IN light of Brendan Rodgers’ recent comments underlining his commitment to finding the best local, young talent for the benefit of the first-team in years to come, Tim Williams asks the question: Does home-grown talent really matter to supporters?
I did a piece a couple of months ago which had a central theme of owner approach and potential directions that the club could be taken. It provided some interesting responses from LFC and fans of other clubs alike.
So in light of the departure of Joe Cole to West Ham, as well as the Hammers taking another freebie disaster off the Gunners hands in Chamakh, it started me thinking about what modern football clubs represent.
Taking the red spectacles off for a second, surely one of the most extraordinary European Cup/Champion League successes of all time has to be that of our hooped friends from Glasgow, who had 10 of the 11 starters of the final born (Tommy Gemmell, born in Motherwell I believe) within 10 minutes of Celtic Park, I personally can’t foresee anything like this happening again, can you?
Moving forward to a more modern day perspective and you have Athletic Bilbao and their strict policy of Basque only players, and whilst this can certainly ebb and flow somewhat there is no denying what that team produced against United last season.
So with these thoughts in mind I want to present two options for Liverpool to adopt with the click of fingers (please remember this isn’t a real proposal of forward movement!) I would love at the end of the piece or on Twitter to hear your thoughts. Manager and Owners in this instance are irrelevant, but if you want to tell me who you would have then please feel free.
Home is where the heart is
Without complicating matters and hunting birth certificates, for this option I am talking about playing staff that have come through Melwood, so despite Sterling and Suso, for example, being born far away from Merseyside I have classed them as home-grown.
As the season gathers pace and we head towards the 2013/14 season where even more money has been pumped into the Premier League and subsequently drip fed to the 20 teams, the game of our fathers and their fathers further slips away from us as we hurtle towards the American style ‘Franchises’. Surely a club should be a representation of the city and its history as well as the people, their philosophies and passions?
The worry is that this can be lost in pursuit of money. I am not suggesting that a local club should be for local people, far from it, but it is easy to see why people fall in love with a city such as Liverpool and people such as Scousers, even if I do say so myself, and if these traits are carried forward onto the pitch and how the club carries itself in the wider market, then it can continue to attract those with an affinity for all things Scouse.
It is no surprise that Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are held in the regard they are and that those coming into the club that have displayed that ‘Liverpool-ness’ such as Dalglish, Barnes and Suarez are taken into the hearts of the Kop.
Who knows what this team could produce or how successful or unsuccessful they would be in the short or long-term using this model, but the killer question is: would you not have a greater sense of pride at whatever this team achieved?
Keeping up with the Jones’s
Yes what that Celtic team achieved was impressive, massively impressive, but that was the 1960’s and the modern game has changed so much. Can you imagine what would happen to the Bremner, Hunt and Giles, Leeds United, another dominant team from that era if transported to the modern day? Yes history is important, it is what shapes today and tomorrow, but it is crucial not to get caught up in it, you have to always keep taking forward steps.
Liverpool Football Club is littered with talent from outside of Melwood, Liverpool and England. People such as Dalglish, Molby, Torres, Suarez, Alonso, Hamann are cemented in the annals of Liverpool Football Club, and without them, history may have been quite different indeed. The names mentioned, as well as others have been taken to the heart of the Kop (yes, Mr Torres you had a special place! Had!) because they exuded the qualities we demand of them.
Yet as Father Time plods his way along we approach that fateful day when Messrs Gerrard and Carragher no longer lace their boots and the distinct possibility that week in and week out the side will not have a Scouse heartbeat. As much as it hurts to lose that face of the club, what the current side contains is people such as Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel who have taken on board everything the club and the city stands for.
What does this suggest? Well in the current climate does the club need any playing connection to the city or the academy? As long as the ‘right’ players are signed then no; a team of Agger’s (that would actually be alright wouldn’t it!) rather than a team of Cole’s. In order to compete at the top table quality should always be that primary factor. So without any connection to the Melwood we would currently be looking at a starting XI (4-4-2) of Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Assaidi, Lucas, Allen, Downing, Sturridge and Suarez. Not bad!
There is no doubt that the ‘non-Melwood’ XI would perform better than the ‘Melwood’ XI but would their achievements mean less? If say the FA Cup was won by Liverpool and you could select which of the above teams won it, who would you pick? Personally speaking its home-grown all the way!
Yet this is really a ludicrous scenario as we are in a money dominated business so scenario 1 could never happen – more the pity in my mind. Yet the underlying theme of this piece is that the days of fielding a majority home-grown side with a sprinkling of outside players brought in is long gone but that mentality has to remain.
The problem a Manchester City or a Chelsea has is that players will follow money, and whilst that is true of the vast majority, any Liverpool signing has to show an understanding of the team he plays for and the city and people he represents: a ‘home-grown mentality’!
I’m on Twitter @timdibs so come find me and let me know your thoughts, and please comment on here I love chatting with people who share my passions.