'A sad development' - Newcastle United chief blames Brexit sale of rising talent to Premier League rivals

Liverpool prodigy Bobby ClarkLiverpool prodigy Bobby Clark
Liverpool prodigy Bobby Clark | Getty Images
Bobby Clark left Newcastle United in 2021 and has since become a top prospect at Liverpool

Newcastle United’s academy director Steve Harper has highlighted Brexit as a reason why Liverpool signed Bobby Clark.

Toon fans have watched on in recent weeks as Clark, son of former Newcastle midfielder Lee, has starred for the Reds. The midfielder joined the Magpies as a nine-year-old but left to join Liverpool in 2021.

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Just two months after his £1.5million exit, Newcastle were bought out by the Saudi-backed regime and better days ahead were promised. Mike Ashley’s tenure stifled academy talent and, since the takeover, bolstering the youth ranks has become a top priority.

The likes of Yankuba Minteh, Alex Murphy and Garang Kuol have arrived in recent windows but Clark could have been the jewel in the crown. However, the 19-year-old is unlikely to be regretting his decision, having featured in Liverpool’s 1-0 Carabao Cup final win over Chelsea last month.

He also became the Reds’ youngest-ever scorer in European competition just days later and looks on course to enjoy a stellar career. Reflecting on Clark’s exit, former Newcastle goalkeeper Harper, now the club’s academy chief, named Brexit as a reason for Liverpool’s interest.

Changes following the UK’s exit from the EU prevented Premier League clubs from signing overseas players aged 18 or under. Those rules were softened last year but forced top-flight heavyweights to scout closer to home - hence Clark’s exit.

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“With Brexit, everyone is looking at the same group of players so the internal academy recruitment market has got mega competitive and, with the rules set up to encourage people to develop their own and sell them on, it's become even more competitive,” Harper told the i. “It’s a sad development and it’s counterproductive. You don’t want a transfer market for under-14s or under-16s because you want kids learning on their doorstep in the right environment.

“I was in interim charge when Bobby (Clark) left. He was a big fish in a small pond. We did what we did to try and keep Bobby but I can understand why he wanted to leave at that time.

“He’s gone to an excellent academy at Liverpool under a top-drawer academy manager in Alex Inglethorpe and he’s gone on and won the League Cup which wouldn’t have been possible here. Unfortunately, we do everything we can to mitigate against that but the truth is every academy is losing players because of this internal transfer market and it’s something we do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

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