The reserves managed their first point of the season last night. On promotion, the club were given the choice of stepping the reserve team up to a similar level or remaining in their old set up. They took the opportunity, and thus far it has been these games more than any that have shown us to be lacking.
A game against Manchester City featured the likes of Robbie Fowler, Villa had Lee Hendrie and Patrik Berger on the pitch and last night saw Birmingham give games to Muzzy Izzet and Stan Lasaridis, amongst others. Latics’ first teamers have featured but we’re hardly talking big names there anyway. A quick look at the team sheets reveals a set of names that at best are unfamiliar to most of us and I’d be surprised if any of them were over 18.
There are days gone by where our youngsters were prized, fans eagerly anticipated the next batch to break through to first team contention. These days you get the feeling that the youth set up is a bit like the appendix, everyone knows it must have had some purpose in the past, but not why we bother anymore.
No disrespect to those involved, I’m sure they do what they can and act in the best interests of the club, but in the famous last 10 years the product of our youth set up has been? The odd Andy Morris or Scott Willis, a handful of first team starts for Paul Mitchell and Leighton Baines (who if we’re being truthful is more a product of Everton’s youth set-up). The systems of the past may have been built more out of necessity than anything else but as people keep telling us, our success has the potential to disappear a whole lot faster than most.
From another angle it’s just nice to know that you’ve got young, and local, lads on the fringe of things. Imagine the excitement at Everton and Middlesbrough, knowing that in Rooney and Downing they had potential international stars waiting to break through. Imagine the satisfaction that (North West) United fans must have felt when the majority of their team had been at the club almost as long as they’d had pubic hair, and a big chunk of them being, if not from Salford, from the Manchester area.
In the pressure pot of 21st century football, it has to be hard balancing short term success against long term security, in more ways than one, but as Mrs Bobby Brown once told us ‘… the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…’
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