Even though it is solicited in every issue of Blueprint for Football Extra, very rarely do I receive any feedback (hint, hint!). On the plus side, when I do it is usually very good. Which definitely was the case when Craig Easton sent in his views on the issue which dealt with .
In truth, for me, Craig's views always carry more weight. After all, he has played football at a very high level - 22 appearances for Scotland's U21s and more than 450 league appearances in Scotland as well as England (here he is scoring a great goal against Fulham) - for the past 17 years and has the kind of insight that is very difficult for an outsider to gain.
Naturally, it was comforting to see that he was in agreement that there are no guarantees in youth football and interesting to see how those arguments tied into what he has seen happening in the game. After all, he started playing for Dundee United's reserves alongside established players like Dave Bowman, Christian Dailly, Owen Coyle, Billy McKinlay, Jamie Dolan and Scott Crabbe. On top of that, those were highly competitive games against Celtic and Rangers that included players that weren't playing in the first team but could walk into most other first elevens in the league.
Here, then, are Craig's views:
As usual, very well written and thought provoking and I think you've almost answered your own question there.
"Little does it seem to matter to them that their inability to give games to these players will hinder them from fulfilling their potential."
I think that's a massive factor. How many of these players who don't get regular games and fall into that void of being on the fringes or in the development squad actually get developed or have their game worked on? And are there enough competitive games for these players without the need for them to go out on loan?
The problems I find with players of this age in the lower leagues (especially in this country) is that there are very few proper competitive games for them to play in and also not enough coaches (and time dedicated) to take these players and develop them further. Maintaining match fitness/sharpness therefore becomes an issue.
A decent reserve league bridges the gap and can make the transition easier, but with clubs trimming squads, there are often not enough players to make it viable even if they could afford to have a reserve team.
The amount of first team fixtures means that once the season gets going, the squad players/subs who don't play regularly find it very hard to keep up their match fitness. The volume of games means training might be lighter than usual and unless there's a coach willing to put on extra sessions (which he should be) the other lads' fitness is nearly always left in their own hands. These players then face the dilemma of doing too much or not enough. They're then expected to come in and be bang on it when they've not had a decent run of games. If they don't do it in the 20 mins they might sporadically come on for, then they fall back down the pecking order.
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