The last few years has seen the likes of Jermaine Beckford, Charlie Austin, Gary Hooper and Grant Holt make their mark on the Premier League despite starting their careers at non league level. When they were grafting away playing 35 matches a season in the Isthmian Premier, their contemporaries in the academies were on their 3rd loan spell at Chelmsford Town. While these stories are the exception it shows the potential we have at our disposal. Indeed, this is one of the many reasons why Greg Dyke's half-baked plans to introduce B-teams into the football league system was so offensive and idiotic. England has 92 league and over 500 non-league clubs capable of offering competitive matches to youngsters in their own stadiums in front of loyal fan bases. With some help these clubs can become an enormous nursery for young talent as they have already proved they are capable of doing.
The FA has fortuitously noticed that facilities and coaches are needed and their most recent proposals aim to remedy this. While this will undoubtedly help it is vital for the FA to act strongly against the present status quo of big clubs squandering talent. In suggesting the formation of a B-Team League the FA have admitted to the existence of this problem and with a proposal so rash they concede that it is a large one.
Here's a simpler suggestion; let's push our talented youngsters towards the academies of clubs where they can realistically expect to regularly play for the 1st team not long after their 18th birthday. Ensure these clubs have the requisite facilities and coaches to accommodate and develop them. Provide these clubs with adequate protection so they are capable of keeping hold of their best and brightest. Be frank with young players and their parents; help them understand that a jump to a Premier League side at an early age is unlikely to be beneficial despite what other, self interested parties are saying.
This approach will not cost the world, which is important as perversely there is hardly any money despite the billion pound television deals being signed. Nor does it try to introduce a grand philosophy, our brand of football is not particularly philosophical and wistful sentiments rarely achieve much. Above all it utilises what we currently have and aims to help those clubs who have failed to reap the rewards of modern football. Instead of tiresome big ideas a more pragmatic, short-term solution, such as this, is needed.
Aside from benefitting individual players such a shift could have massive ramifications for lower league sides. Consider Joe Allen. Born in Carmarthen, he entered the Swansea academy system at the age of 9 and made his league debut at the age of 17. There is nothing to suggest that there was any interest in the future Premier League player from top sides when he was younger. Perhaps he was a late developer or maybe he simply slipped under the radar. Regardless, he stayed with Swansea until he was 22 before following Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool.