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Ryan vows to build up Sixways academy
THE chronic state of what used to be a thriving academy system at Sixways has been laid bare by new director of rugby Dean Ryan.
When under the control of Andrew Stanley and Gary Meechan, the Warriors youth set-up was the envy of most top-flight clubs in the land.
However, in a shockingly short-sighted move, previous head coach Richard Hill opted to all but close down the Worcester academy in favour of concentrating time and resources on the first XV.
No doubt frustrated by sinking considerable amounts of time and money into nurturing the likes of Graham Kitchener, Miles Benjamin, Tom Wood and, more recently, Matt Kvesic and Matt Mullan only to see them quit the club, the towel of youth development at Sixways was thrown in.
Ryan arrived as DoR at Worcester with his eyes open to what was — or, more pertinently, wasn’t — going on, but his assessment of the current situation still offers a damning indictment of his predecessor’s regime.
“We just don’t have an academy at the moment,” was Ryan’s blunt revelation on the state of the decline of a once-great youth system.
“Our young players are here for one hour on a Tuesday night, nothing else.
“I could spend so long talking about it, but I came here knowing what I needed to do.
“I was forceful with the board about what is needed to make this club successful in the long term.
“You can say you have an academy and I could stick 10 kids together in a room and say ‘you’re the academy’, but whether you have invested 18 hours a week in them since they were 16 will dictate if you’ve done them justice.
“We haven’t had anything. We haven’t had any avenue, we’ve been over-focussed on making sure we don’t get relegated, but then how do you ever develop a kid like that? It has just lost momentum.”
Although Ryan has already set the wheels in motion and academy manager Mark Hewitt will be working hard alongside Sam Vesty, the club’s newly-appointed academy transition manager, next summer will be a crucial time for the club.
Ryan explained: “Next summer and the new academic year will be a key turning point for us, otherwise we will have to wait another year.
“I haven’t come here to be bouncing around in three years time still trying to scrabble a squad together to keep us going.
“I’m not doing that and everyone here is aware of that — it’s what I told the board on the way in.
“I’ve come here to create building blocks to make this a top-six club in the future.
“That means we have to have one of the market-leading academies. If we don’t, we will not be a top-six club, simple as that.
“We cannot have this same model in three years’ time — it’s unsustainable and not successful.
“I haven’t got a magic wand — what will change this squad is populating it from emerging talent and sprinkling other recruitment on top.
“Of course that costs money, but so does trying to recruit a squad when you are scrambling around every year — I guarantee it doesn’t cost the same and we just need a bit more focus and direction.”
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