Progression worries as U18 football is hit

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Two clubs down on last season, a total of 36 players, and four down on ten years ago, means there has been a 25 per cent reduction in the number of teams competing in the age group since the start of the 1997-98 season.

Despite more and more coaches gaining qualifications the biggest problem appears to be a lack of interested players – although that is certainly not the case at the bottom of the Jersey Telecom Junior League structure with two extra U14 teams and one more U12 side taking to the field this season.

Three teams who fielded U18 teams last year have opted out, St Martin/SCF, St Ouen and Sporting Academics, though Rozel have stepped with a side in to lessen the blow.

Academics wanted to field an U18 team this season but a lack of players has forced the CI champions of two years ago to withdraw this time.

Junior coach Bob Doran said: ‘We really wanted a team but it has proved very difficult getting players.

The better ones are quickly snapped up while players say they want to play but they don’t commit themselves.

‘I’m told some clubs don’t run junior teams because of the cost but that is certainly not the case at the Accies.

We are discussing running junior sides again next season and now have the IJ Bathe Field as our base that should benefit us as a club too.’ A total of 15 of the 18 players who won the Junior Upton and Division I title with Sporting Academics have now filtered through to the Accies’ senior teams.

Doran added: ‘In total we have 22 players who have remained with us since U14 level so that proves how important a junior section is and we hope to have one back in place again soon.’ Jersey Telecom Junior League chairman Jon Welsh said: ‘It is a concern when your lose teams, St Ouen and Sporting Academics did not have enough players while St Martin/SCF had a team but no manager – I just hope the players have joined other clubs.

‘Much of the player unavailability is down to the demands of other sports and there is little we can do about that.

Our priority is to make sure we offer football to the widest range of age groups possible and we are doing that from U18s down to U12s.

‘There is a natural fall off after U18s but a lot of it is because lads go to university.

I’ve witnessed it being a former Island U18 manager and players leaving has a knock on affect with the standard of our senior Division I simply because former Junior Island players are away.

‘I don’t think the standard of the top players has dropped in the last ten years but the depth of the good players has – there are probably 20 to 30 good players now as against 50 or 60 ten years ago.

‘At the bottom the structure is very healthy, the organisation is good and we hope numbers increase in the U18 section in the next few years.

‘It’s three years now since clubs have been allowed to run A and B teams in the U12 and U14 divisions and soon they will push on to play in the U16 and U18 sections.’ This season all U18 and U16 teams will play round-robin matches in their age groups.

Welsh added: ‘Our priority is to help make games as competitive as we can for all clubs.

The main problem we have is when all the best players are in two or three clubs.

‘It’s a difficult situation as we can’t tell players what clubs they have to sign for! We will assess what happens in the first half of the round-robin matches and then decide what steps to take for the second half of the season.’

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