Playing youth could be a disaster

PUBLISHED: 12:57 17 January 2007 | UPDATED: 09:59 14 September 2010

JONATHAN REDHEAD

Norwich City centre back Gary Doherty has warned against relying on the club's youngsters to steer the team away from the Championship relegation trapdoor.

Norwich City centre back Gary Doherty has warned against relying on the club's youngsters to steer the team away from the Championship relegation trapdoor.

The experienced defender said although some of the Canaries' young stars were good enough to force themselves into the first team, playing them in a struggling team could be a “nightmare” and affect them badly in the long term.

The former Tottenham player was speaking as 18-year-old forward Chris Martin became the last City Academy product to come into manager Peter Grant's thinking, after earning his second sting on the substitutes' bench for Saturday's disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Plymouth Argyle.

But Doherty said to have thrown the young striker from Beccles into the fray at Carrow Road would have been an extremely tough debut to make and tested the strikers mental skills.

“If you're good enough, you're old enough. That goes without saying,” said Doherty. “But it would have been a nightmare for the lad to come in on Saturday because we weren't performing at all well.

“The fans were getting on our back and Plymouth had their tails up and pounding us. I would have been tough for the young lad to come on but I think that's part of you make-up.

“If you can come in and do well in that environment then you've obviously got a great chance, but it's definitely going to be a lot harder.”

However, Doherty admitted that Grant is being forced to look at some of City's youngsters because the current first team is not performing and is facing a relegation dogfight rather than the hoped-for promotion push.

“If we were flying in the league then maybe the young lads wouldn't get their chance because you wouldn't change the team,” the 26-year-old said. “But because we are struggling the gaffer's changed it around and looked to bring in the likes of young Chris Martin and that's obviously because we're not performing at the minute.

“We're not like a Manchester United where they can bring through the likes of Giggs and Beckham and just blend them through because they're coming into a winning team.

“But obviously we're struggling at the moment because we're not performing so to bring young lads into that environment could really affect you as a young lad unless you're properly, mentally strong. It could affect you and it's a difficult one.”

Doherty was speaking at the launch of the Wickes Young Apprentice Trophy.

The trophy, sponsored by the official home improvement partner of the Championship, recognises the league's best young apprentice with £5,000 going towards the youth development programme of the winner's club.

Last year's winner was Derby County's Lewin Nyatanga, now on loan at Sunderland.

Doherty was an apprentice himself at Luton Town ten years ago.

“It was a lot tougher then,” he said. “You were more grounded I think. You had to do more jobs and it was a lot harder.

“I remember just getting home at four o'clock and having an aching back because you'd been cleaning the bath out or something. It was a lot harder and I think they probably have it a lot easier now, but obviously it's a different profession now.

“Football's just taken on so much in the last ten years. They've got to concentrate now about 90 per cent on the football whereas then it was probably 50-50, but it's fair enough now because to break through as a young footballer is very difficult.”

The Republic of Ireland international admitted that while being an apprentice in the 1990s was tougher, he preferred to be one then rather than now with so many youngsters falling by the footballing wayside.

“It's obviously easier for them like I say, but it's a lot harder to get into football nowadays,” he said.

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