Andre Villas-Boas wants a Chelsea B team in the Championship: A response

Posted by on Jan 20, 2012 in Championship, The Seventy Two | 13 Comments

The Guardian have reported, with full quotes direct from the impressively-coiffeured horse’s mouth, that Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas believes that Premier League clubs should have B teams in the Championship – the latest in a series of stabs in the dark from those towards the top of the game.


The thought process from this procession of geniuses appears to be a neverending: “Well, Barcelona and Spain are bloody good aren’t they? What do they do?”

Of course, Villas-Boas is unlikely to last much longer if Roman Abramovich’s recent past is anything to go by. He won’t win the Premier League this season and the entire cast of Animal Farm (no, not that one) will fly over the Thames if Chelsea win the Champions League this May. So should we care?

Thankfully, probably not. Even in today’s world of bloated Premier League self-regard, surely English football has enough about it not to let this kind of thing move anywhere near reality. While the likes of Villas-Boas, Richard Scudamore and those who held Football League clubs to ransom over EPPP may hide behind an excuse of making the English national team more competitive, we all know the real agenda here – “Let’s do whatever we can to compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid”.

Sadly for Villas-Boas, Chelsea and their ilk, there are millions of supporters of Football League clubs who couldn’t give a stuff how well the Premier League’s elite measure up to Spanish sides. Most of us have got enough on our plates worrying whether our own clubs will survive the current financial climate, to which, incidentally, the richest clubs are obviously impervious to the point of stretching the gap even wider at the worst possible time.

Talent can still come through Premier League academies. Even if his own charge Daniel Sturridge, a Manchester City product, is not example enough, Villas-Boas could always glance over to north London and the progression of Jack Wilshere from bright young Arsenal kid to England regular.

What’s next? Forcing all English 9-year-olds to have the same growth hormone deficiency treatment as Lionel Messi? Rewarding any Sergio Busquets-esque play-acting with a goal at youth level? Encouraging teenage footballers to go and pick mushrooms on their day off in the hope they turn into Xavi Hernandez?

Although this is just one opinion, it is a growing trend and one that should be rebuffed by supporters of Football League clubs. As with EPPP, it smacks of the Premier League forcing the burden and the blame for its inability to compete with mainland Europe, and Barcelona in particular, onto Football League clubs.

In The Guardian’s article, Stamford Bridge youngsters Ryan Bertrand, Patrick van Aanholt, Gael Kakuta and Josh McEachran are named as examples of players who could flourish in a Chelsea B team participating at Championship level. Perhaps if there wasn’t such short-termism in the desperate pursuit of success at the highest level, which applies particularly at (but not exclusively to) Chelsea, one or two of these promising youth prospects would have enjoyed more than a handful of games by now? Bertrand, van Aanholt and Kakuta are all older than Wilshere.

None of the above even veers into the territory of the tradition and history of the Football League clubs that would be devalued by such a change in the structure of the English game. We may as well all pack up and have 16 NFL-style franchises throughout the country and consign everyone else to the playing fields on a Sunday morning. You know there are some who would advocate that too – and they would probably mumble something about the England team as well.

This is how English football works. You’re stuck with it. Now go and spend your £50million on someone who can hit an aircraft hangar door with a musical instrument of his choice. Just leave the rest of us alone.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

13 Comments

  1. Mike Roberts
    January 20, 2012

    To be fair to Villas-Boas, his comments about Barcelona B and the recent one about the Christmas schedule are made from the point of view of someone who clearly knows very little about how English football works. If he’s at Chelsea long enough the penny will drop.

    Reply
  2. Marco
    January 20, 2012

    At first thought, the idea of B Teams coming into the English league system is preposterous and, just because it works in Spain, where it has been happening for a long time (certainly since the 1940s) doesn’t necessarily mean it would be a good thing for the Football League.

    My first thought this morning, on hearing this news was of Neil Warnock’s Plymouth Argyle side of 1995/96, when he left Huddersfield and took a good number of players with him. Then I thought of Oldham Athletic who have been routinely taking those who can’t make the Terriers first team either on loan (Clarke N, Simpson recently) or permanently (Holdsworth and more – I think they could name five at one point a few years ago). They aren’t really the cases in point here, though.

    My second thought was of Peterborough Utd, and after shedding a tear at their league status, I recalled all the Manchester Utd players their manager has availed himself of in his time both at London Road and previously, when at Preston (Danny Welbeck for one); Posh currently have two United kids – Wootton and Tunnicliffe – on loan.

    This isn’t to say that its a bad idea, but more that in Darren Ferguson being able to do that, there’s obviously scope for an understanding to be made between Football League clubs and Premiership clubs in terms of loaning their players out, allowing them competitive football, to stay with their team-mates to a certain extent, but to experience footballing life outside the bubble of the big club from whence they hail. That can only help all parties involved – much as other Town fans disagree, I’d love to have seen Martin Kelly and Nathan Eccleston herald the beginning of a similar understanding between my club and Liverpool (we did give them Bill Shankly after all) but it didn’t seem to.

    The third point I would make here is the logistical issue – a few things to think about.
    – Arsenal Reserves play at Barnet. Would the league then have to consider that as a ground share and apportion games appropriately? If Manchester Utd and Manchester City Reserves are both at home on the same day, would the police not have to do something to alter that? Its a very grey area – after all, we’ve got to go to Tranmere on a Friday because Liverpool and Everton both got home draws; what would happen if both of those had reserve teams too? Who would take preference? Pity Marine FC in that case.
    – Is it fair for teams to have 2 sets of revenue. Its only a small leap from this to thinking of advertising campaigns from Chelsea; ‘Don’t Watch Us Away, Come Down The Bridge And Watch The Kids Instead’, so a smaller team misses out on away ticket sales and Chelsea generate more of their own; the big get bigger, the small get ignored.
    – Would there be a limit to which clubs can do it? Would, say West Ham be able to field a reserve team in the Football League despite their demotion to it?
    – Is there not a market for reserve team football anyway? I certainly used to go along when I lived up north and watch Town reserves; of course we’ve opted out of the Pontins League (as was) now, so that opportunity would never exist, but I remember well Rob Edwards lifting the trophy, and Peter Jackson’s last game had a crowd of 5,000-odd.

    In short; I think this is a bad idea to execute exactly as in Spain, but harvesting links between Premiership and Footblall League clubs (Hull seem to do well for Manchester Utd, too, and Watford and Brentford always get a decent set of loanees) can only benefit both; its a flip side of the EPPP – if the Premiership are hoovering up all the talent, then there’s no reason it can’t be polished in the Football League is there? 2 or 3 per club at a time?

    Reply
  3. Williams kwame N.
    January 20, 2012

    Who is writing this? You sound so nepotic. And you took this very personal. You are not a footballcoach so it obvious you sound like a novìce. And that’s sad because those i thought have a cultured-football monopoly, now are enjoying the new renaissance and stractegy that paralleled this beautiful game. I am highly certain that if AVB suggestion is examined and put before all the 2O EPL team coaches, at least, i repeat at least 5 of them in cluding Arsene Wenger will consider it. Would you say that their say won’t matter? Remember, there’s nothing wrong in COPYING A GOOD POLICY.

    Reply
    • theseventytwo
      January 20, 2012

      A good policy for whom?

      Reply
    • CPFC Simon Hunter
      January 20, 2012

      Williams kwanme n.

      Incredible that you can miss the point so completely and utterly!

      Forget the ’20 EPL’ clubs for just one moment, please, and consider the seventy-two pillars of their, respective, communities for whom the success of the EPL’s clubs is of zero significance.

      I am unperturbed in my confidence that football in this country will never be geared towards the success of the elite few. There is too much history at stake; a pride of tradition the length and breadth of the country, an intertwined community and identity, that will fight every last battle, tooth and nail, to rebuff the tyrannical desires of the footballing bourgeoisie.

      We stand together as one.

      Long live the Football League.

      Reply
    • Sam
      January 20, 2012

      Idiot! It’s been successful for Barcelona in recent seasons. You’re saying that if it was introduced here the top 5 would go for it. So you’re simply supporting a system that aids the top 5, I repeat top 5, stay in the top 5. It segregates the rich from the poor further when that gap is wide enough. There are 72 Football League teams mate, each of them deserve a shot.

      Reply
    • Mike Roberts
      January 20, 2012

      Williams kwame N:

      Unfortunately you’ve undermined your argument as your fifth sentence (‘And that’s sad…’) is incomprehensible.

      Of course we take it ‘personal’ (sic) – those of us that don’t follow ‘EPL’ clubs are sick to death of this kind of argument, which comes up every few years and is usually supported by people who have little or no interest or knowledge about what happens outside the Premier League. They’re called glory hunters, are you familiar with the phrase?

      I couldn’t give a toss about what Arsene Wenger and Andre Villas-Boas think, although having coached here for over 15 years Wenger probably has a far better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the overall structure of English football than Villas-Boas or indeed you will ever have. AVB should stick to making comments about what he knows best – the British Virgin Islands and a minor (and uncompetitive league) European league that only two teams stand any chance of winning, unless that’s exactly what he wants.

      Anyway, with Europe in the state it’s in these days any business run by a Russian oligarch with a Portuguese middle manager looks dodgy as hell.

      Reply
  4. Husky Red
    January 20, 2012

    Well said. There is an even more fundamental issue here: What if Chelsea B got promoted? Chelseas 2 clubs could then be playing each other in a situation where taking any points off the A team might put at risk the title or the champions league qualification (with the major financial impact). B teams would therefore create an untenable conflict of interest that would lead to actual or perceived corruption, and taint the value of top flight football brand.

    Barring B teams from promotion would be no answer – it would make a mockery of the championship competition.

    A better solution – which has been employed by arsenal man u and others is more simple: either loan out your b team players to clubs outside your league, or play your b team in the league cup. If they are any good they will get plenty of games!

    Meanwhile, AVB, sod off and focus on your own clubs failing fortunes!

    Reply
    • Sam
      January 20, 2012

      If it happened, let’s pray it doesn’t, then the B team would not be allowed promotion to the Premier League unless the A team was relegated from the Premier League at the same time. That is how it works in Spain anyway. And as you said it makes a mockery of the competition.

      Although, I am now wondering what happens if Barcelona A are relegated from La Liga and Barcelona B get mid table? Would they play in the same second division?

      Reply
      • Marco
        January 20, 2012

        Barcelona B would be automatically relegated (the piece in the Independent today points out that would happen to Villarreal if they got relegated this season); no Copa del Rey either.

        Reply
  5. Marco
    January 20, 2012

    I would cite the examples of Pique, Calléjon, Fabregas and now Romeu. All left their parent club rather than playing B team football, all return better players; it isn’t foolproof.

    Because Spain’s star is in the ascendancy now, it doesn’t mean it always will be; if it is Germany or Holland next, will England have to change to follow their policy?

    Reply
  6. Ryan Keaney
    January 20, 2012

    First of all, I don’t think Andre Villas-Boas is quite at the point when he publishes a 15-page document on how he wants to get B teams in the Championship. I think he was making nothing more than an off-the-cuff remark having watched Barcelona dominating the second best team in the world on Wednesday night.

    AVB is in the horrible position that he has arrived at a club where youth development has been stuttering. Jose Mourinho is not a manager that seems to do much forward planning. As long as he has a squad of players he can work with, everything else is forgettable. Since then, every Chelsea manager has just been desperate to win things so that they can keep their job. Building a team/youth development has obviously been something they have decided to worry about once they were secure in their position.

    AVB wants to blame something other than his owner. Reserve team football isn’t great which means the only place for players to taste competitive football is to go on loan or in the Carling Cup. There isn’t an obvious structure that helps youth development without a manager having to work on it and I think that’s something Villas-Boas. Were second string sides playing in the Football League or part of a competitive reserve structure, he wouldn’t have the concerns he has now about his ageing squad. Sir Alex Ferguson has his string of friends who are happy to give his young players experience. Arsene Wenger, likewise. They have built relationships with other managers and former players who they trust to develop their young charges in the way that they want.

    Chelsea haven’t had that and as such, the players that Villas-Boas has referenced have struggled to kick on and really improve.

    That said, I’m not sure if throwing “the traditions of the English game” back at him is the best way to go. Change isn’t necessarily bad. I’m not saying he is right with what he wants to happen but perhaps there is scope to debate the idea. As you reference yourself, a number of clubs are living year-on-year. This shouldn’t be a time to shut up shop and insist it’s the way it’s always been. Somewhere along the line, it isn’t quite working.

    B teams mights help. They probably won’t. But to throw it out the window because the manager that suggested it is simply venting a frustration about the effect of his club’s twitchy owner isn’t fair.

    Reply
  7. Mike Roberts
    January 20, 2012

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/16659835.stm (‘Football League dismisses Andre Villas-Boas’s ‘B’ team suggestion’)

    Complete with Arsene Wenger’s thoughts on the subject.

    Reply

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