Actors, interactions, ties, and networks: The ‘doing’ of talent identification and development work in elite youth football academies

Ryan Thomas*, Edward Hall, LEE NELSON, Paul A. Potrac

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Identifying and developing young talent is a central issue in professional football. In England, for example, this is well illustrated by the introduction of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). This policy has transformed the ways in which young players are recruited, coached, supported and evaluated. To date, our scientific understanding of talent identification and development processes has been largely informed by (post)positivist studies addressing the physiological, psychological and biomechanical features of elite youth performance. In contrast, there has been scant consideration of the essential social, cultural and relational dimensions of these interconnected activities. In this paper, Crossley’s (2010, 2011, 2018) relational theorising is presented as a heuristic device that could allow us to systematically recognise the interdependencies, ties, dialectics, and co-constituted interactions that comprise talent identification and development activities in professional football. Indeed, we argue that his thesis enables us to better understand both a) the configuration (e.g., academy managers, coaches, scouts, players, and parents) and meaning making of those that comprise these relational networks, and b) the enabling and constraining features of (inter)action for these interconnected actors. For us, such knowledge can ultimately support the generation of accounts of talent identification and development that better reflect their inherently social, interactive and practical complexity (Dinh et al., 2014).
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoccer & Society
Early online date3 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2022


  • talent identification
  • youth football


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