Often Partisan

Youth

News broke today in the Daily Mail of Terry Westley’s imminent departure from Birmingham City. Whilst I can find no other mention of this online, barring a posting of a rumour of it happening last week on a messageboard, I thought it would be good to talk about youth football and Birmingham City today.

For me, youth football is in a bit of a state at Birmingham City. It’s been remarked upon many times that not many youngsters make it into the first team setup at Birmingham City; if you look upon the Premier League development squad lists the one for BCFC is significantly smaller than many others. This is despite Birmingham being the second biggest city in the country (and logically thus having one of the bigger catchment areas for the club), and having a youth coach of some repute in Westley.

I believe the problems Birmingham City face with regard to youth football are quite numerous, and without careful thought they will be hard to fix. If the club’s board wish to enhance revenue, then a good youth system is vital to their needs; it’s a cost effective way of bringing players into the team that can provide good revenue when sold on. However, the club just aren’t doing it – in the last few years the names of players who have started in the academy to become regular first teamers are few and far between; many are released or sold on for nominal fees that do not reflect the time and effort put into nurturing their talent.

One of the problems the club face is that youth team players rarely break into the team through cautiousness; as the club have yo-yoed between the top two divisions, it’s been seen more important to ensure survival/promotion, and it seems Alex McLeish doesn’t trust any of the kids from the youth setup to make the jump into first team action – because too much is riding on how the first team fare. It makes the club an unattractive proposition for prospective new young footballers; players play for a team because they think that they will break into the first team and become a success. Compare the Blues’ youth squad to the team from across the expressway, who have managed to bring a number of talents into their first team pool over the last few years. I’m afraid that saying their setup is ahead of Birmingham’s is no longer an excuse; if the club want youth players to succeed they have to give them a chance.

Of course, it’s a catch-22 situation in that our youth players have rarely been good enough to make the grade. I’ve been to a few reserve and youth team games in my time, and I’ve rarely seen anyone in a royal blue shirt that has made me think “yes, he’s the real deal.” When I went to see the Coleshill Town game in the Birmingham Senior Cup this year, whilst I was impressed with some of the youngsters on show I did think that many of them were raw, and needed experience of first team action with a lower league team before they could be considered for Birmingham City (with the possible exception of Nathan Redmond, who I think is worthy of a place on the bench against lower league opposition in the cups). When the club loaned out players in the past to lower division clubs, often they’ve stultified and not progressed as the club might have hoped; only Jordon Mutch in recent times has come back from loan looking like he was going to get into the first team.

I remember an interview in the dim and distant past where Terry Westley said that it would take ten years for an Academy to fully mature to the point where it regularly providing good youth players for the senior set-up; Westley has been with the club for five years now and I have to admit I cannot see how the academy has progressed much further. I’m not sure if things have progressed to where Westley or the club has decided a change is needed but I would not be altogether surprised if that is the case. Birmingham City have reached a critical point now in the development of it’s youth team, and if it’s to kick on and get the youth team to the level the fans want – ie where it’s producing gems that will make the first team, then something has to change. Maybe Terry Westley moving on is it; only time will tell.

Addendum:

It appears Terry is going nowhere. This link in the Birmingham Mail which came online after I wrote today’s piece talks about taking the youth setup “to the next level”. It appears that I wasn’t the only one concerned.

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One Response to “Youth”

  • […] As previously spoke about on here, Terry Westley has indeed left the club after four years service. The article reports that it was by mutual consent, although no statement has been forthcoming from the club yet on the official website that I can see. Whilst Terry had an excellent reputation within the game for bringing on youth players, I don’t think that enough has been proven by the current youth setup to confirm Westley was making a huge difference; Westley was also the most senior member of the backroom staff that wasn’t a McLeish appointment and I wonder if Alex has his eye on his own man for the position. […]


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