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Reserve League Concerns

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A couple of aspects of the new reserves leagues are a bit concerning, one such being why the SPFL have abandoned having a quota of youngsters in teams. 

I understand the desire to have youngsters benefiting from playing alongside/against senior professionals in order to learn from them, but without a guaranteed number of youngsters being given a game in each match day team it seems likely that managers will fill the reserves teams with senior professionals in whom they wish to keep fitness 'ticking over'/recovering from injuries.  It seems as though we just sort of ricochet from a youths v. youths set up that doesn't give them any higher level experience, to a mostly-senior-pro league that nearly shuts out youth altogether.  As a bare minimum I would like to see, mandatory, half of a match day squad (of 16) being teenagers, so that 3 youths were guaranteed a start with another 3 coming on as subs; ideally, there would be a quota of 4 under 18s in each reserves team to give them as much experience as possible as young as possible.  In this new set up, it looks as though we'll have youths being crowded out by senior professionals - especially as the finances of the game continue to improve and squads become more bloated.

The second aspect that doesn't make much sense to me is having a top level of 18.  If the focus is on improving youths* in line with Project Brave, then surely it would be better to give them the highest level of competition as possible in order to prepare them properly for first team football?  To me, this means following the 'best v. best' ethos for the final stages of the academy system through to the reserves, and so it would make sense in terms of youth development to have three leagues/levels of 9 teams (rather than an 18-9 set up) in order to concentrate the top quality youths and seniors together.  The top level of 9 would see the best youths play against/with the top seniors many times a season, which would be at a higher level than playing one team each in a league of 18.  Ideally, they'd have 2 half-seasons for the reserves within each senior season so that youngsters would have more experience of going for titles, etc.  I'd have teams in each league of 9 playing at home and away for 16 games per team in each half-season, with 2 up/2down between the divisions, and the top level winners and runners-up from each half-season playing off in May for the overall title.  This, I think, would give much more rigorous competition throughout the reserves divisions that could only benefit youngsters for their future; it would also be much more dynamic and fun for the seniors and supporters.

For me, the ideal pathway would be for the youths to stay within smaller leagues like this (with promotion and relegation) through to and including the reserves leagues, in order to raise them to the highest level possible; however, I would then have larger leagues at first team level to take the pressure from managers just a little, in order that youths could then be given their chance in a slightly less do-or-die environment; I think that this would lead to youths being given their chance earlier, and that they would be of a better quality to take that chance; their mistakes would also be less fatal in a slightly less competitive league and so they would be given more of a chance to learn and settle in at first team level.       

* It seems like their change to enable loanees to play for the reserves of their parent clubs is a 'nod' in this direction.

(The reserves league cup is a nice addition - 9 groups of 3? - but I think two half-seasons per campaign would be more beneficial to player development and more exciting for seniors and fans.) 

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Just a few devil's advocate points in general regarding U20 vs Reserve League.

Firstly, most U20 teams are made up of players who will not make the cut at their current employer. There may be one or two decent players that need team mates. These decent players will likely make it, attitude and opportunity depending, at their employer or above. The rest will filter down. As a random example, Shettleston. At least 9 players on their books currently were attached to Senior clubs at one time or other, though only two (Craig Johnston and Ryan Frances) played a 1st team game.

So if these U20 squad members are not going to be good enough, why keep them til 20?

With a Reserve League and no arbitary age limit, there is less need to sign these jersey-fillers. That in turn boosts the amateur youth leagues who may be able to field stronger sides from mid teens through to 21s (or even the burgeoning Lowland and EoS U20 set-up), and when those players are ready, they can step up to the Juniors rather than filtering down with broken dreams.

The jersey-fillers likely will have a weakness to their game somewhere that stops them making it at a higher level and it may not be as simple as saying 'better coaches will make better players'. Is it a character weakness, a lack of professionalism, physical stature.. the list goes on. At Pollok we see so many lads come down from the Seniors and so rarely are they able to make an impression. It's all very well being comfortable on the ball under no pressure, but that's not first team football on a tight surface.

Project Brave is all about, as I understand it anyway, making the most of our best players. The RL idea is to get the best youngsters playing with experienced pros rather than inferior lads their own age. There's a game for everyone with talent if they look hard enough but it doesn't have to be at one of the 42 national clubs.

Edited by cmontheloknow

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On 28/07/2018 at 09:46, cmontheloknow said:

Just a few devil's advocate points in general regarding U20 vs Reserve League.

Firstly, most U20 teams are made up of players who will not make the cut at their current employer. There may be one or two decent players that need team mates. These decent players will likely make it, attitude and opportunity depending, at their employer or above. The rest will filter down. As a random example, Shettleston. At least 9 players on their books currently were attached to Senior clubs at one time or other, though only two (Craig Johnston and Ryan Frances) played a 1st team game.

So if these U20 squad members are not going to be good enough, why keep them til 20?

With a Reserve League and no arbitary age limit, there is less need to sign these jersey-fillers. That in turn boosts the amateur youth leagues who may be able to field stronger sides from mid teens through to 21s (or even the burgeoning Lowland and EoS U20 set-up), and when those players are ready, they can step up to the Juniors rather than filtering down with broken dreams.

The jersey-fillers likely will have a weakness to their game somewhere that stops them making it at a higher level and it may not be as simple as saying 'better coaches will make better players'. Is it a character weakness, a lack of professionalism, physical stature.. the list goes on. At Pollok we see so many lads come down from the Seniors and so rarely are they able to make an impression. It's all very well being comfortable on the ball under no pressure, but that's not first team football on a tight surface.

Project Brave is all about, as I understand it anyway, making the most of our best players. The RL idea is to get the best youngsters playing with experienced pros rather than inferior lads their own age. There's a game for everyone with talent if they look hard enough but it doesn't have to be at one of the 42 national clubs.

This.

 

I remember working with Andrew Dick in Stirling after he failed to play both for Rangers and Falkirk. He raged daily that he was always good enough at that level, then he failed at Clyde, moved to Linlithgow Rose and then Camelon and was done by 2011. Basically spent his entire career filling jerseys in a reserve team, when he would have been better served dropping Amateur when he was released by Rangers, then he may have had a chance in the opposite direction.

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