Many Are Called, But The Chosen Few Must Always Stand Apart

There is an accusation levelled at the youth of today, that they want all of the trimmings of success without having to put in the hard work. This may be a fair comment to some, and regarded as harsh by others.

Recently a meeting with a young man in his late teens possibly illustrated this point, or maybe showed how people are happy to distort the truth if it makes them appear better; This is in spite of the fact that today it is very easy to check the validity of such claims as the youth should know. Saying that as we have shown not even sporting organisations carry out due diligence with their appointments.(Who’s Hiring?)

The young man in question, during a conversation proudly stated that he was a former Perth Glory player. Now to most people who follow sport when such a statement is made by an athlete referring to a professional sporting club, it means that they had a professional contract with the said club. It transpired that this individual had played for one of Perth Glory’s youth sides, and had not progressed even as far as the National Youth League side, let alone a professional contract.

He was of course telling the truth. Others will claim that he was distorting the truth.

Which brings into question professional clubs having youth teams that play in competitions away from a National set up.

In Europe many of the professional sporting clubs have junior sides that play against their senior opposition in a league that mirrors the senior competition, albeit based along more regional lines. Australia, being such a vast country means that such a proposition here would be very difficult and expensive. As we have seen with the National Youth League, this has now had to be watered down, and all the teams participating no longer play each other throughout the season.

Is it healthy to have A-League sides having youth teams across a number of age groups playing in the colours of the A-League side and carrying their name?

Does having a set up such as this have players, and their parents, believing that they have already “arrived” a long time before they have? Do some players not put in as much effort because they now believe they are on the pathway to being a professional footballer?

In Europe in the past there were clubs who were known to be the feeding clubs to the professional teams. The professional teams helped by supplying coaches and assisted in recruiting the players that they were interested in, who were invited to play for the feeder club. Not all players accepted such an invitation, and opted to stay with their existing clubs, but the door was not closed to them for making that decision.

Having the feeder clubs play in a meaningful competition allowed the coaching staff to blood these young boys against men. To see how they responded not only playing against grown men, but also playing alongside them and interacting with them at the club. Coaches learned a great deal about young players in this environment, and whether they had the character to succeed at the next level. They also managed to establish if they were team players or individuals.

It was a system that worked successfully for decades. Players that were asked to join these clubs knew it was an honour to be invited. They also knew that this was the team expected to achieve every season. Some of course found that expectation to be too big a burden.

So should we look at a similar system in Australia? Should the A-League clubs no longer have teams playing under their name and in their colours in local competition?

Should they look to local clubs as feeder clubs and establish relationships with two or three clubs within different catchment areas, assist with the coaching and recruiting to pull in the players that they feel may have the potential to play professionally, if they continue to develop?

Wouldn’t such a system ensure that the A-League clubs established scouting networks across the country where they could then identify talent, rather than holding trials and hoping that talent will come to them? It is clear that the identification of real footballing talent has been neglected in recent years, if it hadn’t we would not be witnessing the recycling of mediocre players within the A-League.

It would also establish a bond between the A-League clubs and local clubs that in some areas of the country seems to have weakened in recent times as the A-League clubs poach young players, and in some cases when they sign the player, fail to pay development fees that the club is entitled to.

For the time being something clearly needs to be done to differentiate between players who reach the A-League and play professionally, and those who try to allude to the fact, as the young teenager mentioned did.

These young players selected to play for the various age groups still have a long way to go before they have “made it.” There is still a great deal of work to be done before they can lay claim to having played for a professional football club. It is important that we do not blur the lines, as it undermines the achievements of the small percentage who manage to make it to the top. Who not only had the talent, but also had the drive and the desire to work hard and make sacrifices to earn a professional contract.

It is important that the privilege and honour of wearing a club’s shirt as a professional athlete is never diminished. It is something that should always have to be earned, and not be given away easily. Ask any top player how they felt when they pulled on their club’s shirt, or the national team shirt for the first time, and almost every single one will tell you how special it was, how inspiring, how scary, and how much responsibility it carried.

If young players from the age of twelve or younger are allowed to wear the shirt and play in a team that carries the same name as a great club, what do they possibly have to aspire to? There will be many players who represent the club at junior level but there will be very few who will have the talent to go on and carve a career as a professional. That achievement and honour should never be undermined.

If some players already think that they have arrived, and are already boasting that they play for the club, then the long-term future of these clubs is in jeopardy.

Many Are Called, But The Chosen Few Must Always Stand Apart
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3 thoughts on “Many Are Called, But The Chosen Few Must Always Stand Apart

  • February 8, 2018 at 9:42 am
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    Thank you both of your for your comments.

    N. Petrisor, your comment was wonderful and I could imagine what you were saying. It encapsulates what sport is about in my opinion. I used to go and watch our village team, as I knew all the players. When they were not playing we played sometimes 20-a-side alongside the pitch. I never played for them, but did one day play against them, which made it an interesting game!

    The development in this country is a mess. We adopted systems from countries that were so different to our own in terms of their attitude to the sport and the geography, and we wonder why it has failed. It needs to be re-configured and fast, but sadly those at the top will not acknowledge the mistakes made. Which means the game will continue to struggle and we rob a generation of opportunity.

    All White, I agree, I am not sure that A-League clubs should have junior set ups as I was alluding to in the article.

    I also have to agree with your ‘no one engaging the youth.’ I have attended two trials held by NPL clubs these past few months. At one there were 35 children in one age group, I forget the number in the other. These children were wearing Barcelona Shirts, Man Utd, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal and a couple had Socceroos shirts, but at both trials there was not one child in an A-League shirt. That to me says a great deal about the marketing of the league and where it sits in the psyche of the next generation.

    Finally I like your idea re the State League and NPL, however I doubt any club would vote for such a proposal, and the clubs are the members of Football West and so they dictate what can and cannot happen.

  • February 8, 2018 at 9:27 am
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    In my opinion the A-League clubs should not have junior set ups. They should focus solely on putting out a quality team that is competitive. They should be a focal point for football in each state. As you state they should have a proper scouting network across Australia and should invest – I know they won’t like this – in the NPL clubs and have them as you say as feeder clubs.

    As the previous comment states where are the youth watching the senior teams outside the A-League. In fact where are the Youth at the the A-League games? No one is engaging the youth to have them stay and watch games. How do you become a better player? By watching and learning. No wonder Football is struggling. It may be the most played sport in the country but the standards are dreadful. The Socceroos poor. Apart from Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets the A-League is not worth watching and is not helped by dull commentary. As for the NPL, why would you pay $10 to watch that? As you state players playing who shouldn’t be and players being paid who shouldn’t be.

    My view is the NPL and State League should both be scrapped and a competition played where the top ten teams go into the NPL the next 10 the State League division one and the next ten in division two. If it means the current NPL sides are not in the NPL so be it. Some are there only because of history not because of their football. We need a fresh approach.

  • February 7, 2018 at 7:22 pm
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    When i was a little kid , my father would take me to watch the games of our best club in the city , they played in the biggest league in our country . I will never forget the magic moments that i spent hugging the wire fence and watching the players , listening to the noise the crowd was making . That got in to my blood and will be with me until the end . I was fortunate and with the help of my father i made it , i represented the club at all age groups and at senior level , first game , when i was given the shirt , number 3 , it’s a moment i will never forget . Clubs in Europe are more than 100 years old and generations from one family follow the club . In Australia most clubs are young , not much following and the whole football culture is lacking in experience and passionate people . In Australia , people in FFA or FW are just interested in their own goal , mostly the bank account . There’s no structure to develop young players , parents have no ideea about how it should be done , the ones that know use theuir country of origin to give the kids a chance . Clubs take advantage of this and charge a lot just for a shirt and a chance to be part of the club . Like all good things it takes know how , passion and hard work , time and money . Hope that i will see , in my life time , some changes that will give young kids a chance to be professional football players . It is possible

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