Westley: Graduates' progress has been incredibly rewarding

Academy Manager Terry Westley with Declan Rice and Grady Diangana


Academy Manager Terry Westley says the progression of Academy players to the first-team squad this season has been incredibly rewarding...


As an Academy Manager, sometimes you need to step back from the day-to-day parts of an Academy and look at the bigger picture.

You need to remind yourself what you’re here for, and there have been a number of times this season where I’ve done exactly that.

When results may or may not be going your way in Premier League 2 or the U18 Premier League, as they haven’t at times this campaign, we’re here to serve the manager and produce players for Manuel Pellegrini to consider for his first-team squad.

And that’s exactly why this season has already been incredibly rewarding. Seeing Grady Diangana start the last two first team matches, with Joe Powell and Conor Coventry involved regularly, has been brilliant, and everyone at the Academy deserves great praise for their success so far.

In the modern game, that opportunity is becoming harder and harder to obtain but when that window does open, you have to take it

Terry Westley

The management also deserve plenty of credit; they’ve been courageous and brave, bringing youngsters into the team and keeping them there.

That’s happened with Grady more recently and Declan Rice at the start of this season. There were questions whether Declan would head out on loan or be involved, but he’s stayed there and now he is a regular first team player for a Premier League football club at 19-years-of-age.

It’s about grasping the opportunity when it comes your way. With Nathan Holland injured this season, Grady was fortunate enough to get the call, and he impressed the manager and has since reaped the rewards.

Conor went away during pre-season with the team due to the World Cup – he may not have done otherwise – and having trained diligently every single day, the manager and his staff were impressed and that’s why he’s had that opportunity in recent weeks.

In the modern game, that opportunity is becoming harder and harder to obtain but when that window does open, you have to take it. And so, although in individual matches sometimes the challenge becomes too great for your young teams, you have to step back and remind yourself what it’s all about.


Scholar Sean Adarkwa has been given opportunities to impress at U23 level


We’ve blooded a number of young players this season in both our senior Academy teams. As recently as last Tuesday against FC Porto in the Premier League International Cup, we played a senior B team who compete in Portugal’s second division. In that game, which we won 2-1, we had four U18 players starting. It’s a wonderful experience for them.

It’s all about levels. Take Sean Adarkwa for example – he is an U18 striker who has already made eight appearances for the U23s this season. He’s worked his way up and when he gets that call to train with the first team, he will need to step up again.

Jamal Baptiste is another one. He’s a schoolboy defender who has played in virtually every single U18 match this campaign. Our job with him now, and a few others, is to prepare them for that next step.

Sometimes results may be hurtful, but we know we need to get them ready for the bigger picture.