spoke to Liam Brady, the Head of Youth Development at Arsenal, as the new season got underway.

In a candid two-part interview, Liam gave his verdict on the young professionals at Highbury, the achievements of Arsenal's Academy, the club's scouting network, the influx of young foreign players in England and much more.

You can read Part One of the interview now, with Part Two to follow on Thursday... The youth development department was created in 1996, how do you rate your achievements since then?

Liam Brady: Everything regarding youth policy is judged by the number of players we get into the first team and whether we have been successful doing that.

We have had two players with championship medals in that time. One has gone on to be England's first choice left back, Ashley Cole. The other is Stuart Taylor. He followed up the medal with some fine performances. He has yet to claim the No 1 jersey but I know that is his next target.

We have done well with two players when we have such a good first-team squad. With the talented players we have here if they had been at another club maybe they'd have had a chance. But we do spell it out to players when they arrive that it will not be easy. Obviously we want more of an input and I think we've started to get that.

Last year it was great to see Ryan Garry, David Bentley and Justin Hoyte do well. It was a bit unfortunate with Jeremie Aliadiere, who had his hernia problem. If he had been fit throughout the season he definitely would have played and had a good few games in the first team.

He is one of the players we have high hopes for. He has progressed through the youth development to the first team squad.

It was also nice to see Pennant score three against Southampton in May. Everybody knows how talented he is and in his first full outing he does that.

Is this the strongest crop of young players in your time at the club?

I would say so. We have had people leave who have shown they are fine players - Steven Sidwell and James Harper at Reading, Julian Gray, Tommy Black at Crystal Palace and Paolo Vernazza at Watford.

I don't think we have made any mistakes in letting those players go but it does show you that the standard at Arsenal is very, very high because these lads are very good players. I am glad to see that the grounding and education at Arsenal has helped them in their careers.

It takes time for players to move through the youth ranks and your department has only been going since 1996, do the fans need to be patient?

Any time we have unveiled a player they have shown what they can do. Ultimately it is Arsène Wenger who decides who plays in the first team and nobody can argue with Arsène's judgement so we have to be patient and up to the challenge. I think Arsenal fans would agree it's unfair to say that the youth system has not produced anything because just look at the boys who have shown what they can do.

They have seen Cole and Taylor most of all. But Pennant scores in his first League game, plus Ryan Garry and Jeremie Aliadiere, who scored his first League goal last season. I think the fans know we have a lot of good new players.


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28 Aug 2003