TALKING TACTICS: Reserve league overhaul is crucial

SCOUT Phil Smith looks at the state of reserve team football and Andre Villas Boas’ proposal to field reserve teams in lower leagues.

Danny Ings ended his injury nightmare with the winner against Preston North End as the Reserves climbed to the summit of the Central League West Division.

Understandably, he stole the headlines on his return from injury, but it was the strike from Wes Fletcher which whetted my appetite for the column today.

Wes is systematic of all that is wrong with the structure of football in this country. Prolific in the reserves, but will he be given the opportunity to succeed?

In a results-driven industry, Eddie Howe will not just throw him into the Championship arena, when he has players such as Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin and Zavon Hines to choose from.


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It takes a brave man to throw an untested player into the team at such a crucial stage of the season, and Eddie will not be alone in opting for experience.

Football is a sport we all love, but, at the end of the day, a manager will lose his job if results are negative.

Why would they take a risk? We can all sit there, and admit a player deserves a chance, but who could honestly say they would take a gamble if your career was on the line?

To be brutally honest here, who would actually care if our reserves won the division?


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It is a totally irrelevant competition, which benefits the club in no way, shape or form.

Admittedly, you could argue that it allows players to return to match fitness, but given the standard on show, a training ground game against the youth team would be just as beneficial.

I refuse to buy into the argument that television money has spawned the best league in the world, and thus we cannot complain when Arsenal field a team devoid of an Englishman.

Yes, Robin Van Persie is twice the player that Emile Heskey has ever been, but has nobody stopped to examine the root cause of English mediocrity?


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Of course, the standard of coaching plays an integral role in development, but that is not the issue.

Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson could personally oversee the development of Wes, but it wouldn’t make a difference if he was denied competitive game time.

Spain are the best team on the planet, and favourites to triumph at EURO 2012.

That is by no coincidence, as their entire domestic structure is geared towards player development.


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We are all aware of the B teams from Real Madrid and Barcelona which compete in the main league pyramid, and would it honestly be a wild leap of faith to consider the same scenario here?

They cannot be promoted from Segunda B, in order to avoid playing the first team.

In our case, that would mean our reserves couldn’t graduate out of League One, but evidently, those in that division would reject the proposal anyway.

However, that is not to say that we cannot modify the Spanish philosophy to suit our needs.


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The Premier League has its own separate reserve league, and why can the model not be adopted for the three divisions below?

A full season against players of a similar standard would most definitely be more productive than a handful of Carling Cup appearances, coupled with a run out at Chorley on a Wednesday night.

In a world hit by the recession, this structure would enable the football club to nurture talent at minimal cost.