Article written by Sam Wallace for The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/10/06/clubs-discovering-top-talents-failing-reap-benefits-just-look They often get forgotten in the story ofEngland’s latest new prodigy, but Watford were there at the beginning of Jadon Sancho’s career, the club who signed him at the age of 10 and were powerless to stop him leaving four years later when the buzz around him became so great. He was found by the club’s then academy director, Chris McGuane, now at Nottingham Forest, in Sancho’s native Battersea, south London, which is on the doorstep of Chelsea – the most powerful force in development football for a decade. He was the classic south London prodigy footballer who had played most of his football against older boys in the hard-court park cages and it was Watford who oversaw the critical next stage of his development. By the time he left Watford for Manchester City around his 15th birthday in March 2015, Sancho was out of Battersea and living as a boarder at Harefield Academy in Uxbridge, west London, which has a partnership with Watford. Harefield is not an independent school of the kind that City offer to their scholars, but it has a partnership with Watford that means boys affiliated to the club can board – an option taken by Sancho. Then Watford’s academy was category three status under the Elite Player Performance Plan and even had it been category two, which it is now, the chances of keeping Sancho were slim – although the club, then in the Championship, did try. The problem Watford faced was that the new tariff system laid out by EPPP meant them losing a player for a fraction of what they believed was his true value. Given that Sancho is in Gareth Southgate’s England squad little more than three years on, it is hard to argue. Watford were looking at a basic fee of £3,000 per year for every year Sancho was with them up to the age of 11 and then £12,500 for the three years after he was 11 – around £43,500, with some add-ons after that. Watford would earn £150,000 if Sancho made 10 Premier league appearances at his new club, £300,000 if he made 20, right up to a maximum of £1,300,000 for 100 appearances in the top division. In March 2015, Luke Dowling was Watford’s recently appointed director of football – now doing the same job at West Bromwich Albion – and he points out that £300,000 hardly reflects the scale of such an achievement. Had Sancho not left for Borussia Dortmund and by some miracle made 30 appearances for City, his old club Watford would have seen their add-ons rise to £450,000. “What would a teenager with 30 appearances at City be worth?” Dowling asks. “£20 million? £30 million? When it comes to EPPP, it benefits the big clubs.” As it turned out, City’s then academy director Mark Allen, now at Rangers as director of football, recognised Sancho’s singular talent and Watford’s frustration. He sanctioned a basic fee of £250,000 with add-on payments. Most importantly he agreed to a sell-on fee of 10 per cent which earned Watford just less than £1 million when the teenager went to Dortmund in the summer of last year. All told, the hard work that went into scouting, coaching and schooling Sancho earned Watford just shy of £1.25 million which is more than the club would have got under EPPP. There is an acceptance looking back, Dowling says, that Sancho made the right decision to go to City just as he made the right decision to leave for Dortmund. The issue is whether McGuane’s hard work and that of his staff to spot a talent and develop him was adequately rewarded. “There are many times when big clubs sign players from academies just because they can, or to stop others having them,” Dowling says. “It was not like that in this case – City got it right. But other times clubs can say ‘Even if he doesn’t make it as a player then signing him doesn’t make any financial impact’. A fee of £60,000 under EPPP is nothing for them.” Watford were a different club then and now they, too, would not think twice about taking a good youngster from a smaller competitor. Dowling can laugh at the fact that the day in October 2014 he and McGuane made a big pitch to Sancho to stay, they also invited him and his family to Vicarage Road to watch a home game against Forest. Having told their young player there was a pathway to the first team, Dowling looked at the team-sheet that evening and realised that there was neither a home-grown nor a British player in the starting XI. “He has shown the potential we all thought he had,” Dowling says, “and then he had the personality to make that move to Dortmund. You have to admire him for that. From everything we heard, Pep really made a fuss of him and wanted him to stay. But he was brave enough to move to Manchester from London and|do it again from Manchester to Germany.” As the first player born in the 21st century to be selected in a senior England squad, Sancho will also be something of a poster boy for EPPP, which has had many positive effects on English football too. The 72 members of the Football League voted to accept EPPP in 2011, the year of Sancho’s 11th birthday, albeit as part of the deal that saw them earn solidarity payments from the Premier League. Many of Southgate’s Russia World Cup squad began their careers in the Football League, at a parent club or on loan – and in a way Sancho did, too. He was scouted, coached and nurtured by a then hard-up Championship club coming out of a bad period in their history but still employing dedicated academy coaches to find talented boys. If Sancho turns out to be as good as everyone thinks he is, £1.25 million does not sound enough.