Well here I am, trying to fill Ryan’s smoking jacket and slippers until he comes back; Ryan had his young and funky E-Fags, I’ve gone back to a trusty pipe.

Villa’s NextGen Triumph

I’ve decided to ignore the first team and have a look at the U19’s and their NextGen Triumph. Much has been made of this “domination” by English teams, and hope has sprung that this is the silver lining around the dark cloud that was the recent national team’s dismal performances, as well as this season’s Champion League failure. But, really, what does it mean to the English game? Does it point to a “bright future” for English football?

First, a look at the teams:

Aston Villa
Line up: Watkins, Webb, Kinsella, Calder, Donacien, Lewis, Barton, Carruthers, Robinson, Burke, Grealish
Subs: Bateman, Grant,Toner,Crooks, Lyden, Abdo, Crowley

Line up: Beeney, Christiensen, Davey (75), Pappoe, Wright, Ake, Kiwomya, Loftus-Cheek (70), Feruz, Baker, Boga
Subs: Musonda, Killip, Swift, Conroy, Dabo, Colkett, Hunte

Despite the flamboyant names, many of you who don’t watch much youth football will be surprised to find that both teams have a health proportion of domestic players in their teams. However, Chelsea still had four of their starting line up from outside the UK. This would have been six, had it not been for injuries.

Villa’s starting eleven had a just one: Donancien.

This is where Scudamore would like us to stop looking. Our Richard likes to substitute the word “UK” for “England.” Carruthers, Grealish, Kinsella – these players won’t be representing England anytime soon. Why? They’re Irish; same could be said of the Scots and Welsh included in that group. Scudamore will also be thankful Arsenal didn’t get past Chelsea with their multinational youth team.

This is a great tournament and experience-giver to young players; it is not indicative of success in the future for England as so widely predicted this week. People are grasping at straws and slightly confusing the situation. Don’t get me wrong: this is good for English football clubs. The very fact that the youth teams are having success against these great, mystic academies from other shores help enormously. It’s the way this has been sold as some kind of boost for the national side that has me bemused.

The Future of British Youth Teams?

It also avoids the issue that British youth teams have always been very good. This is much to do with the fact that, traditionally, British youth teams have been packed full of “physically developed” youngsters ahead of the more technically adept. I remember watching the England school boys batter a much prettier and more skillful Spanish team back in the early ’90s as part of a school trip. Damn, did I enjoy it on the day; but, thinking back, we won that game because our players were bigger and quicker. Also, they were heavily drilled and organised. I do feel the approach to youth abroad is very different, and it goes hand-in-hand with the way their players are developed.

Players are identified on ability; they are given guidance, but also the room to develop. They are not shoe horned in to a “one size fits all” system. Most of us will have seen, or experienced, teams being picked at all levels of youth football, where size was probably the defining factor of where one played. Often, many youth players will not get the chance to play in different positions to develop, as they have been identified as a CB because they’re six feet tall at fifteen years old. I know there were better players than me not getting picked for teams I’ve played for. But, because I was big and put myself about, I got in the team. At the time, I thought this was a skill, now I just realise I was a bully who didn’t try to improve his game until I could no longer dominate fellow midfielders – and that was too late.

They play basic, no-contact football in Holland and Brazil. Players are only allowed to intercept the ball and tackle face-to-face. It really is a skill. I am not suggesting this should come in a the senior level; but, up to a point in a player’s development, it would allow players to hone and showcase their skills without being forced off balls by big brutes.

Moving Forward

The NextGen win is another proud moment in the history of Aston Villa. It is a nice feeling to know we have a talented bunch of players that will be forcing their way toward the first team in the season to come. However, if you think that because of this Aston Villa or any other English team will begin to dominate European football, then take another look. The best players eligible for the tournament are already in their respective clubs first teams and thus not taking part. The culture of these clubs for the youngsters is based on performance and individual development rather than result, and I’m afraid we are still way behind the likes of Germany, Holland and Spain in this regard.

Well done to the boys, but I don’t think I’ll be betting on England to win any of the next few international tournaments.

As always, UTV!

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