Neil Warnock: Bostock tale shows perils of big clubs hoovering up young talent
What I Learnt This Week
Remember this lad, pictured right? It's John Bostock.
I gave him his debut at Crystal Palace four years ago. Only 15 and still at school he became Palace's youngest ever player. We had high hopes that he would go on to become a key player for Palace, but he only played four games before he was persuaded to join Tottenham.
Simon Jordan, Palace's owner at the time, was very unhappy, and his mood didn't improve when the tribunal told Spurs they only had to pay us £700,000 for the boy – there were add-ons, but no guarantees they would be triggered. Running a good academy is expensive and Bostock had been in ours since he was eight. Simon was so angry he considered scrapping Palace's academy, reasoning that if all the good players were to be poached on the cheap, what was the point?
I mention this because Simon and I recalled the affair this week after the Football League clubs voted to accept the Elite Player Performance Plan – the Premier League-driven reform of youth development. Part of the deal was the imposition of a fixed tariff for the transfer of players like Bostock. In his case we would have received less than £100,000.
That is peanuts and nowhere near sufficient compensation. An academy costs £500,000 to £1m to run at present (the new academies are going to be even more expensive) and there's no way it is going to produce five or 10 players of Bostock's standard each year to pay for it. I think the proposals are going to have severe consequences for the best academies in the Football League, like the one at Palace. Clubs are going to have to seriously think about whether it is worth continuing with them because it is obvious that the big clubs will just open their wallets and hoover up all the best talent.
Clubs should be allowed to put their younger lads on contracts. Otherwise their only hope is to persuade a boy that he would be better off staying with them, and getting matches, instead of disappearing into the background at a big club. It is not easy, because money talks, but look at what has happened to Bostock since he left Palace. He's been on loan to Brentford and Hull without establishing himself at either and is now back at Spurs without a squad number. He'll be 20 in January, but in four years he has started just 18 league games and he hasn't played a senior match for 11 months.
I feel sorry for the lad, but if he had stayed at Palace he could have played close to 100 Championship matches by now which would have set him up for the rest of his career. As it is, no one seems to have done well. Tottenham probably feel they haven't got value for money, Palace lost a player on the cheap – and it doesn't look as if they are going to get any of the add-ons – and the boy, who's the most important person in all this, isn't playing football.
2. Chuffed it's Chelsea but I wish Torres was playing
Tomorrow Chelsea come to Loftus Road. What a prospect! I bet many QPR fans can't believe we are playing them less than 18 months after surviving relegation to League One. This is the sort of match you relish; it is why we want to be in the Premier League. It may not be the most high-profile derby of the day but unlike the Manchester clubs we share the same borough – indeed, as the mayoress said at our promotion reception, Hammersmith & Fulham is the only borough in the country with three Premier teams.
The Manchester clubs have had all the attention but under the radar Chelsea have already shown they are more than capable of giving them a run for their money. I was going to go and watch them the other night in the Champions League, but I didn't think I'd learn much with them playing half the side they would field against us. It was the right decision because the game ended up like a testimonial. Chelsea were so dominant they could have scored 15.
Someone said how lucky we are Fernando Torres is suspended tomorrow. It depends which way you look at it. If I'm totally honest I'd prefer Torres to be playing than Didier Drogba.
It is the start of three testing games for us with Tottenham away next week followed by Manchester City at home. I really want the lads to enjoy these games, it's what we fought for when winning promotion so it is daft to be fearful. When I was asked on TV last week what I was looking to get out of these three games I said: "I can't see us getting more than seven points!"
3. Me and the players will warm up watching derby
I expect a lot of you wonder what a Premier League manager does in the hours leading up to kick-off. I can tell you where I'll be at 1.30pm tomorrow. I'll be in my office in front of the TV watching the Manchester derby. I'll be able to watch the first half before turning my attention back to our game which is a 4pm kick-off. The same applies to the players; they'll be watching Manchester United v Manchester City in the dressing room. I don't think it is a bad thing to have something like that to take their mind off our game.
Every viewer will be hoping City go there and give United a game because you know for a fact United will have a go at City. Roberto Mancini's bound to play Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry, but I hope he includes the likes of Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and David Silva. Hopefully, it'll be like the United-Chelsea match, where both teams slugged it out.
4. From unsung heroes to Euro stars
Two unsung heroes enjoyed great victories in the Europa League last week. We're becoming a bit blasé about Stoke winning big games, but it really says something about their depth when Tony Pulis is able to make seven changes and watch his team win so comfortably.
The result of the week was Birmingham City's at Bruges. To win after going behind so early was fabulous. All credit to Chris Hughton. I'm sure he thought he could do without the competition when the season started, but now the whole club must be looking forward to a run in Europe.
5. Kids are animal magic as we pull the otter one
For his half-term homework, William had to take some animal photographs. We figured most of the class would head for Richmond Park to take pictures of the deer, so to be different we went to an otter farm. They are really interesting animals – as long as you don't get them in your own pond.
Amy's just started having riding lessons and Sharon went along. She couldn't believe how confident Amy was, but kids seem to be like that these days. However, the next morning we were watching TV and there was a programme about paramedics. A young girl had fallen off her horse and needed an air ambulance. It wasn't the best programme to watch, having seen her ride the day before, but every day of their lives kids have challenges. You can't wrap them in cotton wool.
6. Harry's lack of agility touches a nerve
We have a yoga teacher come to the training ground on a regular basis. It helps keep the players supple, though when I've watched sessions I've often thought, "There's no way I could get into that position."
Confirmation I've been right not to join in came this week when Harry Redknapp joined the class at Spurs. He couldn't get himself into a pose so the instructor tried to give him a hand and he felt his back go. Harry said he couldn't walk for two days and had sciatica for the next three nights.
You'd think he'd know better, wouldn't you? What will he do next – play loud headbanging music in his office before a game to get himself motivated? We're a bit too old in the tooth for that, Harry.
7. 'Indy' columnists can talk a good game
I shared the sofa on Match of the Day 2 last week with Lee Dixon. Lee is one of the up-and-coming pundits and he's obviously picked up some tips from the other columnists on the fine newspaper he writes for. He talks a lot of sense in his tactical analysis and comes up with constructive criticism.
I'd been promising to go on the show for a few weeks and thought I'd better get on and do it as they are moving to Salford in three weeks and I didn't fancy that – no disrespect but it's a long way from home. Still, it's close to Old Trafford, though it does seem like a lot of expense moving half the BBC to Manchester just to get Sir Alex Ferguson in the studio!
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