Andreas Robinson is a product of the much-heralded Southampton Football Club Academy. Having joined as an 8-year-old boy his entire adolescence was immersed in the Southampton Academy environment before deselection at 21. We know adolescence is a critical period of growth and development in which we acquire the skills, attitudes, and behaviours that provide the foundation for thriving in adulthood. At 28 Andreas is thriving!
Currently helping Weymouth FC in their return to the National League the midfielder is days away from graduating from Winchester University with a degree in Physiotherapy. A football career spent in the upper echelons of non-league, he has overcome footballing hardships post deselection to enter the world of physiotherapy and not exit the game. Promotion to the National League with both Havant & Waterlooville and Weymouth FC, he is set to enjoy a 3rd season in English football’s 5th tier. While his name might escape even the most ardent of Southampton supporters, his success in life, and football, is as important to champion and celebrate as that of club skipper James Ward Prowse. Why? Because Andreas represents the ‘many’ in academy football and not the ‘few’.
Over 12,000 boys are involved in any one year at a PL or EFL academy system, with less than 1% of these making the transition to the respected first team, hence the term the ‘few’. Andreas bucked that trend, albeit his one appearance came as an 81st minute substitute in a 2-0 League Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday in 2012. A spate of lengthy and untimely injuries robbed him of much required game time during his 3-year professional contract. His 13-year journey is often judged, as is the case with most academies, on its ‘production line’. Pictures of Lallana, Bale, Walcott, and the like hang proudly on the wall space at the Saints Staplewood training complex, vindication in the football world of a successful academy. My argument is he too should take his place proudly on the production line.
He displays personal qualities of resilience, determination, self-awareness, humility and accountability, which quite possibly stem from his successful journey in academy football. Culture and philosophy are two prominent characteristics synonymous with elite sporting environments, and as such staff take great pride in cementing a set of values and expectations on their players. The very same training field that cultivated his contemporaries; James Ward-Prowse, Callum Chambers, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harrison Reed, Luke Shaw and Sam McQueen for example, also sowed the seed of success in players not representing Premier League Clubs. The much heralded ‘Southampton Way’ having a positive influence on the characters of those within their system perhaps? I would like to think so!
Upon deselection football scholars are jam packed with transferable skills to enter the workplace. Here is where Andreas represents the ‘many’!
Young talented footballers can offer so much to industry through their exposure to continued personal development that elite sport settings can provide. Through intense competition you gain an awareness of self, accountability for your actions, the ability to lead and represent yourself in everyday tasks, an understanding of team work and ownership of your role in collective achievement. Who wouldn’t want an employee to show such qualities? Many are combining playing with a new career and can look back on their academy days with enormous pride and satisfaction.
At what point can we determine the influence of a football academy in shaping such human qualities and skillsets that allow former players to shine outside of the game? Well this requires greater focus I would say. However, good academies do, and will continue to, be experts in children and coaching and as such can help to nurture successful people.
An overview of discussion points raised;
Advice to young players
Resilience in overcoming injury and set backs
The work of sport psychology
Taking ownership of your football and career choices
Thankful for his Southampton experience & the people he met
Former players joining Player Care staff.
If you’re a parent of child in an academy, or a current player, or perhaps you work in academy football then please listen to Andreas. He’s passionate about helping the academy landscape of today and any aspiring footballer.