Sunday, October 29, 2006
…Youth football is a delicate balance between development and results…
I would go further.
Youth football, at international level, should be mainly about “seeing what you’ve got”.
The correlation between success or failure at youth level and future results at full senior international level is, as I have pointed out endlessly over the years, absolutely minimal. The panic at our poor results in the Under 17 Asian qualifiers last year was perhaps the biggest fuss over nothing we’ve seen in recent years, especially given the extraordinary gains being made elsewhere in Australian football.
One thing that never seems to be acknowledged in the shrill youth rants we see so regularly is that after a certain age, development will happen mainly at club level, simply because it is with clubs that players will spend the majority of their time.
Foster mentions the poor form of the Under 20 side at last year’s youth World Championship in the Netherlands, and the team did indeed look poor. They were thrashed by a far superior Netherlands side, and managed only draws against the two other sides in their group, who were hardly world-beaters.
But it is significant, to my mind, that a few of the local-based players in that Under 20 side have improved markedly since. I refer to Jacob Timpano, Mark Milligan and Nick Ward.
And that is surely, at least in part, down to the fact that they subsequently had the chance to play at fully professional clubs – the first time such a thing has been available in Australian football for some time.
Milligan and Timpano looked nervous and positionally naïve in Holland. Both players have grown in stature and confidence at Sydney FC (incidentally, one excellent legacy left by Pierre Littbarski was his support and development of younger players).
Nick Ward looked lively at times during the youth World Championship, but it was at Perth that he really caught the eye, with some consistently impressive performances.
Foster is, I feel, wrong to dismiss our group at the Asian qualifiers as “comfortable” – the Arab nations have always been strong at youth level, and China is hardly a pushover – but the fact that Nathan Burns and Dario Vidosic have had a taste of the professional game, and come through with flying colours, must give us a better chance of progressing.
Whether he was coaching South Melbourne in the WCC or the younguns, you can count on one thing from his teams - the lone striker will be badly isolated!
People complained about Frank Farina's coaching and his tactical naivety, but at least the NT in the Confeds Cup went down with a fight. Under Postecoglou, I seriously get the impression that he doesn't believe in his teams, and has damage limitation as his main objective.
There are limitations to the amount of players you can have on the books in A-League, and there is no reserve competition. And yep, I can see the reason for these limitations. That's fine. But given these limitations, how can Les, Craig or anyone expect A-League teams, who want to win, to take on more than one or two of these young players? When a Young Socceroos comp is on, the loss of one is bad enough, especially if there is also an injury or two on the books.
In general I'm starting to see that the A-League coaches have very tight choices to make. Let's hear it for the day when the professional league in Australia is bigger and more robust, so there is not this constant bickering about priorities.
Cheers Mike. As usual I'm enjoying your thoughts.
Yeah, certainly at last year's tournament they weren't exactly an enterprising unit.
I'd say that Ange has simply been in the youth chair long enough and it's time for a change pretty soon, decent result in India or not.
...Let's hear it for the day when the professional league in Australia is bigger and more robust, so there is not this constant bickering about priorities....