Friday, January 20, 2012

3 Reasons "Second" teams in the "Second" Division won't work

Andre Villas-Boas has been roundly criticised by Football League supporters this week for suggesting he’d like Chelsea’s B team to compete in the nation’s second tier.  Unfortunately for him and his club, Villas-Boas’ recent press statements have seen him become something of a mini-sensation magnet and he seems to spend more time now rebutting sly criticism than providing novel insights into the league.

Basing a second team in a competition further down the League tree would be of immense benefit to the parent club, as they could shuffle players in and out of their lineups to get game time as required.  Barcelona, amongst other clubs, uses such a model in the Liga Adelante; while the practice has become so treasured in Australia’s AFL that most clubs are now in a hurry to set up  their own subsidiary club.  However in England, it is almost unworkable – if not for the logistics, but the fans. 

Red tape hurdles include the strict nature of the English League “tree” – Everton boss David Moyes said this morning he tried five years ago to get a youthful Everton B team experience playing against grown men in the Conference (England’s fourth division).  However, he was told any new club would have to start in the lowest division – the ninth tier – and work their way up as have some more famous foundling clubs like AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester 

More problematic are the fans.  English fans, starting with respected and popular Football League blog The Seventy Two, object to their clubs being disadvantaged to suit the mega-rich.  And fair enough too: apart from somewhat minimising the raison d'etre of those clubs whose First XIs compete in the Championship, the League has a rich history and the landscape would change forever (but not necessarily for the worse, mind you). For the Football League to undergo such a radical re-shape simply for the benefit of Chelsea/Man United/Man City/Arsenal youth players would be a devalue English football for the benefit of a few superwealthy clubs.

Finally, there is one great difference between a Barcelona B team and a potential Chelsea B squad – the current Barcelona B team features a squad with two two – international players (Jonathon dos Santos, of Mexico and Luis Gustavo Ledes of Portugal).  The team Chelsea of 2012 would send to the Championship includes overseas talents like Patrick van Aanholt, Nicolas Anelka and Alex.  The EPL reliance on overseas talent would make such a prospect unworkable and stunt the growth of true English player development. 

I can’t see why Andre Villas-Boas wouldn’t want Chelsea B team to play in the Championship.  As a manager focused mainly on results in the short and mid-term, it would be perfect.  But unfortunately it’s a concept which will have to remain strictly Iberian.

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