Friday 17 August 2012
Youth development took centre stage as the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League was launched in Manchester on Thursday.
The new season bursts into life this weekend as the 20 clubs kick a ball in anger for the first time since that momentous day in May when Manchester City won their first Barclays Premier League title in extraordinary fashion.
But behind the scenes, a new initiative is being introduced that is designed to take Youth Development to the next level.
The Elite Player Performance Plan aims to enhance the youth development work going on at Premier League and Football League clubs in order to produce more and better home-grown players.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said: “We have got to continue to attract the world’s best talent and that has to be blended with a mix of our home-grown talent.
"It’s essential that we have a blend of home-grown players"
“It’s essential that we have a blend of home-grown players, local heroes that we can relate to and that can hopefully go on to play international football for England.
“You take young players from playing school football to hopefully joining clubs, playing academy football and all of a sudden at around 17-18 years of age, they have got to be able to make that transition from local football to global football. If you are going to play in any Premier League team, you have got to be able to compete effectively with the rest of the world.
“That’s why we have spent a lot of time over the last three years revamping all our youth development programmes.
“This season sees the culmination of that with a whole raft of new measures in terms of improving the quality of our youth development programmes to try to make sure those home-grown young players can come through and make it, not just in the first team but in international football.”
The new campaign kicks off a week after the end of the Olympic Games and Scudamore was keen to focus on the hard work that all sportsmen, including footballers, have to put in to achieve success.
“The young men that make it into professional football today are extremely dedicated, have dedicated themselves physically and mentally to professional sport,” he said. “They've also done the training, done the hard work, the sport science, who've also got fantastic coaches.
"We've got the parents who've taken their kids back and forth. So, whilst there are differences, there are also huge similarities.
“The Olympics is the biggest show on earth, you'd have to be living in a cave not to catch the excitement of it. But I'm also very proud of what football is and what the Premier League is, and we're very well respected around the world.”
The new season comes on the back of a thrilling year that was voted the best campaign in the 20 Seasons Awards over the summer.
“It was just fantastic and we don’t know if we can emulate it but we do know that there will be thrills and spills, there will be excitement,” Scudamore said. “It can’t come soon enough. Even though it’s been only three months since we finished, it’s always great to be back.
“Everyone remembers the last day and how fantastic that was but the remarkable thing about the season was the competitiveness throughout. Right from the first weekend to the last, there were surprises.
“That’s really all you want, that every match is a contest. What you don’t want is foregone conclusions.”
"We are all dying to get back to playing competitive games"
Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck and Everton’s Victor Anichebe were two of the Barclays Premier League stars to attend the launch at Manchester Town Hall.
The pair will be on opposing sides in the first Monday night match of the new campaign and both said they were looking forward to the season getting under way.
“We do feel that sense of excitement the fans feel,” Anichebe told premierleague.com. “As kids you grow up wanting to play football and that doesn’t go away.
“Pre-season is such a long time and we are all dying to get out of that mode and get back to playing competitive games.
“We are all blessed. We all know how much of a good thing it is to be in the Premier League. It’s a great League. You hear players from all over the world saying that they want to come here so we are ever so grateful to be involved in it.”
Welbeck’s side are close to securing the high-profile signing of Robin van Persie from Arsenal and the 21-year-old, who played for England in UEFA Euro 2012 this summer, says he is looking forward to the arrival of the Dutchman,
“It’s exciting,” said Welbeck. “Playing with a world-class player is going to be very beneficial. I will learn from him. You want to play with top-class players and Robin van Persie is one of them. It’s a massive boost to the club.”