I have always felt that youth are vital to a football clubs success. Leeds United has proved that youth not only brings success but can set a standard for future players who want the opportunity of becoming a Leeds United player. Over the past weeks we have seen our youth training facility, that at one time was considered to be one of the best in the country, (maybe even the world) “temporarily” shut down. We have seen our new owner describe the facility as “not right” and it has been considered by him to be bad luck. Since 2002, Thorp Arch Academy has had many young talented footballers come through and go on to have successful careers at Leeds or in top leagues across the world. Why would this be shut down and frozen in time?
Currently, the Academy is rumored to be costing over 400k per year and that price rising at a rate of 3% each year. Honestly, that money could be well spent in other areas of the club including player wages etc… Mr. Cellino’s thoughts that he shared with us in a press conference were that he would like to look into moving the Academy closer to the Club. He claims it’s “far away” and is a “waste of time” to drive back and forth just to train. This would save any travel expenses for the club long-term.
I have read a lot of mixed views from posts and comments over the past few weeks regarding the shutdown of Thorp Arch and I can understand the fear that comes with the decision. However, looking at the Championship, it’s a league that gets more challenging each year. The clubs that are being relegated have parachute payments that they may use to pay off their debt and give them the opportunity to still spend money on new players to get them back up to the Premiership. Also, the clubs that are coming down are not awful. Norwich being relegated may be the joke of the summer, but with a midfield of players most fans thought could have taken us up, (when Grayson was manager) did survive two seasons with Norwich in the Premiership. This signals that the clubs coming down are much better than we may like to believe. If the main priority is to hit the multi-million lottery from promotion, spending on players who can get on the pitch right away could mean more to our club than spending money on nurturing an Academy that could give us only 2-3 players that are good enough quality for getting Leeds out of the Championship. Not to mention, these 2-3 players may need to spend time out on loan in order to even be challenging for a first team spot.
In my opinion, Mr. Cellino does have a great point. He would like Leeds United to operate like a business. Mr. Cellino has claimed that the club should be paying for itself operationally and that he will worry about buying players. Mr. Cellino does not understand why a club with passionate fans worldwide who spend thousands of dollars on tickets or merchandise cannot stay out of debt. I don’t either.
Could Leeds United survive a couple of seasons without Thorp Arch? Time will only tell.