Friday, 14 September 2012

Youth Players in Scotland - What's the point?

Scotland is a small country that somehow manages to produce great football players that go on to play in Europe's finest leagues and become legends in their own right at their respective clubs. However, there's a concern in Scotland in modern times due to the sheer uselessness of the national team. One could be forgiven for arguing that Scotland has nothing to worry about as it has produced some fine players in recent times such as Charlie Adam,
Darren Fletcher and Steven Fletcher and that this will continue.

Unfortunately, this is simply not the case as the next generation will prove to be even more of a disappointment. Scotland's youth system is failing and this is largely down to the attitudes taken up by the clubs themselves and the personnel which they employ to rear their young homegrown talent. There is an overwhelming amount of coaches in Scotland who are willing to turn a blind eye towards the players who show up to play at the weekend hungover, so long as they can strike a ball well. This allows for the rest of the players, including the most dedicated and committed ones to fall by the wayside due to the apparent favoritism which is taking place in the youth setup today. By allowing for this to happen, the less dedicated players rise to the top and this is not an efficient way to build a successful future national team. These boys are more interested in getting drunk at the weekend than getting enough rest for the match the next day. The attitude and diets of such players and coaches who are meant to be leading by example are absolutely horrendous. In my time as a youth football player I witnessed multiple examples but the most memorable would have to be the time whereby the coach training us at the time would constantly make the team run and give stern speeches with regards to the importance of fitness, health and in particular dieting. Rather hypocritically he himself was not in shape and showed up to the training sessions with fast food meals and soft drinks which baffled me at the time and continues to do so even now. Therefore, your efforts and your commitment no matter how solid and admirable, are wasted in this country and your best chance of making it professionally is to move elsewhere as it just isn't taken seriously enough here.

Having taken this in, let's look at the players who have made it professionally and offer a glimmer of hope to young footballers in Scotland by considering the examples above: 
- Charlie Adam was shunned by Rangers and subsequently saved by Blackpool who weren't afraid to give him a platform where he eventually shined, giving way for his big move to Liverpool. 
- Darren Fletcher was playing for a local boys club whereby he was snapped up by Manchester United and this ultimately gave him a huge advantage over anyone else in his area as he would not be subject to the Scottish system which is reluctant to take players of such dedication.
- With this being said, Steven Fletcher is an exception as he came through a hugely successful youth team at Hibernian which had multiple graduates but this is simply one exception to a rule that if you play youth football in Scotland, there's almost no chance of success due to the lack of appreciation that is present within almost all levels of football in Scotland, but even more prominent in the most important field of youth football.
We only need to look at Newco Rangers to see how youth footballers are given a chance to shine, as they largely refused to use youth players before their financial situation came to fruition and now they rely upon producing players who are proving themselves and already being linked to bigger clubs down south! So why is it that committed young players aren’t making it all the way in Scotland? It seems as though managers don’t want to take the risk and would rather give games to a 30-something journeyman who’s played for every club in the Scottish League system because apparently he’s ‘proven at that level’. Until this attitude is changed dramatically, we will never have another successful national football team.

By Brett Hampton

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