Sunday 08 September 2013
The Under-21 Premier League Cup has been introduced to improve the development of players by giving them "competitive opportunities" to help make the transition from academy player to elite professional, says the Premier League's Director of Youth Ged Roddy.
"We want to make sure that at every stage of a player's 'Performance Pathway' he has appropriate competitive opportunities"
Ahead of Monday's draw for the new cup competition Roddy spoke to premierleague.com about the thinking behind it, and revealed his hopes for it to acquire an equivalent status to the FA Cup for the under-21 age bracket.
Last season the inaugural Barclays Under-21 Premier League proved a fitting way to mark the first year of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which it heads. Won by Manchester United, who rallied from two goals down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 in before a large crowd at Old Trafford, the final served as a reminder of the burgeoning talent on these shores, with the winners' starting line-up boasting eight players who came from within 21 miles of the "Theatre of Dreams".
This season the Barclays Under-21 Premier League has been streamlined into a single division, and to complement the new format a new cup competition has been launched to increase the competitive nature of matches for young players.
"As part of our step-by-step approach to addressing the EPPP's Games Programme we want to make sure that at every stage of a player's 'Performance Pathway' he has appropriate competitive opportunities," Roddy said, referring to the three phases of player development from U9s to U21s. "Clearly one of our key challenges is to ensure players can go from the academy environment into the professional game.
"For a while we've been discussing with clubs about this transition and so the introduction of an under-21 cup competition is one way to create an opportunity for players up and down the country to play in a meaningful competition, to enhance the Barclays Under-21 Premier League."
"We hope to create interesting match-ups between clubs around the country"
Much as the FA Cup serves as an exciting competition in its own right so Roddy hopes the Under-21 Premier League Cup will become a valid incentive for players acquiring the desire for professional success.
"If you think about how the FA Cup complements and synergises what we do in the Barclays Premier League, the Under-21 Premier League Cup can work alongside the league to create interesting match-ups around the country," Roddy said.
Holding all the cup matches in stadia will hone the competitive edge and winning mentality crucial at this stage of a player's development as they seek to make the grade at the highest level.
"Part of the challenge is players who come through the academy system have been playing on training grounds since they were 9 in some cases," he said. "So one of the characteristics of that transition from academy to professional player is the stadium experience, dealing with games they need to win and with a hostile, or supportive, environment created by a big crowd.
"The stress created by a crowd wanting you to win can have a huge effect on a player's decision-making. So there are a number of reasons why bringing the Under-21 Premier League Cup inside the stadium and developing a fanbase for this competition would be a significant step."
"When you look at how the FA Youth Cup has been a success for the Under-18s I hope a Premier League U21 Cup equivalent will have the same draw"
With the Barclays Under-21 Premier League now a longer single division, the added benefit of the new cup competition is that it will give even those teams not faring so well in the league another incentive. It will also offer the chance for Category 2 and Category 3 clubs to aim high.
"The cup competition will give our clubs another objective to focus upon," added Roddy. "There may be Category 3 clubs playing against Category 1 clubs, which will present different challenges.
The draw for the Qualifying Rounds of the inaugural Under-21 Premier League Cup takes place at Premier League headquarters in central London on Monday 9 September. For more on the draw click here >>.
You can follow developments in the Under-21 Premier League Cup and the Barclays Under-21 Premier League throughout the season on Twitter with the Premier League's account @premierleague or via the respective hashtags #U21PLCup and #BU21PL.