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Everton Youth League, 1997-98


This ToffeeWeb page was going to track the progress of Everton's
youngsters in the new FA Premier Youth League...
     

NEW LEAGUE GOES AHEAD -- WITHOUT EVERTON

 
Everton FC have decided to hold back from the new FA Premier Youth League that has been launched with the assent of a majority of the other senior clubs.  The club's position was set out in a statement published in the Everton matchday programme for the Manchester United match on 27 August 1997.
 

NEW LEAGUE LOOMS (from the Everton Programme, 27 Aug 1997)

 
"Just as the Premiership is an elite for senior players at clubs, a new Youth Premier League has been established using young players at under-19 level.

"Our own youth sides have not entered this season, but Head of Youth Development at Everton, Ray Hall, says that we are monitoring the development of the new Youth League.  We have not entered this season because the Lancashire Leagues cater for our present needs.  Clubs like Everton tend to play first-year youth players in the 'B' Division, while most second-year youth players and young professionals will play for Colin Harvey's 'A' team.

"Our eventual entry into the Premier Youth League will come sooner rather than later, with the mouth-watering prospects of our youth players pitting their skills against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, and Arsenal every week."

 

THE NEW LEAGUE

 
The new FA Premier Youth League consists of 16 clubs divided into regional sections:

Northern Section Southern Section
Barnsley Arsenal
Coventry Chelsea
Derby County Crystal Palace
Leeds United Queens Park Rangers
Middlesbrough Southampton
Nottingham Forest Tottenham Hotspur
Sheffield Wednesday West Ham United
Sunderland Wimbledon

Missing along with Everton are Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Newcastle United (the list may also include Manchester City).

 

COMMENT

 
It seems a strange decision for a club of Everton's stature not to participate in this new venture, even though they are in the good company of the Northwest's other top clubs. If it really is such a mouth-watering prospect, then why aren't we in on the ground floor?  If we need to have two youth teams rather than (presumably) one in the new league, could we not keep the Lancashire League 'A' or 'B' team?  Let us hope that this is not a further example of inward thinking at the club.  Youth football is the future, and it seems foolhardy to snub this opportunity to project Everton's youth system nationally as equal to, if not better than those of the other Big Clubs.
 

Premier investment in stars of the future

Sunday Times, 16 November 1997
Dave Thomas on the new competition that puts learning skills above the creed of winning at all costs

THERE is not one Premier League but two. Back in September, the FA Premier Youth League kicked off its inaugural season. Yet few outside the upper echelons of youth football are aware of the competition's purpose or even its existence.

The mechanics of this league are different from the norm. The competing teams are mainly from the Premier League, but the rules also allow for Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland who were all relegated from the top flight last season. The 16 member clubs are split equally into two sections, north and south, and a coach is allowed to pick four boys under 19, the rest must be below 18.

Once all fixtures are completed a play-off system takes place, leading to a final. Arsenal are the high-flyers from the south, with only one defeat in eight matches, a record matched by Sheffield Wednesday in the north.

There is no one single person responsible for the competition's concept, more it came about through the force of those on the ground.

Dave Richardson, the director of youth for the Premier League, said: "It has been formulated over a number of years by a number of people involved in youth football. There was a strong feeling that if young players were to develop, we should evolve something that gets like playing against like."

In other words, there is more to be gained if kids regularly face opponents with similar rather than less ability. But that is only part of an ideology shot through with common sense and with a purpose to produce footballers ready-made for the highest level.

All long-distance fixtures are played in the autumn and in the spring, avoiding long journeys in the height of winter. Even if a club reaches the final of the play-offs the maximum number of games it will play is 27, so young limbs are not being run into the ground. For example, West Ham, who are fifth in the southern section, face second-placed Crystal Palace twice, then in March they travel to Leeds, who are third in the northern section, for their only match with the Yorkshire club.

In another move, spectators and parents are forced to watch the game away from the bench, so the coaches are left to concentrate on their charges.  Clubs are asked to provide good pitches while Premier League referees are used as often as possible.

So far, the reaction to the league has been positive even if originally that wasn't the case. But where does this league fit into the grand scheme of English football? The Charter for Quality, prepared by Howard Wilkinson, the FA technical director, included a radical shake-up of youth football. Among his demands was a more professional approach to a part of the game that has gone unchecked.

Only time will tell whether the FA Premier Youth League bears fruit, but during this boom period, when lots of money automatically assumes lots of professionalism, it is one of the few investments in the future based on a real professionalism.

"Youth development is all about the long term. This is the start of the whole structure of the game being improved," Richardson said.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd



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