Football: Agents on mission to help young stars out of Africa
SPORTS agency Beswicks have signed a deal to represent players from a football academy in Ghana.
The firm, based in Festival Park, has agreed to represent youngsters at the New Generation, in Accra, and has already signed up five of the most promising young players.
Former Stoke City striker Ade Akinbiyi and fellow agent Darren Long completed the deals after a trip to Ghana earlier this month.
The under-19 academy isn't blessed with Premier League facilities, but Long said he was hugely impressed by both the players' attitude and ability.
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He said: "The pitch is probably the worst I have ever seen, although the players do have the use of another military pitch in Accra.
"But the players had an incredible level of control and composure on such a poor surface.
"Some of the lads don't have much, in fact one of the players we signed didn't know what his own address was. But the staff at the academy have done a terrific job. The coaches there want to really help the lads in their lives as well as improve their football.
"It was quite humbling to see just how the players appreciated the work their coaches do and just appreciated us going over there.
"The discipline is fantastic too. In the game we saw, a couple of players got sent off after very debatable refereeing decisions, but they accepted it with no more fuss than if they had just been substituted."
Beswicks are now looking for clubs for left winger Andrews Yakubu, midfielders Ishmael Darko and Michael Mensah and defenders Ali Ramani and Amos Achempong.
Getting them to English clubs will be difficult because of strict work permit rules which usually require players to be regulars at international level.
However, Long added: "We have interest from around the world so it will be fascinating to see how far these players go in the game.
"I would be very surprised if they don't do well.
"The standard is very good indeed.
"We have had some reports which say the under-19 team here isn't much lower than the standard you would expect at the same age in a Premier League club."
Among the other players on Beswicks' books at the moment is 19-year-old Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland, who is in the England squad for the European Championships.
Jay Rodriguez, who completed a £6m move from Burnley to Southampton two weeks ago, is also a Beswicks client.