NEW LEAGUE GOES AHEAD -- WITHOUT EVERTON
NEW LEAGUE LOOMS (from the Everton Programme, 27
"Our own youth sides have not entered this season, but Head of
Youth Development at Everton, Ray Hall, says that we are monitoring the
development of the new Youth League. We have not entered this season
because the Lancashire Leagues cater for our present needs. Clubs
like Everton tend to play first-year youth players in the 'B' Division,
while most second-year youth players and young professionals will play for
Colin Harvey's 'A' team.
"Our eventual entry into the Premier Youth League will come sooner
rather than later, with the mouth-watering prospects of our youth players
pitting their skills against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United,
Newcastle United, Aston Villa, and Arsenal every week."
THE NEW LEAGUE
Missing along with Everton are Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton
Wanderers, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, and
Newcastle United (the list may also include Manchester City).
Premier investment in stars of the future
THERE is not one Premier League but two. Back in September, the FA
Premier Youth League kicked off its inaugural season. Yet few outside the
upper echelons of youth football are aware of the competition's purpose or
even its existence.
The mechanics of this league are different from the norm. The competing
teams are mainly from the Premier League, but the rules also allow for
Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland who were all relegated
from the top flight last season. The 16 member clubs are split equally
into two sections, north and south, and a coach is allowed to pick four
boys under 19, the rest must be below 18.
Once all fixtures are completed a play-off system takes place, leading
to a final. Arsenal are the high-flyers from the south, with only one
defeat in eight matches, a record matched by Sheffield Wednesday in the
There is no one single person responsible for the competition's
concept, more it came about through the force of those on the ground.
Dave Richardson, the director of youth for the Premier League, said:
"It has been formulated over a number of years by a number of people
involved in youth football. There was a strong feeling that if young
players were to develop, we should evolve something that gets like playing
In other words, there is more to be gained if kids regularly face
opponents with similar rather than less ability. But that is only part of
an ideology shot through with common sense and with a purpose to produce
footballers ready-made for the highest level.
All long-distance fixtures are played in the autumn and in the spring,
avoiding long journeys in the height of winter. Even if a club reaches the
final of the play-offs the maximum number of games it will play is 27, so
young limbs are not being run into the ground. For example, West Ham, who
are fifth in the southern section, face second-placed Crystal Palace
twice, then in March they travel to Leeds, who are third in the northern
section, for their only match with the Yorkshire club.
In another move, spectators and parents are forced to watch the game
away from the bench, so the coaches are left to concentrate on their
charges. Clubs are asked to provide good pitches while Premier
League referees are used as often as possible.
So far, the reaction to the league has been positive even if originally
that wasn't the case. But where does this league fit into the grand scheme
of English football? The Charter for Quality, prepared by Howard
Wilkinson, the FA technical director, included a radical shake-up of youth
football. Among his demands was a more professional approach to a part of
the game that has gone unchecked.
Only time will tell whether the FA Premier Youth League bears fruit,
but during this boom period, when lots of money automatically assumes lots
of professionalism, it is one of the few investments in the future based
on a real professionalism.
"Youth development is all about the long term. This is the start
of the whole structure of the game being improved," Richardson said.
Report � Times
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