Grigor Pasha writes: When Nik Krastev, our Head of Youth Development (HOYD), told me that the 2019-20 youth intake had the makings of a ‘golden generation’, I took it with a pinch of salt.
When I arrived, his main job was coach: HOYD was his secondary role. When I offered him the opportunity to become full-time HOYD, he leapt at it. I welcome his enthusiasm, especially since I’d hate to work in youth development myself.
But it does mean you have to discount his judgements somewhat.
But the intake was pretty decent. I’m not impressed by some of the personalities — a couple of the lads I’d describe as fickle and a couple more as lacking determination — but there are some decent footballers amongst them.
I didn’t find any real stars, but there were no fewer than eight who we signed because I thought they might make the grade.
Let me introduce some of them to you and you can tell me what you think.
First up, Radev. When the intake arrived, the first thing I looked for was a decent goalie, since I think if I can use a home-grown youngster as a third (or even just fourth) goalie, that’s one headache removed.
Levski, from the top flight, have already come in for him. I accepted the bid, because they agreed to loan him back for a season. After I’d done the deal, I began to feel I’d done a bad piece of business. Though I was pleased they’d agreed to a clause giving us a decent percentage of any resale, I now feel I should have put him on the market and tried to start an auction.
Needless to say, the board, who — as regular readers will know — seem programmed regarding transfer finances to think the opposite of whatever I think — pronounced themselves ‘delighted’ with the deal since it met one of their objectives, which is to make a profit from transfers.
Anyway, he has a way to go, but I like some of his mental qualities.
At the other end of the pitch is Valchev. My staff don’t think much of him: ‘He switches off!’; ‘He’s one-footed!’; ‘He’s weak!’; ‘He makes poor decisions!’
All true, but, lads, he’s 16: give the boy a chance. He can finish and if he can develop his touch, technique, and composure, he’ll score goals.
And you have to admit his beard’s impressive.
In between, in midfield, is Zhekov — who I admit is bit of a punt. I mean, nobody would call him rounded.
But I thought: for once, I’d just love to have someone in my squad who can strike a free kick. I really would. Simple as that.
So there’s three of them. What do you reckon?