Homegrown: Football legends who came out of their hometown’s academy

Homegrown: Football legends who came out of their hometown’s academy

As a young football fan, there’s no doubt a first club that you supported. For many players, their dream from the stands is to climb the rungs of their team until they can one day grace the turf of their home ground as a part of the first XI.

That may well have been your route into playing professionally. If it was, then you’re following in the footsteps of some football legends.

Read about some of the greats of the game who came through the ranks of their boyhood club.

Wayne Rooney, Everton

England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney famously broke into the Everton team aged just 16, having made his way up through the Toffees’ youth system from age nine.

One of the best forwards England have ever produced, Rooney was an Everton supporter right from the start, even once walking out onto Goodison Park as a mascot for his side during a Merseyside derby against Liverpool.

Rooney returned to Everton in 2017 after an incredibly successful stint with the Red Devils. He made a further 31 Premier League appearances and scored 10 goals, most notably completing a hat-trick against Burnley with a deft finish from the halfway line.

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool

Although many Liverpool legends have actually been Everton supporters, Steven Gerrard is a lifelong Reds fan. He joined his hometown side at age 9 and made his first-team debut at 18 against Blackburn.

Throughout an immensely successful career, the uncompromising midfielder made more than 700 appearances, winning two FA cups, three league cups, and a famous Champions League final. Of course, he never did manage to lead Liverpool to a Premier League title.

Gerrard almost became one of the few players to play his entire career at a single club. Instead, Liverpool’s captain moved to LA Galaxy in the MLS for his final years of professional football, making 34 appearances across two years.

Vincent Kompany, Anderlecht

Although Vincent Kompany is best known for his big-money move from Hamburger SV to Manchester City, the towering centre-back started his career at Anderlecht, his hometown.

In 265 Premier League appearances for City, Kompany won a remarkable 167 matches and kept 94 clean sheets. He also famously scored a stunning 30-yard screamer against Leicester City in a 1-0 win that proved fundamental to his side winning the 2018/19 title.

Kompany returned to Anderlecht for one final season in 2019, before moving into management and coaching. He currently manages Burnley, having achieved promotion to the Premier League with the side in his first season at the club.

Jack Grealish, Aston Villa

You only have to hear Manchester’s Jack Grealish speak to know he’s a Birmingham lad. But crucially, he’s from the claret and blue side of the city, joining Aston Villa age 6 and breaking into the first team by age 16 in 2012 – although he would have to wait another two years to actually play for his side.

The silky winger made more than 200 appearances for Villa, becoming their captain and talisman. Grealish also said that he had a dream of scoring against Villa’s rivals Birmingham City, a feat he achieved with a stooping header in a 2018 Championship encounter.

Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Born just five miles from White Hart Lane, England captain Harry Kane was the face of Tottenham Hotspur for more than a decade.

Although he infamously spent time at rivals Arsenal during his youth career, Kane was always a Spurs fan, and moved to his club’s academy aged 11.

After a handful of loan spells in his early professional career, the lethal striker went on to make more than 400 appearances for Tottenham in all competitions, putting away 213 Premier League goals in that time.

Had he not moved to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2023 – where he has been in fine goalscoring form – then it seems very likely that England’s record goal scorer could have put pressure on Alan Shearer’s longstanding Premier League goal record of 260.

Sergio Ramos, Sevilla

A Real Madrid legend, Sergio Ramos started his professional career with his home team, Sevilla. He joined the club at age six, going on to make his first-team debut in 2004 before his move to the Bernabéu.

He joined Los Blancos in 2005 for €27 million, a record for a Spanish defender at the time, and went on to become a key part of what was undoubtedly one of the greatest European sides of the time. He made 671 appearances, and won an impressive haul of trophies including:

  • Five La Liga titles
  • Four Champions League titles
  • Four FIFA Club World Cups
  • Three UEFA Super Cups.

After this remarkable 16 years at Madrid and a two-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain in France, Ramos rejoined his boyhood club, returning to Sevilla in 2023.

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