the real fa cup

Young Arsenal Smash Barca!

This is less of a fictitious match review and more of a comment on how the big four are a closed shop for young lower league talent. What prospects do promising League Two players have to start their career low, rise through the leagues and break through the glass ceiling into the upper echelons of the Premier League?

Of the likely Arsenal match day squad tonight, none of the players started their careers below the Championship, most of them started at Arsenal and those that didn’t were poached young from either big foreign clubs or foreign academies. Indeed, of the squad, only Theo Walcott will have played a game for a team outside of England’s top flight. That is, of course, with the exception of Sol Campbell’s one game Notts. County aberration, which I am not sure counts.

Even when you dip down to the young fringe players, the Carling Cup squad, very few have even been loaned out to anywhere below the Championship. Wojcieck Szczesny has played for Brentford and Luke Freeman for Gillingham … errr … and that’s about it. OK, I am sure the average footballer doesn’t expect to play for one of the big four but I am damn sure they dream but the chances of those dreams coming true are precisely nil.

It’s a shame but it is illustrative of the all encompassing eye of the big four club. They never miss a kid, they hoover up all the quality and then spit the majority of it back down the pyramid when it doesn’t work out. This may well improve the chances of a young player of making the grade at another Prem or Championship club but it can just as much taint their future and lead to their hopes and expectations being dashed and their spirit being crushed. The only way is down. It also means that the big clubs almost never have to pay a smaller club a massive fee, thus restricting, if not cutting off, the oxygen from the lower leagues.

This is a simplistic argument but none the more wrong for it. We think. This is not a pop at Arsenal, it’s an observation, a sign of the times, the ethos isn’t exactly mellowed over at Chelsea, Liverpool or Man Utd either. Even the regular Premier League also-rans have little truck with foraging below the Championship, there are examples that just go to prove the rule but they are few and far between.

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Non League Day
Bobby Robson Foundation