What? Where are you going to go with this I hear you say.. Surely more of a Halloween article? And its only January.
But stay with me – there is indeed a world neither here nor there at Leeds United – half in the real world – and half out.
Let’s think about current outcast Mateusz Klich for a moment.
In he came in July to a great fanfare, a full Polish International with experience in his native Poland, Germany and Holland. A tidy passer of the ball, energetic and technically gifted. And erm. Lets look at him now.
Klich went, tail between legs back to Holland (admittedly to the Eredivisie) with many Leeds fans calling for his head, he was lazy, not good enough, and when he did get a game at Newport – well clearly he wasn’t trying hard enough.
The same was true for Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, On the rare occasion he got a run out he too was off the pace, didn’t look interested or motivated and so back he went to Old Trafford. Until very recently the same was true for Pawel Cibicki – in fairness the player got the bit between his teeth when he got his chance and hes a least on the bench now with the odd start injuries permitting.
Let’s turn this on its head though – Whats the best way to keep a player motivated, and sharp? Why playing competitive games of course.
Sooo. Where would Klich, CBJ, Cibicki, Sacko et all get this game time.
Well if theyre not on the bench the reserves of course… oh wait – we don’t have a competitive reserve side. So thatd be no competitive game time at all then – and what happens then? Stagnation and demotivation. It certainly decreases competition.
That’s right. If its not the first team it’s the U23’s. And while the likes of Grot can return there at the tender age of 19, Leeds United scrapped their reserve team as an overhead they didn’t need during the ever so productive Bates era.
The `Central’ league is still very much a thing with Premier League sides like Bournemouth, mixing it up with Bristol Rovers, Southend, Wimbledon. And in the Midlands and North Bradford, Walsall, Morecambe take part. Last year’s champions were Bristol City.
Now while the above doesn’t exactly represent the pantheon of footballing greats, it’s worth noting that Premir League side Watford have announced that they will this week be restarting their reserve side – `to mix seasoned pro’s with their younger players in a competitive environment’
And where do we send our best young players? Well we send them to Fleetwood, Accrington, Grimsby.. in short the very teams that send their reserves into this league – so why don’t Leeds?
Yes there is a degree of humiliation for a Polish or Swedish international to rock up to a windswept Swindon on a February evening for a small crowd to each them – but these teams are populated with players literally playing for the shirt – the youngsters know they can show themselves as good at least – if not better than the current first teamers in the reserves , the senior players can show theyre a cut above – it the type of competitiveness you simply won’t get in the U23’s – but moreover its competitive game time those on the fringes of the squad simply don’t get right now.
Our U23s are at the bottom of their group – and you have to wonder why – just how do they get their taste of the real footballing world – training with the first team squad? That’s clearly not enough, and the same is true for a player from the continent trying to acclimatize to the championship.
The criticisms as I remember of the reserves league were that many of the bigger clubs didn’t take it seriously and fixture dates were elastic, as some of the smaller clubs didn’t have the funds for the games to take place – and sometimes didn’t have enough players – but for me its surely better to engage in this process as a larger lower division club if nothing else to increase interest in it – and that’s surely going to be infectious?
Leeds reserves with some full internationals and some of Europe’s best young players will not only attract scouts but it’s a good way to increase interest.
If I could get one message through to our development team it would be to restart our interest in this competition – its surely the best way to condition your squad. So over to you Victor Orta & Carlos Oberan.