Date:Tuesday March 20 2007
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has called for reserves sides to be included in the Football League.
The call comes months after Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho called for the very same thing.
They claim that the Premiership reserves leagues are pointless and on that basis, they have a point.
Southampton can sympathise with this even more considering this season, the reserves have been forced to leave the Premiership division and join the Combination league alongside sides such as Bournemouth, Wycombe and Aldershot, teams that do not exactly possess the same quality as Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and other such teams that Saints have played in recent years.
Benitez told the press: 'It is clear that the reserve system doesn't work, the reserve league is nothing.
'You can see youngsters playing just 18 games a season, that is nothing. Certainly not enough for the development of these players.
'It is something that we can improve in this country. Or if we do not change we will find other solutions, sending youngsters out on loan like I have done recently.
'I do not want to see reserve teams with four or five senior men playing without passion. These games are for young players.'
'If you want to improve their level you must change the reserve league system.'
'I used to be the manager of Castilla, Real Madrid's reserve side, and I had players who were 18, 19 years old playing in the Spanish second division championship.
'They were playing against men. They were winning and we finished sixth and fourth. The question is, what improves the quality of the players?'
'It is something that must improve here. You cannot play in a reserve league with players who are 34 years old and coming back from injury.
'They don't work hard. What happens to the 18 and 19 year olds, because they should not play games with senior men in the reserves.
'I would like to see reserve teams of the big clubs like ourselves playing in the Football League. Why not if they have enough quality?'
Well Rafa, the why not is respect.
The football league is the oldest league in the world, 72 teams with passionate supporters the length and breath of the country.
Do you really think the arm chair supporters of Premiership clubs will travel hundreds of miles to watch their reserves team face Carlisle United on a cold Tuesday night?
The answer, simply is no, the reserves league may have no passion for the players, but the football league does, to its players and supporters.
Other countries in Europe do not have a football league structure like we have in England, hence why the Championship was recently named the fifth biggest league in the whole of Europe!
League One and Two are bigger attendance wise than most second tier's around Europe.
Second teams might work in Spain, but it simply wouldn't here. So Rafa, you are far better off sending us another Danny Guthrie than coming up with another hair brained idea like this one which will never get off the ground.
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