Give B teams a go

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.


One thought on “Give B teams a go

  1. Joe
    I fully understand the reason behind Greg Dyke’s proposals ie to improve the quality and quantity of English youngsters by giving them a better a smoother transition between Youth and first team football. The question I would ask is: Can this be achieved with less disruption to the existing pyramid structure? I would propose something that would satisfy the interests of both the Premier League and lower league clubs. I would syphon off some prize money currently divided among the Premier league clubs (say £10 million) and perhaps more controversially the Europa League place from the League Cup. Prize money need not be spread throughout the league as is the case in the Premier League but instead concentrated in say the top 5 places. There is a logic behind the European place! Currently, many of the major Premier League clubs use the League Cup to try out young players with limited first team experience, also any club who actually does qualify for the Europa League will, faced with the demands of additional fixtures, turn to their younger players especially in the early rounds of the competition. It would be useful, therefore if they had some meaningful experience behind them first. I would propose that clubs must announce a 40 man squad of which at least 15 of whom must be Under 21, 10 of whom must have been on the books of that club on their 15th birthday. On the matchday, the starting 11 should include between 5 and 7 under 21s meaning that the game would be contested between players combining youth and experience. Games should mirror first team games, so that if Everton 1st team were playing Spurs at Goodison then the B team would play on the same day. Ideally I would like the B team game to be played at Goodison immediately after the first team game allowing the young players to benefit from playing in front of big crowds and allowing the clubs to benefit from selling more food and drink etc. Having said that there would be practical difficulties in terms of changing rooms and narky groundsmen! So it may have to be that Everton B would play at White Hart Lane using my example.
    I think this would provide the benefits that Greg Dyke is seeking and also the big clubs and Premier League. Also it would not affect the structure and history of our remarkable club structure.

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