We have talked the Youth Policy completely to death ….. or have we?
To people of my generation the Youth Policy was the only way to establish a top team. Have a look at the FA Youth Cup winning team of 1966: Peter Simpson, Jon Sammels, George Armstrong, Peter Storey, Ray Kennedy, Sammy Nelson, Pat Rice and John Radford were all in the team, and all went on to have fine careers at AFC. – 5 years later they won the Double under Bertie Mee. 8 players made the leap into the first team!
Our 1987 FA Youth Cup winning team was not so fortunate with only Kevin Campbell making a successful jump to fame, though the team did include David Hillier and Steven Morrow who went on to be first team players (in the worst AFC team I have seen).
Of our 1994 winning team only Stephen Hughes made the first team.
The 2000 & 2001 winning team had a little more luck with Alladiere, Stephen Sidwell, Moris Volz, Jermaine Pennant and Justin Hoyte becoming PL players though none made the grade at THOF.
We won the cup again in 2009. Can this group achieve success? In the team were Frimpong, Bartley, Coquelin, Lansbury and Jack Wilshere. LJW seems assured a bright future at Arsenal but the prospects hang in the balance for the others. The influx of ready made stars severely curtailing their chances.
So what is a successful youth policy? Is it enough that Wilshere has come through the ranks? Should AFC sell him he will attract the kind of fee which makes the youth team economically worthwhile (as did the sale of Cesc). Liam Brady is not only bringing through fine players, he is also creating a handsome income stream.
Arsenal generate a huge amount of money and perhaps, like the rest of the top 6 ,we should rely entirely on mercenaries. Looking at our rivals, how many have home grown players?
MU Cleverley, Welbeck and … erm (let’s discount the wrinkles)
Chelsea … Josh Mcreachran (and JT)
MC …. Micah Richards
Liverpool … the 32 y.o Gerrard and the 34 y.o Carragher – young players, none.
Spurs ….. none, that’s right – zip!
What does that tell us? Well, one thing is obvious – there is a huge gap in skills between the Youth and the first teams in the PL. Furthermore, clubs are unwilling to take the punt on players developing over time in the PL; we cherry pick our kids from the youth academies all around Europe and still do not let them get a run of games – unless they come to us from Southampton. Our rivals do not have any interest in developing kids – Chelsea’s lack of kids is a terrible indictment.
Will Financial FairPlay make a difference and force teams to focus upon youth development? It would be great but I have a feeling FFP will be just another money earner for bean counters (sorry to you bean counters!)
Sadly, the days of picking up great players like Charlie George and Pat Rice from the Holloway Road are long gone, the Youth team of ’66 are a distant memory. We should be grateful to Arsène Wenger and Arsenal that they continue to pour money and time into one of Europe’s finest Youth projects.
Let us hope that the 2009 FA Youth Cup Winners take us to another Double in 5 years.
Written by Big Raddy
Most will have heard by now that Fabrice Muamba is conscious, able to speak and is surrounded by his family. He is still seriously ill but on the long road to recovery. We wish Fabrice and all our friends on AA who are suffering problems at present a speedy return to full health.