An exploration of young professional football players' perceptions of the talent development process in England

Tom Webb, Matt Dicks, Daniel J. Brown, Jimmy O'Gorman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The identification and development of players in English professional football has become an increasingly significant topic of debate given the historical perceived underperformance of the English national team at international tournaments. To enhance understanding of the challenges and barriers experienced by English youth footballers, the current study explores the developmental experiences of English professional football players from different levels of the English football pyramid. Eleven professional players from football clubs in the top four professional divisions in England took part in individual semi-structured interviews, which were analysed inductively using thematic analysis. The data revealed three interrelated themes that were perceived to mediate player identification and development pathways at professional clubs. Pathways for young players to progress and experience first-team competitive football differed when the level of the league that the players operated within was considered, with significant issues also raised relating to the suitability of the under 21 league structure, the importance attached to the educational welfare of young players, and variations in the identification of player attributes. This study sheds new light on the priorities and processes of talent development and education provision in English football across all four professional leagues by drawing on the perspectives of footballers who have successfully transitioned through the academy pathway and are now playing professionally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-547
Number of pages12
JournalSport Management Review
Issue number3
Early online date3 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Talent Identification
  • Talent development
  • Association football
  • Soccer
  • Education


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