Blog from Main Stand Man - Where are the young development players?
Many of us are frustrated by United performances so far this season, but for me the most worrying aspect is the lack of young development players challenging for places in the first team squad. Over recent years United have quite rightly placed a high importance on the development young players and the professionalism of such programs. Unfortunately the conveyor belt of young players progressing into the first team has got stuck. We currently have 3 youth products who regularly appear in the first team (Coulson, Berry and Liam Hughes). Unfortunately there appears to be no other youth team players threatening to break into the first team. We are left having to complete the squad with expensive and unsuccessful loan players. However why is this?:
+ 5 years ago young players were looking to break into a United team playing at non league. A higher standard is required for League 2.
+ United are not able to attract young players with true league potential.
+ Dare I say that the United player development system is not being as successful in the past couple of seasons. With one or two noticeable exceptions (Kwesi, Maxi and maybe Bird and KaiKai too), what ever the answer the result is that United have been probably spending more of the playing budget than ever on more mature loan players who neither settle or succeed in the amber and black shirt.
United are not not likely to be the only lower league club to face similar problems, some of which is due to the changing face of English football. Many top flight clubs are buying up young players with potential, seemingly to prevent other clubs acquiring them or for the big club to purchase the undeveloped player on the cheap today. These players are then put out on loan to develop with a club further down the playing pyramid. For example at the end of September 2014, Chelsea had 32 players out on loan. Many of these players are from overseas and are loaned out to overseas clubs. Kwesi is seemingly an example of this strategy. Although the feeder club will have the likes of Kwesi to develop within their own team for 6 months, there is no contract held with the player so these players can return to the parent club without any compensation or transfer fee. Without this buying, developing and selling of players many clubs would struggle to exist.
This business plan has worked for many players and clubs over the years and is still seen to work today. England's Jamie Vardey started off at Stocksbridge Park Steel, before Halifax, then Fleetword, Leicester City and England. Manchester United's Chris Smailing is another example of an England player breaking through from non league football.
Unfortunately with no incentive or reward to run young player development programs, those clubs who remain running will no longer be able to fund or justify operating such expensive systems. What ever the reason for the lack of numbers of young players developing at United or similar clubs, it is vital that these programs are kept running and everything is done to continue to improve them and make them more attractive and accessible to youngsters as they develop with their communities.
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