The Sweeper: The Failure of Youth Development in England

Every Boy's Dream

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Whatever the legal niceties of it, the backstory of the Premier League’s worldwide poaching of talent is the failure of the Academy scheme domestically, put into place 12 years ago nationwide, but hardly bringing through an amazing stream of talent. That’s not to say Chelsea wouldn’t still be looking for the likes of Kakuta abroad if they’d brought a few more youth players through (greed knows few boundaries, of course), but all the same, David Conn’s piece today in the Guardian on the failure of youth development in England is pretty damning.

“This, then, is the state we are in. Professional clubs, rich as oligarchs, trawling for boys their own coaches know are too young, giving scant opportunities to the few who come through, while waving their wallets to likelier lads in other countries. It is a system crying out for reform, from top to bottom.”

Things probably are bad when the Football Association’s own director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking, laments a “vacuum of leadership” at the youth level in a new book on the failures in the academies Every Boy’s Dream by Chris Green. We’ll be reviewing the timely book later this month.


  • And of course, there’s more on this story: Now Fiorentina have made “initial contact” with FIFA over a complaint about Michele Fornasier, a teenager who signed  with Manchester United. They’ll have a much harder time winning any dispute as Italian law does not allow contracts to be signed before the age of 16. Rosemary Bennett clarifies a few of the legal questions, particularly looking at the unusual French law that does allow children to sign pre-contracts, a controversial situation at the heart of much of the recent fuss.
  • The ongoing mess in America’s lower leagues only gets uglier, with Miami FC President Aaron Davidson promising radical change by saying “We will have an owner-controlled league by next year. I’m not sure what it will be named and how it will be structured, but it will start with these eight teams” (5 existing and 3 expansion USL-1 teams).  Thanks to Football in Miami and Beyond for the tip. Meanwhile, Rochester Rhinos owner Rob Clark ripped into the proposed breakaway, placing most of the blame on former USL owner Nike and not league management, while suggesting an expensive, national marketing campaign was not the way forward. Given Rochester have been one of the steadier USL-1 clubs over the years, these concerns should be taken seriously.
  • Paul Doyle looks at the success Paul Le Guen has had since taking over Cameroon, where he has somewhat steadied their shaky World Cup qualification hosts. In an interesting aside, he quotes Guinea’s Titi Camara view that he’s underpaid because he’s African. “It’s because I’m black and African,” Camara, who makes £8,800 a month, said. “If I were a white European they would have no problem paying me at least that much.”
  • Tim Stannard satirically praises Spain’s “switch-off” campaign to have as few people as possible watching the country’s football matches”, highlighted by this week’s World Cup qualifier taking place at Merida’s small 14,000 capacity venue.
  • There’s obviously a ton of World Cup qualifying action today, but a lot of eyes will be on Diego Maradona as Argentina heads to Paraguay for a tough but critical qualifier. has probably the most bizarre and pointless piece on the match, giving very poor context to Seydou Keita’s nonsensical comment that “The coach does not play the game, Maradona could do well selling newspapers, but perhaps as a coach he’s no good because he does not play.” Huh?

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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