Date: 27th July 2016 at 7:34am
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Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has been speaking about the introduction of Premier League 2 for the 2016/17 season.

With the new Under 23 competition replacing the former Under 21 set up we had in place since it was decided the old, but simple, reserve set up wasn’t appropriate, Scudamore has explained this week that by it’s design it will give ‘optimum opportunities’ to players to bridge that step between youth football and Premier League first team football.

PremierLeague.com have him quoted as saying that with changes now made, he was hopeful we’d see more than the record 67 debuts we had last year.

If 67 debutants across Premier League first teams was a new record, then why change the system again? Sensible the answer is with an increase in the age range it means younger players (like the original reserve set up) will be facing older players more often, and that naturally helps their own development by providing a greater challenge.

‘We are always trying to develop more and better homegrown players, with a record 67 making their debut last season. The hardest part for players is the transition period; from development football to the first team. Premier League 2 is structured to give players the optimum opportunity to get to the Premier League through more competitive and meaningful game time.’

Adding.

‘The average age for a player to make their first team debuts is between 22 and 23. Therefore, it is right that we extend the age range to Under-23 to give greater opportunities for players to make it.’

With changes to the league set up of Under football now, the wider Games Programme that has been introduced also sees the Premier League Cup, the Premier League International Cup and with this season’s trial in conjunction with the Football League, the EFL Trophy.

For those not aware.

The International Cup grows to accommodate 24 clubs this year, 12 domestic U23 teams and 12 equivalent international sides.

The Premier League Cup goes from a straight knockout competition, and takes on the UEFA Champions League format from this season, with group stages and knockout rounds for the 32 sides involved. Eight groups with four teams to begin with.

And as we know, the EFL Cup involvement will see a selected 16 sides face off against League 1 and 2 opposition in what was formerly the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

The new Under 23 age range though does allow for four overage players to be involved, including one goalkeeper.

Teams in Division 1:

Arsenal, Chelsea, Derby County, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Reading, Southampton, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur.

Teams in Division 2:

Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Swansea City, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Ged Roddy, the Premier League’s new Head of Football Development following seven years as Head of Youth added to Scudamore’s words by explaining that the new format of Premier League 2 should have an ‘immediate impact’ on development prospects this season.

‘Sir Alex Ferguson would say, ‘give me 30 meaningful games a season for a young player who is transitioning to the first team and we’ve got a chance’. So this season if you blend all of those competitions together you’ll be able to create a 30-game programme for your young player. That was a target for us and I think a target for many of the coaches to make sure their players get enough of the right sort of games. If they do that well, and I’m sure they will, I think you`ll get an immediate impact.’

Roddy also commented that this had not been a reaction to England’s performance at the European Championships in France and nor was it a reflection on claims that youth football made academy graduates thesedays too comfortable.

‘Do I think players are soft in this system? No way. These players are trying to create a career for themselves in the hardest league in the world. It’s self-evident that our players have got to be among the best players in the world if they`re going to play in it. We have got more talent pouring into the league than anywhere else on the planet. We had 67 debuts last year. The pipeline is still there. When we started out people would say there was no English talent, but now people say there is English talent but it needs an opportunity. That is a seismic shift from where we were only four seasons ago.’

Scudamore was also asked about whether this was another step in the direction of B Teams coming into the professional pyramid, and he explained it should actually end that discussion once and for all.

‘This is not university after school for the players. This is a first job. This is the beginning and the end of B teams – this is it. That’s the whole point of it, to be honest. We are absolutely consistent on our view about no B teams in the regular Football League. Yes, of course we know some of our clubs would like B teams. We look abroad and we see the benefit of B teams. It’s just for the English football structure and pyramid, it doesn`t work, and so this is it. We can console all these worried Football League clubs` supporters. This isn`t the thin end of the wedge, this is the wedge.’

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