What is the purpose of the u23 squad?
By the very definition of the name, it would be assumed that a majority of the players are in their 20’s, some will of course be younger due to being fast tracked because of ability.
Some may argue that the u23 league is far too big a gap between them and the first team, well consider this. All clubs have always had the ability to organise behind closed doors games between any level of team they like. So, we could at any time supplement the u23 league games with as many other games as we like and any level!
It is widely expected that any league player should have racked up a number of 1st team appearances before they hit 23 (George Dobson who just left aged 23 has over 100 appearances at league 1 level).
How do they get that experience? Is an interesting question. Loans if so, who too? Should they go out on loan to the bottom rung and work their way up, or should they go to a team maybe one or two leagues below our own to start?
If the latter, what happens if the first team are related? For example, when we were in the prem it was not unexpected for players to be loaned out to league 1 clubs! When the first team got relegated to first the championship then League one. That was the first team not the u23’s so why should the performance of the first team affect the perceived level of the u23’s. Why should one moment our u23s be thought of as league 1 level but then a couple of years later the same players deemed not good enough for league 1 because their senior counter parts have failed. It is no wonder a few of them have thought "hold on I’m better than this" and have decided to leave.
A couple of examples might help.
Bali mumba a player with prospects, got his debut in championship and did well he did not look out of place. We dropped to league one he got a few game run out and looked ok.
He was then relegated back to the u23’s as he was deemed not ready, yet Norwich a championship team looked at him and thought "that will do" still in development but still got to play 6 first team games last season! He is now part of a setup in a premiership team and could be playing top level football way before us!
We have also seen other high profile moves of our youngsters to arsenal, Liverpool and Manu with the latter Joe Hugnil being fast tracked to the First team.
We should in my humble uneducated opinion by using the u23 squad as a backup reserve team with the youngsters getting a run out in the first team should we have gaps due to injuries or suspensions. It would allow these young lands to get a couple of senior games under their belt where they can be properly assessed and further developed.
Too often last season we played unfit or injured players or players out of position whilst u23s sat on their hands and this was from a manager who said he would include kids, just as parky claimed and Ross before him.
Would they have been good enough? the debate on that would rage on for weeks some yay some nay. But playing them would answer the question! with the short duration they would likely be asked to play not likely to have to much of a negative impact on the team if they struggle.
At the end of the day we need to know if these u23 will have the ability to step up. We will only find out if allowed to try and fail. Nobody is saying play them 40 games but a lot would agree Flannigan and wright were still carrying injury issues at the end of last season and were well below par. Yet younger sat there unused. We were willing to play Sanderson but not our own when so desperate.
You may argue Sanderson is far better than Younger, in which case the simple answer is we need to let younger go and recruit another young lad who could be the next Sanderson otherwise the young lad needs to be given games when injuries and suspension to first teamers permit.
I for one, want an end to playing people out of position. Play our seniors in their strongest place and can give their greatest impact, if gaps fill with youngsters until seniors are fit again and warrant a place!