Colin Lee: Is it time to give youth a chance?

Ethan Ampadu Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK.

Ethan Ampadu Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK. - Credit: Micah Crook/PPAUK

This season it has been fascinating to watch the development of young players who have been given the chance to establish themselves in the Premier League which has led to international recognition for many.

Ollie Watkins Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Ollie Watkins Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK - Credit: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Chelsea FC were forced into this situation having received a transfer ban.

This left manager Frank Lampard with no choice but to introduce some of the younger players to his first team squad, Reece James, 20, Fikayo Tomori, 22, Mason Mount, 21, Billy Gilmour, 18, Tammy Abraham, 22, Callum Hudson-Odoi, 19.

These players have now developed into recognised first team players and would attract huge figures in the transfer market.

Liverpool have developed arguably one of the best right backs in the world in Trent Alexander-Arnold, 21, and Manchester United have seen Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 22, formerly of Crystal Palace, develop throughout the season.

Trevor Francis Photo: Steve Bond/Pinnacle

Trevor Francis Photo: Steve Bond/Pinnacle - Credit: Steve Bond/Pinnacle

I'm sure there's many more.

Managing a football club is not easy and the decision when to introduce a young player is always difficult for a manager, as you are usually being judged on a game-by-game situation.

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Therefore, managers tend to sway towards playing the more establish players or go into the loan or transfer market rather than take a chance on a young player.

If this is the case then regardless of which club you are managing there seems no point in having a youth programme.

Youth development is there to produce players for the first team or to develop and sell on players to support the finances of the club.

Over the past 12 years or so Exeter City seem to have got this right and have developed a model where their youth development programme has become a very important part of their club structure.

Paul Tisdale was very instrumental in developing Exeter City FC and was prepared to look at a long-term structure instead of a short-term fix.

This included ground and training ground development and an organised scouting network which was devised to attract players to this area at affordable cost, which is not easy.

Money from their cup runs and success was used wisely which included youth development as part of their long-term vision.

There are many views on this subject and some clubs choose not to support a youth development programme, using the finances to support the first team squad only.

I understand the dilemma and the craving for quick success but long term is this the best option for the future of the club?

Throughout my career I have experienced making decisions on young players and at times have been forced into introducing a young player through either a player being sold, injuries or lack of finances and, on most occasions, I have not been disappointed.

A well-organised youth policy can support these situations and become a big asset to the club and an area that is always well supported by the local community and supporters.

To establish a productive youth programme the club from the very top needs to have a clear picture on how this can work long term, create an understanding within their club and structure their finances to include investment into the youth department.

Given time it can be very rewarding, producing home grown players of value.

I was fortunate to experience this during my time at Wolverhampton Wanderers where the youth department became a very big part of the club supported by Sir Jack Hayward through a structured budget, which was separate to the first team budget. Given time, this became a very profitable area, producing many players for the first team... Robbie Keane, Joleon Lescott etc.

Over the years the South West has produced many talented players - Trevor Francis, Nigel Martin, Dan Gosling, Ollie Watkins, Ethan Ampadu all products of youth development.

The coronavirus pandemic will definitely have a financial impact on the lower league clubs.

Is it time to give youth a chance?