QPR youth boss confident club will regain Academy status next season
But Steve Gallen says Tony Fernandes must invest in youth
QPR Youth Development Manager Steve Gallen is confident that the club will regain their Academy status next season despite seeing their application this summer rejected by the Premier League.
Gallen, who has overseen QPR’s youth development alongside his assistant Marc Bircham since August 2009, revealed to the Times that he and his staff spent the last few months upgrading facilities, recruiting three new full-time staff members and acquiring three new training pitches.
But the club’s bid to upgrade their Harlington-based Centre of Excellence was turned down because they still do not have the required indoor training facility. Gallen is now confident of rectifying that in time for next season by securing such premises, potentially on the grounds of either Brunel or Uxbridge University.
He also believes that an imminent restructuring of the Academy categorisation requirements should see Rangers make the grade next summer, but estimates an Academy would cost between �750,000 and �1million to run – and he is urging new owner Tony Fernandes to invest at once in the club’s youngsters.
“I put my heart and soul into trying to make sure we were ready this year,” said Gallen, whose side currently play in the Youth Alliance League.
“I want the fans to know how hard we worked to get it. But I’m almost certain that when we re-apply next season, we’ll be successful.
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“The criteria for the re-categorisation aren’t out yet, but we know that not having an indoor facility won’t be as significant as it was this year.
“Above all though, we need to show that there’s more input from the board, and that we are progressing with our young players.
“The chairman won’t just come in and build new youth facilities, he’ll want to know what he’s working with, but at least it gives us the chance to build the club from the foundations.
“It’s all been so top heavy up to this point, now we can start working on the middle and the bottom of the club. The group of players I have at the moment is as good as any we’ve had in the last 10 years, but the gap between the youth team and the first team is massive.”
QPR surrendered Academy status when they went into administration in 2001, and since then Gallen has seen several talented youngsters depart Loftus Road in search of better opportunities, including Neasden teenager Raheem Sterling, who moved to Liverpool in 2010.
With even Championship outfits Watford and Crystal Palace having superior youth set-ups to the Rs, Gallen believes the Hoops can only lose their tag as a ‘feeder club’, and fire up a youth system which once produced the likes of Danny Dichio and Nigel Quashie, as well as Steve’s own brother Kevin, and before them Gerry Francis and Clive Allen, by upgrading to an Academy.
“If you look at Tottenham, for example, the gap between the first team and youth team is just as wide, but the difference is that as an Academy, Tottenham are playing the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea week in, week out, and we need games like that every week as well,” added Gallen.
“Some teams we play just come and park the bus to try and stop us playing. One schoolboy game we played last season finished 16-2, what good does that do you? It gives you a false sense of security.
“At the moment we have lads making one or two appearances, like against Rochdale in the Carling Cup the other night – then they’re gone. We need someone to come in and stay in.
“With no disrespect to any of the sides we’ve played, my boys need to be playing the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, we need to work out where we are.”
Follow Ian Cooper on Twitter @QPRTimes.