Oldham Athletic Academy manager Tony Philliskirk has paid tribute to James Tarkowski following his call up from England.
The defender who graduated from the club’s academy has been selected by the national squad for their pre-World Cup warm up matches against the Netherlands and Italy.
“I would like to pass on my congratulations to James and all of his family for his England call up from everyone including coaches, staff & players within the Oldham Athletic Academy,” Philliskirk said.
“His rise to the pinnacle of any footballer's career is a fantastic testament to his hard work, mentality and footballing ability and the fact we have had a large part to play in his early development makes us very proud.
“I don’t think he would be where he is today if he wasn’t given the opportunity at a younger age to play and develop in our first team.
“Thinking back, I can remember many occasions when he made mistakes in games and training.
“When I was given the caretaker role in 2013 one of the first things I did was to speak to Tarky and tell him ‘whatever happens he would be in my team and that I had the upmost confidence in his ability.'
“We have to accept that young players learning the game will make mistakes but if you can see the real potential in them, you have to be brave and stick with them. It’s these players that are vital for clubs like ourselves, as they are our football and financial assets of the future.”
The academy manager who has been an ever-present at the club over the years admits it is a proud moment: “I have been at this club for 20 years now and I have turned down opportunities to go elsewhere in the past because of moments like this.
“I have a massive belief in what we are doing in the Youth department and everyone connected to Oldham Athletic should embrace and accept what a success it’s been over the years.
“In the last ten years alone in ‘real terms’ we have brought more money into the club through selling Academy produced players than it has cost to run the programme. I reiterate, our Academy players are the future footballing and financial assets of the club.
“It was very nice to hear what James has said in the press about my role in his personal development throughout the years. All of the Academy staff who have worked with him have all pointed out how humble and dedicated he was during his time with us.
“He overcame lots of adversity whilst here, including lots of criticism on the field of play at times. We should be embracing our youth players when they make the step up and when I hear some of the things that have been said and read some of the things on social media and forums that have been thrown at the likes of Tarky, Chris Taylor, Danny Philliskirk, Carl Winchester, Joel Coleman, Neal Eardley, etc it saddens me.
“Young players are going to make mistakes, be nervous and have to learn in a challenging environment so if we think they are good enough to progress then we have to give them the confidence to continue playing. If James Tarkowski wasn’t given this in 2013 would he have been chosen for the England squad this week? I very much doubt it.
“I’d like to finish by reiterating our congratulations to James and his family and as I walk out onto the training ground today, his journey from a very young age is fresh in my mind.
“I am proud of him, my staff and the club for playing a major part in this success story. Let’s hope there are more successes like this to come in the future. Embrace our youth policy, it is working.”