is to become one of the elite. That has been the case throughout history in all walks of life.

In the old days when we had the likes of Williams and Kaye, young apprentices were made to clean the players boots and had the mick ripped out of them day in day out.
The way to get through it was to get into the first team quickly, like Bomber, Asa, Bobby Hope etc, these all had to start as lackies to senior players, and probably got a clip around the ears more than once.

The softly softly kid glove approach has made men into snowflakes. Men with hurt feelings oh dear.
Bloody get on with it.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2019, 05:30:21 PM »
Second class citizens? I think another case of Snowflakes being offended. Players should only be allowed to use the facilities of the senior players when they earn it, otherwise they become famous before they are famous like Saido.
The incentive to walk with the elite is to become one of the elite. That has been the case throughout history in all walks of life.

In the old days when we had the likes of Williams and Kaye, young apprentices were made to clean the players boots and had the mick ripped out of them day in day out.
The way to get through it was to get into the first team quickly, like Bomber, Asa, Bobby Hope etc, these all had to start as lackies to senior players, and probably got a clip around the ears more than once.

The softly softly kid glove approach has made men into snowflakes. Men with hurt feelings oh dear.
Bloody get on with it.
Do these kids know how lucky they are?

I am thinking along the same lines as you, it must be an age thing  :)

How do you motivate kids who, in the main, believe they are on the threshold of becoming millionaires and are thus entitled and above the rules. You need to instill self discipline in them as early as possible in whatever way possible, in the hope that their future managers can tap into that self discipline and motivate them.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2019, 06:42:43 PM »
I can buy into alot of the psychology of not letting the kids think they can run before they can walk, but what bothers me most, is the quality of the replacement staff (and there are quite a few posts to fill). Its no just about having coaches who know when to pat a kid on the head or when to kick him up the backside. They have to know alot about developing football skills on the ball and indeed tactics. This is where having the right football philosophy counts. Avoiding the Pulis, Allardyces coaches and getting the kids playing with the football. These appointments are in some ways as important as which players we recruit in the transfer market.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2019, 07:02:44 PM »
I welcome the emergence of The Athletic and anything that gives us quality coverage of the club is a good thing, particularly as the Birmingham Mail has pretty much given up any pretence of being anything other than a clickbait platform. We are down to the Express & Star plus the Midlands correspondents on the Nationals but they tend to focus on the Premier League teams on their patch.

With regard to the article currently under discussion. Plainly there have been changes in the way the academy is organised and it obviously has not gone down well with the coaching staff. While nearly all those leaving have gone to what might be considered better jobs and as such we can dismiss the current exodus as "one of those things" but it is probably not a coincidence.

I saw that Pulis was considering separating the youth set up from the first team and as such intuitively I think it is probably a bad idea. But setting that aside the impact on the psyche of our young players is probably at best marginal but if it represents a concerted effort to push the youngsters toward the first team then all well and good. 
« Last Edit: August 05, 2019, 07:42:04 PM by Standaman »
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2019, 07:19:04 PM »
I can't comment on individuals but sometimes it's a good thing to break up long standing groups, they can easily become cliques and resistant to change, look at the playing squad for a great example.

 It's inevitably risky and always difficult but not doing difficult things is no way to run a successful organisation.
Only time will tell us if this is a good strategy !

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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2019, 07:23:35 PM »
I can't comment on individuals but sometimes it's a good thing to break up long standing groups, they can easily become cliques and resistant to change, look at the playing squad for a great example.

 It's inevitably risky and always difficult but not doing difficult things is no way to run a successful organisation.
Only time will tell us if this is a good strategy !
On the evidence of the number of quality players the Academy has produced in recent years, it looks like they were doing a very decent job.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2019, 07:41:39 PM »
On the evidence of the number of quality players the Academy has produced in recent years, it looks like they were doing a very decent job.

I don't think that I have said that they were not.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2019, 07:46:09 PM »
I welcome the emergence of The Athletic and anything that gives us quality coverage of the club is a good thing, particularly as the Birmingham Mail has pretty much given up any pretence of being anything other than a clickbait platform. We are down to the Express & Star plus the Midlands correspondents on the Nationals but they tend to focus on the Premier League teams on their patch.

With regard to the article currently under discussion. Plainly there have been changes in the way the academy is organised and it obviously has not gone down well with the coaching staff. While nearly all those leaving have gone to what might be considered better jobs and as such we can dismiss the current exodus as "one of those things" but it is probably not a coincidence.
I saw that Pulis was considering separating the youth set up from the first team and as such intuitively I think it is probably a bad idea. But setting that aside the impact on the psyche of our young players is probably at best marginal but if represents a concerted effort to push the youngsters toward the first team then all well and good.


Couple of things re:the above Stan.

I understand from Matt Wilson's reports, that Luke Downing had planned to give an update on the rationale behind the changes to the academy once the transfer window had closed.
I assume, that the details had been embargoed by the club, but could be released at the end of this week.
I further assume that "The Athletic" had obtained a copy of one of the letters from one of the disgruntled ex-employees & chosen to ignore the embargo. If that's the case it will be interesting to see how the relationship between The Athletic & the club develops.

On the changes themselves, I can see that by differentiating the facilities, it would give the academy players an aspiring goal. I can also see why a player could be reluctant to go on loan to a lower league club who didn't have those facilities.
The fact that Tony Pulis was in favour, doesn't worry me too much, & I understand that Darren Fletcher was also surprised that there was no First Team differentiation.


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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2019, 08:52:53 PM »

Couple of things re:the above Stan.

I understand from Matt Wilson's reports, that Luke Downing had planned to give an update on the rationale behind the changes to the academy once the transfer window had closed.
I assume, that the details had been embargoed by the club, but could be released at the end of this week.
I further assume that "The Athletic" had obtained a copy of one of the letters from one of the disgruntled ex-employees & chosen to ignore the embargo. If that's the case it will be interesting to see how the relationship between The Athletic & the club develops.

On the changes themselves, I can see that by differentiating the facilities, it would give the academy players an aspiring goal. I can also see why a player could be reluctant to go on loan to a lower league club who didn't have those facilities.
The fact that Tony Pulis was in favour, doesn't worry me too much, & I understand that Darren Fletcher was also surprised that there was no First Team differentiation.

I have no problem with the output from E&S and Matt Wilson continues to do a very good job of covering the club and I am sure we will no doubt get the lowdown on the summer changes in due course. However the emergence of  dedicated coverage from the Athletic pushes E&S to maintain it's standards something that the Birmingham Mail does not.

When there is a monopoly of dedicated coverage there is a danger that the relationship between club and local paper becomes too cosy and again the Athletic might provide more challenging coverage which might not be welcomed by the club but might be by some fans.

In general more coverage the better.

To be honest the petty differentiation seems a bit pointless and it seems telling that it is beloved by old school professionals like Pulis and his lovechild Fletcher. I would have a little bit of respect for our ex head coach if he had any sort of record of young player development in his 20 odd year career in management. However if the club is looking to help push/pull young players  through fine but I think it will need more than this which is essentially superficial.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2019, 08:55:19 PM »
I thought Madeley was an excellent journo when covering the Albion - as was Lepko at the Birmingham Mail.

Really interested to see what The Athletic will do given there is a paywall. I would be anticipating something different to what I could read online for free - that becomes the problem.

Noticed they have also appointed Phil Hay - he previously covered Leeds for the Yorkshire Post.

Seems to be a good calibre of journalist they are targeting.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2019, 08:58:06 PM »
I thought Madeley was an excellent journo when covering the Albion - as was Lepko at the Birmingham Mail.

Really interested to see what The Athletic will do given there is a paywall. I would be anticipating something different to what I could read online for free - that becomes the problem.

Noticed they have also appointed Phil Hay - he previously covered Leeds for the Yorkshire Post.

Seems to be a good calibre of journalist they are targeting.


The business plan seems to be printed press netflix, problem is the written word can just be copied and pasted elsewhere. Can't imagine they'll have a fleet of lawyers protecting their copyrights.


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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2019, 09:05:37 PM »
always liked Madeley, be interesting to see if his views remain as consistent working for them.
Cant be a bad thing especially with the Birmingham Mail in such a state, can't bring myself to even read their articles anymore.
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2019, 10:24:39 PM »

The business plan seems to be printed press netflix, problem is the written word can just be copied and pasted elsewhere. Can't imagine they'll have a fleet of lawyers protecting their copyrights.


I give it 2 years.

I don’t understand how a paywall works when articles will be cut and pasted onto sites like this and Twitter, they will have to protect themselves via litigation surely? Cue a new site rule🥺
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2019, 08:35:59 AM »
The Athletic's plan to get UK readers to buy into a 'new chapter' in sports journalism

This is an interesting and innovative, but high risk project. The owners have thrown an awful lot of money at the start up here in the UK in what is a very competitive market anyway with a lot smaller audience than in the US and Canada. Good luck lads!

Source: https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/08/05/the-athletics-plan-get-uk-readers-buy-new-chapter-sports-journalism
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Re: The Athletic
« Reply #24 on: August 06, 2019, 08:48:55 AM »
I'm tempted buy it but in general i keep life as cost-free as possible and even though they may get exclusives my head is telling me within a day of a story being published it will likely be recycled elsewhere.
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