Stoke City moving to make key appointment



Stoke City are moving to appoint Simon Cooper as new head of academy recruitment.

Cooper has left the same role at Blackburn Rovers after three years and will replace Andy Cain, who is moving to work in football data.

Stoke have been advertising for the position with a focus on responsibility in the under-15s to 18s as they look to continue one of their success stories from recent years.

New arrivals in that age group since 2016 have included Joe Bursik, Harry Souttar, Tyrese Campbell, Nathan Collins, Connor Taylor and Mo Sankoh.

Chief executive Tony Scholes recently outlined the importance of getting this job right.

He said: “They are players who were all young players we signed when we were in the Premier League. It’s taken three or four years for them to come through. That’s the timescale of development. It’s an ongoing process and we have to keep going.

“What we have to make sure we are doing now is bringing in the players who are going to be the Tyreses, Nathans and Harrys in three or four years’ time.”

He added: “We’ve got a good crop of young players. It would be unrealistic to expect them all to become first team regulars for many years to come – I’m afraid that just isn’t the way things happen – but what a good start to get four in for their debuts on top of the few we have in the first team already.

“It’s probably the highlight of the season to have so many young players coming through. I think we had as many minutes played by under-23s players as any other team in the league and compared to where we were three years ago that’s a magnificent development. It’s one we would like to see continued.”

Taylor, Blondy Nna Noukeu and Ethon Varian are spending this season out on loan as the next stage of their development.

Christian Norton, Will Goodwin, Lewis Macari, Adam Porter and Eddy Jones have stayed around the first team during pre-season as they stake a claim under Michael O’Neill.

Cooper joined Blackburn from Oldham in 2018, having previously worked as a youth coach at Manchester City and head of recruitment at Accrington Stanley.

He has an inspirational back story, moving into professional football via success with a pub team after being dragged into Manchester organised crime as a teenager.

In an interview with Insure4Sport he said: “When I was younger and in organised crime, I was guiding, influencing and understanding people. This wasn’t from a position of control, but in hindsight it was a transferable skill.

“When you’re addicted to drugs, you’re not in control. You come down to a level where you’re broken. You feel like you’ve got nowhere to go and like you’ve been plunged into darkness.

“The one positive, in a way, is that you find the light within yourself and you find things out about yourself you didn’t know.

“When I hit rock bottom; I read a book called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr Joseph Murphy which absolutely blew me away. I started thinking differently and putting certain elements of the book into practice. It’s basically a coaching manual when you read it, but from another level.”

Cooper took up a position at his mate’s amateur team Marine FC in Failsworth, where he caught the eye of Stockport County and eventually became assistant youth team coach and his career took off from there.

He gave an insight into his thinking on recruitment, saying: “The biggest problem I have is when people build a profile of a player based on another player who’s been successful.

“If they’ve worked with a left back for two or three years, they want the next left back they work with to be the same, but it shouldn’t work like that.

“If you look at a cheetah and a gazelle, they can run the same speed, but they have different attributes. The exact same principle should apply when we’re looking at footballers.

“You can’t pigeonhole a player, or you run the risk of losing talent. One day, you’re going to find a player who doesn’t match your club’s philosophy, but if they score 35 goals a season, you need to analyse their game and adjust to it.”

He added: “You’ll find lots of technical players in academies up and down the country. They’re all given a chance at that level. The problem is when they get to 20 to 21 and come out of Under-23s football.

“If they’re at a Premier League or Championship club and not playing for the first team, they go and play lower league football where it’s back to front or down the sides. They get poor service to feet, run around winning second balls and play in an environment where there is not a lot of patience.

“In many instances, players then quit and fall out of love with the game. Football as collective needs to address this issue.

“We have some top-quality technical players in this country who are falling out of love with the game. I’ve seen it happen a lot during my time in football. They might not be good enough for the top clubs, but they can still have good careers if they’re provided with the right environment in which to succeed.”

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