A tweet from Northern Ireland statistician Marshall Gillespie got me thinking this week.
He put up a post, following the completion of 16-year-old Charlie Allen's move from Linfield to Leeds United, that 43 young players from Northern Ireland who are now registered with professional clubs in either England or Scotland have come through the Irish FA's ClubNI programme.
What an incredible initiative, and it shows that the Irish FA were right to invest in such a development project.
I don't often praise the Irish FA for showing enterprise and ingenuity, but the programme, which began in 2013 - led by Jim Magilton and his dedicated coaches - is working well and giving young players a pathway to the professional game. I fully back the venture.
It gives a flavour and much-needed experience of the type of academy football you would find across the water so that when our guys do make the jump, they are not left behind.
Obviously the object is to try and generate as many players as possible for the senior international team in the future, and that is the only return the Irish FA get when a player moves across the water to a professional club - no cash, just the possibility the player may be good enough to play international football down the line.
And that has to be a concern. Money going out, but nothing coming back.
UEFA have largely funded the project, with the Irish FA and Magilton working hard to get the grants they require, but that money could soon dry up - and then what?
At this moment in time, the club who the player is associated with receive all the transfer fee and additional sign-on clauses.
The clubs give the young players a great platform to showcase their talents and have their own coaching teams in place, but the invaluable work ClubNI do should not be overlooked.
I would like to look at central contracts again so that when a young player joins the ClubNI set-up, that would work in tandem when a contract is agreed with an Irish League club. When the player moves across the water, both club and ClubNI would receive a percentage of the transfer fee. Third-party ownership may prove problematic, but surely central contracts with the Irish FA are worth investigating.
ClubNI currently bring in the best players from around the province at a young age and work with them. But how many players in football are late developers?
We only have to look at under-age representative sides down the years to see only a few actually make it in the professional game or play international football at senior level.
So there may be players that might not be up to a certain standard at 12, 13 or 14, but they could have potential in terms of growth, and therefore these players could form another squad away from the elite bunch who are given extra coaching.
But money is required for such an extension of the project and I would like to think this could be generated from a cut of the transfer fees from players who have gone through ClubNI.
I know club chairmen are likely to be furious at this suggestion as they will want all the money for their club.
But surely if ClubNI is expanded even further then it is positive for the clubs. They will have access to more players who have received top coaching from an early age and this can only improve the standard of the Irish League, which means more professional scouts will be casting their eye over players in Northern Ireland.
Too many players slip through the net because they don't reach a certain standard at a young age.
Jamie Vardy developed late, had to create his own path to the top and, at 33, after leading his team to the title a few years back, has just finished top goalscorer in the Premier League.
If you invest and come together as a Northern Ireland football family, rather than always thinking about yourself or your club, then I believe the Irish League and the national team will be in a better position going forward. It will be mutually beneficial.
We can produce better players and soon Marshall Gillespie can be tweeting figures well into the hundreds for players who have come through the ClubNI system and are now in the professional game.
The eight Aberdeen players who breached coronavirus protocols by going on a night out and ultimately forcing the postponement of three Scottish Premiership matches have quite rightly been heavily fined and severely reprimanded by their club.
It was selfish, irresponsible and a real smack in the face to their profession. Professional footballers are in the privileged position of playing a game they love and being well paid in return. The least they can do is respect rules and regulations.
The same goes for Celtic's left-back Boli Bolingoli, who could now be on his way out of Parkhead after going to Spain for 24 hours and then failing to quarantine on his return or indeed tell his club. He inexplicably played against Kilmarnock last week before his misdemeanour was uncovered and two Celtic matches were put off as a consequence.
But it is the Aberdeen players who I believe have shown a great deal of disrespect to their proud club and supporters.
If we remove the coronavirus aspect for a second, why on earth were they out drinking on a Saturday night with a match the following Wednesday? That tells me they are incredibly unprofessional and they have no regard for the players who were sat at home in preparation for their next game.
A professional footballer should never be drinking on a Saturday with a game the following midweek. Having a skinful on a Saturday night, there is no way it can be out of their system for decent training sessions leading up to the game.
I always went by the motto 'Don't limit yourself'.
That's exactly what the Aberdeen players did and I find it shameful.
They have let everyone down and I wouldn't be surprised if their actions lead to a complete shutdown of football in Scotland, and that is on them.
When Irish League clubs come up against much stronger opposition in Europe, they, with mostly semi-professional players, are unable to sustain a high level of performance over the full two legs.
However, with UEFA having reduced ties to one-legged affairs due to the Covid-19 pandemic impacting schedules, this could be a great opportunity for our clubs to go further than they usually do in European competition.
On so many occasions, Irish League sides do well in the first leg, especially if it is at home, and then completely capitulate in the second match.
Linfield obviously did exceptionally well last year, but if their game against Qarabag had been over only one leg, then they would have gone through.
So, provided the Irish League clubs don't slip up themselves against the Faroe Islanders and Sammarinese, they could have a decent chance of surprising a few teams.
Home advantage will be crucial, and it's disappointing for Linfield that they have to travel to Poland this week for their Champions League clash against Legia Warsaw, but at least the Blues have the safety net of falling into the Europa League should they lose in Warsaw and we know how fruitful that competition was for them last year.
With a great deal of prize money on offer, going through a few rounds can be extremely beneficial and rewarding to a club. And it can also give the clubs the option of sharing that prize money - should they wish to do so!
I've a lot of time for Blues skipper Jamie Mulgrew. He is a really nice kid and I couldn't be happier for him that he now holds the Linfield record for most European appearances with 37.
I first met Jamie when he was called up by Nigel Worthington to Northern Ireland's end-of-season tour to the United States in 2010, and recently he's been on a few coaching courses I've attended.
I like his attitude and I know how much he loves Linfield Football Club, so this will mean a great deal to him.
The fact he has overtaken club legend Noel Bailie just tells you how much of an honour it is. I class Noel as one of football's true gentlemen and he was great to me when I was at the Blues for a short time. I noticed on social media Noel took the time to send Jamie a message of congratulations and I just felt that summed up the type of guy Noel is.
In Noel Bailie and Jamie Mulgrew, Linfield have been fortunate to have two men who epitomise everything an Irish League captain should be.