Tranmere Rovers boss Ronnie Moore announced the signings of Antonie Boland and Callum Morris and then admitted that the Elite Player Performance Plan may restrict their attempts to produce a £1m plus player in the future.
The recruitment of Boland, an 18-year-old centre-back from Barnsley and Morris a 21-year-old utility player, who has arrived via Wigan Athletic, is seen as a way in which the club can reshape the way it develops players for the future.
The duo will form part of Rovers development squad featuring players from 18-21 year olds, which includes second year professionals Cole Stockton and Jake Kirby.
Speaking to the Wirral News, Moore said: “The introduction of EPPP means it is harder for clubs to keep hold of our better players between the ages of nine to 16 years old. If another club makes an offer for them and pays the set amount determined by the EPPP regulations, we are powerless to stop them from leaving.
“However, those regulations don’t apply to players over the age of 16 so we believe forming a development squad is the way forward. We decided it might be a good time to bring some 18 to 21 year-olds into the club and work on developing them. We’re not going to move them automatically into the first-team squad, we are going to see whether we can make them into better players.”
Rovers who have fought a battle to remain solvent for the last quarter of a century previously relied upon being able to attract handsome transfer fees for players who had progressed through the schoolboy and youth ranks and then impacted on the first-team.
The moves of Alan Rogers, sold to Nottingham Forest for £2m, in 1997, Ged Brannan, £750,000 to Manchester City in 1997, Ian Moore, £1m to Nottingham Forest in 1997, Steve Simonsen to Everton for £1m in 1998, and Jason and Koumas, who made a £2.25m move to West Bromwich Albion in 2002 all helped to balance the books.
More recently Ryan Taylor, sold to Wigan Athletic and Dale Jennings’ move to Bayern Munich helped to bolster the Prenton Park coffers.
However Moore thinks that is an unlikely situation in the future.
“The way we run our youth development set-up is now impacted by the EPPP, so we have to make some changes. It’s very unlikely that we’ll be able to sell a home-grown player for £1m because of the compensation fee scheme,” added Moore.
“The likes of Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United and Manchester City can’t keep all of the 16 to 18 year-olds in their academies.
“We need to get scouts around watching those games to come up with the names of the players who might benefit by coming to us after they are released.
“I think that’s the only way we’re going to develop a £1m player in the future.
“We won’t be able to get them through our own youth system because they’ll be pinched.”