Sunday, April 5, 2009

It wasn’t the name on everyone’s lips prior to today’s games but people know the name of Federico Macheda now.

The 17 year old Italian, who looks to have had a hard paper round, took his strike brilliantly to gain Man Utd three vital points in the Premiership title chase and instantly became an Old Trafford hero.

It was a dream debut and yet another young player brought on by Alex Ferguson. This one may not have come through the Man U youth system but Sir Alex certainly knows a young talent when he sees it and he’s not afraid to use that talent either which continues to be so refreshing to see.

Macheda had hit a hat trick for the reserves earlier in the week but for a manager to throw a young player into such a key game at such a key time was not only brave, but what makes him so great.

Now I’m no Manchester United fan, far from it, but you have to give full credit to the Club and the management for their continued belief that youth is the future for any football club, no matter what size or level they may be at. How many young players have come from nowhere to star for the Red Devils over the last twenty years now?

Thus same belief and commitment in youth development has also been seen with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal of course, but even they lag way behind United.

It’s this investment in youth and the understanding of how important it is to a Club’s future that sees the Vancouver Whitecaps stand head and shoulder above other clubs in North America. Their residency programme has produced some great stars of the future already and will continue to do so, of that I have no doubt.

It was great to see the Club field a player like 17 year old Ethan Gage throughout their play off and Championship win last season. There is, after all, no point in developing these players if you’re not going to use them or are to scared to use them.

The Whitecaps youth development should be held up as a shining model for the MLS bigwigs to instill as the way forward for all their clubs. Without such a thing in the place, the League can’t think of themselves as a serious professional football league.

There are signs that they may adopt the Whitecaps model, but in the meantime the Caps will continue to develop players at all age levels and this will give them a huge advantage when they become a MLS side in 2011.

It’s staggering to think that any Club these days, especially in the current financial climate, can have no robust and deep rooted youth development programme in place.

What kind of Club would be like that? Step forward East Fife.

It’s embarrassing what’s happened at Bayview in recent seasons and losing all the best local young players to other clubs will come back to haunt the Club in future years.

Without youth there is no hope for a fruitful future.

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