In today’s Derry News, Derry City manager Kenny Shiels has contributed a letter to the parents and coaches of the city.

The Derry City boss wishes to bring some clarity to the city, particularly in light of the recent league game played against Dundalk at Oriel Park just two weeks ago in which the newly crowned league champions had twice as many Derry born players as their home town team.

Shiels has written this letter to the clubs’ fans and the parents of young footballers in the city as he feels this is now the opportunity to let the people of the city know why this is the case and the reasons for this discrepancy.

To the youth players, parents and coaches of the city,

When I came to the club in 2016, the transition was just about to start. Young players from the city, in the past, played for their boys’ club, up until they turned 17. After that the best young players in the city would be elected to play for Derry City, their parent club.

This meant that there was no collision. The boys played for their clubs and when they got to a certain age there was no youth football for them, o the best young players would automatically advance to Derry City U19s. There was no clash and the youth teams in the city had no conflict with Derry City’s U19s.

The situation has changed now however with the League of Ireland introducing U17, U15 and U13 teams. This has proved to have a massive impact as the best young players in Derry are now being held back by their clubs so that they can compete and have a better chance to win trophies. They want to keep their best players and are therefore unwilling to let them go to Derry City. The best young players have been invited in for trials with Derry City, however many clubs, not all of them, are not supportive of the players coming in.

Young players are being told not to go to Derry City, but instead to remain with their clubs who would get them a move across the water. Derry City, they are told, will only stand in your way.

I have to add at this point that not all clubs are holding their players back, but a significant amount are being told that they are better off staying at boys club football. Some clubs are not even informing the parents of these players that they have received an invitation for a trial with their parent club Derry City. I have to say I am very disappointed by that, as, to have a professional football club on your doorstep, what young lad would not want to put on the Candy Striped shirt?

We even have a situation where a select team called Derry Colts are thought to be a part of our club. This is definitely not the case. They play in our club colours but they have no affiliation with Derry City Football Club. I think it’s important that the parents of the city are aware of this.

My ambition has always been to have as many local players at the club as possible. The problem I that there are barriers being put in my way.

The reason for bringing Paddy McCourt into the club as Youth Officer is to get parents and children to understand the pathways that are being created for all young players in the city. We can provide so many opportunities for young players in the city to play professionally at their local club.

To go straight over to England and play for a club at 16 is becoming nearly impossible. The best players in the city have gone across much later, and much more mature. I barely need to mention the names who have played for Derry City and gone on to great success in England or in Scotland. Everyone knows how successful the club has been in getting young local players across.

Parents should be informed that we want to give all young players the best opportunities in the North West. If you look at recent history, it will tell you that playing for Derry City provides a shop window of opportunity for our young players.

I would encourage and invite local coaches, parents and players to give their sons the best possible opportunity to forge a career in the game, and there is no better platform for that than with their home town club.

My door is always open to any parent who wishes to speak to me on any matter regarding their son’s football education.

Yours in sport,

Kenny Shiels

For the full length letter, see today's Derry News.

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