December 18, 2008
Over the past couple of weeks The Football League chairman, Lord Mawhinney, has made clear his views regarding the development of young players in England. I first heard him speak on the subject when he addressed the gathering present to formerly open Colchester United’s new stadium when we played there earlier in the season.
Football League clubs will be asked to vote on the introduction of a home grown players quota at a meeting to be held at Derby County’s Pride Park stadium next week. The quota would require clubs to include at least four players registered domestically for a minimum if three seasons prior to their 21st birthday in their 16 man squads on match days. A proposal has been put forward by the League’s board of directors and mirrors that of UEFA rather than the more controversial “six-plus-five” policy being championed by FIFA.
Lord Mawhinney has been is quoted by the media as saying “We believe it is time for the Football League to make a clear and unequivocal statement of intent about the importance of developing young players in the domestic game”. He goes on to say “The aim is to establish this principle by setting a threshold that clubs can accommodate and then to consider raising that level over time. Not only are we pulling out all the stops to develop these young players in the first place, we are also ensuring that they have the opportunity to show their talents in the first team.”
Up in Scotland George Burley has urged Scottish clubs to focus on youth development if they want to prevent this seasons’s European failure becoming a trend. The Scotland boss believes even Celtic and Rangers are mow struggling to compete financially against rivals from across Europe. Burley insists producing more home grown talent is the only way to improve the situation north of the border. From a coaching viewpoint he says “We need to look at the youngsters and how we can get them to play more and practise more so that we can develop them.”
At Bristol Rovers we match all well organised clubs in developing local talent in our very own centre of excellence. Our young players are trained and coached under the guidance of Stewart Naughton. Stewart is a UEFA “A” Licence coach who honed his youth development skills for 10 years at Southampton before arriving here 6 years ago. In that time no less than 8 teams have been operating through the 9-16 age range. As George Burley would have it up in Scotland each team train every week and play at the weekend against high calibre opposition. Stewart is proud to say that our hard work and dedication has taken us to the point where our young guns rarely loose a football match at any age group.
The ultimate aim is to produce home grown professional players to shine in the first team. The system Stewart has set up is highly sophisticated and includes 20 part-time coaches all qualified to UEFA B Level, two physios, fitness specialists and a team of scouts working the entire region. The entire team is dedicated to providing a top quality pool of young players for Bristol Rovers.
None of this is possible without sufficient and adequate funding. The main source is through The Football League Trust. The funding does not come easily and not without a good amount of justification and accountability. As with our Community Trust work we are currently undergoing a stringent audit process to ensure the continuity of funding. The audit comprises a good deal of documentation and business planning.
As with all things in football, the basic level of funding is never enough. Our friends from Weston Super Mare have done wonderful work over the past years firstly by sponsoring the under 18’s and more recently the under 16’s. The funds from Weston Gas have provided kit that adds to the turnout and professionalism of the players and coaches. Before the game against Cheltenham Town a few Saturdays ago, members of the branch presented Stewart with a cheque for a further £1000; a real gift, gratefully received.
Morgan Aldous hands over the cheque to Stewart Naughton, watched by Shayne Aldous, Sue Price, Carl Aldous, Wilf (Paul) Aldous, Neil Hoddinnott, Nigel Parker and Ken Masters.
The money was raised by means of a number of quiz nights and other social activities throughout the year. Very many thanks to Wilf and all of the members at Weston. Weston Gas members are a great credit to our football club. Their support is greatly appreciated and well known to directors and staff.
Stewart Naughton is confident that we are well down the road of developing players who are talented enough to become professional players for Bristol Rovers. Doubtless that will please Lord Mawhinney but it will please our directors, staff and supporters more so; especially our supporters in Weston Super Mare.