YOUTH DEVELOPMENT UPDATE - February 2004 Football League Youth Alliance
Colin Barnes - Youth Development Officer Wanderers are in the process of finalising a restructuring of its Youth Development programme. Youth Development Officer Colin Barnes has written a report recommending changes with an objective to improve Wanderers chances of picking out potential players at an earlier age, as well as ensuring that a higher quality of player is maintained throughout the Centre of Excellence and Youth Team process.
Barnes took control of the Youth set-up at Wycombe at the start of the 2003/4 season and he is using his previous experience at Millwall, Watford and Wimbledon in an attempt to give Wanderers the edge in picking out local talent. Commenting in the Wanderers matchday programme, Barnes said "Results are not important. We are here to produce players not teams". Chairboys on the Net understands that Barnes has had long talks with Tony Adams on the proposals and the Wanderers boss is fully behind the move to restructure the Youth set-up at the Club. COTN has also learnt that Adams would prefer the current Reserve Team to be structure dropped to help shift emphasis towards youth and to save valuable funds that have been lost due to the termination of government grants. The Wanderers Board have yet to report a decision on this yet but the liklihood is that Wanderers would withdraw from the Football Combination and arrange friendlies with a team made up from a mix of First Team squad members, youth teamers and triallists.
Wanderers currently invest over 100,000 per season into the Youth set-up but resources will be stretched next season when the lack of previous cash injections by the government and other bodies start to bite. There are also changes to the structure of the Youth Alliance League system throughout the Football League. The current three year scholarships will be replaced with a two year 'Modern Apprenticeship', incorporating a qualification in 'Sporting Excellence' and there are age group changes too.
As from the start of the 2004/5 season the Under 19's league will be replaced with an Under 18's competition, with an additional proposal to allow three or four over aged players plus a goalkeeper from the Under 19 ranking. The Under 18's age grouping would match that used by the Premier League and other Academy clubs and also tie in with the age qualification for the FA Youth Cup.
The existing Under 17's league would also be replaced - an Under 16's league being created which would also be played on Saturday morning's along with the Under 18's games. Wanderers are already one step ahead on these changes as Under 15's and 16's regularly play in the existing Under 17's team, while the Under 19's side has the vast majority of its older players sent on work experience schemes at senior non-League club's.
Barnes also says he will be introducing an Under 9's team to compliment the Under 10's set-up. He commented "The thinking behind going down to the younger age groups are that in the past the Club has not bothered with these age groups and missed out on boys going to Chelsea, Reading, Fulham, Watford, Spurs and Arsenal." Several promising youngsters have been seen through the Club's Community Scheme but because Wycombe couldn't offer them opportunities at the lower age range within the Centre of Excellence, they have been snapped up by other clubs.
Elsewhere the proposal is to combine the Under 11's and 12's and to also combine the Under 13's and 14's. In effect this means the total number of teams will remain the same with Barnes adding "The thinking behind this is we can offer more quality coaching by working with quality rather than quantity. We do not have 16 quality boys in each age group and we do need, at the older ages, to be more selective and identify the boys who have a realitic chance to make a career in the game and give them all the support and help to achieve at our Club"
Barnes' objectives also include improving the structure of the much maligned scouting system at the Club and he says he is hoping to build up partnerships with local clubs and perhaps offer them something in return.

Click here for Wanderers Youth Team and Centre of Excellence Guide

Click here for Youth Team results and fixtures 2003/2004

Click here for Youth Team Picture Gallery 2003-2004

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