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.