Saturday, 22 October 2011

Gradi says Premier League bullies have tapped up a third of his players

Dario Gradi claims a third of his talented Crewe youngsters have been approached by Premier League's bullies waving their cheque books.

And the Alex chief fears the new Elite Player Performance Plan could kill off his production line of talented kids altogether.

Gradi has an admired track record of producing top notch kids having sent the likes of Neil Lennon, Rob Jones, Danny Murphy and Dean Ashton from his lowly ranks towards international football.

Now he is turning out a new batch of brilliant youngsters with nine of his starting eleven in Crewe's last four league games having come through the Academy.

England under-17 striker Max Clayton has already been targeted by Liverpool and Manchester City are keen on Adam Smith - who is yet to breakthrough into the first team.

But the EPPP could mean top flight clubs cherry picking the top talent and pay lower fees for players under the age of 17.

Gradi fears the impact that could have on star-struck youngsters and their financially strapped lower league clubs.

Gradi said: ``Basically the Football League clubs have been bullied into agreeing to what the Premier League wants.

``What they are saying is `if you don't do as we say, we won't give you any money'. In fact they have withheld the money, they aren't giving us the money.

``Most of the Football League clubs don't have academies so it is obvious what's going to happen.

``It's what is happening everywhere really. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's a situation where they can virtually do what they want.

``I would think big clubs have approached at least a third of our players already, legally or illegally, and I'm quite sure we don't hear about the vast majority because the parents say 'he's happy where his is, thanks very much'. It's like parents selling their kids really isn't it?

``We will have to see how it affects us, we don't know what Academy category we will be in yet. We expect we will be able to pay our way as long as we can, but we can't run an academy at a loss. We still have to produce players to sell.''

Gradi is hoping parents will realise their boys have a better chance of becoming a professional footballer if they remain at Crewe rather than jumping ship to a Premier League club.

He added: ``Our team is made up of academy players. That's why when the other clubs come waving their chequebooks at the kids. The vast majority of parents stick with us, and say `if he is going to make it, he will make it here'.

``If he is not good enough here it's no good being at Manchester United is it?''

The 70-year-old is worried youngsters will be enticed to play for one of the Premier League's big guns - although they have little chance of breaking into their first team.

He added: ``It remains to be seen whether our boys will want to go to play for the big clubs.

``It makes it even harder for them to break through. It is hard enough now, yet the big clubs seem obsessed with buying the best kids and then not giving them a chance.

``Sir Alex Ferguson gives them a chance to a certain extent but still not to the extent they used to.

``The competition across the road, Man City, they say they don't want to buy their way into winning everything but they will do if necessary, so they have got to produce kids to play at the very highest level in the world, not just this county, that's not easy.

``Big clubs will pay parents expenses and we can't, but we give them really good personal attention and they are very important to us. We will run it the same way and coach the kids the same way or better.''

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