OTPN speaks to Colin Brown, one of the co-members of the London Youth Premier League, to get a lowdown on what it’s all about. Brown has over 20 years in coaching and youth development, and believes that the implementation of this league will help raise the standards of grassroots football.
What is the London Youth Premier League?
“The London Youth Premier League, essentially, is a league which helps to bridge the gap between academy football and grassroots football.
“For example, if a youngster gets released from an academy at an early age, their return to grassroots level may be too far of a step down for them.
“As such, we often see young, talented players falling out of the game because of a loss of motivation.
“Therefore, this league is designed to bridge the gap between academy football and the grassroots system, allowing the players to maintain their high standards and give them every chance of reaching the academy heights again.”
Where are the games played?
“The games are played at The Pavillion, Wembley, a few miles away from the stadium. It’s a 3G pitch, with floodlights, too.
“This brings its advantages of course, because it means that we can play games all through the year, and at any time.
“It’s such a big frustration when a player wants to play but can’t for a month because of waterlogged pitches.
“Here, there is guaranteed game-time which is vital to their development.”
When are the matches held?
“The games are mainly played on Sundays between 1pm and 6pm – and also midweek during the school half term. Essentially, here, you are playing for your area.
“It’s similar to the days of playing for your district or your county. The standard is very high and we are starting to see the benefits.
What are the benefits of playing in the league?
“It appeals to everyone. It gives players an opportunity to train and play in a professional environment, with opportunities to test themselves against other professional outfits.
“We also play against international sides, too, in order to build up the players’ experience and exposure too.
“There are always scouts at our games, and players have already started to get picked up by pro clubs – something which may not have happened if they hadn’t been given the exposure by our league.
“We also encourage discipline too. All players and coaches must wear shirts and ties to matches, and there are fines for lateness. All we’re doing is instilling the professionalism in them that will be needed when the player reaches the professional level.
Who else is involved?
“In addition to myself, who looks after the West London arm, We have people like Eugene Darkwah who has a long history developing players.
“We also have the likes of ex-professionals on board such as Jamie Lawrence and Jason Roberts.
“Combined, we have over 100 years experience in youth football and development of young players.”
Are there chances for players to get scouted?
“Yes. We often have scouts at our matches, and we also have league representative teams playing – and acquitting themselves excellently – against academy sides on a regular basis.
“Obviously, those games are always a test. We’re not always going to win but you learn more about players from defeat. How they adapt to situations and to tests. But our players are capable of standing up to those tests and proving themselves on that stage.
“The players always acquit themselves well. The gap isn’t far. The mistakes made as you go up levels get punished, so it’s a learning curve.
“We have quality and players all have potential to progress.”
Are there any success stories?
“Incredibly, yes. The League has only been running for a few months but we have already seen players make the step up to academy football.
“A goalkeeper, Bikramjit Khaira, was signed by Watford U14s on a two year deal, while in the same age group, defender Cardo Siddick was signed by Crystal Palace last weekend.”
“We have high hopes for a few other to make the jump too, but the most important thing is that these players develop into the best that they can be.”
For more information on the London Youth Premier League, check out their website: http://thehydeleague.com. Also, follow Colin Brown on Instagram for all of his youth development success stories: https://www.instagram.com/player1st_academy/?hl=en