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Blackburn Rovers blog: Truth is youngsters will always fly the nest
IT was hard to know what to make of Sunday. Two Blackburn Rovers academy graduates lined up against Spain in England’s opening game of the UEFA Under 21 Championship, yet for both their Ewood days were already over.
Local lads who have made their way through the Rovers youth system, we should wish them well.
But somehow, watching them on Sunday was not quite the same.
The departures of Phil Jones, for £16.5m rising to £20m plus, and Frank Fielding, reportedly for £250,000 with add-ons up to £400,000, show the value of a good academy and have swiftly repaid years of investment by the club.
Sadly, their time at Rovers saw few first-team appearances.
Fielding played more than 100 games on loan elsewhere, but never made it into Rovers’ senior side before his exit to Derby.
Jones made 40 exceptional appearances, then Blackburn could hold on to him no longer.
It is perhaps sad that, for all but the top clubs, academies are now developing players for other people. The best ones will always leave.
Manchester United and others are now able to bid so high so early in a youngster’s career, because the financial gulf is so great and they can afford to take the risk.
Clause or no clause, player ambition means eventually they will get their way.
If Jones’ choice of Old Trafford was unfortunate, given that United are not exactly a favourite club for many Rovers fans, it was understandable.
Take the emotion out of it and consider a similar situation in Spain.
A star of the club that finished 15th in La Liga, Real Sociedad, would not be expected to turn down a move to Barcelona.
Jones’ departure had long appeared inevitable. He spoke of victory at Wolves being the highlight of his career, and was grounded enough to stress his total gratitude for the fans’ support throughout a turbulent campaign. When interest from other clubs cropped up, he was clearly non-committal.
The rumours became so strong he must have sensed he was about to receive an offer he could not refuse.
Plenty might have hoped Rovers had found a star of the next decade when Jones emerged from their ranks.
Instead, his progress with England will be a reminder of what might have been.
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