Time to set the boys free

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It’s time to accept that the A-League is growing stale.

The on-going debate surrounding expansion and a second division are all needed, but there are other factors at play behind the sluggish progression of our domestic league and blooding the youth can go a long way to alleviating this staleness.

There are numerous arguments that can be made when it comes to which approach A-League clubs take with their line-ups and this then comes back to what exactly the A-League should be attempting to accomplish in terms of furthering the national game.

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Take away the big-hitting leagues of England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany and you could make the argument that certain A-League clubs could compete with the likes of the Dutch Eredivisie and the Portuguese Primeira Liga.

Those two leagues are synonymous as breeding grounds of the world’s brightest talents before the inevitable move to bigger and greener pastures.

So can the A-League replicate this youth development side of a domestic league? It’s a complex issue, one far bigger than to summarise in the confines of a single article – but it is possible.

We just need to start seeing more and more of these youngsters given a chance week in, week out.

There are 41 teenagers on the first-team books across the competition this season, 13 of these have seen playing time in the first month of the new A-League season. These statistics sound extremely positive until you look deeper into just how many minutes have been afforded to these youngsters. (Note players born in 1997 but aged 20 have been excluded from this statistic eg. George Blackwood)

Brisbane Roar has fielded the oldest starting side ever seen in the A-League in consecutive weeks but ironically is so far the one club giving their youth the most playing action.

Changing the trend is the issue here, the recycling of A-League players has been occurring since the very first off-season 12 years ago and it’s evident by the number of journeymen that have graced the league.

So why are clubs choosing to bang their head against the wall with leftovers and not putting the onus on their youth to fill the void.

Riley McGree was 18 and given an opportunity at Adelaide last season and shined, earning a Socceroos call-up and a transfer to Club Brugge in Belgium.

Danny De Silva was turning out for Perth way back in 2013 and is still just 20 after returning from a turbulent two seasons abroad, but still remains one of Australia’s most promising players.

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De Silva and McGree were given the opportunity to prove their worth and took it by the scruff of the neck exemplifying why we need more youth on our pitches every weekend.

They bring a breath of fresh air into the league, they thrill, they show that there is genuine young talent out there to discover and most importantly they give fans a reason to get excited about Australian football.

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Josh Davies
Josh Davieshttps://joshdavies.journoportfolio.com/
Josh is in the final stages of a journalism degree at The University of Queensland. In the meantime, he'll continue praying for Arzani's knee.

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