Chelsea link with prolific Stoke City teenager is no surprise – but here’s the good news



It only takes a few minutes watching Stoke City youth team to recognise the potential in Mo Sankoh.

The 16-year-old is a bundle of power, pace and skill, he’s a neat finisher and obviously loves scoring goals. He plays with a smile on his face and his bulldozing, prolific partnership with Andre Godfrinne fired the under-18s to the under-18s Premier League Cup final.

Norwich couldn’t handle the pair as they were blown away 8-0 in the quarter-finals and Chelsea couldn’t cope as they were knocked out in extra-time in the semis.

Ah, Chelsea. A couple of months later and they are now being linked with interest in the Clayton Hall student, who was the youngest member of the Holland squad who were crowned under-17s European champions last year.

They want him and so do Atletico Madrid, claim Goal.

Chelsea were linked with Stoke youth centre-half Mo Akandji last summer too and they are always keeping their eye out for the best talent.

And that’s the good news.

Stoke have packed their Academy with serious prospects, the kind of youngsters who should be on the radar of some of the biggest clubs.

They had to fight to recruit them and they will have to fight to keep them, offering top class coaching and facilities and, importantly and ultimately, a path to the first team. Michael O’Neill’s eagerness to make the most of the club’s resources in the long-term is a very encouraging sign.

So link on, Goal. Sniff all ye want, Chelsea. And keep up the good work, Stoke City Academy.

The Potters are trying to ensure there is a mix of the best local and international talent to get the best out of everyone.

Academy director Gareth Owen said earlier this month: “It has to be a mix. Our number one aim is to provide local players with an opportunity to play for a local football club. We give players from Smallthorne, Biddulph, Cheadle, Tean… the best opportunities available in football.

“We also know that in footballing terms, the city of Stoke-on-Trent is very small. We’ve got players who’ve come from Liverpool and Manchester and we keep our eyes open for the best talent.

“It is in everyone’s interest to look everywhere in this country and abroad for players who might suit the profile we want; hard-working individuals who are coachable with natural talent.

“Our recruitment stretches all over the world. Of course that might change or there will be different challenges after Brexit and a pandemic.”

The arrival of players like Thibaud Verlinden from Belgium has been credited with helping local prospects like Tom Edwards in their own development by increasing the daily standard in training.

Owen said: “That’s what an Academy should be, educating each other. In that case it’s a guy from Belgium and a guy from Stafford, different mind sets and cultures, a top drawer winger playing against a top drawer full-back every day, one v ones.

“We have to keep improving the level.

“We have three philosophies – coaching, training and playing.

“Training is all about aggressive and 100 per cent. If we’re driving competition and making it extra difficult among ourselves – at the end of each week the games should be easier. To do that you need good players and for everyone to buy into it.

“It’s like Stanley Matthews wearing heavier boots during the week or boxers training for 15 rounds when they’ve got a 12 round fight.

“We have to stretch the players and we are seeing positive shoots that we’re getting it right.”





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