All Premier League teams have an academy that coaches players from a younger age who then stand a chance at making it into the senior team. These players are special because they come through the club's ranks and some become legends at their clubs.
La Masia, for example, is Barcelona's academy. They are famous for churning out top talent, including the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Sergio Busquets, among others.
Fans also love to see an academy player succeed at the club because they feel a special connection to them. These players are 'one of their own'. Players that are nurtured and raised at the club have the club's DNA within them.
As the Premier League 2021-22 season has come to an end, let's take a look at which teams gave the most minutes to 'one of their own'.
#5 Tottenham Hotspur - 6,227 minutes
Harry Kane makes up the bulk of Tottenham Hotspur's 6,227 minutes to academy graduates this season with 3,232 minutes. The next best graduate was Oliver Skipp with 1,348 minutes, who missed the later part of the season due to a groin injury. Harry Winks and Japhet Tanganga added the rest of the minutes for their academy graduates.
Tottenham aren't renowned for having the best academy. However, Kane is one of the best strikers in the world and has now scored 183 goals in the Premier League.
Manager Antonio Conte does tend to give academy graduates game time, and players like Dane Scarlett could feature for the club next season. The young striker signed a new contract with the club on May 25.
When a team is fighting at the top end of the table, a player needs to be of the highest quality to feature for the team. Only time will tell whether more players will follow in Kane's footsteps.
#4 Leicester City - 6,430 minutes
It's not surprising to see Leicester City on this list, given Brendan Rodgers is their manager. Rodgers likes to play academy players and integrate them with the first team. They were also plagued by multiple injuries that aided this particular aspect.
Last season didn't go to plan for the club as they finished eighth in the Premier League. However, several academy graduates got game time in the league. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Harvey Barnes, and Luke Thomas played the bulk of the minutes with 2,104, 2,103, and 1,912, respectively.
James Justin and Hamza Choudhury were the other players to contribute. Dewsbury-Hall was a breakthrough midfield player following his return from loan at Luton Town. Barnes continued to improve as a winger while Thomas sealed a place as a left-back. The upcoming season seems like an exciting one for Leicester, and these players will drive the connection with the fans.
#3 Manchester United - 6,565 minutes
Manchester United also gave several minutes to academy graduates but most of them failed to step up. It was the worst season in Premier League history for the Red Devils as they finished with their worst ever points tally with 58.
Scott McTominay led the pack with 2,391 minutes, with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga, and Jesse Lingard making up the majority of the remaining minutes. Hannibal Mejbri, Shola Shoretire, and Alejandro Garnacho were all given minutes, but none completed 90. Elanga is the only recent success, and fans will expect Erik Ten Hag to change that, given United's history of using graduates.
#2 Crystal Palace - 6,732 minutes
Patrick Vieira has done a fine job in his first season as Crystal Palace manager, and he did so using a young team. Palace acquired several young players from other academies last summer, like Marc Guehi and Michael Olise among others. They also played a few of their own. Tyrick Mitchell was a great success at left-back, amassing 3,103 minutes.
Wilfried Zaha has always led Palace in minutes with 2,762, and U-23 players like Jesurun Rak-Sayki also got a chance to impress. Palace are beginning to improve their academy infrastructure, and Tyrick Mitchell is evidence of that. Their talent acquisition has been top-notch, and they will probably add more to their roster. Vieira is helming a good project at the London club.
#1 Chelsea - 9,522 minutes
This is a surprise because not too long ago, Chelsea gave only 1,988 minutes to graduates during the 2018-2019 season. Now the club are leaders in the game.
It all changed due to the transfer ban in Frank Lampard's first season. Players like Mason Mount and Reece James were integrated back then, who have 3,784, and 2,862 minutes to their name this season.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andreas Christensen, and Callum Hudson-Odoi have all had substantial minutes. Trevoh Chalobah returned from his loan at FC Lorient and was given a role in the team by Thomas Tuchel. Harvey Vale, Lewis Hall, Xavier Simons, and Jude Soonsup-Bell were all given debuts.
With Conor Gallagher, Levi Colwill, and others likely to return from loans, this tally is only going to grow next season.
Chelsea's Cobham academy is one of the best in Europe. However, not everyone is bound to make it at the club, but more and more are being given a chance and teams around the world are benefitting. It is an elite finishing school for some of the world's brightest talents.
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