Football: Powell's warning for clubs youngsters' burn-out

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE SPECTRE of 'burn-out', the phenomenon that has been the ruin of many precocious tennis talents, is posing a grave threat to the supply lines of international football, according to the man masterminding England's attempt to win the European Under-18 Championship.

Ted Powell, whose team of budding stars will seal a place in Sunday's final if they gain a draw against Spain at Walsall tonight, believes that immediate and drastic measures are required if what appears to be a rich current crop of young English prospects is not to be placed at risk. 'Many young players are being asked to play up to 70 games in a season, and if that continues there could be a real risk of burn-out,' Powell, England's Under-18 team manager, warned.

'There is a player in my squad who, on one occasion, was asked to play for his club's youth team on a Saturday, the reserves on the following Monday, and then turn out for the first team on the Tuesday.'

Powell would not name the player, but said that he did not come from either Leeds or Manchester United, who between them supplied half his original 18-player squad.

These two clubs were in trouble with the Football Association when they withdrew their players from Powell's pre-tournament tour of Scandinavia, because they were afraid the players might be overworked. They had contested the FA Youth Cup final, over two tough legs, as recently as late May. 'It is too much to ask kids like these to play football for 11 months of the year,' Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, said.

However, Powell believes that professional clubs should take the initiative in safeguarding the future of young players. 'It is the responsibility of each club to look at the number of games they are asking young lads to play and reduce it,' he said. 'I would say that 50 competitive games over a season is the maximum.'