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Inside Football with James Scowcroft: English clubs ignoring talent on their doorstep

Flushed with more television money, every Premier League team will spend millions on new players in the close season. Chelsea have been, by a distance, the leading developers of youth talent in Britain.

England at present, wasted most of their Gareth Bale money when they already had the answers at White Hart Lane in their youth system. They bought Roberto Soldado when they had Harry Kane, who was given a chance and is now one of best young strikers in the world.

So many clubs overlook the talent on their doorstep that it should be a crime. They spend millions on academies and bring through some superb players, yet those who spend the most– that’s Manchester City and Chelsea – barely give those players a chance.

Chelsea have just retained the UEFA Youth Championship by beating Paris St Germain. They have outstanding young talents like Tammy Abraham – who was widely regarded as being ahead of Marcus Rashford - Charlie Colkett and Ola Aina. They’ve also won the FA Youth Cup in four of the last six years. Rashford saw how good Chelsea are when his Manchester United youth team was beaten 1-5 at home in December by them.

Chelsea have been, by a distance, the leading developers of youth talent in Britain. They have some fantastic players, so why aren’t some of them in the first team? Why develop all that brilliant talent if you’re not to use it? It’s not like Chelsea’s first team have been outstanding this season is it?

I asked people at Chelsea why players weren’t getting a look in. I got some half-hearted replies about patience and development.

“He’ll probably get his chance but he gave the ball away a few times in the under 21s,” was one reply when I asked about Tammy Abraham. So what? Kids have raw energy and a naivety which can be a blessing and a curse. We’ve seen that with Rashford, whose hold up play is poor, yet his goal against City was like he was playing with his mates in the streets again.

I came through the system at Ipswich Town, a system which has produced three FA Youth Cup winning sides. Only Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea have won the competition more times. Though I missed the Bobby Robson era at the club, he once famously told his assistant: “How do you know a young player isn’t good enough if you don’t play him in the first team?”

I got my chance, took it and made a living as a footballer.

Footballers need to put on their boots on a Saturday. It’s that simple. You have a short career; you don’t want to be talked about as a developing player when you’re 23.

Man City aren’t much better. Like the rest of the top clubs with category one academies they receive a grant of £750,000 from the FA. Then they spend £15 million of their own. They’ve built incredible facilities and have top young players – who they don’t play in the first team. They’ll also spend millions in the summer when they should just look across to the next training pitch.

Louis van Gaal has stumbled across Rashford out of necessity because of serious injuries. Rashford’s been a joy. He’s inconsistent and can have a 9/10 performance followed by a 5/10, but his innocence and enthusiasm is not just lighting games up, but changing them by scoring match-winning goals. His goal at West Ham was like watching Neymar. It’s exciting; he’s a Mancunian United fan living his dream.

Kids do that. Last Saturday, I saw a16-year-old make his debut for Ipswich. Andre Dozzell is an Ipswich lad and fan of the team who also plays for England. He’s the son of Jason, who also made his goalscoring debut while at school when he became the youngster ever player in Division One in 1984.

Sheffield Wednesday. Terrific, but why was he in the box in the first place? I can’t criticise because it was fantastic to watch, but it’s an example of youthful naivety. He just wanted to score. Like Wayne Rooney did when he was a kid.

Young players should get a chance. The game’s not as physical as it was. You’re not going to have some meathead putting his studs down your legs. Youngsters need to sample Premier League football. The Under 21s League is not an effective platform.

But clubs will still spend this summer. Like United spent £16 million on Matteo Darmian when they already had Timothy Fosu Mensah. They’ll no doubt lay out a fortune on a new striker meaning Rashford’s chances will be more limited.

Every Premier League club will be too keen to splash their riches and they’ll be accused of lack of ambition if they don’t. Palace will probably overlook Sullay Kaikai, who they’ve let go on loan to Shrewsbury where he’s been superb. And all the while, some of the best young talents will go to waste or elsewhere.

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