Would Messi have made it?

Robert McCracken reports…

Youth football in Scotland is as big as it ever has been. Up and down the country every weekend hundreds of games kick off, thousands of players play their hearts out and every coach is Sir Alex Ferguson or José Mourinho for an afternoon.

But, why in 2011 are coaches still showing an attitude which doesn’t match up with the modern game?

After suffering some enforced time on the reporting sidelines thanks to the Arctic weather we endured, I took the time out to speak to a youth scout, for a Scottish First Division club. I wanted to find out what it took for a player to cut it at youth level if they had any hope of making the step up.

The scout I spoke to was involved with under 12 development and under 13 coaches, dealing with the young players at a very crucial stage in their development. The main indication of a players potential came as a surprise to me;

“The best way to see if a player will be able to excel at youth level and beyond is to look at the parents. The height and build of the parents is the first indication we can use to see the players ability.”

In an age where passing football is very much the vogue, and has been for years, why are we still looking for physicality over technicality?

“The nature of the game at youth level is that it is not necessarily about the quality of the football. It is often the stronger, faster, taller players who excel. If they can tick that first box, then we’ll take it from there.”

This is an attitude which is prevalent at all levels in the Scottish game. From youth football on public parks, to the top level. This is an aspect of the youth game and system in Scotland that really worries me. A players ability cannot be judged solely on his physical stature.

“Plenty of young players out there have the ability but won’t make the step up, because of the attitudes in the game. It’s something which very many coaches, players and scouts are keen to move away from, we need to embrace a more continental approach when we’re judging ability, especially at such a young age. To change this wholesale, we need to start at grassroots and hopefully this is something we can begin in the coming years.”

The sooner more people involved at this level begin to change their attitude the better. Not only will the youth game reap the benefits, but the football will profit nationally. Imagine if someone had told Lionel Messi he was too small to play football. The next generation of Scottish talent should not be overlooked on grounds of their physique, who knows what we’re missing out on?

 

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