This is just about the biggest story there is at the moment – and of course no newspaper is touching it. In simple terms it is this…
The big clubs (not Arsenal) are trying to tap up kiddies from all over the world to do a patch and mend job on their teams, as their finances fall apart. FIFA and UEFA are charging clubs, and everyone from Crewe Alex to clubs in France you didn’t even know existed are putting in claims).
Tottenham are now so far behind in any form of youth development they have pulled their reserve team out of the EPL Reserves League.
Sir Hardly Anyone (also known as The Almighty Lord Trevor Brooking) has written this week to say England as a country of developing footballers is about on a level with Eastern Samoa (well he didn’t quite say that, but you get the idea).
And in the middle of this is Arsenal. Winners of the youth cup and the Youth League last year and currently beating everyone who comes near them in the Reserve league with a team of 17 year olds.
And – and this is my point – Arsenal have a reserve team made up mostly of Englishmen. Now I admit, I may have got one or two nationalities wrong here, so please correct me but I think that most or even all of these guys are English born…
James Shea, Luke Ayling, Kyle Bartley, Thomas Cruise, Craig Eastmond, Gavin Hoyte, Jay-Emmanuel Thomas, Luke Freeman, Conner Henderson, Henri Lansbury, Rhys Murphy, Mark Randall, Jay Simpson, Sanchez Watt.
There are many more in the youth team – I have only gone through those players who are listed by Arsenal as “Reserve” team players.
What this makes clear is several things. While Chelsea have failed to bring through a single young talent from its ranks since John “the English don’t dive” Terry, Arsenal is brimming with them.
While Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and other clubs have gone around stealing young players from here there and everywhere, Arsenal has been developing young English talent.
Of course I know that we brought in Cesc, Clichy, Theo and Anelka as young men, but there has never been one suggestion of illegal activity. Everything was above board and by the books. Had it not been the club would have been fined.
The papers are making out that every big club is involved in child trafficking – and then fail to mention that Arsenal are not – because in fact Arsenal is the youth development system of football in England. There is no one else. Only us.
So we have Leeds accusing Chelsea over 3 young players a couple of years back, the Kakuta affair (15 when he signed a contract with Chelsea in June 2007). Reggina have accused Chelsea of tapping up Vincenzo Camilleri, also 15.
Rennes have accused Manchester City of unlawfully signing Jeremy Helan. Swindon Town announced last week that they have made the FA aware of a new tapping up case. Dario Gradi has claimed that Liverpool made an illegal approach for a 15-year-old player from Crewe Alexandra in Feb 2008.
There are now 41 Academies in the Premier and Football Leagues – and they have the right to register 40 boys a year from age 8 to 12. Those that survive to 16 become “scholars”. Only Arsenal run the system with any sign of success. As a result of the failure of others there is a real chance that the EPL and FA will dismantle the system, which would harm Arsenal, while failing to control the maniacs and child-kidnappers (ok not really kidnappers, but I am getting carried away here, and I like over the top language) like Chelsea, Man U and the rest.
One thing we should also bear in mind as we watch the glorious flowering of our youth system… In England there is a fanatical desire to see 17 year olds burst on the scene. In the somewhat more mature Europe first-team debuts are later – 21 or 22 is not uncommon.
For those who have ever groaned as Bendtner misses a shot, remember, in the rest of Europe he would only now be getting his first few games.
Some within the game know it has all gone wrong for them. Brian Jones, head of Aston “hold your head” Villa’s academy, is quoted as saying “Villa spend a fortune looking at boys from six years old onwards. With the best will in the world I wouldn’t know if a six, seven or eight year old is going to play in the Premier League in 10 or 12 years’ time. It’s ludicrous.”
So the general idea is that big clubs look for young kids, except to find them, and then when they don’t, go out and steal some more.
What Sir Hardly Anyone (ie Brooking) says is “We must all accept that for a country of some 60 million people, we are not producing the depth of players at the top level with the necessary technical skills now required by the major clubs and international teams.”
Untrue Sir Brook. Arsenal is doing it – the rest of just dumbo maniacs let loose on an unsuspecting world, nurtured by a daily round of rancid journalism and the inept financial mismanagement of a bunch of bankers and their lackeys.
Three years ago The Great Lord Brooking Who Knows said we should have an elite coaching group to share and spread good practice around the country.
The FA, EPL and other leagues said no, and set up a review which reported two years ago, and led to another committee (Professional Game Youth Development Group) chaired by that Wilkinson character from Leeds.
It was disbanded in January.
And you know, it does not matter, because the model is there for all to see. Just go and watch Arsenal reserves.
The Great and Glorious Lord Trev says, “A co-ordinated coaching structure and philosophy is still desperately needed with significant investment and resources. “I have always wanted the FA, as the governing body, to lead this strategic role, as every federation does in all other Uefa countries.”
Well tough Lord Brook. Because someone got there first, and did the job, and is now gaining all the benefits.
The future of youth football in England is safe. It is run by Arsene Wenger.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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