B TEAMS? JUST PUT PLAY­ERS IN REAL WORLD

The Football League Paper - - ADAM VIRGO -

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.

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