Sunderland to mould own Beckhams

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The Independent Football

Sunderland are laying the foundations which they hope will allow them to compete with the biggest clubs in Europe in future years. Work on the club's new £10m academy at Whitburn Moor is due to start next month as the Wearsiders invest in young talent in an attempt to emulate the youth policies of clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool.

Sunderland are laying the foundations which they hope will allow them to compete with the biggest clubs in Europe in future years. Work on the club's new £10m academy at Whitburn Moor is due to start next month as the Wearsiders invest in young talent in an attempt to emulate the youth policies of clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool.

Peter Reid, Sunderland's manager, is promising youngsters that they will be able to work alongside the club's senior professionals on a day-to-day basis and will be given their chance in the first team if they prove they are good enough.

"You look at Manchester United and the players they have brought through - Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Butt - do I need to go further?" he said. "Then there is Liverpool - Owen, Fowler, Gerrard, Carragher.

"All those players have long-term saved their clubs an awful lot of money. I'm a great believer in having the young players alongside the senior pros. I think it gives them great motivation and it gives them great experience. If they do well, I want to get them involved in training sessions, which is a valuable experience.

"I certainly believe that if you get young players who have got a feel for the football club, because they've been here since they were nine or 10, you've got a relationship and you get them playing for your club. I'm a great believer in developing your own young players. It's going to be the way forward and we're going down that road."

Reid's comments came as he launched Sunderland's Academy 2000 scheme which will raise money from a weekly prize draw to fund the development, which was built with cash from a media partnership with BSkyB. The club is hoping fans will invest £2.50 a week in return for the chance of £1,000, £250, £100 and £50 prizes and an annual £25,000 jackpot.

Ian Branfoot, the academy director, is convinced the initiative can work. "When you are talking about getting positive results from it, you have got to look at the very, very long-term," he said. "I went to FC Nantes two years ago and I was explaining that I was the new academy director at Sunderland and asking questions about how to go about it, and they said 'Ian, we've been doing it for 25 years'. That is why you see the results in the French national team. They've been developing players for 25 years in a system similar to the one we've been doing for two years.

"You are talking in terms of long-term development of six, seven or eight years before we see a really positive result. But when we start, we will be the only club where the nine-year-olds will be training at the same venue as the senior professionals. We've already got that link now with the 17, 18 and 19-year-olds. They train at the same time on the same pitches as the first-team professionals and they very often train with the first-team.

"That is a great education. Whatever we as coaches can give them, actually playing with top-class professionals is a fantastic advantage.

"And it's a great advantage for me to be able to tell parents that, if their kid is good enough, he will get the opportunity. That's a massive factor. He will get the opportunity, Peter will give him a chance."

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