Yeovil Town manager Darren Sarll.
Picture courtesy of Mike Kunz.

Happy New Year!

We roll into 2022 with an exciting game tomorrow against Torquay United and the chance to redeem ourselves after Boxing Day disappointment. 

Yesterday at Darren Sarll‘s pre-match press conference he spoke about a number of topics, including contracts, loanees, Sonny Blu’s overturned suspension and more. He also talked about covid and the impact it’s having on football.

I don’t know about you, but I have found it deeply frustrating to hear managers at the top of the game complaining about lack of players, squad depth and the like. For me, it’s a perfect example of how out of touch the top division in this country is with the the rest of football. It’s difficult to have sympathy with the likes of Tuchel, Klopp and Rangnick when they’re organisations who have had hundreds of millions of pounds (and in Chelsea’s case, more than £1bn) pumped into them over years and access to the best young talent across the globe. My heart bleeds for these teams who need more players and need to make five substitutions. We’ve been happy to name five subs this season.

Darren Sarll talked about his frustration with the top of the game and the attitude it’s showing to youth development and their academy systems in this time of need.

He said: “I find it quite frustrating when I listen to Premier League managers because I have been a Premier League academy manager and I have sat in a meeting with the other 19 Premier League clubs.

The millions that goes in to youth development at Premier League level and they are moaning about not having any players – what is the point of having an under-23 team?

If players are in the under-23s and they are not ready, why are they in the under-23s? We have some top coaches in this country, why are they not using the youth teams?”

Sarll is, of course, no stranger to youth development at the top of the pyramid, having been Watford’s Academy Manager in 2018/19. He talked about his experience of the finances, and the disparity of finances with the the bigger sides and their peers.

“The biggest budget I have ever had was when I was academy manager at Watford, it wasn’t massive and in comparison to top Premier League sides [about] 5% of what the top clubs spend on youth development. I’m talking about PL academies having bigger budgets than clubs in the top end of the Championship. But if they are spending multiple millions of pounds a year, why aren’t they ready? If I’m the Chief Executive (of a Premier League team) and my manager is not using young players, I would be asking a question – why aren’t those young players ready?”

Sometimes, the top of football feels so detached from the rest of the pyramid. When they have an embarrassment of riches and complain about a lack of personnel when you’re struggling to scrape together a squad regardless of COVID, it makes it even more detached.

I thought the manager summed it up quite nicely with this: “COVID does not exempt any team from having COVID, so the integrity of the game is consistent because everyone can get COVID.”

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