The Perils of Youth

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by Ernie Fox

Looking at our squad this season you’d be forgiven for believing we have a number of great, young players all destined for long and prosperous careers in the famous red shirt; but we’ve been here before haven’t we?

It was one of the things that had me celebrating the capture of Brendan Rodgers, his willingness to introduce young players into the starting eleven and develop their potential, I believed it would give us the chance for long term success and sure enough I’m sure FSG were also delighting in the prospect of buying success cheaply. But we’ve seen great young players come and go through this team over the last couple of decades without achieving any significant long term success, so what’s so different about this time? Is anything different, or are we just destined for the same disappointments for many more years to come?

There are always those that talk about the need for experience as a reason why you can’t rely on kids to bring you glory on the pitch, but there is something else; retention of that talent. Young players can display as much potential as is humanly possible, but if you can’t hold on to the player while he goes through the developing stages then that is all it will ever be, potential.

No matter how successful we become we will always have to accept our place in the food chain, basically, we are not Real Madrid or Barcelona and so the threat of losing players to one or either of the two Spanish giants is always a possibility, but against the rest of the world we should be far more resilient.

We have made a couple of big name signings this summer in the shape of Benteke and Firmino but let’s make no mistake about FSG, the age of both players still enabled our current owners to spend with the belief that these players have the time and ability to increase in value before being sold on.

So what am I really worried about if FSG are trying to invest in the team whilst sticking to a budget?

It’s not the budget that has me worried, but the intentions of the management. Take our biggest two departures in the last two years; Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling, left the club at enormous profits. And what it demonstrates to any multi millionaire investor is that you don’t need to win the league to increase market value of your best players astronomically.

As a result this leaves us in a rather precarious position. FSG will continuously invest in young players in the hope that a small proportion of those signed will develop into prime meat for sale at a significant profit. FSG don’t have to win the league or even qualify for the Champions League to make huge profits at the expense of the club’s long term ambitions. By regularly selling off individual players FSG will enjoy the rewards of a long term game plan that doesn’t necessarily satisfy the supporters but will keep their own wallets happy for many years.

I read an article recently saying that FSG had short term plans to make a few bucks then leave, but who would leave such a huge money making machine? I’m not saying FSG don’t want success, the more we win the easier it will be to sell at higher profits, but it’s not a necessity. Likewise there has been criticism of Brendan Rodgers for spending so much without a single trophy to his name, but when you look at the money the club has brought in from player sales, marketing, television rights and ticket sales it is incomparable to his predecessors. There is more and more money coming into the changing game of football, but something will always remain, the loyalty of the fans and with it the opportunity to exploit that loyalty.

I believe that our best chance of finding success is in the continuation of a philosophy, and a squad of players who develop into that system over time which will include investing in youth, but we have to retain that talent for the team to develop. If the owners consistently give in to the temptation of selling our star players at peak market value we will never get to harness that potential into a consistent model that becomes title contenders.

So for all the benefits of investing in youth, there are dangers that come with it, but it’s not the lack of experience like so many commentators will say, because as we all know it is possible to win the league with kids; but rather the greed of owners who don’t need trophies to make investment in the club a success.

Written by Ernie Fox

Twitter: @ernietfox