Days Of Future Past
Interesting debate on the development stage of kids as footballers yesterday. Including the comment from MCCAFF about being wary allowing his son to go out to play unsupervised. A sign of the times,perhaps? Whether the increased threat to youngsters nowadays is real or just perceived,it is bloody real to every parent!
When I was a kid-and this is likely to be the same for most on here-we would play football anywhere it was physically possible to play the game. Even a narrow close! (Header to start,only one touch by foot from each player) We would often head up to the “public park”,about two miles away on the other side of town. Blissfully not a bit bothered by drunken strangers staggering home and asking for a kick of the ball.
We usually agreed,gutting ourselves as imaginary full backs tackled them! Didn’t bother us walking back in the dark either-why would it?
But the main source of the problem is the sheer cost nowadays. Even if only playing for the local boys club,there is the cost of kit and boots-each of which are rapidly outgrown. Hiring pitches and match officials where necessary,and transport. If a youngster is considered talented enough for a regional squad,that will only increase.
Heaven forbid that a kid should be picked up by a full national league team,as practice and training are usually centralised,leading to even more transport costs as well as a further hit to parents on their working and social lives.
Worst of all though is that these bigger clubs usually ban their young prospects from playing for anyone else during their development. Including the school they attend,where they were probably scouted in the first place!
That is surely harmful to a youngster’s development. Their pals are all out playing football for the youth club or whatever while the star man is stuck indoors on his play station? And before you know it,the lad misses his mates more than he enjoys,say,Celtic. In fact,he enjoys the bloody play station more than he enjoys all the hassle that goes with affiliation to a big club?
Even if the parents can afford the various costs and time,even if the youngster is fully motivated and has made it past the “Andy Robertson stage” of literally hitting the heights,when he is playing for various age groups and the development squad,there are still dangers and barriers to their progress with us,or any other club.
Youngsters are rarely given an opportunity to show their talents in the first team. That is due to the relentless pressure at the top end of the game,so we are told-yet our kids are off to such pressure-free zones as Liverpool and Bayern? There is the strong likelihood of being poached by “bigger” names in the English or continental game,as we have recently seen,to the detriment of the club’s future financial and footballing future. They are shown a clear path of development there,and a route into the first team-along with recent examples!
What can we show them then? A list of jettisoned players struggling to make a living in the game,or elsewhere and nowhere because they have become so disillusioned that they have given the game up? Too old for the few apprenticeships available,and not up to a decent college course?
Look at Islam Feruz though as a warning about overreach. A counterpoint to the allure of the big boys? But he had a five year contract with Chelsea,and the signing-on fee alone probably came to seven figures. His salary during that time would have done so again,a good few times over. You can see his point,and that will be why we have lost our fledgling stars recently. He certainly ain’t getting game time at Celtic,not even at 19yo,not when Lennon is the boss.
Aberdeen gave Calvin Ramsay a debut at 16yo. As an 18yo,he was a regular choice. Before he had even turned 19yo,he was joining Liverpool for over £6m! A month or so later,we lost perhaps our best prospect in years to the same club. Ben Doak,17yo but barely a feature for us,even from the bench. Now,I can’t blame Ange for that,last season was a pressure one like we haven’t seen for a good few years. (And should never have had to face again,btw)
But Ben looked at the youngsters already in and around the Liverpool first team,realised that the club has a good record of giving the kids a go. Not so long ago,IIRC,they played Arsenal in a late stage League Cup tie where hey both played the kids and drew 5-5 or something daft! Having said that,the players had their moment,and some are regulars for their national teams now,and playing in the World Cup!
Was Ben going to get that at Celtic? Maybe,but strangely the chances of advancement were at the bigger club. Which can’t be right. Unless Celtic are doing something badly wrong. Which we clearly are. Why did we only get £250k for the brighter prospect of Ben Doak and Aberdeen got £6m for Ramsay?
Ah,you will rightly say. Ramsay had signed his professional contract,while Doak had not. But that is NOT the answer-that is the crux of the question in the first place!
I don’t know how to fix this. It is clearly much deeper than he societal problems I outlined at the start,and IMO is a failure on the part of the club. What worries me is that the club don’t seem to have a clue either. I’m sure that Ange will have been beelin’ about Ben’s decision,and the reasons for it. But we can hardly expect him to combine the position of Youth Development Officer into his current role of manager,chief scout and chief operations officer (football)
But we ignore it at our peril. Too many years and young careers have been squandered along the way,along with a shedload of cash. Repairing this mess will take years,progress will be on a step by step basis,and coming out the other side with a new Quality Street Gang is just a fantasy. But a club like Celtic,with the pick of youth in the country and elsewhere should really be introducing a live prospect and future regular every year or two,at worst. And we all know that.
And I’m willing to bet we can have this same conversation in ten years,to paraphrase Einstein.
Above article by BMCUWP