IT is one thing to have success in sport, but it is another thing to build a dynasty.
Football Innovation Series caught up with Wales head of performance Tony Strudwick ahead of the Football Innovation Summit 2019, taking place in London on the 1 -2 April is someone who should know as his ten years at Manchester United overlapped the final six seasons of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign and the mixed success that followed.
So when I tell him US Sports broadcaster Colin Cowherd believes the triumphs of the two dominant teams in the NBA and NFL – Golden State Warriors and New England Patriots – is built on a ‘family’ core of players who were drafted by these teams, it is a view he quickly comprehends and appreciates.
It is one that is easy for him to relate to as United’s Class of 92 will form part of his session on creating a holistic approach to talent development at the Football Innovation Summit in April. Strudwick said: “I agree with that.
“We did some work at United back in the 2012-13 that looked at our core players and the length of time they were at the club and I think it was really important that group of players from the Class of 92 came through.
“They were perfect talents. When we talk about core players, every team needs that and Sir Alex Ferguson did that. He built teams around it. He would have the spine of the team, you had Ryan Giggs, you had Paul Scholes, you had Gary Neville, the core of the group that came through really.
“Then you can start to populate foreign superstars, like Cristiano Ronaldo, outside of that.
“Barcelona did a similar thing with Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and Messi.
“When you look at the teams that will dominate over a period of time. We are not talking about one or two wins, we are talking about sustained legacy, without a shadow of a doubt the common feature will be these kind of cultural architects that have been at a club for a long, long time.
“And that is essentially what your Academy should do. It should be able to produce a core of players. Our job is to create a runway into the first team, but the Academy really needs to produce the core that will populate that first team over a number of years.
“I think that’s why, whatever the model, there are so many different models. There is a farming model, Academies that produce players for other clubs, for a financial model but the real success comes when you have a core group of players that understand the identity of the organisation. And I am pretty sure you can overachieve in those environments and I am sure there are parallels to be drawn from other sports, that is really, really important.”
The conversation then moved away from homegrown players creating cultures to creating pathways for homegrown coaches.
Surely it makes sense for clubs that believe in creating an identity, to create pathways for coaches to progress and maintain that culture rather than hiring from the outside?
Strudwick agreed with the principle and believes the early success Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has enjoyed at Manchester United alludes to this. But he pointed out that it is also important to adapt and be open to outside influence, which is a lesson Strudwick learned from working in close quarters to Sir Alex Ferguson.
He added: “I think it is imperative that young coaches see progress. That as a club you are not only providing players but support staff as well.
“I think Manchester United have been good at that.
“You have only got to look at Manchester United, Albeit an interim model but with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ex-coach, ex-player; Mick Phelan ex-coach, ex-player; Michael Carrick ex-player, Kieran McKenna was Academy Under-18 coach is now working with the first-team.
“So I think that is a really nice model and over time there are massive benefits and massive value to have people that have been in a system, who have progressed through a system that understand the culture and understand the identity of the club and I think there is massive value in that.
“The Barcelona model bringing through Guardiola and the Liverpool model of succession in the 70s and eighties, I think it is imperative that happens for the sustainability and legacy of clubs.
“It is that kind of familiarity, that intimacy. It is building relationships and that is really important. I am a big fan of that. It is about consistency and Sir Alex did it.
“The flip side of that is that you have to always keep looking outside and where the different ideas are coming from and that is what Sir Alex did so well.
“He had five or six different assistant manager or coaches from Archie Know all the way through to Carlos Quieroz.
“He kept updating the system that way but the core of his team remained pretty much the same. He still had the same people around him in Les Kershaw, Brian McClair, Under 18 coach Paul McGuinness was at the club for 20 years or so. That for me was a really good model.”
The Football Innovation Summit 2019 will take place in London on the 1-2 April 2019 book your place at www.football-innovation-summit.com