Friday, 20 January 2012

The Short Term...

Andre Villas-Boas' assertion about reserve teams that has been reported in the press today is a salient one; perhaps the relative strength and high level of competitive football that Barcelona and Real Madrid's B Teams play to does have a positive impact on their first team's abilities to bring through players from their academies, but it is also a moot point. The fact is, that the second tier leagues in almost every other European country are almost completely redundant. They're not as widely watched, followed in the press or pored over in the way that the Championship or more pertinently Leagues One and Two are here. Even the Conference has a huge profile compared to anything of a similar standard in Spain or Germany. Although there isn't anything comparable in either Germany or Spain, who have three and two professional leagues respectively. This has arguably created a skewed situation in this country because players who are by definition mediocre (and what I mean by this is relative to other professional players) are disproportionately rewarded, both financially and culturally (big stadia that are filled even in the lower leagues, TV presence at matches, national media exposure) for playing at what is, again speaking relatively, a fairly low level. You can be set up for life playing football in what used to be the third division. While that cannot be good for the standard of player being developed by our game, it is an inescapable by-product of our football culture. As a country we love football clubs, as much as we love football, whatever league they play in; they are old, traditional, familial and the fact that a club as venerable, not to mention recently successful, as Luton Town can now be playing four divisions below the top echelon and filling its stadium regularly is a state of affairs that just wouldn't happen anywhere else in Europe.
The real point though is that Villas-Boas' statement is all well and good, but the short-termist aesthetic peddled in the media and by fans that Chelsea and Man City's moneyed era has ushered in is diametrically opposed to the idea of nurturing young talent at big clubs. You only need look at the media (and fan) reaction to Wenger's last 5 years at Arsenal, where the club is regularly harangued as a failure, and yet in this time has actively pursued a policy based on development of players ahead of forking out hugely inflated transfer fees for established superstars (I hesitate to mention the £50m spent on one Fernando Torres when Chelsea already had Daniel Sturridge at the club, but only hesitate.). So he can't have it all. He can't have 50 million pound superstars warming one bench, and then have the Championship wrapped up by March courtesy of a bunch of expensive youngsters (all signed from the likes of Luton at the age of 15, no doubt...). No, sadly, he can't have it all. None of us can.