OUR Publications Editor Dave Bowler sits down with the characters woven into the fabric of West Bromwich Albion. Up next in the series is Head of Academy Recruitment, Steve Hopcroft.
Steve on the recent performances of Albion’s youngsters…
“It has been very pleasing to see the players getting a chance. When they’ve got that chance they’ve done well. It’s not just us saying that, but people who’ve watched them play. The manager has the faith to play them which is what you need.
“Darren has known some of these boys from a very early age so that helps but they still have to go on the pitch and play. It has been a really good start to the season, it will be nice now if one or two of them can push on and play regularly in the league.”
On Academy recruitment…
“In Academies now we start recruiting or coaching players, as a requirement of EPPP, when they are six and seven years of age.
“When they get to year four of school you are allowed to sign them. So, for example, Sam Field has been here since he was eight years of age. Rekeem Harper came a little bit later when he was 11, playing football just around the corner at Silverdale, which is less than half a mile from the training ground.”
On the unsung heroes…
“This week we’ve been rewarding some of our scouts who have seen players they spotted make first-team debuts - that’s a long journey for the scout!
“Kevin Dove has been a scout for us for 20 years, he’s a mad West From fan, he does it for it for absolutely no payment, just for the love of his club. Kevin spotted Sam Field who we hope will makes hundreds of appearances for the club.
“Colin Grigg is another, he spotted Rekeem Harper. He’d been looked at by lots of other clubs but Colin saw the potential and got him into the club.
“I head up the recruitment but I’m one man with 1,000 helpers. The scouts are the unsung heroes of the Academy.
“They’re out there in their dirty boots, looking under stones that hopefully other people down turn up. I’m really pleased for those guys and for the first scout I brought with me, Brian Duffield. Kyle Edwards is Brian’s player. He has had to wait 12 years to make his first first-team appearance, so there are no instant rewards.”