Writer: Joe Brown
Date:Tuesday March 20 2007
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez wants the reserve teams of top clubs to be allowed to play in the Football League.
The Anfield boss says the reserve set-up in England is 'not working' and preventing the progress of his young stars.
Benitez, speaking the day after Liverpool reached the FA Youth Cup final for the second consecutive season, is worried that his best young players are not getting quality opposition at reserve level.
He said: 'It is clear that the reserve system doesn't work, the reserve league is nothing.
'You can see youngsters playing just 18 games a season, that is nothing. Certainly not enough for the development of these players.
'It is something that we can improve in this country. Or if we do not change we will find other solutions, sending youngsters out on loan like I have done recently.
'I do not want to see reserve teams with four or five senior men playing without passion. These games are for young players.'
'If you want to improve their level you must change the reserve league system.'
Benitez has experience of the Spanish system which allows the second string at major clubs to play in the second division.
'I used to be the manager of Castilla, Real Madrid's reserve side, and I had players who were 18, 19 years old playing in the Spanish second division championship.
'They were playing against men. They were winning and we finished sixth and fourth. The question is, what improves the quality of the players?'
'It is something that must improve here. You cannot play in a reserve league with players who are 34 years old and coming back from injury.
'They don't work hard. What happens to the 18 and 19 year olds, because they should not play games with senior men in the reserves.
'I would like to see reserve teams of the big clubs like ourselves playing in the Football League. Why not if they have enough quality?
'The key is that the young players may have the quality but not the experience for the first team. They are only on the bench.
'That will bridge the gap between the youngsters and the first team. If you do not give young players the chance to play competitive football and to learn things, things become impossible.'
Benitez has seven youngsters currently out on loan. Godwin Antwi and David Martin are at Accrington, Besian Idrizaj has gone to Luton, Lee Peltier at Hull, Danny Guthrie with Southampton, Adam Hammill at Dunfermline and James Smith with Ross Country.
The Spaniard would prefer to see them all still in a Liverpool shirt, but facing tougher opposition. He said: 'We can go a month without a reserve match, it is crazy. You then play against teams full of senior players.
'That was the situation like us a couple of seasons ago. The senior players in the reserves were there because they were not in the first team.
'So you send them, say, to Newcastle for a reserve match. They go without any passion, they go just to play. The young players are trying to improve and it does not help, the senior player is only there with the reserves because he can't be with the first team.'
He added: 'It is something that needs to change clearly. I have been here three years and have talked to many people about this, and what I see are players who are 17 years old and they cannot progress.
Vital view - Well done to Rafa for bringing this subject up. We actually think that this idea has some merit, although how it would work we are not sure, for example which teams could have their reserves in the league, all the premiership, or just the top four, five, six etc. It would certainly spice things up in the lower leagues, which clubs first team would want to be beaten by a reserve side.
What do you think ?
Date:Tuesday March 20 2007
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