In line with their duty of care, the Manchester United Academy have taken the decision not to release any players under the age of 19 to help players cope with the stress and uncertainty caused by lockdown and COVID-19.
“We took the decision, whilst people were on lockdown, that it just wasn’t right to release kids from the programme - and actually that we’ve got a role to play in the recovery,” said Academy Manager Nick Cox.
“I don’t say recovery lightly. There’s going to be a recovery process here. People have been through trauma. Different people, different levels of trauma.
“So, there was no way we were going to release anyone during that period of time, and we managed to be consistent with that message right the way through to our very young professionals, or anyone that hadn’t made a senior appearance.”
Uncertainty about the conclusion of the under-23’s season surrounded the squad until last week, who discovered they’ve been promoted to the top division of the Premier League 2, decided on a points-per-game basis.
Recently, the under-23’s and under-18’s have been able to return to training, while, at the time of writing, the other youth teams continue to wait.
Cox continues, “We’ve got to use football as a vehicle to help people recover. And then once we’re back to some familiar ground, we can start to think about ‘what does the world look like from here on?’ from a football development point of view.
“But slow and steady is the answer right now. I think we all have a duty to look after young people, who have never faced such a difficult time. Full stop. Ever.”
Those released from the under-23 squad have not been disregarded either. Financial support has been given, in addition to creating information packages to help find a new club. The opportunity to continue to train with the squad, if players wish, has also been offered.
The academy hosts a range of age ranges presenting a variety of player issues. Nick states that “a bit more of a chilled approach” is adopted when dealing with younger players.
“Some people won’t have been affected too much. Some people have had a really difficult period of time. The football club has a duty to assist and aid young people’s recovery from what they’ve just been through.
“They have been deprived of social interaction, they haven’t been hanging out with their mates, their routine’s gone, their structure’s gone.”
Players have received a minimum of a six-month extension to their current contract, after which a review will be made. This additional time enables players to give a fair representation of themselves following the uncertainty.
Author: James Parker