The youth of today. they can pose a real dilemma. For everyone. In all walks of life. A nuisance? A pain? A joy ? An opportunity ?They are a breed of their own.
They also create a whole host of issues for football managers. To some they are embraced, others they are discarded. No one size ‘fitz hall’.
Too young. Too raw. Too fragile. Too small. Too inexperienced. Put together, all too much of a risk. For many.
Yet for England, General Gareth has been bold and he has given youth it’s chance, a strategy not without risk in the eyes of many. However, after the somewhat turgid displays in World Cup qualifying, he decided that something needed to be done
In the autumn friendlies against Germany and Brazil, he literally threw the youngsters into battle. Jordan Pickford, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Joe Gomez and Dominic Solanke all made their full international debuts. Harry Maguire was earning only his second cap.
After some early nerves, which was thoroughly understandable, all quickly settled into the matches and they all, without hesitation, performed admirably. It was a real breath of fresh air after what had gone before and Southgate must be applauded for his selections.
The big question now is whether he will have the courage to continue with this approach and let his ‘young guns’ off the leash again in the forthcoming friendlies and, more importantly, the World Cup. Time will tell, yet arguably he has little to lose in doing so after the disappointments of recent international tournaments.
Fast forward to the Rangers ‘gaffer’, Ian Holloway. Faced with similar issues to the national coach, ‘Ollie’ has invariably taken the more conservative approach and gone for the older more experienced players ……until now that is.
In picking Paul Smyth (20) and Aramide Oteh (19) to start up front in recent matches, as well as giving game time to Ilias Chair (20), Eberechi Eze (19) , Bright Osayi-Samuel (20) and arguably Darnell Furlong (22) to some extent too, he has thrown caution to the wind. He has clearly been out of his comfort zone in making these selections – indeed he said as much after Paul Smyth’s electrifying debut by exclaiming that his selection was ‘the biggest risk’ he had ever taken in football – yet he has been rewarded.
As for risk ? What risk ? Hindsight accepted, but the young lad Smyth was possibly the most exciting player on the pitch against Cardiff and scored a stunning winning goal, that would arguably have been beyond the likes of Washington, Mackie, Smith and Sylla. His joyful somersaulted celebration would also have been way beyond his older, more experienced teammates.
There has been a fresh and youthful exuberance about the way the new Rangers boys have played, just like their England counterparts. Not quite ‘devil may care’ but certainly willing to try, to ‘give it a go’, seemingly unburdened from previous experiences.
There has been more of a ‘no fear’ and unrestricted approach and it certainly bore fruit. Whilst the English young boys failed to score, the Rangers boys hit the mark straight away, with both Smyth and Oteh scoring on their full debuts.
So has Holloway turned a corner?
Will he now go one step further and have faith in the young boys and continue to pick them.
As the saying goes, ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’ and no one will be going overboard about the occasional positive performance, but there have been encouraging murmurings all round from players and management, as well as the easily critical scribes and supporters.
There is no right answer but maybe this is the time for Holloway to continue with this bold adventure and let youth have it’s day.
As George Michael famously wrote in his Wham days back in 1983, “Young guns, having some fun….” which could so easily apply to the footballers of England, and now QPR, following recent matches.
It is fun to watch too, being both positive and energising and brings a smile to the face. Long may it continue.
Published in AKUTRS.