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Step up from U23 to first team


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I’m interested in Tyllaun’s opinion given his coaching work - but I’m sure plenty will have a view.

I’ve thought for a long time that the current U21/23 set up only really works for the clubs at the top of the pile.

At our level (and even Championship) players seem to stay ‘promising youngsters’ well into their 20s; no one seems to break into the first team at 18/19 anymore.

Is it because they are only playing against players their own age, and not getting that experience against the mesters in reserve team football that used to happen 30 years  ago or so?

And, what’s the answer? Is there one? 

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Ok so given it some thought and here's my musings. 

Back in the day the reserves system worked. You found local kids, stuck them on a YTS (or apprentice forms) and if they were good enough they got a grounding in the Combination league or Northern Intermediate with senior pros in the reserves. 

But... In 2010 the Premier League started a branch and roots analysis of the increase of cheap foreign imports against the number of youth players coming through. This culminated in the introduction of the Elite Players Performance Plan, aimed at bringing more kids through to the first team. However part of that plan was the introduction of age group football, the academy rating system, and the increase in range that academies could get kids from. 

Some of the bigger clubs jumped on the last with a vengeance and overloaded, often poaching from clubs with lower ranked academies. Clubs like Chelsea would have over 100 kids per age group all paying money to be there, where as before clubs would affiliate to good junior League clubs and take their best players to an 'inner' club (Hillsborough Celtic to Young Owls or Junior Blades etc) 

Academies became big business and money generating centres rather than what they were built for. Taking Chelsea as an example. They had 75 under 21s (18-21s)  in 2018. 40 of them were out on loan. 3 made a first team appearance in 18/19. That age group made at net profit of £17m. 

Clubs like Wednesday got caught in a cross fire. Do we try and bring kids through or try and make money? The worse thing that happened to our academy was Carlos. He tried to run it as a money maker but for Doyen, not for the club. They came in, attached themselves to our better kids and we went downhill from there. Then there's pressure on lower clubs for instant success. Chasing the promotion dream doesn't allow for time to be given to bring kids through. We need a goal scorer but do we chance George Hirst or buy Jordan Rhodes? 

The problem modern managers have is their job depends on success. They also don't know how to bring kids through anymore. In the recent past we've released kids that have gone on to make it. If there'd been a reserve league would we have kept Conor Grant or Alex Hunt? What happens to Ciaran Brennan at the end of this season? We've also benefited. Adeniran and Dele-Bashiru came from higher academies but was that at the cost of Liam Shaw?

Things are changing. The introduction of up to 4 older outfield players in u21 games means kids could be playing almost Combination league football in a couple of years. We seem to be sticking with the true age system. Moore is integrating kids into first team training but seems hesitant to put them in league games and that goes back to points means prizes and the bringing in of Mighten when could we have put Cadamarteri on the bench for a few weeks as the loan market isn't closed yet? But our u21s are predominantly 19-20 with the idea of them spending two years together. This is fine if we're moulding them for first team football but we won't. Most will leave in the same manner Waldock did. He could have gone higher but he just wanted to play and ignored his agent. There's a lot more academy released players heading to higher standard non league. My local side is full of Forest kids who got bombed. 

LIke Adeniran to us and Hunt to Grimsby then a Grimsby kid playing for Spalding. Maybe the academy system does work, just not in the way were used to. 



Edited by Tylluan
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Interesting points @Tylluan, (oh and happy birthday for the other day!)

To me, the U23/21 system just feels like a 'doing it because we have to' at Wednesday, as you say we don't consistently blood youngsters, even though we've had a few come through. Also, while we've had the likes of Hunt, Galvin, Brennan, Preston, Grant etc over the last few years come through, look at where MOST of our youngsters go when they have left. Not many step up, they go down, and only Grant in recent years is one where I think has got back to our level. Which is a sad indictment of the 'quality' we have had through our system over the past few years. 

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The EPPP never worked for the majority of EFL clubs but it was never intended to. It was purely a Premier League venture based on analysis of Premier League club set ups. But the FA thought it would be a pathway to a better England set up so jumped on and enforced it. 

Lower league teams, who'd found a cycle of unearthing local talent, giving them a grounding, then selling them on to bigger clubs suddenly found themselves losing these kids at 14 to the same club and all because of the academy grading status. 

Lower league clubs should still have used the reserves system in order to give an alternative pathway. Championship clubs should have been given the option of both pathways and if they chose EPPP then that should have meant instant entry into PL2 regardless of academy status. 

Now, 10 years later, the Premier League has come full circle in allowing up to 5 overage players to play for PL2 teams. This is great for PL teams who can afford to pay the likes of Tom Huddleston to play reserve football but such are player salaries now that, again, lower league clubs will probably miss out. We have spaces in our 21s due to players moving up to first team training but we seem to be back filling with 18s and trialists. We don't seem to be looking at released players that could possibly help bring the kids on.

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