BY SAM SMITH
Shaun Derry’s second spell as a player at Crystal Palace coincided with several first-team debuts being handed to academy graduates – but the former midfielder has admitted that there is now an even tougher pathway for young players.
Derry – who ended his playing career at Millwall – featured for the Eagles between 2002 and 2005, before returning initially on loan in November 2007 under Neil Warnock. He made that deal from Leeds United permanent the following summer.
He would depart in the summer of 2010, following Warnock to Queens Park Rangers alongside team-mate Clint Hill, but during those three years he played alongside no fewer than 16 products of the club’s academy.
“It was great [playing with Palace youngsters]. I think one year we brought through around seven to 10 young players, but it was bleeding them into a Championship team,” said the 41-year-old, who was recently appointed as Palace’s professional development phase coach – assisting Richard Shaw with the U23s.
“I’m not saying it’s still not achievable because we have seen that it is, but on a lesser degree because the Premier League is just an incredible level of football. The standard of player is phenomenal.
“You have got to be completely exceptional to break through into a Premier League team. It was, back then, a little bit easier to break through into a Championship team, so that’s probably why we’ve only seen one or two.
“The word potential is key, isn’t it? That’s the kind of age group we are working with, you do not get the polished diamond at 18, 19, 20 years old. You’re kind of thinking ‘what’s going to take place in the coming years?’. Rich [Shaw] knows the group so much more than I do but my first impressions are that they are good.”