B-TEAMS WORK IN SPAIN AND WE DO NEED CHANGE
DURING his four years in Spain, Steve McManaman won two Champions Leagues, two La Liga titles and two Spanish Cups.
He also saw countless youngsters break into the first team after spells with Real Madrid’s B team in the Spanish lower leagues – a plan currently being discussed by the FA. So would it work in England?
“It works in Spain,” he says. “And I do think it would be beneficial to the big teams if we had a similar system here.
“But England is a very different animal to any other country in Europe. In Spain, in Italy, in Holland, there aren’t many professional clubs.They just don’t have the money. Clubs go bankrupt and they need other teams to fill their league so they offer the place to big clubs’ reserve sides.
“In England, we don’t have that problem.We have four fully professional leagues with 92 teams that are run really well. Then we have the Conference, which is also full of well-run clubs. For the B team concept to work, some of them would have to make way, or we’d have to create a new division. It would be very hard to implement and the politics will be long and drawn out.
“That said, we do need something to change because the gap between first team players and U21 level is too big.
“For me, the old reserve league was much better than the current U21 set-up. Back when I was coming through, if you didn’t play for the firstteam on a Saturday, you’d play for the reserves on Wednesday.
“So you had 30-year-old pros playing alongside young kids. When I was playing for Liverpool’s reserves at 17, I played against Man United with Bryan Robson, coming back from injury and Paul McGrath, who hadn’t made the team.
“Now, the U21s only play against other U21s. It not a real test. They need to find out what it’s like to play in front of 20,000. That’s why Chelsea send their players to Vitesse Arnhem.”
BEST MEMORY: Michael Thomas beats Sunderland keeper Tony Norman to score the opener for Liverpool in the 1992 FA Cup Final. Left: Ronnie Whelan holds up the trophy after the Reds beat Everton in the 1989 final