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Monday, 07 January 2019 16:58

David James | Timing the key to youth success

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Former England goalkeeper David James believes that money has its pros and cons for youth development, but thinks the modern game allows young players to grow and mature.

The ex-Three Lions stopper was in Glasgow for the Star Sixes tournament, which his side eventually won, beating the Rest of The World 3-2 in the final. James spoke before the final day of games about how hard it was for him to break into squads as a youngster.

“There’s a boy I’ve been speaking to whilst I’ve been here, who I used to play with in my school boy team at Watford. I didn’t recognize him because it was a few years ago now. At that stage in football though, we had four apprentices at Watford.

“These schoolboys played with the youth team, so the opportunities were difficult back then because there were less spaces to fill. The influx of money means more players can be afforded opportunities”

With more time being given for players to develop, it has given young stars a greater period to grow, as both a footballer and a person. James offers Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn as a prime example of this.

“Players like Angus Gunn. Gunn is 24, and prior to his spell at Norwich last year, he hadn’t played a professional game. In a sense, it’s took him till 22 years old to make a professional appearance. You would never have got away with that 20 years ago. There’s more numbers in the game, but there is more space to get into a better position.”

James feels that an extended growth period in academies are a great way for youth prospects to fully prosper in modern football, but knows how hard it can be to break through, regardless of the circumstances.

“The money has allowed people to grow, rather than the difficulty to get into a starting 11. I think it’s given people longer periods to develop. Smaller clubs suffer though, because they haven’t got the money to hand out equal opportunities.”

“It’s never easy, when you do the numbers it’s something like 2,500 positions that have to be filled. That’s not many, and when you've got players like Joe Cole who have had long careers, sometimes these positions don’t come about very often.”

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