The obsession with forcing clubs to play youth has to stop

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In light of Sydney FC re-signing 34-year-old Adam Le Fondre, there have been some critical social media posts saying their attack is too old. However, experience matters.

The side’s attack average age is more than some, as Milos Ninkovic (36), Bobo (36), Alex Baumjohann (34), Kosta Barbarouses (31) and Le Fondre (34) are all well over 30, but is there actually anything wrong with that?

A-League is not a youth development league. It is a professional football league where teams aim to win.

To get external respect, we must treat it as such.

In Australia there is an obsession of forcing teams to play the youth to develop, especially if they might not be good enough. However, their spot should be earned on merit not development.

It is obvious teams need to play their best players to get instant results. Sometimes, it is the veterans in the twilight of their careers who provide the quality to win titles in the A-League.

This exact approach has been the cornerstone of Sydney’s dominance over the last years.

Seasoned defenders like Alex Wilkinson (36) and Rhyan Grant have played crucial roles in supporting their aging attackers

So why should they change that? They have won two championships and two premierships in the last three years after all.

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Melbourne City are also sitting top of the table with their own bunch of established players, while their youth provide support off the bench.

Indeed, it is hard to argue starting Marco Tilio or Stefan Colakovski over a 33-year-old Craig Noone or even 29-year-old Adrian Luna.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Victory are sitting in 11th spot despite largely relying on their young players due to a horrific run of injuries.

Some may argue that playing the youth pays dividends in the long run. Unfortunately, it is often not true in the A-League.

The constraints of the salary cap mean that players are rarely offered long-term deals.

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It is a safeguard for clubs to prevent wasting their valuable cap space if a player suddenly stops performing.

As such, it creates an environment in which too many young players who experience a breakthrough campaign leave their clubs on a next-to-nothing fee.

Daniel Arzani, Christian Theoharous, Sebastian Pasquali and Alou Kuol are a couple of names that spring to mind.

There is rarely a worthwhile financial reward for playing the youth.

Good news is that it is bound to change once the salary cap ceases to exist and transfer fees are brought in between A-League clubs.

For now, let us stop concentrating on the age of the players and simply enjoy the quality they bring to the team.

Feature Image Credit: Jaime Castaneda

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Bogdan Vlasyuk
Total football fanatic. Supporter of the Melbourne Victory and Dynamo Kyiv 🙂

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