RICHARD Garlick believes Albion are beginning to ‘reap what they sow’ from their Academy after highlighting George Thorne and Chris Wood as ‘home-grown’ success stories.
The Baggies Academy is now in its eighth year and was recently granted Category One status under the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).
Thorne, who only turned 20 this month, has come through the club’s ranks and has played in the last four Barclays Premier League games for Steve Clarke’s eighth-placed men.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Wood made rapid progress at The Hawthorns and was recently sold to Leicester, where he is currently joint-fourth top scorer in the Championship with 16 goals.
And Garlick hopes it is a sign of things to come after taking over responsibility for the Academy in his new role as Sporting & Technical Director (Designate).
“Being able to produce players through our Academy like George Thorne is a good sign of success,” he said.
“Chris Wood scoring goals in the Championship is a success for the Academy as well.
“The aim is over a period of time the lads we produce in the Academy are schooled in a way, which enables them to go into the first team.
“George has done it this season. Hopefully we’ll have one or two coming through over the next few years.
“It’s difficult as the average age of Premier League debuts is now pushing towards 23 rather than 21 as it was, so it is harder to get in there.
“But we’ve shown this year that George, for example, had a very successful spell out in the Championship at Peterborough, as did Saido Berahino until he picked up an injury.
“Chris Wood has proved it.
“If we’re producing players out of the Academy that are playing in the Championship and/or pushing to get into our first team then that’s great.
“That’s what we should be aiming to do and there is no reason that shouldn’t continue now the Academy has been in place for the last eight years.
“We’re starting to reap what we sow.
“The Under-21 league is aimed at bridging that gap between coming out of the academies at 18/19 and how you get to make a first-team debut at the age of 21,22 or 23.
“The Under-21 league is one way of doing it and the loans system is another way of doing it.
“We will do whatever we need to do to get our players as near as they can to the first team so they can add value to what Steve has got in there already.”