Nottingham Forest academy manager and UEFA Pro Licence candidate, Gary Brazil, discusses the importance of developing young players with the character and mentality to bridge the gap between academy football and the first team.
Nottingham Forest’s academy manager, Gary Brazil, believes there is one attribute above all else that helps a young player progress from academy football to the first team – and it’s not solely technical football talent.“Talent is lovely, but character, character gets you a footballer,” explains Brazil, who has overseen the development of a long list of players at the Nigel Doughty Academy since being appointed in 2012.

“We have very strong traits within our academy that we really believe in and we push players towards those traits.

“It's about making sure that the young players have got the right character.”

Brazil, who is a candidate on the current UEFA Pro Licence course at St. George’s Park, believes that developing character involves understanding the demands of the first team environment.

“As the players go from the Youth Development Phase [12-16] up into the Professional Development Phase [17-21] we have a real strong responsibility, not only to make sure they understand the responsibilities of playing within the team, but also how to win games of football,” says Brazil.

“If a boy jumps really quickly from the U18s into the first team, almost missing out steps of the journey, we need to make sure that they understand that when they get into the first team changing room, they've got to win games of football.”

Gary Brazil sits down and points to the laptop screen to discuss the task at hand during a group activity on the UEFA Pro Licence course at St. George's Park.
Brazil (second from the left) pictured working on a group task at St. George’s Park during the UEFA Pro Licence course.

Brazil, who recently completed the communicating with confidence block of the Pro Licence course, believes getting to that point is a progressive journey that can involve both winning and development.

“As they’re going through the age groups, they're going through the journey. What is it about: is it winning or is it development? It’s both.

“You're developing young players. You're teaching young players, hopefully giving them the tools that they need to get themselves careers in the game.

Our desire is to keep trying to push forward and look at ways that we can become better at what we do 

Many players who have graduated from the Forest academy have gone on to make an impact on the first team or found a career for themselves elsewhere in the game. Behind the success is a dedication to hard work, explains Brazil.

“We have a real strong work ethic at the club. We work players hard and as a group of staff we all believe in the programme. The outcomes suggest we're doing something right.

“That’s not to get complacent - our desire is to keep trying to push forward and look at ways that we can become better at what we do.

“The key thing has been to try and create an environment and a culture that ensures that both staff and players understand their responsibilities within it and attack that in a very positive way.”

Nottingham Forest's Joe Worrall points forward to gesture where to play the ball during a game.
Joe Worrall is one of many academy graduates that have made the step up to Forest’s first team. Image: Ryan Browne/BPI/REX.

Part of this process is ensuring players who begin to train with the first team continue to receive support from the academy.

“Once a young player starts getting across towards the first team and training with them, there’s still a really important piece of work going on there.

“Being able to make sure that we continue to develop individuals when they go across to the first team and continue to improve them technically and physically so that last little push is done well, is a real key element of our role in the academy.”

Nottingham Forest head coach, Sabri Lamouchi, goes to shake hands with Forest academy graduate, Yassine En-Neyah, after their FA Cup game with Chelsea.
Brazil makes sure Forest’s academy have good dialogue with the first team to increase the opportunity for players to impress head coach, Sabri Lamouchi. Image: Kieran McManus/BPI/REX.

For Brazil, having good communication with the first team staff is another integral part of helping a player make the step up.

“You're always wanting good dialogue about young players and to make sure that the manager and the first team coaches are aware of the players that are really doing well.

“You have to fight their corner to get them into that environment so they can see them training,” says Brazil.

“I think a first team manager can come along and watch an U18s or U23s game, but the best thing that can happen for a young player is he goes in and trains with the first team and then the coaches and the manager can actually see how the player equips themself in amongst their own players.

“So, my real push is to try and get the players down there. I encourage the U23s coaches, especially, to have really good dialogue with the manager and the coaches to push the claims of young players that deserve an opportunity to train.”

“We've always really dug in to try and make sure that pathway is there and that Nottingham Forest is perceived as, and is, a football club that gives young players an opportunity to get into the first team and play.”


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