Should the Premiership have B teams?

There are some changes that the Layman likes; the tweaking of the back pass law in the early 1990s, the casting of Guy Pearce rather than Brad Pitt in Memento and the ageing process with regard to Jennifer Aniston.

Clearly, just from these three examples, Change, in the hands of the wise, can be a force of good.

However, call me a bluff, old traditionalist but there are some things in this world which should be allowed to place a restraining order on Change. One such example is the structure and integrity of the English football pyramid.

Chelsea manager and Juan Mata lookalike (that must cause some confusion in the dressing room), Andre Villas-Boas has this week suggested that the top clubs’ reserves team should be allowed to compete in the Championship to aid their youth development.

Villas-Boas (I’m not calling him AVB, ever) elaborated, saying; “The [Chelsea] reserve-team league is not competitive and doesn’t serve the progression of talent coming through. The gap between the reserve team and the first team is immense here.

“Barcelona B play in the equivalent of the Championship and if that European model was applied in England, it could be tested. Feeder clubs might be a solution but there would be more of a cultural identity if it’s called a B team. [If the reserves competed as Chelsea B] it would be the same name, the same environment.”

To be fair to Villas-Boas, there is an element of sense to his proposals. Younger players coming through at bigger clubs do not get a chance to play really competitive football on a regular basis as part of a team-building ethos. Aside from the occasional FA Youth Cup tie, youngsters are sent out on a loan to build experience but if they were to grow up together as a team, ala Xavi, Iniesta, Pique Messi and so on, that would be, in theory, better for the competitiveness of the Premier League in Europe and the England team.

However, there is one large gaping flaw in that plan; the English league pyramid is not designed to facilitate the best possible outcome for those at the top of it. Every league beneath the Premier League has its own distinct cultural history and tradition revolving around their competitiveness. Furthermore, the idea of a league system is that the ultimate aim of each season is winning promotion. Having a ‘B’ team in the Championship that cannot win promotion, as is the case in Spain, devalues the competition in this observer’s eyes.

All in all, Villas-Boas might as well have wiped his backside on the Magna Carta to create a less offensive gesture towards a product of British culture.

Furthermore, as The Seventy Two blog points out, players such as Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshire and Danny Welbeck all made it to the top as a result of the loan system currently in place. Inevitably, the cream will rise to the top, regardless of the circumstances.

The Seventy Two goes on to state that the reason why players at Chelsea like Ryan Bertrand, Patrick Van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta have not broken through in the first team, despite all being older than Wilshire for example, is the short-termism in chasing trophies at bigger clubs.

If the larger clubs wish to use the argument of improving the prospects of young players, they would be better off giving said players some game time on loan, rather than stockpiling them in their reserve team (a situation likely to be exacerbated thanks to the new EPPP) and blaming their problems with competing against Barcelona on a institution that was here before them and will be here longer after they have left; the Football League and it’s proud, history-rich clubs.

Dan Whiteway @ @Dan_Whiteway

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