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Thread: Establishing a youth culture: Why the lower leagues are key to an English future.

  1. #1 Default Establishing a youth culture: Why the lower leagues are key to an English future. 
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    When Gerrard was left out of the players that were called to England's under 16 academy, he was consoled by Heighway. He said that Gerrard was much better off with Liverpool's coaches. Considering Gerrard's career since, you would say that he had a fair point. Back then, anyway. Back then things were different - 11 years later and much more is at stake.


    Fast forward to 2007 and the following alleged events took place: Stevie Irwin requests a loan move in order to get more football. Rafa Benitez refuses, saying he wants to keep the youngster under Liverpools better coaching. And today, this article wonders wheather that was the right descision, and further, wheather youngsters should really be kept for so long in a clubs clutches before seeking first team action.


    There are notable problems with keeping a youngster in the confines of a top team, regardless of his talent. Firstly, without match experience a manager is going to be less willing to try a youngster. Stuck in the back of his mind will always be the doubt that said youngster can cope with the rough and tumble of the premier league, wheather he outplays senior opposition in training or not. Reserve games, while generally competitive, is not a physical league - it will not offer the same challenges that any of the top three or even four english leagues can offer, and that is the essential difference - the reserve league with the top teams best talent in still is a shadow of the pace and physical battle that is an English league.


    Secondly, a player is in a safe environment in one of these top clubs - that is, an environment in which he is familiar and used to. Then if he is given a premier league debut they are instantly forced into this high pressure game in which every point matters toward your season aims. And this again, is in a managers concerns. A youngster may adapt to the pressure. He may not, but as we all know these risks are not the type that a premier league manager wants to take.


    The crux, and general conclusion of keeping youngsters at home is that they stay young. They stay soft and untested untill they are released without exposure, without hope of finding a club because they have no real, vital experience. And they will be dismissed as not being good enough because they never got the experienced - young lions released into the wild unable to hunt. Old fashioned ideas of nurturing youth within the club have to change. They have to grow up quicker - coaches have to have some idea of what the youngsters will do in the vastly different conditions of the English leagues compared to reserve level.


    For this the players have to be exposed to these conditions at a younger age, to sink or swim as fit. If it were me, I would seek to link with as many clubs in these lower divisions as possible. It wouldn't matter if our club was paying the entireity of the youngsters wages to save the smaller club money - he is getting experience in a whole different way - in a way that would give them the steel and competitiveness to try for the first team.


    The loans would have to be structured in such a way that the players technical ability doesn't suffer. So the player spends the first half of the season with his premier league club, in order to refine his skills and ability in the reserve league and with the top class coachin staff. Then in January these players go off to clubs who want to bolster their squad, who need quality to stave off relegation. You either put play games clauses in for those who have the talent but not the experience of the physical strength. Or you don't put them in for those who need the experience, a shot of determination from simply fighting to get into a first team.


    To get to the point, in order to make the best out of their youth talent Premier League clubs must look to simply give players experience of the likes of league one and two at an early age. Looking to the increasingly able championship to farm these players off to will ultimately end in failure for all but the best - a school system where a youth player seeks to get loans to ever higher clubs, progressing from leagueone to championship to premier league, possibly from the age of 18 to 21 when they can sink or swim, find their level or become a club player for the club they love, possibly a legend. Both better then talented players stagnating at clubs which can't, must in their managers eyes risk them.


    The loan move should become dominant among the top clubs in order to give their talented players the tools to compete at the top level. I do not believe that we as a country are lacking in talented players - I believe we lose them through neglect of the experience they need quickly in order to build on their potential. For this, the premier league needs to connect more with it's lower leagues, possibly make a brief tournament for players the premier league want to loan which the smaller clubs can easily scout.


    I think I'm done. I believe we as a country do have talent - you hear constantly about young players who are made out to be the next big thing only to disappear. The premier league should do more at a younger age to ensure that this doesn't happen to their youngsters. And lets be honest - with all the money the league gets, it's perfectly capable.
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    tweepie is offline LFC Forums Moderator
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    Approved and repped.
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    Very interesting post. Once upon a time Liverpool would spot a lower league player and teach him the ways of the club, out of the spotlight in the reserves. The youngsters would also play in the old Central League. But unlike today the reserve team games were competitive and a mixture of old pros (out of form or recovering from injury) and the youngsters learning their trade.

    Now there is far too large a quality gap between reserves and first team. Larger squads needed for first team games means that fringe players warm the bench but don't play very often. The days when the first team was mainly the same 13 or 14 players are long gone. And buying in 'ready made' foreigners, rather than developing players, is deemed "essential" to preserve or improve a club's status.

    Ultimately most top clubs have lost their true identity. Liverpool are a football club who play in the city but have very few players born in it or even in the UK. Whilst the great players from abroad have enriched our game there are an awful lot of average foreigners blocking the way for a promising youngster to make his mark. Everything is a by-product of football becoming a business.

    I would like to see some kind of deal with lower league clubs struck as well. The obvious one for Liverpool would be Tranmere Rovers. Our reserve team already play at Prenton Park. It is a short trip across the Mersey and the benefits would be mutual to both clubs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tweepie View Post
    Approved and repped.
    I'll agree with you on that Tweepie, the repping that is, I can't do approval

    Kopitecrash This part of your post interests me most. Excuse me for copy and paste,

    The loan move should become dominant among the top clubs in order to give their talented players the tools to compete at the top level. I do not believe that we as a country are lacking in talented players - I believe we lose them through neglect of the experience they need quickly in order to build on their potential. For this, the premier league needs to connect more with it's lower leagues, possibly make a brief tournament for players the premier league want to loan which the smaller clubs can easily scout.

    I would not limit the loans to UK teams, perhaps they could also benefit from playing abroad. They say that traval broadens the mind and experience.

    What do you think?
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    Very well thought out post. I mentioned this in one of the threads in the transfer forum but I feel is relevant to your post.

    "The premier league should do more at a younger age to ensure that this doesn't happen to their youngsters. And lets be honest - with all the money the league gets, it's perfectly capable."

    The highlighted portion of your post for me is the underlying problem with England's inability to produce the players of the highest level. The EPL is one of the richest leagues in the world: most of the owners who own the team are not English and their aim is to produce winning teams, either to make profits or the teams they purchased are their pet investment projects.

    This means that, most EPL teams do not care enough about grooming home grown talent, as winning takes precedence over everything else. The money ensures that it is possible to poach the most talented and proven players from abroad than to search for the good ones in British shores.

    Is it really surprising that the German national team continues to fare well in the big competitions or that Spain are the reigning world and european champions? The leagues in these countries are not the richest in the world (in a relative sense) and therefore, they rely on home grown talent to compete with the rest. Leaving aside the origins of the players who represent these countries, we can see that most of them in the first team have come through the ranks in their respective countries and then make a switch to one of the rich clubs later in their careers.

    Sadly, this means that English clubs with foreign ownership focussed on winning at all costs means that English talent is given the short shrift. The FA is going about it in the right way when it imposed the home grown restriction starting from this year. But, as long as the incentives of the league and the national team are not aligned, the malaise of not producing enough quality at the highest level will continue to afflict England.
    Last edited by pete752; 8-10-10 at 11:37. Reason: Spelling
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    Excellent post and a very interesting take. Don't have time to post right now but many thanks for the post and subsequent contributions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinredshanks View Post
    I'll agree with you on that Tweepie, the repping that is, I can't do approval

    Kopitecrash This part of your post interests me most. Excuse me for copy and paste,

    The loan move should become dominant among the top clubs in order to give their talented players the tools to compete at the top level. I do not believe that we as a country are lacking in talented players - I believe we lose them through neglect of the experience they need quickly in order to build on their potential. For this, the premier league needs to connect more with it's lower leagues, possibly make a brief tournament for players the premier league want to loan which the smaller clubs can easily scout.

    I would not limit the loans to UK teams, perhaps they could also benefit from playing abroad. They say that traval broadens the mind and experience.

    What do you think?
    I think thats definately an area this could be expanded into, along with many other ways that would've made this article infinite. (The idea basically, is that it should be easy for lower leagues to scout all these players.)


    But for the same sort of reasons that our domestic clubs don't send their talented foreign players on loan in England I think would apply here - the player would need to settle in, learn a new language, make friends quickly.


    All whilst concentrating on his football, in a place where it's less easy for coaches to keep an eye. (The same sort of problems face foreign youngsters brought to England - loaning them to somewhere else in England at so young an age as 18 is going to be yet another culture shock the player doesn't need. This is a reason why imo, it's better to concentrate on your homegrown players rather then import too many players.)


    But of course there are notable benefits. All the other leagues have different brands and training systems - depending on what you want your player to improve you can send them there. They would need to know the language and be confident within themselves, but it's doable.

    Quote Originally Posted by vis1984 View Post
    Very well thought out post. I mentioned this in one of the threads in the transfer forum but I feel is relevant to your post.

    "The premier league should do more at a younger age to ensure that this doesn't happen to their youngsters. And lets be honest - with all the money the league gets, it's perfectly capable."

    The highlighted portion of your post for me is the underlying problem with England's inability to produce the players of the highest level. The EPL is one of the richest leagues in the world: most of the owners who own the team are not English and their aim is to produce winning teams, either to make profits or the teams they purchased are their pet investment projects.

    This means that, most EPL teams do not care enough about grooming home grown talent, as winning takes precedence over everything else. The money ensures that it is possible to poach the most talented and proven players from abroad than to search for the good ones in British shores.
    This is true, yet as I will try and emphasise, you can take all the talented players in the world to your club but if you don't give them games, they are useless to you.


    You can't really send said talented player on loan in England - if bringing them at the age of 16 is out of their comfort zone then sending them on loan from the club they agreed to join is surrounding them with sharks - and sending them back home for games is risky. If that players goes home and wants to stay home then your effort to buy that player has been wasted. Of course you can send the player to some alternate foreign country, but that could be an extremely unpredictable situation.


    It's just alot more of a notable risk (and ultimately less gain) to rely on talented foreigners then to take the time and build the base for your own talented youngsters. And as you point out, other countries such as Spain (Very notably Spain) realised this. (Of course that's not all Spain did. They also have worked hard to produce something like three times our number of home grown coaches, but that's already been gone over and reacted to.)


    I think the way Liverpool are going about their youngster development since last summer is the right way - 50% homegrown, 25% exceptionally talented from elsewhere, 25% worldbeating talent from anywhere in the world. It's how Liverpool long term will move forward, imo.
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  8. #8  
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    First, a number of good posts including, obviously, the OP.

    The youth culture in England and in other leagues for that matter is something that has long been interesting me. I think that as a general rule you can say that as the stakes are raised, the youth culture suffers, and that goes for any league, but there are leagues where there is less risk in taking a chance on youth.

    We have had a similar debate in Denmark, which lead to suggestions that reserve teams be allowed to play in the pro divisions, but currently they are not allowed to do so. In Germany, notably, a new 3rd Bundesliga was introduced in 2008/2009 to add a third professional division to the league, and crucially it allows the "second teams" of the Bundesliga clubs to play against the first teams of other pro clubs, thereby providing them with a chance to provide young talent with competitive football while staying within the organization of the top clubs. In Spain, top clubs have B-teams that also play against regular professional opposition.

    In England, youth development is hampered by a number of factors, which for the top clubs are described very well in the OP.

    The loan strategy is currently the best way to provide talented youngsters under contract with Premier League clubs a shot at regular first team football, but it is hardly a perfect solution for any of the clubs, when you consider the conflicting interests involved.

    The top clubs want their talented youngsters to see as much first team football as possible, but they are unlikely to want to send youngsters already
    in consideration for first team football out on loan lest they be needed in an injury crisis or they get a chance at first team matches in the cup competitions. So the players they do want to send on loan are not necessarily the ones that can walk straight into a Championship or League One first XI. Which means that they are not necessarily going to strengthen the teams they join enough for those teams to give them the nod over their own players if they have the choice.

    Lower ranked clubs also want to plan for the future, so unless they can get a real hot shot for a season, the ideal loan player for them is someone who is talented enough to strengthen them, but not so talented that he would not be tempted to sign permanently if he has a good loan experience.

    If Championship or League One clubs are to act a farm clubs for the top flight, there has to be something in it for them too, and that might mean access to just the kind of talent that the Premier League teams are less likely to want to send out on loan to lower ranked teams. It would require a more aggressive loan policy from the Premier League teams to change that, one that actually means giving up top talent for a season to provide first team football.

    But giving up top talent also means giving up control of their training, not to mention their fitness and injury treatment. In addition to possibly receiving less qualified training, a genuinely talented youngster might just see himself playing injured for a lower division team in need of points, if the interests of that team requires it - with all the risks that that entails.

    As for the problems of sending youngsters abroad for loans, I think the risk mentioned by KopiteCrash depends a lot on what country we're talking about. Generally, northern Europeans have little difficulty settling in England - or in other northern European countries. Likewise, I think English youngsters should be able to settle in the north of Europe without too much difficulty, especially if the receiving club is prepared for it. I think there is a North-South divide here, where countries like Holland, Germany or the Scandinavian countries might be easier for English players to settle in - not least because the majority of the people in these countries speak at least decent conversational English.

    It should not be forgotten, that talented youngsters from smaller football nations routinely leave their home countries at age 16, and it's really only the youngsters from the biggest nations that don't consider such moves at that age.

    I do suspect that the comfort zone for English youngsters might be conserably smaller than it if for young Scandinavians, who are often more than happy to travel. As for the many young African players all across Europe, I suspect that there was never really any question of having a comfort zone at home.
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    Good post.

    As you mentioned in your OP, loan moves are important - and when a player is 21, he should (if possible) be sent on loan to a mid-table/relegation-battling team in the Premier League.

    The only way we can know for sure whether or not a player can hack it in the Premier League is by testing him in the Premier League, no? If he isn't good enough at the age of 21 to play for the likes of Stoke or West Brom, chances are isn't going to be good enough for Liverpool and so we should be looking to get rid.

    We shouldn't be sending 18 year old kids to Premiership clubs though; at that point the Football League and staying at Liverpool are both better suited to their development.

    (Of course, if the kid is a special talent, it may be a good test to see if he is aleady good enough earlier on. No rule should be followed 100% of the time.)
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