B TEAMS? JUST PUT PLAYERS IN REAL WORLD
THE free-scoring form of Benik Afobe is the perfect illustration of why England doesn’t need to copy Spain by allowing the Premier League to field B teams.
Afobe, 22, has scored five goals in seven games since joining Wolves from Arsenal – but I doubt he’d be so deadly had it not been for a succession of lower-league loans.
When you’re at a big club like Arsenal, everything is done for you. But with the loan system, you get thrown into the the nitty-gritty of League One and League Two, and you get a proper education.
You’re playing for points on a Saturday, you’re playing in front of passionate crowds, being paid to do a proper job. In some cases, you know club staff are relying on you to keep them in employment. You have to move away from home, maybe live in a hotel for a while.
You also meet people who’ve seen real life and worked incredibly hard to get a contract that, in some cases, wouldn’t pay the chef at Arsenal.
I remember going on loan to Exeter when I was a young player at Brighton. We couldn’t even afford to stay overnight at some games – we were playing Macclesfield or Bury and getting up in the early hours of the morning to make it in time for kick-off.
You ate on the bus, had your pre-match prep on the bus. It was a real eyeopener and really made me appreciate what it meant to be a footballer.
People always talk about ‘learning your trade’ in terms of what happens on the pitch, but it’s just as important to learn how to deal with pressure and how to fit into a dressing room.
By spending time at the likes of MK Dons, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton, Afobe has developed the confidence and life skills to slot straight into a big club like Wolves. That wouldn’t have happened If he’d been cocooned in some Premier League B team.