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Is Manchester United’s Youth System Redundant?

[Warning – this is a longer than usual post, since this is too big a topic to cover in a few snappy paragraphs. Still, I think it’s an important area, so if you have a few minutes then settle in for a read and a think.]

There’s no doubt that we have been spoilt in the past. In the nineties, our youth system produced a quite extraordinary series of top class players. I don’t need to list them, but I will anyway because of the memories they bring back: Sharpe, Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt. All effectively “free”, and all of whom played their best years for United.

But the next generation we all prayed for has never arrived. The only graduates of the youth system since the Golden Generation are Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Darren Fletcher. All have been loyal servants, but hardly the stellar talents we were blessed with before. These days, we hear good things spoken of a young player, maybe glimpse him once or twice in the first team, and then hear he has been sold off to a lesser Premiership side or a Championship team.

I want to look at why that has happened, and whether it means our youth system is now effectively redundant as far as the first team is concerned.

Why are so few youth players making the first team?

There are two main reasons for this:

1. Lack of opportunity
Quite simply, the Premiership is much more competitive than it used to be, and so there are very few chances to blood young players.

Back in the nineties, there was a far larger gap between the top four or five teams and the rest. It was very plausible to play five or six second string players against any team in the bottom half of the table and come away with an easy 2-0 win. We had an easy way of trying out youngsters and seeing if they made the grade. Not only that, but the number of points required to win the league allowed for a bit more margin for error, for a few off days when the rotation didn’t work.

Contrast to the present day. Access to cheap foreign (mainly African and Eastern European) talent and plentiful loans has allowed almost every team in the league to be competitive on their day. Fielding a weakened team, for example, at home to Middlesbrough would be a risky undertaking. Similarly, increasingly high standards are expected at the top of the league – witness Arsenal’s Invincibles and Chelski’s extraordinary unbeaten home record. Each season, records are broken for the standard at the top.

Off days aren’t an acceptable risk any more, they are too high a price to pay for learning about a couple of promising youngsters. You need a big, battle-hardened squad, with two players who could play all season in each position. Playing Wes Brown in the centre of defence instead of Pique in March and April was a classic example of safe not sorry. How will Danny Simpson ever get a run in the right back position when Brown, Neville, O’Shea and Hargreaves can all do a job there?

These days, the best we can hope to do is loan our young players to lesser teams, and see what we can tell from their performances from their loan clubs. This is pretty unreliable, though – what we need to know is not whether a player can nail down a place is a worse team, but whether they have the pedigree to live with the big boys. There’s only one way of finding that out, and that is the baptism of fire.

[The only light at the end of the tunnel here is substitutes. From next season, teams will be allowed to name seven subs – that would allow for a mixture of impact players and youngsters. If we’re 2-0 up with twenty mins to go, we can bring on Welbeck and Simpson for some experience. If it’s 1-1, call on Nani and Tevez to get a goal. O’Shea, Hargreaves and Foster can shore things up and cover injuries. Previously with only 5 spots available, obviously Welbeck and Simpson are the ones sent to sit in the stands.]

2. The new system
If you want chapter and verse on this, you need to read this fascinating interview with Brian McClair which RR linked to a while back. I really can’t recommend highly enough that you read the whole thing, but for the purposes of this article (and since I can’t improve the journalism there) I’m going to quote three passages from it:

The basic principle of the academy system – that clubs can only recruit boys up to the age of 11 who live within an hour’s travel of their academy base – is one for which Ferguson has a long-standing antipathy.

If the current academy system had been in place in the late 1980s United would not have signed Beckham, who grew up in Essex. McClair does not believe they would have signed the Nevilles either, as they would have been snapped up by Bury at an early age and a prohibitive price put upon them. Scholes, he says, would have been at Oldham Athletic’s academy. Giggs would not have had the chance to leave Manchester City for the club he supported. United might have got Butt; they might not.

McClair: “If you look at that group of players who won the 1992 FA Youth Cup for United, nearly every single one of them played at the highest level because they were the best from Northern Ireland, they were the best from Wales, the best from England, the best from Scotland. You can’t compare anything to the Beckham, Butt, Scholes generation with what happens now. It’s impossible to do that now.”

So is our youth system redundant?

To me, it is not redundant, but it has a very different role. It will never be a regular direct source of first team squad players, never mind first team players. However, it has a number of important functions in the modern era:

1. Panning for gold – What we must now hope for from our youth system is to find one big player every five years, one absolute superstar. A Wayne Rooney, a Cesc Fabregas. Those players are out there somewhere, and we need to give ourselves every chance of being the ones to sign them on. We must keep dipping our sieve in the river for the one time that we find a nugget of gold in our hand.

2. A source of income – selling off unwanted youth team players is a valuable income stream. I’ve gone over all our transfers since the Treble season, and come up with the following stats:

Total revenue from selling youth team players*: £66.7m (£35.7m**)
Total revenue adjusted for inflation***: £85.16m (£42.71m)

* Includes players bought at a young age to be developed for first team, eg Rossi
** Not including revenue from sale of Beckham, Butt and P Neville, who arguably fall outside the scope of this article
*** Assuming transfer price inflation of 10% per season

So from selling players who came through our youth system, if you accept my inflation adjustment, we have paid for Rio, Rooney, Ronaldo, Vidic and Evra. Even if you choose to discount the revenue from Beckham, Butt and Phil Neville (on the basis that they played their best years for us, so we had already had value for them by the time they left), we have paid for Rooney, Ronaldo and Vidic. So what we are effectively operating is a glorified part-exchange system, where we trade in five or six players who are good enough for the Premiership but not good enough for us for one first team regular. Note: I have included full details of how I got to those numbers at the end of the article for those of you who are interested – I thought it would disrupt the flow unnecessarily to include the full list here

By the way, a flipside of the loan system is that it is making it easier than ever for us to get value for our not-quite-good-enough players. For example, Sunderland would pay several million for Jonny Evans, and Stoke would like to pay us a couple of million for Frazier Campbell – before we’d have had to sell them into the Championship for much less. The indirect benefit of developing decent young players is increasing.

3. A finishing school – a major part of our transfer strategy now consists of buying up talented foreign players in their mid-teens and bringing them to Old Trafford to develop. Rossi and Pique were part of that system, and now we have players like the Brazilian twins and the young Italian striker we have just signed. A strong, competitive youth team set-up is obviously very valuable for helping those young signings realise their potential.

I don’t feel our youth system is redundant — far from it — but it’s role has changed significantly since the days of the Golden Generation. What are your views?

Youth team transfers since 1999
07-08
Richardson – £5.5m
Rossi – £6.7m
Pique – £5m
Bardsley – £2m
Shawcross – £1m
Total – £20.2m

06-07
McShane & Steele – exchange for Kuszczak, est £5m
David Jones – £1m
Spector – £0.5m
Total – £6m, adjusted for inflation £6.6m

05-06
P Neville – £3.5m
Total – £3.5m, adjusted for inflation £4.2m

04-05
Butt – £2.5m
Total – £2.5m, adjusted for inflation £3.25m

03-04
Beckham – £25m
Total – £25m, adjusted for inflation £35m

02-03
Rachubka – £0.2
Total – £0.2m, adjusted for inflation £0.3m

01-02
Healy – £1.8m
Greening – £2m
Total – £3.8m, adjusted for inflation £6.08m

00-01
Curtis – £1.5m
Higginbotham – £2m
Notman – £0.25m
Total – £3.75m, adjusted for inflation £6.38m

99-00
Mulryne – £0.5m
Cook – £1m
Nevland – £0.25m
Total – £1.75m, adjusted for inflation £3.15m

46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. kev

    June 27, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Good Article.

    I think your right, the role has changed.

    I wouldnt say for the better, as id like nothing more than a new golden Generation of LOYAL players to the club!

  2. Stephen

    June 27, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Superb article RR, its’s a really difficult one really, Fergie is our greatest manager without question, but maybe and I am not sure if this is true, he surrounds himself with yes men. Brian McClair, Mike Phealan, Ole are all ex players and not out and out coaches and our chief scout is if I am not wrong is his brother!!

    Pos, we should have imported the best scouts and coaches from around the world, but who knows. We set the bench very high with the golden generation and that will never happen again, but we are more a buying team rather than a Arsenal style side which does develop foreign players thru its youth and buy relatate un knowns, but look at our record compared to theirs.

    We should have in my view given definatly Rossi more of a crack and pos Pique. We as you well said, can’t have now off days the league is too tight and you can’t play youngsters against the likes of West Ham or Middlesborough.

    Its a tough one and who knows, but we aren’t doing too bad and Fergie we trust but it would be great if we could bring a Fagregas thru though!!

  3. Ryan

    June 27, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Ever so slightly off topic but I think we should have a Manchester United B side playing in the championship leagues…..

  4. Ian

    June 27, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I think there’s also the Chelsea factor. By that I mean not so much increased competition in general but competition with Chelsea. A couple of seasons ago I remember us having a good 1st 11 playing but with a bench of Kuszczak, Ole, Brown, O’Shea, Richardson (I think). On the same day Chelsea’s bench was something like Cudicini, Shevchenko, Ballack, Makalele, SWP. Nowadays we can have the likes Nani, Anderson and Carrick on the bench. No other teams in the league can have such a costly squad. In the past we could win the league with a definite 1st team and reserves like Jordi Cruyff, Butt, Phil Neville, Luke Chadwick, Quinton Fortune. Back then Rossi and Pique would have got plenty of match time.

    Chelsea raised the bar and Fergie has had to compete financially and now Liverpool are trying to do the same. On the bright side, having to improve the squad to compete with Chelsea has probably won us the champions league.

    I think in future, if you want to win the league you need to expect to buy your top 15 players and hope the rest can be home grown Fletchers and O’Sheas. Any home grown player being a regular 1st 11 will be a bonus.

  5. Paul

    June 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Good article, but I don’t get your inflation figures. If you are going to inflate the 99-00 sale figures you must also inflate the Rio/Rooney etc buying figures by the same amount.

  6. Stephen

    June 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Sorry Penguin, I didn’t give you credit for the article!!

  7. AntiManu

    June 27, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Farm talented youth out to “lesser teams” for them to be developed is the way forward 😎

  8. SoPEX

    June 27, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Really nice article. Love this topic. For me, I always believe a team must produce at least 4-5 home-grown players who will be the pillars of the team. Really miss the Class of 92. But as being said, it’s hard to produce any group of players like them anymore due to today’s demanding game. I really hope that one day a local talent will emerge as United hero, just like JT for Chelsea and Stevie for Liverpool. This type of player really symbolizes the club.

  9. Keith Kaira II

    June 27, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    It has zero to do with opportunity but everything to do with what McClair talked about. The English FA single handedly decided to kill of the growth of British talent with their stupid academy laws. Especially the infamous one our law. even reducing on foreign imports wont reverse that damage like scraping the stupid law would

  10. Bouncerboy

    June 27, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Well said, the role of the academy has changed from a direct link for homegrown(or not) into a aprt-exchange system. I fully agree with the finishing school principle and hope it may continue for many years to come.. this can only strengthen our hand in future recruitment personnel; if players like the way they come out of manchester united and go into a big club as young, good quality first team members, then we should be able to attract some of the best talented kids around..

    I think ronaldo principle is an example. Nani& ANderson liked what they saw Cristiano Ronaldo has become at Old Trafford. Admired him and in turn developed a greater level of understanding and respect for the manchester united talent developers. In turn when approached about a potential move to Old Trafford, the old extraneous factors of bad weather, food lack of own culture and reasons for not moving to manchester have become redundant. The worlds best young footballers are now understanding that environmental factors are nowhere as near as important as a strong work ethic to fuse with ones own talent.

    ANdy and Nani are futher justifyuing this, and as i’m sure all manchester unbited fans will hope, when they deliver consistent killer first team performsances, they in turn will also attract other talented footbal kids from their cultures..

    So I think we have seen the formation of a youth-team cycle for the old-skul link to the first team. Whereas before the academy kids were given a chance in the first team to see if they are good enough, now the story is to sell the academy products, buy ‘better youth products’ from the international/globalised football market, develop them into consitent classy performers and in turn attract more quality kids from the international market to either finsih their football education at United or go on to become first team performers at old trafford..

    Maybe there is even an argument for a hierarchy within the premier league itself? As reported in the Red Ranters article, while the indigenous kids maybe not make the grade at Old Trafford, they may be good enough for the newly promoted and the lower half teams..

    this maybe a potential avenue for indigenous football kids to play their trade in the top english flight instead of championship or league 1..

    I think while there is the british/lack of english kids in the top 4 argument, the premier league as a whole can in fact benefit from the new academy restrictions.. So long as the club keeps it’s identity and does have a core of British players the future looks bright, the future looks red.. [p.s. sorry to red ranter for the long post!]

    Everton for Frazer Campell anyone?

  11. Andrei

    June 27, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I think it is very reduntant.

    What was the point of bringing Rossi to the team in 2004? Surely Ferguson did not imagine that he would be able to sell the player for a few million three years down the road. He imagined that the striker will be a good first team player. Now he sold him, the lad proved himself with Villareal and United are left in limbo with 5 million in cash and a striker short…

    Players will not get opportunities if you do not give it to them. Look at Arsenal. Fabregas did not become amazing siting on the bench. He was given matches and then developed from potential to talent. Walcott is not good enough for their first team, but he still is always in the squad. These are potential talents and if Wenger is better than Ferguson at one thung, it is breeding youngsters.

  12. Viresh

    June 27, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    http://www.manutd.com/default.sps?pagegid=%7BB4CEE8FA%2D9A47%2D47BC%2DB069%2D3F7A2F35DB70%7D&newsid=6612713

    i think we’re done developing players we’ve got 7 we just released and i thought some of these players were gonna challenge for the first team but looks like we’re just gonna be importing players from spanish and italian sides it just seems sad really. I really feel bale and ramsey would have been ace signings and we need to get transfer targets sorted as soon as the season ends!! plus those two would have probably qualifed under the 6+5 rule on the basis that welsh teams play in the english leagues.

  13. donibrasco

    June 27, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    i too feel it is redundant.wenger brings them young,and most end up playing.our system does not allow kids to come thru.look at arsenal.bentner,clichy.eboue,fab,walcot,denilson,traore,.etc,all have played in the league.what do we have in response?
    academies shouldnt be judjed on how much you get from them but how they feed the team.
    we have to buy to compete.

  14. Stephen

    June 27, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Only Arsenal to a degree are producing young players through their system, and a lot of them are bought or taken from a young age from other sides, other players they are bringing through are foreign, the only English player they have produced who currently is close to their starting line up is Hoyte who, well is shit.

    Chelscum have only captain cunt.

    The dippers have Stevie Me who is 28 and Carrrraaaaahhh who is 30.

    We have been poor recently in bringing plyers through but so have our closest rivals. This is how football seems to be going which I suppose is a shame.

    We paid £18.6m for Carrick, and thats the price you pay for English talent, which is really why we should now look and produce our own Carricks’, and give them a chance, look on the brightside we produced Fletcher.

    Ps can’t believe how cheaply we sold Butt and P Nev!!

  15. Shyam

    June 27, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Just for the argument and related discussion, I think instead of going for a striker who will cost tens of millions we should show faith in our youngsters….like Campbell,Manucho or they might also face the same fate as Rossi etc…

    Campbell have proved his worth with his stints at Antwerp and Hull…Manucho has shown glimpses of his talent in Panathniakos and with Angola…So lets show some faith in them ..so that they dont just end up top scoring reserve league!!!

  16. Red Ranter

    June 27, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    @Shyam: Err, Manucho is 24 — not exactly a kid, one would think. I’m not sure if that’s the age group we are talking about.

  17. Shyam

    June 27, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    i was just mentioning about the second team players who always end up in reserve league and never make it to the first team due to thehigh profile names…was’nt really talking about academy kids though….my bad!! 🙂

  18. DMC

    June 27, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    I am generally against affirmative action but it would be great to insist on all teams having to blood young players at some point during the season as this would keep a level playing field but would allow the youngsters a better chance to prove themselves.

    Nevertheless, in relation to the topic of the day, the academy is a profit center that compliments the main business (winning major footballing trophies) so keep up the good work!

  19. Shyam

    June 27, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I was trying to point out that for the last 2-3 years whats happening is the players/youngsters who came through the academy ranks are not even provided with the Prem chance at all..In the last few years we heard a lots about Cathcart,Evans,Simpson,Campbell…Yet to see them in action in Prem…So before talking about the players in Academy right now …lets look back and try to find what happened to those players who were supposed to be in the current first team !!

  20. Stephen

    June 27, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Shyam, well not trying to point out the obvious but they just were not good enough for a top four club.

  21. Grognard

    June 27, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Nice article Penguin. A system that does not work, that’s plain and clear. All the more reason to slap Fergie and the brain trust on the wrist for not making the real effort to sign Aaron Ramsey. Honestly, I think Fergie has given up on the youth academy and system altogether and that’s a shame. Quite often things like this a cyclical and if you stick with things long enough, you will get lucky and some stars will come out of it. So what is his solution? Uprooting boys from non English speaking countries and have them play on the reserve side or sending them on loan to some side that reminds them of what Purgatory must be like. Not away to leave a lasting loyalty amongst these lads and not away for them to get properly acclimated to the language and cultural changes they need to survive and prosper within the Prem.

    Truthfully, the only way things will improve is to adjust the territorial rules by getting numerous big teams in England to make a royal big sting to the FA in unison. As well, the controversial Sepp Blatter 6 & 5 rule would force teams to start concentrating about local as well as homegrown talent again. It would be better for the domestic game and the development of domestic players but I’m not sure it would be better for United as a main threat both in England as well as Europe. The FA needs to wake up here and create a democratic method for signing and nurturing domestic talent instead of this oppressive and restrictive left wing method designed with regional bias and regional limitations written all over it. United also needs to get more aggressive and raid and scoop the best young talent from other clubs in England. The problem is they are at the top and while on top, one gets concerned with staying there. All their money and effort is being taken up by the first team and the need to keep the first team competitive. No vision or long term thinking is being used here and Fergie at his age isn’t about to spread himself thin to get the job done amongst the youth ranks too. It only means bad luck for his successor.

  22. Krishnan

    June 27, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I guess Danny Welbeck would’ve been given a chance if we had wrapped up the title before the last day. The pressure is too much and that is what is preventing the mangers from blooding the youngsters…..

  23. Scott the Red

    June 27, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    We’re never going to get another year like 1995-1996 when so many great players emerged, and so we’ll always fall short when it comes to the topic of youth production.

    A better comparison is with the top 4. We have far more youth team products in our squad than Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

    I agree with your point on lack of opportunity though. As Arsenal have proven with their 3 barren years, there just isn’t the time in football to try and develop so many young players and bring them through. We thought we had a bad start to the season in the one just gone, but look at 95-96 when we gave the likes of Becks, Scholes, Butt, the Nevilles, O’Kane etc. a chance. In the first 19 games of the season, we won just 10 of them, but still went on to win the league. You can’t afford to do that anymore.

  24. B

    June 27, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Off topic, but I’ve just finished watching the Review DVD of 07/08 and I have only one word…. WOW!!!!!!!
    I saw every game this season but to see a 2 and a half hour highlight reel is truly amazing, what a treat!! BUT, the only low point is that seeing ronaldo score goal after goal after goal, i cant imagine us without him… i was one of the most vocal about letting him fuck off to madrid but now im really scared of him not being here… the boy is simply a blockbuster… having said that, it also reinforced the view that he is perfectly made for our team… he will not play that well over there, that’s for SURE… i simply cant understand his decision 🙄

    Regarding this article, great article penguin, hope the trend will change soon as well have even more games this year to blood in the youngters…..

  25. colver

    June 27, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    The Beckham generation was an anomaly. Even disregarding the territorial rules, there have not been any British players that good that young since with the possible exception of Rooney. If the player is good enough they should be able to break into even world class teams like ours. Rooney managed it, Ronaldo managed it, Nani managed it, Anderson managed it.

    Most players take time to develop. They will not be ready for us until their 20s. That means they need to develop at another club and then we’ll have to buy them at a fee at a later stage. There are few players who are amazing at a very young age, and those that are usually command very high transfer fees (Ronaldo, Rooney, Anderson, Nani).

    We do buy youth, but we buy world class youth, and that means we have to pay for it.

    Arsene buys youth but seems to have this knack of identifying the players other managers miss and he develops them into world class players. That is the sort of thing we want to be doing more of. But not on the same scale because the problem with Arsenal is that their team is too young and the lack of experience and mental fortitude lets them down on the big stage.

    I like the way we groom successors to our established stars. The established stars like Giggs and Scholes cannot play all the games which gives chances to their future replacements like Anderson and Nani.

    Next thing to do is to find the next Ferdinand and the next Ronaldo and the next Neville. If we do that we’ll be able to stay on top for another ten years.

  26. Fred The Red

    June 27, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Funny you should bring this up today coz over twenty years ago when SAF first took over at at OT he set up a centre of excellence here in Belfast which I had the honour to attend and today out of the blue I bumped into our then coach and was surprised when he told me that he was still coaching for United and that the Scout was the same.
    The scout in question I believe is a decent scout but unless the coach has improved since I went there I would find it hard to believe that better, younger and more tedhnically minded coaches havent surfaced and taken his job.
    But it proved what I had always suspected, to get a coahing job here in Northern Ireland its not what you know, its who you know and I suspect its the same at OT especially when you consider that the youth team coach is the son of a former player and that one of our top scouts is SAFs brother. Could be that these two are good at their jobs but can you honestly say that having relatives connected to the club didnt play a major if not decisive role in them getting the jobs coz I find it hard to believe that there isnt people more qualified than them that are being overlooked.
    I will write more about this later when I return

  27. Primachenko

    June 27, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    as pointed out a while ago i agree on the notion that the carling cup should be a competition designed exclusively to blood youngsters. the fa cup should be a senior competition and the carling cup junior. slap an age limit on the carling cup matches and let the kids go at it.

  28. Dan(u-ol)

    June 27, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    yes, yes it is, any of the “oldies” on this blog will know my anger towards us building then selling are youth team, and they would know how disappointed/pissed i am towards us releasing 6 players today. i absolutely hate selling our youth, especially when they haven’t been given a chance.

  29. Dan(u-ol)

    June 27, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    i just realised that 1 of the players released today will be moving to a serie b club abroad, good on him, ambitious and i hope we will be hearing about him soon.

  30. Liam

    June 27, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I have been saying for a while now that this is a problem. The thing is that we supposedly loan out players to get them experience and then if they do well like Rossi and Pique have done we don´t give them the chance that they deserve. I mean Chelsea have given Scott Sinclair a few games this season and I don´t need to tell you about Wenger. If Frazier Campbell goes to Hull or another Prem team and turns into a decent scorer I will be pissed that we didn´t give him the chance that he earned last season by playing so well for Hull. I´m not saying that they should start but there will be times that we have a comfortable lead with a fair few minutes to go and they could show us what they can do.

    There is however a flaw to basing opinions on players on these sub appearances and that is that the team will be taking it easy at this point and it wont be as competitive as in a proper situation

  31. Liam

    June 27, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    And about those youth teamers released today I remember that Kieron Lee was tipped for big things 1 or 2 years ago and made a few decent Carling Cup appearances but then drifted back down.

    Two of them are Irish as well which makes me unhappy but if they weren´t good enough then so be it i´ll just have to put all my hope into Robbie Brady. 🙂

  32. dan(u-ol)

    June 27, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Hehehe, chelsea want to be refs dont they.

    look at their referee uniform.

  33. Grognard

    June 27, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    @dan(u-ol): I don’t know Dan, it works for me. I like all black as it looks intimidating and kind of scares the opposition a bit like New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team and the once fearsome Oakland Raiders of the NFL. I prefer it over our puffy blue shorts and white top. And Ballack looks good in black, I must say SEHR GUT, JA!

  34. Grognard

    June 27, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Well the reports are many, Frank Lampard is off to be reunited with the Special One at Inter. Apparently Quaresmea is already signed by them too. I applaud a team that doesn’t waste their time at crucial perts off the season taking vacations. But then I guess Mourinho already had a long vacation so he was fresh and raring to go. Four year contract for a guy who is 30. NUTS! 🙄

  35. Red Ranter

    June 27, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Quick question Grognard, do you have as big of a man crush on Ballack as Steven Cohen of World Soccer Daily? 🙂 Just curious, nothing ulterior.

  36. Shyam

    June 28, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Just happened to see a video of Ramsey and i dont think we missed out a big deal there…He looks more like a Carrick kind of player than Giggs…Doesnt even move like a winger!!..Do anyone know which position he plays?

    Aaron Ramsey

  37. Red Ranter

    June 28, 2008 at 3:11 am

    @Shyam: He is a central midfielder. He was never a winger. It was the Welsh connection that caused comparisons with Giggs.

  38. Shyam

    June 28, 2008 at 3:54 am

    @ Red Ranter : Thanks for that clarification. Then is it that bad we missed out on another Central midfielder??

  39. Grognard

    June 28, 2008 at 4:47 am

    RR; My man crush for Ballack is far superior to Steven Cohen’s because I still love the guy even though he plays for Chelsea. Cohen is such a sad and pathetic Chelsea nut that I’m sure he would jump off of the Ballack bandwagon if Mikey moved to another team. 😀

    That’s funny though RR, because I listen to World Soccer Daily religiously and Cohen often gets me on how he can jump on and off a bandwagon so fast and so often and yet still be in one piece. When Ballack was injured and not the flavor of the month at Chelsea I remember how SC had nothing good to say about him and questioned the man’s heart and of course the reason for buying him. He’s truly a fair weather fan. I’ll give him credit though, he does have his passion for the game even though he’d deeply rooted in that stupid political correctness. I have no problem with his co-host Kenny Hassan “Brilliant”, “Dangerous” who I think is good, but I’m still mad about the sacking of my favorite co-host and soul mate Howard Rogers. I loved the infamous “Prince of Darkness and his pro Manchester United thinking as well as his realistic and honest look at the rest of the world of football. When he would refer to somebody that he didn’t like as “crap” and “totally useless” it was like music to my heart. He was certainly honest and politically incorrect and he would get a lot of hate mail and negative press from the nauseating clean as soap, holier than thou and virgin spoon fed audience that I found Howard a breath of fresh air. In fact I have always seen myself as the Howard Rogers of RedRants. Instead of Grognard I really should be known as Son of Prince of Darkness or PoD v 2.0. I miss that lovable miserable old bastard. I’m glad you are a fan of the show RR. Or at least I assume your are. 😀

  40. michael

    June 28, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Fantastic article, RR, I tip my hat to you. Although I’d be interested to see how much our youth system costs to operate, as I’d imagine it’s quite a lot.

    When you said we have to hope for a world-class player every five years, I think you’re being overly optimistic. As McClair said, and Fergie says every chance he gets, the current regulations on transfers of youth players prohibit us from getting players from outside our catchment area; we really can’t expect a Fabregas or Rooney every five years from just Greater Manchester. While I understand the aim of the regulations (to protect the interests of small clubs and encourage them to develop youngsters) they are greatly to the detriment of youth players throughout the UK. The best players need to play with each other to reach their potential, and to learn from the best coaches, which is unlikely to happen at Oldham Athletic. Look at the current crop of Clairefontaine graduates in France who have benefited from playing with high-quality peers on a regular basis. Hopefully something similar will happen with the FA’s proposed academy, because otherwise the best young talents in England are going to suffer. Arguably very few international class players have come up since Lilleshall closed in 99. There isn’t an English teenager I can think of who is widely regarded as a potential world-class player, although Freddie Sears looks promising.

    It’s also dissapointing to think that this means clubs are essentially training players to be sold down the ladder. The “Big Four” sell to the rest of the Premier League, the rest of the Premier League sells to the Championship etc, etc. The only exception seems to be West Ham, who consistently produce players good enough to play at the top level.

  41. Tomas

    June 28, 2008 at 8:56 am

    @michael: To be fair, it’s not RR’s article, but Penguin’s.

  42. Red Ranter

    June 28, 2008 at 9:33 am

    [Grognard]
    I am not a fan but I am a regular listener. I must doff my hat to Steven because anyone who does a daily 2 hr podcast deserves respect. Steven Cohen is not a fair weather fan as far as his club loyalties are concerned because it’s only in the past 5 years that Chelsea have become a dominant force. But yes, he oscillated between calling Avram Grant a wanker to the second coming of the Messiah.

    But then you yourself wouldn’t find it wrong being a fair weather fan as you admitted that you don’t like getting tortured in sport for long. Oh well, each one to his own.

    But in terms of general podcasts, my favorite one is the one on Arseblog — not because of his arsenal affiliations — but because he is very funny. His impersonations of Eboue, William Gallas, Adebayor are outstanding. You must listen just for the sake of those funny segments in between. And of course, he’s far from politically correct. For entertainment value, his is among the best.

    The Guardian podcasts are also funny.

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  44. Grognard

    June 28, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    RR; I’ll try those others out so thanks. And by the way, I am a huge listener to the show but even so, I am always disagreeing with what Cohen has to say. I have no fault with his love for Chelsea but sometimes he will waste half a show on them and the other half on Liverpool and Arsenal. United gets very little attention from them. And whenever Howard Rogers would start about United he was always cut short by Cohen. Very frustrating indeed. I don’t know why but that show has a very large Liverpool and Arsenal following. Are Americans that bloody dense and lacking in good taste? And it’s fine being a bit of a fair weather fan but Cohen should have serious back problems from all that violent jumping on and off bandwagon’s. I guess he just jumped off the Frank Lampard one. And you were so right to bring up his turnaround regarding Avram Grant. It was truly hilarious to listen to. That alone should have made him lose a lot of credibility. That’s of course assuming he had any to begin with.

  45. Michael

    June 28, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    I remember last summer listening to the radio and hearing a piece about youth development in england.
    They had many interviews with staff from Manchester United and they explained how they are now training their much younger players, aged 10ish, in a similar fashion to how they learn to play in Brazil.
    They said how almost every other club in England was still obsessed with running and strength but they were focusing on technique.
    So maybe in 5-10 years time we will see some good results of this.
    I found this article, it basically explains the whole article I heard on the radio http://www.pawest-soccer.org/CoachResources/ManchesterUYouthAcademy%20FocusOnSmall.pdf

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