The overwhelming fear of the “underwhelming youth”
Few teams have shown us the way this season with the openness of playing upcoming in-house youth prospects. I’m going to disclose now that €80 million for a fringe French national who has played a handful of games in the Ligue 1 to play and score three in three for Manchester United, doesn’t count. What I’m on about is the total lack of opportunity shown to youth prospects developed by clubs in their first-team squads
To go along with Manchester United, Pereira was named on the bench this weekend just past, which at this point is the most likely place for majority of the youth team given that excellent prospects in Januzaj and Blackett have been sent out on loan after relatively impressive previous seasons. When LVG came in last season, there was a freshness to give run outs to players like Wilson, Blackett, McNair and most successfully Januzaj, but even with his elongated grace period at the beginning didn’t mean a thing come a transfer window.
Teams like Manchester City have been more forgiving in regards to this, Kelechi Iheanacho superimposed himself into stardom with a goal at the death against Crystal Palace and a subs bench spot for Brandon Barker, Manu Garcia and Pablo Maffeo against Premier league punching bag, Sunderland. Having paid particular attention to the inner development of Manchester City within recent years, watching them play in last year’s UEFA Youth League with Barker pulling out special plaudits for his role within the Manchester City youth sides, it’s excellent to see a club that is contrived to be so soulless given the financial backing of the owners is giving an opportunity at this early stage in the season to its rawer talent.
One club that does this and does this well is Southampton. Now Southampton is a club that has grown and grown in stature over the years and isn’t afraid of exposing its youth to the harsh Premier League climate. Harrison Reed, Lloyd Isgrove, James Ward-Prowse and lastly Matt Targett have all shown how impressive they can be given that youth is given a chance. The latter two have collectively gained 10 appearances this season, creating a goal each and in Targett’s case has made the left back position his at St. Mary’s.
Everton and Tottenham have also been making cases for nurturing young blood into the squad. Galloway in Leighton Baines stead has been earning rave reviews for his full-blooded approach to first-team football and whilst Lukaku stole the limelight against West Brom on Monday evening, it was excellent to see the introduction of another England Under-20 player in Ty Browning.
Seeing Mason and Bentaleb make the step up in recent years at White Hart Lane can obviously provide positive thoughts for the likes of Tom Carroll and Alex Pritchard, who are widely assumed to appear more frequently in the Cup matches, particularly Europa League to show the steel determinism of what’s to be expected from them. “The Harry Kane approach” can be the exposure and platform a player needs at this point given the Euro’s are just around the corner.
This brings me on to the main point of this argument, that if we do not have a regulation stipulating that more youth-team prospects are put in the starting 18, then we’re going to have a case of divide between mercenary-driven and financial backed teams against the youth-developed and self-sufficient sides. Both City and United have cases that they have excellent youth facilities, but the exposure to the youth is a tad different. Given an injury to a main player, one opts to fill the gap to a youth prospect, whilst the other see’s it can be filled from buying this type of player who’s been presented a performing platform by a lesser financially buoyed club.
It might be a case of money, it might be a case of a thin squad or injuries, but to develop a player or to at least put him in the starting line-up shouldn’t rely on this alone. Nor should it be the type of manager. For example we have Pochettino who brought through the players aforementioned earlier to the Saint’s youth progress and we have to thank him for what he’s developed at Spurs. To a larger scale we have ‘Saint Wenger’ and we all know his ideals and preaching’s on youth development.
To be fair, it’s not even in the top leagues that this is happening, more and more teams within the Championship are getting larger amounts of money being passed down from the PL and it’s having an effect on the players readily made available to them. Even in strange cases in the deep, dark depths of League Two at Meadow Lane (Notts County), there’s been an influx of 21 new signings within the last two months. Whilst everyone is happy with the outlook on the team and the newly-designed Reserve Squad, it just gives them one more step to take against players that already have that golden chalice that the younger players are pleading for experience.
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