Ex-youth boss Beard backs Crawley’s plan to bring back academy

Mark Beard
Mark Beard

Former Crawley Town youth coach Mark Beard believes the club’s plan to reinstate an academy is the right move for a successful future.

The ex-Millwall, Sheffield United and Southend midfielder was running Reds’ youth set-up when they decided to close it back in 2014.

Crawley’s academy under Beard and Steve Martin ran for just two seasons before shutting its doors.

The 41-year-old has since opened his own Love the Ball Academy, while he also manages Loxwood in the Southern Combination League and coaches at Brighton & Hove Albion.

He remains critical of the ‘short sighted’ Crawley hierarchy that decided to shut the promising set-up, but is pleased to see new owner Ziya Eren and head coach Dermot Drummy have plans for its second coming.

Beard said: “It’s massively important that they bring it back. It’s something you need in terms of the long-term and being successful as a football club and bringing players through.

“That has to be the long-term plan as it’s important.

“They should (bring it back) really as the catchment area of the club is absolutely perfect.

“The last regime was a bit short-sighted when they closed it down. I remember when they called us in and said to us they were closing as they could not see anyone coming through into the first team in the next year or so.

“You only have to look at some of the players that were there at the time. Tom Cadman has played for Ireland’s under-18 and 19s and Brighton & Hove Albion under-18s.

“Harry Anderson signed for Peterborough United, there are players like that who got snapped up and they would have been in the first team.

“Then there are some of the players that I have taken in my own academy, they would have been around about the first team as well.

“Crawley lost a lot of 
under-13s and under-14s as well that are at Brighton now and, I am not going to say their names, but will be soon to represent England. It was just so short-sighted as some good quality players had to go elsewhere.”

Beard has also called on continuity to help players blossom at the club and that the board and owner must set out a clear vision.

He sees it as a key part of youth development going forwards, which will run hand-in-hand with the first-team - fitting in with Drummy’s decorated youth past at Chelsea and Arsenal.

He added: “When you work with players day-in day-out, you see they need continuity and knowing that man is going to be there with you for three or four years.

“It’s no use chopping and changing. If someone comes in now and has a long-term aim of an academy, then leaves, the next manager might not have the vision.

“Crawley now from the top down have to say whoever the manager is, they have to fit in our plan.

“Dermot is a great coach. I have met him a few times, I went up and met him at Chelsea and he is good coach. Players will want to play for him and I think he’ll do a good job.”

And on whether Beard would be willing to rejoin any new set-up, if asked, he added: “Of course I would.

“At the end of the day, it is a Football League club.

“I want to coach and manage as high as I can.

“I have done everything I can now in terms of badges apart from my pro licence, so I’d definitely like to be involved.”

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