Joey Barton: Palace U21s represent ‘problem in the modern game’
Written by Training Ground Guru — October 6, 2022
BRISTOL ROVERS manager Joey Barton said that Crystal Palace’s Under-21s represent “what the problem is in the modern game” after his side’s 2-0 win over them in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday night.
The League One side won courtesy of goals from Alfie Kilgour and Trevor Clarke, despite having veteran Glenn Whelan sent off for violent conduct in the 85th minute.
The format of the EFL Trophy sees League One and Two teams pitched against 16 U21 sides from the Category One Academies. EFL sides are required to field at least four senior players among their 10 outfield starters.
Afterwards Barton said: "I thought they were what the problem is in the modern game, an Academy side that are miles away from producing people who can play in the league.
"They’re so far away, let’s be honest, so it kind of makes a mockery for me of what that Premier League 2 is. You hear me talk all the time about these big clubs stockpiling players and what player for them today.
“We wouldn’t take any of their players, we just wouldn’t, they're so far away. It’s a good opportunity for us to look at that, because we do like to utilise the loan market, but I was so surprised to see them.
"It’s easy for them because their games don’t matter. Their games are irrelevant and nobody cares about them, but we’ve got a proper game on Saturday when mortgages are on the line, real football, real men’s football.
“So to have a team of kids go out and leave late challenges on you is bizarre. The competition is about developing younger players. We don’t really want to play in this competition, I’ll level with you
"It’s a waste of our time because we get players suspended, you get players injured from nonsense tackles from young kids who are miles off playing men’s footy. I just don’t see why we should support it.
"Next game, I may well just play our kids because I can’t risk my first-team players getting injured against a bunch of kids who are miles off the level and trying to impress people who are watching by kicking senior players. It’s a nonsense competition.
"Who cares about it? It’s a nonsense competition, and when it’s officiated in that fashion it makes me even further devalue the competition.
"I’ve tried to support it in all my time, but when I get officials like that who are basically on work experience sending my players off that don’t deserve to be sent off and all the while allowing young players to steam in and make stupid tackles and don’t book them or reprimand them because they’re young players, it’s a nonsense.
"We don’t take it seriously, so I said to the lads tonight go out and enjoy it because the opposition are inferior because they are a bunch of kids. If you take their teamsheet and look at it in five years’ time, some of those lads will be working in civilian jobs, they won’t be playing football.
“Youth teams are usually geared around the development of one or two players, so I get why the EFL have put the competition in, but you can see from my point of view, if I lose any real senior players, we’ve got a proper game at the weekend and real football to come.
"You try to do the right thing because if we don’t fulfil the quotas, we get fined and all the other nonsense that comes down the track, but you can see from our standpoint we’ve got a duty of care to fulfil our league campaign and play the best team we can on a Saturday in the league.
“Having this nonsense of a competition in the middle of it, when players can be injured and suspended now, it just makes me question it. Who is the competition for? Is it for Crystal Palace? Yeah, I think so. Is it for the referees and officials to gain experience? Yeah.
“It isn’t for senior players and senior teams, it’s just a deterrent to us. The sooner we’re out of it the better and I’m going to go forward carrying absolute disdain for the competition when referees officiate it like that."
Palace placed 23rd in our latest Academy Productivity Rankings, for 2021/22. Their most notable recent Academy graduates are Wilf Zaha and England internationals Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Nathaniel Clyne.
They were promoted to Category One in July 2020, with Chairman Steve Parish saying: "Our ambition is to have one of the country’s leading football Academies to capitalise on the hotbed of footballing talent in south London.”
Their U21s are currently joint top of Premier League 2, alongside Manchester City. Bristol Rovers, who are Category Three, placed 74th out of 80 teams in our 2021/22 Academy Productivity Rankings. Their senior side are currently 21st in League One.