Tag Archives: Netherlands

A revolution in youth football

The FA claims EPPP will revolutionise youth development in the Premier League and Football League, so how are things changing in Football League academies?

The elite player performance plan was created in order to increase the number of professional English players, and to ensure they are more technically accomplished than their predecessors. This so-called revolution has focused on coaching, classification, compensation and education, and the changes have been  influenced by world famous academies such as Barcelona’s La Masia and Ajax’s De Toekomst.

In Euro 2012 England had some of the worst possession stats in the competition and their archaic style of football looked outdated. To what extent can the EPPP bridge the gaping chasm that exists between England and the likes of Spain and Germany?

Anthony Redwood, the Academy Operations Manager at Cardiff City, claims the EPPP is already having an effect on Cardiff.

Foreign investment at Cardiff City has benefited the youth academy.

Foreign investment at Cardiff City has benefited the youth academy.

Redwood praised the EPPP and called it “the biggest revolution to hit youth development in this country since Howard Wilkinson introduced academies in 1998.”

Redwood explained how the EPPP demands far more coaching time for youngsters, and in Cardiff children are now receiving twice as much coaching as they were before the plan’s publication.

Redwood said: “It goes without saying that the more contact time you have with a player the better the standard he attains at the end of his development.

“It’s not just a football programme here, you’re talking about sports science, medicine, education and welfare, you’re talking about players from 9-16. So it’s a bit of a minefield in terms of how you approach it and what you put in place to make sure you tick all the boxes, not just for the player’s football development but for his own personal and academic development as well.”

Cardiff City has dramatically increased funding for its academy since the publication of the EPPP and the number of full-time staff at the academy has increased from eight to sixteen.

The dream of playing in the Football League is what drives youngsters to improve.

The dream of playing in the Football League is what drives youngsters to improve.

Will the EPPP lead to more young local players getting changed here?

Will the EPPP lead to more young local players getting changed here?

Under the new categorisation system, introduced by the EPPP, Cardiff’s academy has been provisionally awarded category two status, placing it among the very best in the Football League.

Cardiff has a proud history of continuously developing bright footballers who have gone on to shine in the Premier League and the Champions League. The likes of Danny Gabbidon, Aaron Ramsey and Adam Matthews are technically gifted and intelligent passers of the ball.

Redwood detailed how the club has received over £18m in offers for academy graduates in the eight years he’s been working with youth development in the Welsh capitol. With such obvious results the academy can justify any requests for further funding from the club’s wealthy Malaysian owners.

Thanks to the EPPP younsters are getting closer medical attention and Cardiff have now employed a full-time academy physiotherapist.

Thanks to the EPPP younsters are getting closer medical attention and Cardiff have now employed a full-time academy physiotherapist.

On the other hand Cardiff’s resources are vast compared to most Football League clubs and several clubs in lower leagues have complained about the financial demands of the EPPP.

Wycombe Wanderers recently ended its youth development programme, claiming it was a luxury it couldn’t afford.

The smaller clubs in Leagues 1 and 2 have all had to re-evaluate their spending priorities and for some it has been extremely difficult finding the necessary funding to meet EPPP requirements. The new categorisation system means club reputations are at stake and if Football League clubs want their academies listed as category 2 or 3, they usually need more coaches and more facilities, which come at a cost.

While a club like Cardiff can demand millions for their young talents a club like Wycombe usually finds itself losing its biggest assets for a pittance. And here we find probably the EPPP’s most controversial element, its new compensation policy.

Statistics based on First team squads, 06/12/12

Statistics based on First team squads, 06/12/12

Statistics based on First team squads, 06/12/12

Statistics based on First team squads, 06/12/12

The policy sets a strict compensation guideline for any clubs wishing to acquire players under 18 years old, based on the player’s age, the category of the youth academy and the number of appearances made by the player. This policy was forced upon Football League clubs by the Premier League, and many clubs in League 1 and League 2, for whom compensation is a large source of income, claim the policy is unfair.

They believe the policy allows big clubs to purchase talent on the cheap after the selling club spent substantial time and money developing them. Since players under 18 can’t sign professional contracts the sellers are obliged to release assets.

Fred Keenor was a Cardiff legend, but the EPPP aims to leave the past behind and introduce modern coaching setups.

Fred Keenor was a Cardiff legend, but the EPPP aims to leave the past behind and introduce modern coaching setups.

The EPPP is generally seen as a big step forward for youth coaching in this country, however, as Anthony Redwood points out, the results won’t be visible for another decade. Only then will the football world be able to judge whether it was a success or a failure.

Ninian Park, Cardiff's old ground, where players such as Nathan Blake, Danny Gabbidon and Aaron Ramsey made their names.

Ninian Park, Cardiff’s old ground, where players such as Nathan Blake, Danny Gabbidon and Aaron Ramsey made their names.

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Edgar Davids’s arrival at Barnet brings glamour but no quick-fix

Edgar Davids’ CV reads like a who’s who of European football; Ajax, Milan, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and now Barnet.

It’s quite possible that Davids’ Wikipedia page is the only place where you’ll ever see the Bees mentioned alongside these European giants. But as of Friday the 74-cap Dutchman is player-manager of League 2 Barnet FC, sharing the managerial duties with Mark Robson, who’s been head coach at Underhill since June.

Davids, who’s arguably as well-known for his trademark sports-goggles as he is for his tremendous footballing ability, was a tough yet stylish midfielder. Barnet hope that in his new job he can inspire the team to once again defy the odds and avoid relegation from League 2.

The Bees are renowned escapologists having left it until the final day of the last three seasons to secure their League 2 safety. This season looks set to be an even bigger struggle than usual for Barnet who were rock bottom of the Football League with just 3 points so far this season and no wins in their last 13 matches prior to Saturday’s visit from Plymouth Argyle.

However the hope is that Davids’ reputation and more importantly his knowledge of the game can save Barnet from relegation to the Blue Square Premier. Davids, who was apparently living locally, was approached by the club and he accepted their offer after seeing the club’s facilities and Academy.

Over the past few years Barnet have gained national recognition for their work in the community and their investment in the Academy. Though Barnet is one of League 2’s smallest clubs it prides itself on being family orientated.

Davids’ arrival generated much hype and excitement before Saturday’s home game against Plymouth. The West Country visitors had only won two league games this season before travelling to Barnet.

A far more positive vibe could be felt in and around Underhill before kick-off. News of the Champions League winner’s appointment sparked a wave of positivity on Barnet’s internet forums. The attendance had more than doubled since their last home game against Exeter City from 1,483 to 3,229.

Unfortunately the pre-match buzz was well and truly crushed by a typically error-strewn Barnet performance.

The Edgar Davids reign got off to the worst possible start when Mark Byrne conceded a penalty that former Llanelli striker Rhys Griffiths converted. Just 9 minutes later they were further behind thanks to a Blanchard header. David Stephens looked to have given Barnet hope with a scrappy 16th minute close-range strike. But a Cowan-Hall goal midway through the second half and an added time free-kick by Luke Young meant the game finished 4-1 to Plymouth, who are now 18th in League 2.

It was the same old story for Barnet who didn’t seem at all inspired by their big-name-manager’s arrival on Friday.

Fans left the ground feeling much the same way they’d felt before Davids’ arrival, and on internet forums after the game they vented their collective fury. Barnet fans are a patient bunch. They’re used to seeing their side in relegation scraps, but there seems to be genuine anger at the current situation.

If Davids didn’t understand the task facing him before, he surely will now.

Davids has joined a club that lacks confidence and desperately needs a turnaround in form. His celebrity status will bring a lot of attention to the London Borough of Barnet but fans are hoping that his appointment was more than just a gimmick aimed at increasing attendances in the short-term.

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding the bottom club in the Football League, Davids can take comfort in the knowledge that this is a club used to (successfully) fighting relegation. If any club in League 2 is capable of turning this situation around, it’s Barnet.

Good Luck Mr Davids, you’re probably going to need it!