City Add Former Arsenal Youngster to Professional Ranks

I appreciate I’m a bit behind with the news here, but I have been on holiday.

However, I don’t like to let the arrival of a new player pass the site by, even when it is the promotion of a youngster from the academy to the first team. Usually, when there’s excitement around a young player coming through, you hear about them before they get a deal (Freddie Draper and Osin Gallagher the obvious two). With the greatest of respect, the capture of Morgan Worsfold-Gregg did creep though. Perhaps, as we’ve been so preoccupied as fans with the relegation battle, we haven’t been hungry for news from the youth ranks. However, he has been amongst the goals for the academy side, and has impressed enough to get his first professional deal.

“Morgan has thoroughly deserved this opportunity and earned this professional contract with a really high level of performance throughout the season,” said the Imps director of football Jez George. “He plays with a maturity beyond his years and has responded to every challenge, including senior football with Gainsborough Trinity, playing in B Team fixtures for Lincoln City and training with our first team.

“Morgan is also an example to young players in never giving up. He has overcome many challenges since leaving Arsenal and trying to find another club while football was so disrupted through Covid-19. Morgan is a physical late developer, so he just needed a club to be patient with him and trust in his long-term development. We are delighted to be that club and look forward to seeing his continued development over the next few years within such a talented cohort of young Academy graduates.”

The defensive midfielder was with Arsenal through to the age of 14, playing at the same age group as loan star Brooke Norton-Cuffy. Whilst he appears slight in some of the footage from his Arsenal days on YouTube, he has developed significantly since joining the academy, and like Gallagher, the club now have high hopes of him turning into a key member of the first team squad.

Sean Roughan – The first of seven to graduate from the academy under MA: Courtesy of Graham Burrell

He is the seventh academy player to be handed a pro deal under Michael Appleton, with¬†Sean Roughan, Sam Long, Hayden Cann, Freddie Draper, Jovon Makama and Oisin Gallagher the others. Of those players, four have played senior football for the Imps, and three have international experience (or in Sam Long’s case, will soon be getting their first taste).

There is often criticism of the youth setup at the club, with the question ‘are we getting value for money’ being posed. I have seen that in relation to this news, which is looking for a negative where you really shouldn’t, but I’d answer the question with two of my own. Firstly, how much does the academy cost in relation to the first team squad (the answer is few know, so how do you quantify whether it is value for money). The second is how well do those criticising the academy truly understand how it runs? Currently, we are developing players we’ve picked up from other clubs, but there’s a movement towards players from a younger age coming through as well. They will be motivated by seeing players such as Morgan, and others getting a professional deal.

Also, how many players have to ‘make it’ for the academy to be designated as a success? Something like Crewe’s academy, renowned for developing players, has become what it is over many years; some years it doesn’t;t produce a decent player, other cohorts see three or four come through. Personally, I think seven young men being given their start in football is a good place to begin to measure the academy’s success. However, if they do not go on to have good careers, is it the academy’s fault, or not? If you leave school with all your A-Levels intact, but then fail to find a job, or drop out of university, is it the school that is to blame?

Anyway, that’s a debate for another day. All I wish to say is congratulations to Morgan, and here’s to seeing him and the other young lads at least get minutes in next season’s EFL Trophy as they look towards a future in the game.