Saturday, February 04, 2012

Look to the future

(Image courtesy of martha_chapa95)

Historically speaking, it's not like us to think or plan beyond the next game let alone the next season - but, if Lee Ryder's anonymous club insider is to be believed, then all that may be about to change.

It's no secret that Jabba has adopted an ageist philosophy both in terms of the players who are brought into the club and those who are allowed to leave. While that's seen the likes of Kevin Nolan shoved out of the door when he still had something to offer, it's also an understandable and admirable reaction to having had expensive has-beens clogging up the wage bill (Fat Sol, I'm looking at you). Anyone who has the misfortune to remember the days of Kenny Dalglish's Dad's Army will find value in the current strategy.

It's also clearly part of the overall vision that the club should become more self-sufficient. It's all fine and well importing talented young players like Davide Santon when first-team weaknesses demand it, but ideally we should be avoiding that expense by bringing players up through the ranks. (Not that player development is free, of course, or that we shouldn't still go scouting around for talent, albeit at a younger age, rather than just being content with what's on our doorstep.)

So the idea that Jabba might be preparing a thorough overhaul of the various layers beneath the first team, rooting out mediocrity and investing substantial cash, rings true.

Focusing on scouting and recruitment for the academy and reserves as well as for the first team would be a brave step, in that it's not something that would bring instant dividends, but modelling ourselves on a club like Arsenal seems eminently sensible. Not all of the Gunners' youth- and reserve-team products make it into the Premier League matchday squads, but many do, and the system just keeps on churning them out. Man Utd have also been lauded in the past for their incredible ability to replace from within, though the fact that Paul Scholes has been brought out of retirement and wheeled into action gives an indication that their well has currently run rather dry - no doubt a significant concern for Taggart.

We've not really had any kind of conveyor belt ourselves for years, but having one in place can only be good for the health of the club. Just look at Tim Krul: a player identified as a prospect at an early age, picked up cheaply and gently matured before breaking through and becoming a permanent fixture on the teamsheet (not to mention - importantly for Jabba and the accountants - a major asset with significant resale value). It would have cost millions to get in an equivalent player.

Of course, if we find ourselves in relegation trouble in the next couple of seasons, then the temptation will be to divert funds away from the long-term project into achieving short-term results and ensuring Premier League survival. Desperate times may result in desperate measures, but I'd like to think the vision - one which would help make the club a stronger and more sustainable enterprise in the long term - wouldn't be compromised.

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