Salford City co-owner Phil Neville says the club’s focus “has shifted” away from developing its own players because it was “almost impossible” to attract the best 16-year-olds to Moor Lane.
By his own admission, Neville and his fellow Manchester United ‘Class of ’92’ colleagues, brother Gary, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and David Beckham, made producing players one of their ‘keystone values’ when they took over the club in 2014.
However, speaking before a first competitive meeting with Manchester United in the EFL Trophy on Wednesday, Neville said one of the biggest lessons of the past six years was that the investment required to develop talent in an area of the country with three of the biggest clubs in Europe and countless well-honed academies was not going to pay dividends.
“We were really passionate about it because we were given such opportunities when we were young,” said Neville, current head coach of the England women’s team.
“But the investment was huge and if you are in League One or League Two, getting the best 16-year-olds is almost impossible because they have gone to Premier League or Championship clubs.”
However, Neville, whose son Harvey could be playing for United’s under-21s in Wednesday’s match, is adamant Salford are still committed to development under the guidance of former United under-23 boss Warren Joyce.
“Our focus has shifted to the 18-to-21 age group,” he said.
“If you ask any of the lads involved at Salford, those are the critical years when you have to become a first-team player. That is when people make decisions about you, whether you are at an elite club or our level.
“We will still have young players coming to our club but the likelihood of us having a team of Salford born and bred players coming to us at 14 and staying until they are 18 is very slim.
“We feel if we can cherry pick the best 18-20-year-olds, working with the best youth coach in Warren Joyce, it gives us a better opportunity to get them into the first-team quicker.
“These kids aren’t exposed to senior football often enough. We feel through the EFL Trophy and our own games programme, it will give the club even more chance to be .”