Picture this: your club has just promoted an exciting youngster and you eagerly await their A-League debut.

However, over the coming months you find they can’t break into the match day squad because there’s a player over the age of 30 taking their bench spot.

That’s a story that’s all too familiar with many A-League clubs. For example, look at the Central Coast Mariners.

On January 29 this year, the Mariners announced that exciting youth prospect Josh Nisbet had earned his first professional A-League contract with the club at the age of 19, shortly after making a bench appearance in Newcastle against F3 rivals the Newcastle Jets.

However, since signing that contract, he hasn’t even managed another bench spot as Mike Mulvey has preferred 32-year-old Michael McGlinchey.

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That’s nothing against Michael McGlinchey as he was fantastic for the Yellow and Navy in their championship-winning season in 2012/13. However, since his return to Gosford this season McGlinchey hasn’t exactly set the world alight yet he is still earning a spot on the bench ahead of promising youngster Josh Nisbet.

One solution to this is for people to say, ‘well Mike Mulvey should just put Nisbet on the bench’. But the issue isn’t as simple as that. Mulvey obviously has his reasons for having McGlinchey on the bench ahead of Nisbet, or even 19-year-old academy prospect Peter Kekeris who also showed promising signs in the same F3 Derby in Newcastle back in January, and also earned a professional contract with the club under Mulvey’s watch.

One reason for choosing experience over potential is game management. If the game is tight, a manager often wants a player with the experience of either closing a game out or getting their side back in the game.

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However, what if the game isn’t tight? What if you’re either cruising 3-0 up or losing by two goals? That’s when it makes perfect sense to give a youngster some experience but you can’t because your only option from the bench is a player in their 30s.

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We’re always crying in this country that our youth development is poor – and a small bench in the A-League is just one part of the equation. In leagues all around the world, the standard bench size is seven. In the English Premier League, the Champions League and even in other Asian leagues such as the Japanese J-1 League, the bench size is seven players including a goalkeeper. In the A-League, it’s only five.

By extending our bench sizes by just two, it could mean young players like Josh Nisbet and Peter Kekeris can be given more opportunities sooner. Beyond that, though, it also allows young players to be part of a match day squad and have all the experiences that come with it.

If a young player can’t earn a bench spot, the chances are they’ll play for the academy side in the National Youth League or National Premier Leagues.

The A-League cops a lot of criticism for being either a ‘retirement league’ or a ‘development league’, and until we extend the bench sizes, we will always struggle to do the latter successfully. If we want to develop more youth, and potentially the next Socceroo, we need to give them more game time in the A-League and it appears the best way to integrate some of these promising youngsters into teams is by naming them on an extended, seven-man bench.

This is becoming increasingly crucial as the level of marquee player clubs can attract is getting higher, pushing young Australians down another level.

Add two spots to those leather benches that are now in use in the A-League. Hell, even add two Bunnings’ chairs to the end of the bench if you have to. Make it happen, FFA. Think of the children!

Feature image credit: Vision Inspired Photography

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Football writer and radio presenter. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).