FOOTBALL: THE MAN in charge of Coventry City’s hugely successful Academy believes Mark Robins is the right man to lead the club’s recovery from League Two while also carrying on the recent tradition of giving young Academy players a route to the first team.
Academy manager Richard Stevens has been working with the youth setup for over ten years and has helped shape the likes of Callum Wilson, Cyrus Christie and James Maddison into the top players they are today.
Stevens has been impressed with Robins since his return to the Sky Blues hotseat at the beginning of March.
And having taken a strong interest in the youth setup during his first spell in charge, Stevens is confident that the former Manchester United and Norwich City striker will continue to give local talent a chance to shine, but only if they are ready.
“I speak to Mark Robins a lot about the Academy and players,” Stevens told the Observer. “He’s only been back a couple of weeks and he’s had a Wembley final to deal with and some important league games.
“He actually had a really good knowledge of the academy last time around and I’m sure he’ll be very good for us.
“You can see on the pitch that the team have really bought into his ways and we’re playing some good football. There’s a lot of good relationships developing on the pitch.
“I can only imagine that whatever may be next year he’ll work hard to bring players in and I’m sure they’ll be some academy boys in and around the first team at the right time.
“But we’ve got to win games of football and get the fans back on side and I’m sure Robins is the man to find a method that works.”
One difficult task Robins is faced with this summer is keeping hold of the club’s talents following several bids for players in the January transfer window.
It is understood that there remains interest in midfielder Ben Stevenson, while bids were also made from the Championship for fellow Academy graduates Ryan Haynes and skipper Jordan Willis.
“We don’t want to lose any of our young players but I suppose in everybody’s career, there comes a time when an opportunity may come knocking,” Stevens continued.
“If clubs do come knocking unfortunately you can’t knock ambition.
“Young players want to push themselves. James Maddison went to the Championship and probably hasn’t made the impact he would have liked, but he’ll be developing quickly behind the scenes and the likes of Ben Stevenson is doing the same here.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen with Ben. If he stays at the club I’m sure he’ll play a big part next season.
“We all hope Ben stays, of course we do, he’s one of our own but we’ve still got a few games to go and then we’ll see what happens in the summer.”
There still remains question marks over the future of the club’s academy in the city, with negotiations still taking place with Finham Park School over the use of their outdoor facilities, and talks continue with the Alan Higgs Centre about using its indoor facilities.
Stevens understands the fans’ frustrations and also knows better than anyone else the importance of the Academy to the club, but he is confident the issue will be sold soon.
He added: “We’re having on-going, positive talks with the school, the governors and the head teacher, we’re in touch weekly and we’re trying to find suitable solutions that will allow us to run our Academy maybe from their base next year.
“There’s a lot things to take into consideration right now and there will be a solution. The solution will be forthcoming at some stage and as soon as I know I’ll speak to the parents and the players.
“We’ve had a lot of caring parents who have had to trust us over the years. When we left the Alan Higgs Centre for a shot time a few years ago the parents had to buy into what we were doing and I told them I’d put it right.
“Currently we’re going through a situation and I hope they put their trust in us again because the football club want an Academy and a Cat 2 Academy, and I’m sure we’ll keep it.”