Manager Colin Cooper says Luke James' departure from Hartlepool United to Peterborough United highlights the quality of academy development.
Forward James, 19, left Pools for an fee believed to be around £500,000, and was one of eight homegrown products in Cooper's first-team squad.
Midfielder Brad Walker is another of the club's talents to have brought scouts to Victoria Park.
"It's a pat on the back for what this club produces," Cooper told BBC Tees.
"To see players leaving, I'm not happy about, but we've got some very talented young players.
"Our scout list was growing because people recognised what we were trying to do, and the players were able to compete.
"They have shown clubs are quite happy to pay good money for players with the physical, tactical and mental aspect to play at a high level."
James' exit came after a 16-goal haul under Cooper's management last season, and two-and-a-half years after he became the club's youngest goalscorer aged 17 and 64 days in January 2012.
"Luke is a great kid, who is an absolute diamond to work with, he's eager to learn," Cooper said.
"But when I looked in his eyes this time he was eager to ply his trade somewhere else; that for him was the excitement of pitting himself in a higher league.
"For me it was trying hard to get people through the door that will redress the balance."