EPL Talk Podcast Discussion: The Future of Youth Football in England


For our New Year’s Resolution, the EPL Talk Podcast crew have decided to bring you a new weekly feature, the EPL Talk Podcast Discussion. We want to get you all involved in the debate so each week we will bring you an article designed to get you talking. So as our dear leader Mr McKenna might say, lets EPL Talk about it…

For those of you who listen regularly to the EPL Talk Podcast, you will know that youth soccer and more specifically the state of it in Britain is one of our favourite subjects. Few topics are likely to arouse stronger opinions from Kristan, Morgan, Laurence and myself. Even Kartik has been known to be very forceful on the issue.

There is a reason for this. For those of us who care deeply about football as a sustainable entity, youth soccer represents the future. A club with a good youth setup can hope to produce a consistent stream of young talent at a fraction of the cost of buying in a whole new squad every few years. The same principle can also be extended to national soccer – just take a look at Spain and Germany.

But, as has been made all too clear in recent times, there are clubs that clearly do not believe in the sustainable model, or at least they have little confidence in it. In the EPL, Chelsea spring to mind but the truth is there are very few clubs in the Premier League that have a notable reliance on their own youth system.

As with most debates, the truth in the money versus youth issue likely lies somewhere in between the two extremes. There is always going to be a place in the modern football world for splashing the cash but at the same time as we head towards a new era of (supposed) financial fair play, surely the clubs must start to look to balance the books so to speak and bring through a few players of their own?

Take Chelsea for example. Since the Abramovich takeover, we are all aware of how much they have spent on big name players but what is often lost is the fact that they have also spent a lot of time and money bringing in a huge amount of young players. For me, this is not the answer.

Home grown youth serves two purposes. On a purely footballing level it helps you to produce players who are ingrained with the culture of the club, Barcelona and La Masia being undoubtedly the best example of this.

At this point I can almost hear Morgan screaming at me that I am missing out the very important fact that football in England is a crowded market. With so many huge clubs all packed together the chance of attracting enough local talent is a lot lower than Catalonia for example where there are only four teams playing in the top two Spanish divisions.

On a club level this is very true but looking at a national level there is not enough being done throughout the Premier League to promote youth development. Yes the introduction the Under-21 Development league this year is a step forward but much more is still needed.

Secondly, and I realise the fairly existential nature of this point but please indulge me, it helps to maintain the bond between club and local community. At clubs up and down the land, fans love the sight of a young lad from the local area pulling on the shirt of his boyhood team. It reminds them that this is their club and that they too once dreamt of doing the same. Such a bond is something that modern football is far too easy to dismiss.

The final thing to consider is whether the fans of clubs have in some way contributed to the current situation. By wanting success as soon as yesterday, have fans failed to create an atmosphere where owners and managers feel they have the required time to create a youth focused culture. I suppose that that is a question that is almost impossible to answer.

But readers, do at least try and answer it for me below or on Twitter.


5 thoughts on “EPL Talk Podcast Discussion: The Future of Youth Football in England”

  1. I can’t say I’m a huge expert on youth soccer in England, but I’d imagine it depends on what you’re after. The really big clubs that have championship aspirations every year will always have a hard time producing youth players who can contribute to the first-team squad just because it’s so hard to find any players who will play for a club like Chelsea or Manchester United. Most of the senior players on most other first division European clubs aren’t good enough to play meaningful minutes for those clubs. So, it’s not reasonable to expect certain neighborhoods of London to produce a steady stream of players.

    But….that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a youth academy. They just need to be honest about which kids are likely to be good enough to contribute, which are not and sell the ones who won’t make the cut for a whatever they can.

    It’s like in American baseball how a team like the New York Yankees has different motives with their minor league teams because most of the players there aren’t good enough to play for the Yankees, so they just get bundled in trade for established players who are good enough.

    1. United have brought Cleverley and Welbeck into the first team johnny evans is a starter fletch would be a starter if he didnt have Ulcerative Colitis. If you include players that were bought when they were youngsters that are in the !st team thats rafael smalling jones. If fergie payed up morrison and pogba would be in the first team i dont count fryers cos he was injury prone and losy his starting job.

  2. Despite my close following of the EPL, youth development in England remains a mystery to me. Frankly it appears that the big cubs just bring in the best talent from around the globe to their academy’s while the Champioship clubs are left to develop local talent. Then if you show promise from a lower division club it becomes only a matter of time before a big buys you up.

    While the MLS holds a NFL style draft we know the talent pool their is limited. It would be great to see a EPL draft every year on TV. I know it will never happen

    1. I think your looking at this through American tinted glasses. A draft would never work with the epl since there is a thing called relegation and why would it make any sense to do a draft? Football isnt like the damn nfl hockey or nba eac h club has its own youth system. “Americanizing” the sport would ,make no sense. Shudnt the #1 pick go to the last place team in league 2? Mls decided to follow nhl nba etc with the draft BS thats why i cant stand watching tht crap. How would a draft even workntheres none of that ncaa business in england.

      1. I agree the EPL should not be Americanized, but the draft the only reason you hate American sports?! Then you might be missing out, just saying.

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