Argyle urged to develop talent more intensely
PLYMOUTH Argyle have been urged to appoint a specialist coach to work with the many young professionals at Home Park.
The call has come from Gordon Bennett, whose five-year stint as head of youth development at the club came to an end on Thursday.
Bennett believes Argyle have missed out on maximising the potential of several young players over recent seasons.
He pointed to Plymouth-born Ryan Leonard, Damien McCrory and Dan Smith as examples of that.
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Smith played twice for Argyle at first team level and Leonard only once, while McCrory did not make that breakthrough before he was sold to Dagenham and Redbridge for a small fee.
Argyle will have five first-year professionals next season, including England under-18 striker Matt Lecointe.
The other four are midfielders Jordan Copp and Jed Harper-Penman, plus attackers Jared Sims and Isaac Vassell.
All five of them have already had some taste of first team football, although it has been limited, with the exception of Lecointe.
Bennett told Herald Sport: "I think the club should actually appoint a specific development coach who has no first team duties.
"Next season, there will be a large number of players in the squad aged under 21, from Conor Hourihane right down. I think it's nine.
"I would expect (Argyle manager) Carl Fletcher to recruit quite a few players, either on permanent transfer or loans, for next season.
"So I would expect the club to have a large competitive squad.
"Therefore, judging by what happened in the post-Christmas period last season, only about two or three of those 18 to 21-year-olds are likely to even be in the squad on a Saturday.
"I think they need someone without any first team duties to give them the extra training and coaching they need, in the afternoons and on weekends."
Norwich City employed a development coach, to good effect, during Bennett's time at Carrow Road, initially as youth development officer but later as chief executive.
He said: "We had a very successful (youth) scheme at Norwich. In the seven years I was there, the club invested £7 million and got back over £24m in transfer fees.
"The most notable young player we had was Craig Bellamy and talented as he was at a young age, he was in and out of the first team at 17, 18 and 19.
"He benefited because there was a really good coach there, looking after the reserves' squad.
"Even now, at his mature stage of his career, Craig still rings that coach once a week for a chat, and for advice and guidance.
"I have told (Argyle owner) James Brent I think the most important thing the club should do is have a development coach.
"I think a lot of the work (former Pilgrims' head of youth coaching) Mike Pejic and I put in hasn't been fully capitalised on because we haven't had a specific development coach at all during that period of time.
"I think the club has lost out big time in not maximising the potential of players like Dan Smith, Jake Moult, Damien McCrory, Ryan Leonard and Sean Kinsella."