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The Importance of Youth


The success to any football club isn't an exact science, although having the right balance of skill and desire is usually a good thing for any lower league team. The importance of the youth academy is one of the most desired areas, commonly over-looked and under appreciated. Many successful football clubs make use of this system, keeping the star youngsters and letting go the youth players who sadly do not make the cut. This is no more different at Notts County, where we have seen many good prospects emerge to almost starting 11.

Under the dynamic and inspiring Michael Johnson, he first took the task of managing the reformation of the Notts County youth academy back in 2008.

With his watchful eye, care, and passion for the game many prospects appeared to be coming through the ranks, which is a great achievement in such a short space of time and the volume would give any Notts County manager the task of deciding who deserves a professional contract.

Liam Mitchell, Curtis Thompson, Fabian Speiss, Jake Wholey, Greg Tempest and Hayden Hollis are prime examples of the success of having a youth academy, with many more coming through the system.

Hayden Hollis is a player who is currently the hot topic of discussion for Notts fans, his return to competitive football has seen some great performances from the young man. At the age of 20, he is showing great signs and rightly deserves his chance to cement a starting position.

What's it like coming through the ranks in the academy at Notts County and how does it vary from being a professional?

"Coming through the ranks at notts is a massive achievement as many young lads have failed. Its a massive honour for me to represent notts as a local lad."

After completing a two-year scholarship with us, he signed a one-year professional contract. It wasn't long before he would experience life as a footballer, as he was loaned to Barrow in order to gain experience, where he scored on his début.

You scored on your début at Barrow, how did this feel?

"Scoring for Barrow on my début is also another achievment of mine that I am very proud of. I have massive respect for the club and the manager as they were the ones to take a chance on me and give me my first games in profesional football."

He later returned to Notts County after making 3 appearances, where he then made his league début on the 2nd of January 2012, playing a full 90 minutes against Huddersfield Town. This meant young Hayden Hollis would become the first player to progress from the club's Centre of Excellence to a first-team start since its re-opening in 2008. In the same year as his league début he was loaned out again to Darlington, where he would make a further 9 appearances.

What were your loan spells like and how did it feel to go straight into playing competitive football?

"It was the best feeling ever. Thats all I wanted to do is play football. I enjoyed both loan spells at Barrow and Darlington. The experience I got from both loan spells was vital."

With the absence of Dean Leacock due to suspension, Hollis has continued to make appearances at the club and for myself he has been very impressive. His reading and understanding of the game seems to show that he is exactly what we need at the back, having him able to pair with Manny or Deano is only going to enhance his experience and such a promising sign that the youth system is vital to our own development as a squad.

It's a great pleasure for Pride of Nottingham to be able to speak to someone inspiring, we wish Haydn Hollis the best for the reminder of the season and beyond. Many thanks to him for agreeing to take time out to answer our questions! Thanks Haydn!!

Could you tell us what club you support?

"I always keep my eye out for local teams such as Mansfield and Notts but my main team is Portsmouth. I have followed them for years before playing. I traveled to Europe in 2008 when we got into the uefa cup. I never missed a game."

What was it like working along side Michael Johnson who also started his career at Notts County whilst a young lad?

"There's so much I could say about Michael Johnson. the amount of respect I have for him is out of this world. he made me the player I am today. he is still available now if I needed a chat or any advice. I couldn’t have learned the game off anybody else better in my opinion. he was different class to work with day in day out."

Your recent performances have seen you claim Man of the Match on an impressive return to starting football, How important is this to you as a young player?

"As a young player getting games is vital. Getting man of the match for me was a proud achievement. I still think there is more to come from me so hopefully I will pick up a few more man of the match awards for this football club. When you get the man of the match award as a young player it fills you with so much confidence."

Edited by notts-joe

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A successful youth academy is vital to any football club especially when money is tight.At Derby we have had several lads come through to the first team and also represent their countries at youth level.Hopefully they will go on to greater things with the Rams.

Good luck to Notts with your youths and best wishes for the future to Hayden.Another great post-Keep them coming!

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very important! haydn has done well, its nice to see him in our line up. curtis and greg are on bench, hope this encourages them. nice work joe!

ps. i can read articles better now, much clearer on my mobile!

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The growth of our players is invaluable to any side in our division, changes made to Crystal Palace for example have seen some prime and influential players come through their own system, as a result they're doing well in the Championship. Crewe Alexandra, do it well too. Preston another side who makes use of having youngsters with the desire, as is the same with Portsmouth who need them now more than ever. We are no different, It's a shame that cost cutting exercises took away one our most vaulable assets but so relieved to see it back on track. We are also now in a position to keep them without being forced to sell, I hope the club continues this excellent scheme and the likes of Haydn Hollis settle into our side as he his showing promising signs.

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Hayden is developing well. He has proved he can hold his own in the back four already. His play and positioning reminds me of Mike Edwards. Steadfast will be a good description of him.


Its nice to see a young lad come through the ranks at Notts. It also gives something for the other lads to look to and to try and achieve the same. I am looking forward to the next few years to see how many youngsters progress through the system and into the playing squad.


Nice little article. Enjoyed the read.

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Pride of Nottingham is an independent fansite devoted to Notts County, the world’s oldest league football club. Created in 2013, it has served as a source of Magpie news, features, match previews, reports, analysis and interviews for more than three years.

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