Greg Dyke’s plan B

Greg Dyke FA Chairman
Greg Dyke FA Chairman
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Preston North End reporter Dave Seddon gives his view on the proposed plans for a new ‘League Three’ involving Premier League clubs’ B teams.

There is more chance of Roland Rat playing up front for Preston than there is of Greg Dyke’s proposed League Three getting off the ground.

All that FA chairman Dyke managed to do on publication of his England Commission was to anger clubs at most levels of the football pyramid – from the Championship down – and draw attention to the selfish needs of the elite.

Clubs, supporters, coaches, players and pundits united against his proposals quicker than you could say B-team.

The man who brought Roland Rat to TV-AM in the 1980s has been tasked with finding ways to bolster the number of English players in the Premier League, thus increasing the quality available to the England coach at international level.

Dyke’s solution is effectively to look after the elite few and be damned with the rest.

If he gets his way – and he won’t – a League Three would be inserted between League Two and the Conference, consisting of 10 Premier League B teams and 10 sides from the Conference.

In a nutshell, Manchester City and Chelsea’s reserves would be playing Southport and Woking’s first teams.

That is all very well for a gentle pre-season knockabout, but competitively?

More frightening still, the B teams could get promoted as far as League One.

So just for a moment imagine that the proposals were already in place, PNE v Fulham’s kids would be on the fixture card. Gripping stuff eh?

It is for the good of the game argues Dyke and his pals on the commission – Danny Mills and Howard Wilkinson among them.

The sensible alternative view is that such matches would empty grounds and drive fans away, just so that the bigger clubs can get their younger lads a game every Saturday.

The way I look at it is that it would dilute any competition.

You would have seasoned professionals – honest lads with a mortgage to pay and children to bring up – playing against Premier League wannabees who aren’t ready for the top flight.

The latter group won’t play like their life depends on it, after all it is only the B team and results don’t really matter do they?

Games would be just like the many pre-season friendlies we have all witnessed, a Premier League ‘XI’ missing all its star names sent to fulfil a promise made to the other club months earlier.

It is no wonder supporters are up in arms about Dyke’s misguided findings.

If their club is in League One, they want to watch them play another League One side, not West Ham’s development squad.

What sort of crowd would Crawley Town versus Hull City’s B team attract on a wet Tuesday night?

How many buses and trains would West Bromwich fans fill to go and watch the Baggies second string play at Exeter?

A constant theme of the interviews given by Dyke and Co was how well the B team system operates in other European countries.

It might well do, but with all due respect, I don’t think there is a country which can rival the depth, quality and tradition of the English league.

The French and Spanish leagues peter out into very little after the second tier.

Yet this weekend in this country, Deepdale, London Road, Bootham Crescent and Roots Hall will all be getting near capacity for the play-off semi-final first legs.

There were big crowds for the recent Conference semi-finals, almost 9,000 watching Gateshead and Grimsby last Sunday.

Below that, locally Victory Park and Irongate have been packed recently.

Crowds might not exist outside the top tier in some countries, but they certainly do over here and B teams are not needed to fill grounds.

There is no doubt that aspects of the English game needs to change for the better, hence why Dyke was asked to produce his commission in the first place.

Too few home-grown players showcasing their talents in the Premier League has been a concern for a good while now, and that has a knock-on effect for the England national team.

But why bulldoze a hole through the league structure lower down in order to mend what is wrong at the top?

Parts of Dyke’s report make for sensible reading, such as a desire to put down more 3G pitches which would enable youngsters to play regularly, rather than watch in frustration every Sunday morning in winter when their game on a park pitch is postponed.

Sadly, that has got trampled under the rush of people racing to condemn the League Three idea.

Premier League teams could help themselves a lot more if indeed they are so concerned about developing more home-grown talent.

Too many top-flight squads are fleshed out with players brought for a rainy day – stocking fillers was one description used by a manager.

Players are stockpiled and some will never see the light of day as far as a first-team game is concerned, yet they are still being paid big wages and the agents fees won’t have been cheap in the first place.

Just think of the saving which could be made if each club did without just two of their stocking fillers?

That money would be better invested in coaching and training up coaches.

The opposition to League Three is just too great for it ever to happen. Dyke might think that a financial sweetener could swing it, but on this one money just won’t talk.