4000th consecutive game with a youth from academy in match day squad!

That's an incredible feat for a club that struggled financially in the 1930's to survive and achieved success out of it in post war on account of 'Busby Babes' yet persisted with the philosophy even through the doldrums years of 70's and 80's till Ferguson's Fledglings' to the present day!

Re-posting the following from an earlier blog post. "Manchester United Junior Athletic Club formed in 1937 was a brain child of the then club chairman James W Gibson to make MUFC competitive in economic depression when he saved them from the brink and were unable to fund any transfers. James Gibson secured the acquisition of the Cliff training ground, persuaded Midland Railway operating Manchester Central to London St Pancras trains to stop at Old Trafford on match days to increase gate receipts and MUJAC helped in discovering players from Charlie Mitten to Marcus Rashford. MUFC can count on at least one player from the academy in their first team on a match day squad since then which is 4,000 games over 82 years!! No wonder MUFC top the rankings of promoting academy players to first team."

The first match in question was against Fulham away in second division on 30th October, 1937 which MUFC lost 0-1. The full squad was Breen (GK), Griffiths, Roughton, Brown, Vose, McKay, Wrigglesworth, Wassal, Bamford, Whalley, Manley. Wassal & Manley the youth from academy. MUFC came second that year to gain their second promotion of the decade and stayed in the top division for 36 years. Scott Duncan the coach since 1932 had resigned midway through the season on 09-November over disagreement with youth policy and once again it was left to loyal club servant Walter Crickmer in temporary charge supported by Louis Rocca and Tom Curry to carry the club through the tough times delivering the promotion that gained MUFC an elite status during the war years.

Louis Rocca the chief scout had signed the young Johnny Carey who debuted on 25th September, against Southampton and scored his first goal against Nottingham Forest a club he would manage later in his career. Jack Rowley signed by James Gibson when he was on a vacation to Bournemouth debuted on 23-October against Sheffield Wednesday and scored a hat-trick aged 17 years vs Swansea Town. Salford born local lad snapped up by Louis Rocca in Stan Pearson debuted against Chesterfiled on 13-November and would eventually score 149 goals in 345 appearances across 17 years interrupted by war. Groundwork was laid before Sir Matt Busby took up the reins post war and this trio played a major part to ensure success in 1948 FA Cup and winning the League Championship 3 years later.

MUFC chairman said of MUJAC at the AGM in 1939 "It is from these unusually comprehensive nurseries that the club hopes an all-Manchester team at some distant period might be produced." MUFC finished 14th on their return to top flight, the reserves won the central league for the first time in 18 years, 'A' team won the Manchester League and MUJAC won their division of Chorlton League - a very successful year indeed.

Busby took MUJAC to another level when he insisted on having four sides competing for a place in the first team thereby increasing the scope and age groups of players, assigning coaches, consistent playing style to ease the promotion to first team that ensured MUFC winning the first six FA Youth Cups from 1953 to 1957. One of Busby's oft quoted phrase “If they are good enough, they are old enough.”. The 1964 FA Youth Cup winners George Best, David Sadler, John Fitzpatrick, John Aston Jr, Jimmy Rimmer who played in the victorious 1968 European Cup campaign. Busby was immensely helped by his chief scout Joe Armstrong and his magnificent team, his assistant Jimmy Murphy, trainer Tom Curry, coaches Bert Whalley, Bill Inglis, Jack Crompton, Wilf McGuinness.
Post Busby the baton was led forward by Wilf McGuinness, Tommy Docherty, Frank Blunstone, Bill Foulkes, Tommy Cavanagh and importantly Eric Harrison who arrived in 1981 aided in promoting Mark Hughes, Norman Whiteside, Clayton Blackmore, Graeme Hogg immediately making it to the 1982 FA Youth Cup final. Later Eric Harrison combined effectively with the rebuild of Sir Alex Ferguson that unearthed the 'Fergie's Fledgling's' the famous pic below made up of players from 1992 and 1995 FA Youth Cup winners. Before the 1995-96 season opener against Aston Villa when Ferguson fielded his young side that lost 1-3 prompting BBC pundit Alan Hansen to say "You can't win anything with kids" which was debunked the same season by winning the championship, but it was in the match against Port Vale in League Cup the previous year that Ferguson had made his Fledglings to play together and win courtesy of two debut goals by Paul Scholes.


Succeeding Eric Harrison were Les Kershaw, Brian McClair, and Nicky Butt who have held the prestigious role of director of youth academy in recent past. Archie Knox, Brian Kidd, Steve McLaren, Jimmy Ryan and Mike Phelan, Carlos Queiroz serving as assistants to Ferguson have contributed greatly. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard from the current team were part of the last FA Youth Cup triumph in 2011. Iconic image of today's generation led by Marcus Rashford as the juniors look up to the lad from Wythenshawe for inspiration. The increased impetus to promoting youth before looking for external first team recruits has endeared Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the fans despite some disappointing form and firmly believe in his vision for a bright MUFC future. 

Please find the link to the excellent book 'Sons of United' which has been painstakingly put together by Tony and Steve here.  Ferguson described watching a young Ryan Giggs (was known as Ryan Wilson before changing his name) for the first time after a tip off from scout Harold Wood as "A gold miner who has searched every part of the river or mountain and then suddenly finds himself staring at a nugget could not feel more exhilaration than I did watching Giggs that day." While the railway timetable became the best companion of Sir Matt Busby who used to go all around the country on weekdays to seek the next nugget.

My Greatest MUJAC team: David Gaskell (GK), Gary Neville, Eddie Colman(C), Bill Foulkes, Phil Neville, George Best, Paul Scholes, Duncan Edwards, Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes, Sir Bobby Charlton

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