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Andre Villas-Boas Is The Easy Target But There Are Greater Issues At Work Here

January 20, 2012

You could have thought that Andre Villas-Boas had been caught fisting a footballing national treasure such was the outrage from some people today. It was in fact, his words on the subject of player development and more precisely his support of introducing B teams to the English league system that sparked accusations of “cultural insensitivity”. That would be from people who subscribe to the idea that there is a ruling sense of Englishness in the football league structure (what the hell Englishness actually is and why it is supposedly so good is beyond me). What appears lacking in many people’s evaluation of the story is the role of the Premier League which gleefully watches on as all around it throttle each other in the name of the motherland.

It is not the first time the idea of Premier League clubs having B teams in divisions below has been brought up and it certainly won’t be the last. Other coaches have mentioned it but the spectre of Spain and the collective drooling at their success has given such ideas an increased resonance in the casual football fan’s mind. Not that the casual football fan would ever willingly change anything. They wouldn’t dream of it but they do in not making a choice or differentiating from the expectation of them from those sat in the boardrooms of the big clubs in the land.

Back to the topic at hand, The Spanish national team and the exponents of the supposed football idealist’s playing values, Barcelona, have lead many to wonder how they’ve done it and how they can do it too. Barcelona’s conveyor belt of talent is mightily impressive and a few cite the experience gained in Segunda Liga with Barcelona’s B team as vital to the rapid development such players have undergone. Their footballing identity is not particularly warped by the external influences that can often deeply affect the future ideology of a given player as they are kept within the big club structure. To big established clubs, there are evident positives.

There is the thought that such a method may reinforce the divide between the clubs that have and the clubs that have not. It is becoming increasingly difficult with each passing year to break the stranglehold of more established sides unless heavily backed financially. It is not true for all nations but it is true where the global attention is at its highest. Rags-to-riches stories are close to extinct although the powers-that-be would have you believe that they are still there. They are but only in a downgraded manner and as time goes on, it would appear something that is showing no signs of slowing down.

To return to thoughts of England, the current reserve team structure is without doubt poor. That cannot be denied. There is a drastic difference not necessarily in natural quality but in application of said quality between reserve team football and that of the first-team particularly at Premier League clubs. While players can be loaned out to other clubs as mentioned before in reference to Barcelona, such a loan spell can have damaging effects not just on the expectations of a player but on how they apply their talents on the field. The idea of feeder clubs and the designed loan deal is an attempt to combat this but this is something that looks more reserved for those at the absolute top of the league system. A great element of English identity is the perception of equality in the league structure. Of course, financially such equality has been exaggerated to realms of ridiculousness but the principle would appear to still be living albeit it’s something that is becoming harder to find.

There are many ways that the reserve system can be changed in efforts to create a more competitive environment for talents to grow but with little easy revenue to be found there it appears to be still just off-the-radar of the powerbrokers in the English game. It wouldn’t appear too far away due to football’s desire to “improve football from the bottom up”. Not that that is strictly true. Grassroots is a buzzword that brings up the images of football at its most basic but the woes of young professional footballers ,who from an increasingly younger age have their egos suitably inflated for the highest level ,seem somewhat far removed from the challenges of those at the bottom of the ladder.

Of course, it is all about maximising talent and assets with minimal consideration to human cost. That is the method of business. Such things as human impact are ignored as the Premier League takes all attention from the most valued of observers: those who have money and not many other places in which to spend it.

Those who believe the English Premier League to be the best league in the world usually aim pot-shots at La Liga based on the divide between Real Madrid and Barcelona and the rest. If England is to follow Spain’s model to find international success then perhaps the supposed competitiveness of the Premier League will be compromised. God forbid, it might not actually work at all.

The FA needs to decide what it wants.

The Premier League needs to decide what it wants (we all know that’s global domination).

More importantly, those who put not just their money into football (any oligarch can do that) but those who invest their time need to decide what they want.

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