Where are the brave managers?
When the transfer window was shut at the end of last month in England a lot of stuff made headlines, a lot to do with the Liverpool missing out on signing the American Clint Dempsey after they had let Andy Carroll join West Ham on loan.
According to reports, Liverpool have only Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez as the recognised strikers at the club. During the same last-minute shopping spree, that serial cheque book manager Roberto Mancini has gone and splashed out on experienced campaigners in the Brazilian Maicon from Inter and Javi Garcia from Benfica for the Champions Manchester City. Utterly ridiculous.
As I study many of the Premier League sides one struggles to find young players in the first teams, especially those that have come through the ranks of the club. It seems that the pressure of winning or at least remaining in the extremely lucrative Premier League has robbed managers of the will to allow young players to come through and establish themselves in the first team.
Southampton are an honourable exception with Adam Lallana their captain coming through the ranks. Back to Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool’s wailings at having two senior strikers at the club; is there no more a youth team at that great institution of football in the north-west of England? Where are the youth team coaches that helped unearth Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and later Michael Owen? What message does it send to the young players at the club if there is such widespread doom and gloom prediction because of the lack of Dempsey’s capture.
Seriously, the US international is only a good player not an awesome talent that would have activated a glut of goals and trophies at Anfield and he is 29 already. Yes, Raheem Sterling has been promoted but more needs to be done at clubs these days so that you can have players who will identify with the club and fans will identify with the players as their own. Rodgers should go and pick up one or two of his youth team strikers and play them.
Let me state for the record that I do not rate very highly the methods of coaches/managers like Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho. These two managers invariably will win you trophies AFTER they have spent loads of money on players. However, there is something so plastic about their teams and they usually have a huge turnover of playing personnel.
Micah Richards has been the one remaining youth team player at Manchester City’s first team, however the capture of Maicon is going to reduce greatly his chances of playing regular football. I find it disgusting that a manager has such low regard for young players as Mancini evidently has – please let no one mention Balotelli as there are too many stories around that from when they were at Inter. Adam Johnson barely got a game; Scott Sinclair obviously thinks of money more than how many games he will play in a season for his transfer to Man City.
How many matches will Jack Rodwell get to play now with the arrival of Javi Garcia? How about the youth team players? Boyata has been sent on loan to Belgium. Nedum Onuoha was unceremoniously dumped despite having always put in a good shift.
Sir Alex Ferguson has even lost his nerve in the area of playing youngsters. When he has centre-backs out injured he would rather the plainly stupid idea of having Michael Carrick in defence rather than get a young natural centre-back from the youth team to play there. It is a sad reflection of the times we live in that a man who formed his fearsome reputation on his willingness to trust youth would rather go back to old hands like Scholes and Giggs when the chips are down. To be fair to him the likes of Rafael da Silva, Tom Cleverly, Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans have come through the ranks at the club and are in the first team.
Arsene Wenger at Arsenal seems to be one who trusts youth and is ready to play a youth team player in their natural position first. Keiran Gibbs at left-back is a success. Jack Wilshere when he returns from injury is another. The French lad Coquellin is also one who has a good future at the club. I have left out at these clubs young players who arrived at the club from other clubs – Diaby, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain at Arsenal, Jones and Smalling for United.
You look at the mid-table clubs like Stoke and the others and you see a recycling of journey men, professional footballers who in reality do not offer anything fresh. A mish-mash of has beens and never-do-wells just clogging up the spaces that fresh talents would have been better exploited by younger players.
Mark Hughes at QPR has taken a leaf out of the Harry Redknapp school of football club management by just buying players like a child in a sweet store. You wonder what the regular fans at Loftus Road will make of these players who have little affinity to their club.
Anyone who has seen young Thomas Ince play at Blackpool will be wondering why that kid at 20 years old is not playing at a Premier League club. Ten years ago, someone of his talent and age would have been at a mid-table Premier League club and improving with every game.
Any given weekend in the Serie A in Italy, the Ligue 1 in France and the Bundesliga in Germany, teenagers are starting and playing regularly at the top level. It seems that the Premier League is too important to be trusted to youth.
It seems very sad that the days have gone when teenagers are seen regularly at Premier League clubs who then go on to get better. The Manchester United side that won the title in ’96, although they were powered home by the experience of Schmeichel, Bruce, Pallister, May, Irwin and Cantona, had the precocious talents of Gary and Phil Neville, Beckham, Scholes and Nicky Butt. Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs were still in their early 20s. David O’Leary once had a fantastic bunch that came through at Elland Road – Kewell, Woodgate, Harte, Robinson and the others excited crowds for a few seasons.
By the way, Jose Mourinho followers please sling your hooks. The man is a mercenary and does not trust youth. He will win, for ANY club he is at with the wallet to match his ambitions, all sorts of titles.
Hopefully the FFP that Uefa keep banging on about might take football back to where managers and indeed club owners/chairmen will know they have to breed their own players. Won’t be a day or season too soon.
You can follow me on Twitter: @CalvinEmeka