FA chairman Greg Dyke’s proposal for a fifth division, incorporating B teams for the Premier League, has, inevitably, brought both praise and criticism, but I believe we should give it a try. It is impossible to get complete agreement on such issues in a country whose football governance is split between three bodies, namely the FA, Football League and Premier League.
However, as the stated aim of Dyke’s 10-strong Commission was to find a way of improving the England national team, I think this idea should be tried. We simply must start giving our Under-21 players more regular, competitive football, something which disappeared with the dismantling of the Central League reserve team competition. As a 16-year-old, I played in an Everton reserve side that often contained six or seven internationals. That was a hard school, but one that sorted the men from the boys.
We need to get back that competitive edge, for it simply doesn’t apply in the current, haphazard, Under-18 and Under-21 “league” system. I have my doubts about the fifth division idea, but I think it’s worth giving it a go. The Academy system has not produced – with the shining exception of Southampton – so something new must be tried, for the sake of the national team.