Ferry Across the Solent… But At What Cost to Bury?

I should preface this post by saying it wasn’t easy to write but moreover, I have nothing but the utmost respect towards Will Ferry and his representatives and wish him every success in his future career. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on how he fares.

So another Bury U18 player has departed for a club higher up the food chain. As the official website proudly states:

"Will Ferry has become the sixth player to progress, in the last four years, from the academy to join clubs further up the leagues such as Matt Foulds (Everton), John Ruddy (Wolves), Liam Williams (Sheffield Wednesday), Jacob Bedeau (Aston Villa) and Emeka Obi (Liverpool)."

Now, on the surface, there is nothing at all wrong with the statement. It is factually correct and is a glowing testament to the work done by the likes of Ryan Kidd, Mark Litherland and the rest of the academy staff in the various age groups applicable to when the above joined the ranks. The fruits of their labours are starting to be ‘picked’ more and more often in the four-year period since the academy side of the club was completely overhauled and with that comes a glowing reputation but also increased scrutiny in the form of scouts from the elite clubs in the Premier League.

My main problem is it still feels as though all of the above were simply moved on a little too willingly (although the circumstances in Liam Williams’ case are a bit different from the other five). Only Jacob Bedeau can lay claim to having more than one senior start to his name and overall, he equipped himself very well in a side that was badly listing in December and January towards rock bottom in the third tier.

Of course, I am not saying that it is the players’ fault that their time at Bury has been cut short; far from it. As a Bury supporter, I have grown accustomed in the past few seasons to players in the academy being talked up in public and it’s difficult to sometimes shake the feeling that they are also being touted as mere ‘commodities’ for the club to make a quick buck on rather than employ a more sustainable, long-term approach.

I risk the ire of some of my readership by once more looking east and casting envious glances at Rochdale’s policy. Callum Camps has recently signed a contract extension. Now 21, he has over 100 senior appearances to his name since he graduated from the academy. A hot property who I have previously praised on these very pages, he is the embodiment of the current philosophical differences between the boards of the neighbouring clubs. Dale have continuously lived within their means and have been organically growing their infrastructure and look all set to have another serious tilt at the play-offs without breaking the bank to achieve their goal.

They don’t need to sell players like Camps early on in their fledgling careers when their development (be it psychological, physiological or sporting) is at its most crucial juncture. Camps is ambitious and will almost certainly leave Spotland in the next couple of years but it will be on their terms and when the time is right. This will ensure that they maximise the return of their investment in him and the residual benefit to the club will be in a similar vein.

Now more than ever before, it is absolutely vital that Bury’s board changes tack and allow Lee Clark the chance to keep bringing players like Will Ferry, Callum Hulme, Joe Adams and Femi Seriki through to the first team because not only will their potential transfer values increase but it will also go a long way to safeguarding the business and is normally a ‘cheaper’ way of building or augmenting a squad than arranging loan deals with other sides and/or signing well-known players who are unlikely to be tempted to Carrington just for the facilities the complex provides. Had the manager been able to keep Ferry (who was more than probably in his first team plans), it might not have necessitated the acquisition of Chris Humphrey. That isn’t a slight on the latter but more of an indictment on the short-termist mentality currently at the heart of the football club as evidenced by the ongoing (and sometimes public) financial predicament.

I am not privy to the finer detail of Ferry’s transfer to Southampton. By going there, he has to my mind joined the best academy in England, both in terms of its output and standing in the modern game. I simply question the ‘need’ to sell now. Doubtlessly, the negotiations weren’t straightforward, even though the Saints will have done extensive due diligence on Ferry and watched him in matches easily reaching double figures to ensure as far as possible that he would add something they lacked in their U18s for 2017/2018 and perhaps even in their first team when the moment is right.

There can be no higher praise for him and his family that the Hampshire outfit sought him out and I have every confidence that he will be a success as he can fulfill a number of attacking roles, is comfortable with both feet and best of all is humble and eager to learn. He hasn’t ‘made it’ just yet and he will be keenly aware of that. He is only 16 and to that end, recently completed his GCSEs. Thanks to the likes of EPPP and how things are at Bury, the discussions will have crisscrossed his education and this is unlikely to go away anytime soon; the high-profile transfer saga involving Ethan Ampadu at Exeter is evidence of that.

It is unfortunate that yet again, supporters have been robbed of seeing ‘one of their own’ grace the pitch at Gigg Lane for a period of time longer than the blink of an eye. Whilst this latest deal is another ‘success’, it also highlights the need to progress onto the next stage of the development of young players at the club. Whilst not wholly culpable, the very existence of Bury F.C. is in the hands of Stewart Day and the rest of the directors and I urge them to do their utmost to preserve it for generations to come.

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