What is it?
Young talent is something that England is always on the lookout for, and currently we’ve got a fairly good crop. Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, all still 21 and under. But of course, there’s not a problem trying to develop a few more, and that’s what the Football League are trying to do with their EFL Futures program. Launched at the start of december, the Futures program is a financial incentive for clubs to develop future England and Wales international players. A total of £750k is set to be awarded over the course of this season, with the same amount to be given for the two seasons afterwards.
What is it aiming to achieve?
Of the 23 man England squad that went to Euro 2016, 14 players have been registered to an EFL Academy, and only 9 of Wales’ squad were developed by Academies in their home country. The EFL Futures campaign is hoping to increase the number of players developed at lower levels, who can then work their way up the football pyramid, rather than Premier League clubs developing talent in their academies only for it to be wasted due to a lack of matches. It also encourages smaller clubs to invest more in their academies, although most see it as a reward for having faith in youth players rather than an incentive to develop more.
Who will it benefit?
Of course the main aim is to nurture young English (and Welsh) talent in the lower leagues, so both national teams will hope to benefit, even if only one player in the scheme makes it to the first team. However, the biggest impact would be to the clubs themselves. £300,000 between the 24 clubs in League 2 is a huge amount, but some would receive more than others. Up to the end of 2016, almost 400 qualifying players had made at least one appearance in the Championship, League 1 or League 2, with a total of 3800 appearances being made. Luton Town have had faith in the most youngsters, giving 18 youngsters their chance, making a total of 138 appearances. However, Doncaster would receive the most from EFL Futures as it stands, with 152 appearances from eligible players. Barnsley top the charts in the Championship, and Coventry City in League 1, with 68 and 140 appearances respectively. Two clubs have only one appearance to their name; QPR and Brighton, with Grimsby and Sheffield United being the lowest from their respective leagues.
What impact has it had?
The program has had an immediate effect, as only 185 eligible players had made an appearance when the project was launched on 8th December 2016. Only a month later, 400 players have made an appearance for their first team, with 84 of those coming from the Championship.
The Past, The Present and The Future
Ian Wright, Gordon Banks and England’s most effective goalscorer, David Nugent, all started in the Football League, with Palace, Chesterfield and Preston North End. Others, such as Steve Bull, made their name in the lower divisions and still managed to make a handfull of England appearances, but these are rarer. The current crop of internationals is easier to trace, and with Adam Lallana (Southampton), Aaron Ramsey (Cardiff), Joe Hart (Shrewsbury), Kyle Walker (Sheffield United) and John Stones (Barnsley) all making their debuts at EFL clubs, the current England and Wales setups owe a lot to the lower divisions. But what about the future? With Premier League academies producing more and more talent, it might become more difficult for talented youngsters at lower league clubs to get their chance in the Premier League and Internationally, but as it stands, the EFL is full of young talent, from Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham) to Ademola Lookman (Charlton/Everton?), and Adam Armstrong (Newcastle) to Ethan Ampadu (Exeter), there certainly is no lack of possibilities for future England internationals.