The Big Six and the Academy boys who have blossomed

As Frank Lampard takes over at Chelsea and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues his mission impossible at Manchester United, the pressure is increasing to ‘play the kids’, to ensure the Academy pays for itself.

We are incredibly cynical that lots of excellent players are falling through the cracks at elite clubs, and that theory is borne out by a look at the Academy players who have gone on to make 100 Premier League appearances either at their home club or elsewhere in recent years. There simply aren’t many, though Manchester United lead the way.

We have included only players born in 1992 or beyond to give them the best part of a decade as professionals to reach that number. Here goes…


Manchester United (5)
Josh King – 135 for Bournemouth
Robbie Brady – 124 for Burnley, Hull and Norwich
Michael Keane – 120 for Everton, Burnley and Manchester United (1)
Jesse Lingard – 111 for Manchester United
Marcus Rashford – 111 for Manchester United

Some may argue that Paul Pogba should also be counted among the Manchester United graduates because he has played 100-plus league games at an elite level, but allowing him to leave for sod all and then buying him back for a world-record fee is something that most fans would rather forget.

It might be suggested that Michael Keane should have been retained instead of some of those centre-halves who remained, but that would be a close call. Certainly, it’s hard to argue that Robbie Brady and Josh King did not eventually find their level.

Something worth remembering: ‘Youngster’ Jesse Lingard will turn 27 this year.


Arsenal (3)
Jack Wilshere – 174 for Arsenal (125), Bournemouth, Bolton and West Ham
Hector Bellerin – 143 for Arsenal
Alex Iwobi – 100 for Arsenal

Hopes are high for the next crop but Arsenal have produced very little of note from their Academy over the last ten years. Cue Arsenal fans looking ruefully towards Germany and Serge Gnabry, who they sold for a pitiful £5m; he is the current Bayern Munich Player of the Year and has scored seven goals in eight appearances for his country.

Oh and how has Alex Iwobi played 100 Premier League games?


Liverpool (2)
Raheem Sterling – 226 for Manchester City and Liverpool (95)
Jordon Ibe – 117 for Bournemouth and Liverpool (41)

We will deal with Jordon Ibe in a minute but it’s worth noting that Raheem Sterling has garnered his club the biggest fee of any Academy graduate in the history of the Premier League. That was money well spent when they threw £5m at QPR for their best prospect. What a player. What a deal.

We are honestly reeling from the revelation that Jordon Ibe – who we had been decrying as a flop – has actually played 117 Premier League games. It’s like everything we ever believed in has been exposed as a lie. He started ten top-flight games under Jurgen Klopp. Ten! No wonder Bournemouth paid £15m; he was basically a bargain.

Incoming: Trent Alexander-Arnold.


Chelsea (1)
Nathan Ake – 117 for Bournemouth, Watford and Chelsea (7)

Touted this week as a cheaper alternative to Harry Maguire, it’s fair to say that Nathan Ake is the only Chelsea Academy boy who has fallen through the cracks at the club over the last decade. They have bought young footballers and lost them – see Kevin De Bruyne, Mo Salah and Romelu Lukaku – but for all their success at youth team level, the list of players to have emerged from Cobham since John Terry has been pretty short.

There are of course opportunities to change this story with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Andreas Christensen and Tammy Abraham at Chelsea under Frank Lampard. They will not want to be reminded that they released Declan Rice at the age of 14.


Tottenham Hostpur (1)
Harry Kane – 181 for Tottenham (178) and Norwich

The shining success story of the Academy system, Harry Kane is truly one of Tottenham’s own. Will Harry Winks join him? At 23 he is on 63 Premier League games. They are yet to produce a Jadon Sancho or a Serge Gnabry, but they will be more than happy with a World Cup Golden Boot winner.


Manchester City (0)

Kelechi Iheanacho is the closest on 97 (and they got good money for him). They did not get good money for Jadon Sancho, who was in their Academy for two years but left in 2017 in pursuit of a better contract and more football at Borussia Dortmund. He is now rated at over £100m and is a full England international. He is officially The One That Got Away.