As I write this the sun is shining and it looks like we are in for a hot one. Its typical FA Cup Final weather. As the years have progressed the Cup, from being the highlight of the season has diminished in stature as other, more lucrative, considerations have assumed higher priority. It’s pity as on a day like today, which brings back memories of Cardiff in 2001, I really wish Liverpool were there and all that remains for me to do is to wish Everton good luck.
On to the Youth version of the FA Cup. I’ve always been slightly puzzled that Arsenal the “child catchers” of English football, and I mean that in a complimentary way, haven’t fared as well in the FA Youth as one might think. Until this year the last time they had won it was in 2001. Perhaps Arsenal’s reputation for bringing on youth is actually the reason? The Young Gunners are to busy playing at a more senior level to be bothered with the “Kiddie Cup”.
However not this year as we found out to our cost in the final with a comprehensive 6-2 defeat, 1-4 at The Emirates and then 1-2 at Anfield, the latter game ironically, and neatly, on the twentieth Anniversary of Arsenal grabbing the league title in “that game”. Nonetheless there was a lot to be positive about not least that this was our third final in four years, we won the other two in 2006 and 2007.
Youth team coach Hugh McAuley said
“It’s a fantastic learning experience for these players and hopefully they can gain a lot of confidence…. If that is the level we need to get to – then we have still got a bit to do. We have still got a while before as a team we can compete with these type of teams.”
Perhaps the true marker is who many of those players who lined up for us will come through to represent us at senior level? Since Rafa has joined more and more younger players have come through. Of the youth Cup winning teams Jay Spearing, Stephen Darby Jack Hobbs and Miki Roque have lost their “first team cherry” although, admittedly their appearances have been scant. As Rafa contemplates another summer and transfer wheeling and dealing perhaps they will again find their options limited to pre season games, The Carling Cup and “dead rubbers” in the Champions League.
It would be wonderful if one or two of these emulated Gerrard and Carragher and broke through into the first team and stayed there and it would also fly in faces of comments about clubs such as us chucking good transfer many after bad? However, as Jack Hobbs has found, money isn’t far away in this game, the academy is also a breeding ground for young players who can then be sold on to other clubs at a profit.
Rafa hasn’t wasted too much time in wielding the new sword of influence obtained with the signing of his new contract and it looks like McAuley, along with other youth level managers, will feel it’s mighty power! Rafa’s also bought in his own men, a new academy director, Frank McParland and a new academy technical manager Pep Segura has also been recruited as part of the overhaul. At reserve level Gary Ablett is set to leave. It is always sad when an ex player such as Ablett goes particularly as he won the reserve league last year. I bet he’s wondering what he needed to do? However, it’s a good achievement to have under your belt. Good luck to him.
As so what of Mr Dalglish? No news yet about his role. The suggestion is that he will take on some kind of advisory post although what that entails isn’t clear and I’m wondering if Kenny and Rafa are too? The good thing is that the man himself has made positive noises about a return. Let’s hope it’s more successful than the one made by a certain centre forward, who he signed and managed at Blackburn?