@GRokerReport - JA!
Lets face it, as great as it is to see our current set of development players at the very top of the Barclays U21 Premier League, it counts for very little.
U21s football is very un-physical, there's a massive lack of competition and with very few seasoned pros taking part in games, meaning the players that stand out a mile often get a huge shock when they're thrust into 'proper' football. We've seen it with many players, including Ryan Noble and Mikael Mandron, both stand outs at that level who have, thus far, amounted to nothing as professionals.
Since the traditional reserve-league structure was scrapped almost four years ago the main criticism of U21s football has been that it teaches the younger players nothing. I can't see the Premier League scrapping the current format just yet as the investment into it perhaps requires they give it more of a chance to develop our players, but in the meantime they'd be wise to look at other alternatives.
One would be to push Premier League clubs further to get their youngsters out on loan to football league clubs. Our club in particular do a terrible job of getting these lads experience in competitive football, and there really should be more pressure placed on them to get our boys moves around the country to clubs that can offer them something more than playing against players that are the same age that they are. That said, it's unlikely.
Then, there's the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. For fans of lower league clubs being successful in this competition means they get a chance to have their moment in the sun with a day out at Wembley, but for many clubs it isn't taken seriously and often is seen as a hindrance, especially as so many clubs have congested fixture lists and threadbare squads.
Regardless, it's a mens competition and having U21s sides taking part can be mutually beneficial for both Premier League and Football League clubs.
Not EVERY U21s side has to take part - with the added incentive of qualification in this competition if you are successful in your week-to-week league football, the U21s Premier League might become a more competitive division. Take the top four or six, for example.
Or, like the FA Cup, you could have preliminary rounds contested before the initial first round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy to determine which U21 sides are allowed to compete.
By allowing our very best U21s sides to take part in a mens competition you are addressing many of the issues that people have with youth development in this country. Obviously, you have clubs that will be annoyed should an U21s side go on to win it, but what is the likelyhood of that really happening?
For me, it's a great idea and something that should be seriously considered. Do preliminary qualification and judge how successful the venture has been at the end of the season - if they feel adding the youth teams into the fold was a bad choice, then knock it on the head. It's pretty straight forward.
@RoryFallow - NEIN!
It's clear that allowing Premier League teams to field their under 21 sides in the Johnston's Paint Trophy would be an awful and cruel idea.
With the Premier League's constant, 24 hour, rolling coverage why do they need to take away even more of the lower league limelight? The idea of Premier League Under 21 sides is a one that may be good for the teams at the top but a bad one for those at the bottom. I can't see the logic in helping out the countries richest teams at the expensive of some of the poorest.
Clubs like Chelsea are currently stockpiling young players and sending them out on loan all over Europe so if they have a new opportunity to play under 21 sides in high intensity cups games, they'll just start stocking up even more. What benefit is that to the teams in League 1 and 2?
What is a team like Hartlepool going to gain from being knocked out by Manchester City's reserves?
The Football League Trophy is a fine competition that allows players further down the footballing ladder to experience glory at Wembley. Who would winning the JPT mean more to? A solid pro who has grafted through the Football League or a Under 21 who, after a couple of injuries to the first team, could be playing in the Champions League?
We already live in an age where we bemoan the undervaluing of our domestic cup competitions, let's not make it worse further down the leagues.
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