Sheffield United have detailed their objections to a controversial proposal which would allow ‘B’ teams from top-flight clubs to take part in the Football League.
Mal Brannigan, United’s managing director, revealed last night that Bramall Lane’s representatives were among those who vetoed Greg Dyke’s plan for a radical overhaul of the English game at the governing body’s annual conference three weeks ago.
Dyke, the FA’s chairman, led a 10-man commission charged with investigating ways of improving the development of domestic talent and made a presentation to outlining its findings when delegates gathered in Portugal earlier this month.
Together with colleagues such as Howard Wilkinson and Rio Ferdinand, Dyke claimed the creation of a new tier of competition would eventually increase the calibre of player at England coach Roy Hodgson’s disposal.
Despite welcoming the sentiment behind its work - “We should look at these things” - Brannigan told The Star: “This football club welcomes anything that would strengthen the national side’s chances and would engage in anything to further this aim. But not something which is to the detriment of Sheffield United.”
United’s stance on the issue is especially pertinent give their enviable reputation for nurturing home-grown players. England’s Phil Jagielka and Kyle Walker, who missed the World Cup due to injury, both progressed through their youth system while the Redtooth Academy, where coaching staff have also produced the likes of Harry Maguire, George Long and Stephen Quinn in recent years, received a Premier League commendation for their work during the recent Elite Player Performance Plan review.
Significantly, both Jagielka and Walker made their senior debuts when United were competing at Championship, not PL, level while Liverpool’s Conor Coady, who captained England at last summer’s Under-20 World Cup, insisted that spending the previous campaign on loan with Nigel Clough’s side had been “a huge learning curve” before returning to Anfield.
Such was the level of opposition Dyke encountered when he addressed the FL’s 72 members, it seems inconceivable that the ‘B’-team idea will ressurrected.
However, as Brannigan’s comments illustrate, dialogue which explores other ways of equipping English youngsters with the tools required to perform on the international stage is set to continue.
“There is a general consensus that it wouldn’t work and would not be good for our club football either,” Mark Lawn, the Bradford City chairman, said. “The FA need to go to the Premier League and say they only have so many foreigners but they won’t do it.
“The loan system as it is now works better - look at Tom Cleverley. He started at Bradford, went to Manchester United when he was 12, went out on loan to Leicester, Watford and Wigan then went back to United and ended up playing for England.”
Shaun Harvey, the FL’s chief executive, said: “Greg Dyke provided a detailed and thought-provoking presentation that helped clubs get a better understanding of the thinking behind his recent report.
“While it’s fair to say there is no appetite among clubs for the use of ‘B’ teams or strategic loan partnerships in the football pyramid, they did share his overriding concern about the development of young English footballers and supported a number of the report’s other recommendations.
“We will continue to work with the FA to help find solutions that will be supported across the whole game.”
Among the other issues discussed in Portugal was allowing ‘3G’ pitches to be rolled out across England’s footballing pyramid. Although the FA will allow clubs to play on the artificial surfaces in its cup tournaments, Brannigan suggested they would become a viable option in the FL only when the PL sanctioned their use.
“In all probability, that one will have to filter down,” he said. “But that’s only my personal opinion. Unless you can have them in the Premier League then it’s difficult to see how Championship clubs with aspirations of promotion will install them. The same goes for ambitious teams in League One and so on.”