The worry over the future of our game has been accentuated by Tim Sherwood this week. He stated that he felt there should be feeder clubs, because Premier League sides had so many good players but that they weren’t getting first team action. “Why other countries bring their young players through so well is because they have feeder clubs,” he told Sky Sports. “People don’t want to hear this but to accelerate the development of young English players we need to have feeder clubs in League One and League Two. There is enough clubs out there who are willing enough to do it for their clubs, who are dying a slow death and hemorrhaging money. Clubs will be willing to open their arms out to Premier League teams and say ‘you can use this club for your young player’ but the FA has to allow it to happen.”
What a load of tripe. Why should they have all these players? Because their academy systems are the very best? The answer is simple, make all Football league academies better. Don’t pour funds into the elite teams, spread it evenly and ensure that Lincoln, Port Vale and Wimbledon can offer high quality coaching too. What premier League clubs should be forced to do is loan these players, free of charge, using the current structure. I’ve no problem with the loan market as it is, six month or twelve month loans, but not all focus on one team like a feeder club. That is another huge no-no for me.
Sherwood was joined by Liam Rosenior, a former pro who now works for Brighton Under 23s. He had a slightly more sympathetic view of the situation, but one I still can’t agree with. “I’m not sure about ‘feeder clubs’ but connecting clubs geographically. At Brighton we’ve got Crawley on our doorstep. We could, in theory, give them financial assistance in order for us to exchange players but to play in a certain way and expose players. We’ve got a huge number of players at Brighton that need to be exposed to first-team football and to play a certain way. We need to see if they can cope with the demands of first-team football. It has to be an agreement between clubs, it can’t be a case of the Premier League club dictating.”
Essentially he’s suggested that Premier League teams should be able to dictate the way a feeder club plays, so for instance Brighton should pay Crawley a sum of money to play football exactly as they do, with the young players fitting into their system. Mini-Brighton, mini-Manchester United, mini-Arsenal. Or, to put it another way, Arsenal B. Manchester United B. Or to put it another way, NO.
Rosenior did cover tradition though and voiced concerns about Sherwood’s idea. “My dad [Leroy] manages Gloucester City and that club means everything for that area. We don’t want to lose that tradition – it’s a huge part of our game but I agree about player development.”
Okay, this isn’t a serious plan right now, but where does Sherwood get off on coming up with such utter garbage? Why can young players not be loaned out, as they are now, and gain experience that way? Maybe top flight clubs should be capped, so they can’t have squads of eighty players. This season, Chelsea have forty players out on loan, whereas our entire squad is what, 23? We’ve worked to assemble our squad, why should that be undermined by a Premier League club loaning six or seven players to their feeder club? What about the feeder club’s identity, history and culture?
Those things don’t seem to matter though, do they? Money talks and I happily let the Checkatrade Trophy pass because money was coming into our club and the threat was, in my opinion, negligible. There wasn’t a serious threat to our culture and the EFL Trophy hasn’t got a proud history to ruin, but this has to be where the line is drawn. We must not debate feeder clubs, we must not debate 3pm streaming. If we do, football as we know and love it will cease to be.