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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 16:39 UK

Celtic's Neil Lennon critical of academies plan

Lennon is unsure of the academy approach to nurturing new talent

Neil Lennon has criticised Henry McLeish's report on Scottish football, downplaying the need for soccer academies and new facilities.

Former First Minister McLeish hit out at the present infrastructure and called for the creation of schools of football in a wide-ranging report.

But Celtic caretaker manager Lennon said: "I've been on courses where I've argued about it.

"And studies have come back to say academies aren't working."

In his report commissioned by the Scottish Football Association, McLeish says the present system is not working and calls for change and £500m-worth of investment to improve the country's standing in the game.

But Lennon, whose own club hope to develop more players like Aiden McGeady via their own new training facility at Lennoxtown, said: "The academies are not working.

Having facilities is great and it's probably important to the future, but they are not the be all and end all

Celtic interim manager Neil Lennon

"We haven't produced a regular first-team player since McGeady, probably, although we have a good crop of players coming through.

"I'd like to go back to the system when I was growing up.

"There were no academies in those days and Scotland, England and Ireland were producing top-quality players.

"Some people think academies are the way forward and a lot of them work on the blueprint from Clairefontaine in France.

"They are not as successful as people thought they were going to be.

"So maybe I'm right and everyone else is wrong, I don't know. It's just an opinion.

"Maybe that's something that needs to be addressed and the money maybe put somewhere else."

Lennon said that McGeady, Shaun Maloney, Darren O'Dea, Stephen McManus and Paul Caddis had all come through the Celtic system in recent years but that the club needed more.

Scottish Football Review explained

"I think that somewhere down the line, between 15 and 19, something gets lost and it needs to be looked at," he said.

"That might upset a lot of people working in academies, but that's my opinion."

Lennon thinks that the lure of big money is hampering the progress of young players.

"When I was growing up, I played for boys' clubs, the school and I played on Saturdays and Sundays," he said.

"I just played football and that's how you learned the game and, once you got to 15 and 16, you were moulded by professional coaches at clubs.

"I was a YTS and cleaned the boots - I served an apprenticeship.

"There was a hunger there, you got £28.50 per week and the following year you got £35.

"So you weren't in it for the money. You didn't have an agent. You were there to progress and I think players 20 years ago were a lot more hungry than they are now."

On the subject of facilities for football in Scotland, which McLeish described as woefully inadequate, Lennon retorted: "Facilities? So what?


"I trained with Henrik Larsson at Barrowfield for 10 years and all we had was a couple of pitches.

"Kids in Africa play in ploughed fields. Kids in Brazil play on sand.

"Having facilities is great and it's probably important to the future, but they are not the be all and end all.

"Kids' talent is the be all and end all and it should be nurtured.

"All I ever hear is that the facilities aren't good enough here. Well, make them good enough.

"If the kids can't play on the streets then give them somewhere they can play on and make more of them.

"I have thought about it. Do we need to spend hundreds of millions on it? I don't know.

"If there is no money in the game then maybe we have to go back to basics. Rip it up and start again."

see also
Change demanded in Scots football
23 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Scots Government welcomes report
23 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Scots football fans seek change
22 Apr 10 |  Scottish Premier
Smith explains SFA exit decision
20 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Smith stepping down from SFA role
19 Apr 10 |  Scotland
Scots fans asked to assist review
13 May 09 |  Scotland
McLeish 'faces Scots revamp test'
26 Feb 09 |  Football
McLeish to chair football review
25 Feb 09 |  Football

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