For all of Manchester City’s star quality on show against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League last night, former England striker Michael Owen fears the Premier League club’s youth system does not favour home grown talent.
City started a fresh European campaign under new coach Manuel Pellegrini with a 3-0 defeat of their Czech hosts with no youth team players in their squad.
Speaking ahead of the 2013/14 Champions League group stages which continue today, Owen was critical of the Manchester club’s academy.
“You are never going to get from the youth team to Man City’s first team, never in a million years,” Owen said at a Football Writers Association event in Liverpool.
Owen didn’t just hit out against City’s youth programme, he also described the entire Premier League’s under-21 system as “farcical.”
The former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Stoke City forward, who retired at the end of last season, has spoken of his desire to set up a management company to help young players in the early stages of their career.
Owen was at his old Liverpool home ground Anfield last night to watch the Merseyside club’s under-21 team field a few first team players against Sunderland’s youth side.
“Reserve team games are basically youth team games,” he said last week, adding he felt young English players were being lost as there is no “stepping stone” to the first team.
Owen said the gap between reserve team and first team football is much bigger now than when he came to prominence in the late 1990s at Liverpool. Only “sensational” players will get a chance he added.
Premier League clubs are now limited by the number of older first team players they can play in the reserve teams. Ever since the under-21 league was set up in 2012 to replace the reserve league, clubs can only field three over-21 outfield players.
This means Owen’s idea of a return to what he called “proper” reserve teams is no longer possible, meaning players at clubs such as City are very unlikely to get the chance to learn from experienced first team players like Owen did at Liverpool.
In contrast, City’s rivals and neighbours Manchester United had two home grown players in their squad last night and six English players figured. City had two.
In recent years City have a good record of bringing through English players such as Shaun Wright-Philips, Nedum Onouha, Micah Richards and current Premier League player of the month Daniel Sturridge.
However, Richards is now the only member of the current first team squad who is a product of the academy.
Image courtesy of Michael Kjaer, with thanks