Sam Wallace: Villas-Boas wrong to attack sacred element of our game
English football still cherishes the identity and continuity of its clubs, big or small
As the vanguard of the new generation of radical young coaches, Andre Villas-Boas is paid to think the previously unthinkable, especially when it has come to taking on the established stars of Chelsea's first team.
But with his suggestion that English football should abandon its long-standing pyramid of 92 professional teams – the vast majority of them with a history and identity that stretches back more than 100 years – he is attacking one of the most sacred elements of our game.
The notion of feeder clubs, which exist simply to produce players for the Premier League's biggest sides, might have yielded results in Spain but it flies in the face of everything English football fans believe in.
Villa-Boas need only witness this week the outpouring of sympathy for Darlington, a pinprick on the football landscape in comparison to Chelsea, to know English football cherishes the identity and continuity of its clubs, however big or small.
From Darlington to Plymouth Argyle, from Leyton Orient to Bradford City and on to Huddersfield, Portsmouth, Port Vale and Doncaster Rovers, these names mean much. English football clubs were, in the main, created to fill the leisure time of the Victorian working class and, with the decline of industry and communities, are now all that remains of that age.
The professional clubs of England's towns and cities stand as important civic identity markers in a country becoming ever more homogeneous, with its out-of-town shopping centres and dreary chain pubs. They are, in short, far too important to be used as nurseries for the future stars of Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal.
Villas-Boas' proposals for feeder clubs, made at his club's Cobham training headquarters yesterday, were typically outspoken and thought-provoking. They confirmed him as an interesting individual who is always ready, on the right subject, to confound the orthodox view.
Chelsea have taken a lot of flack for their lack of success in producing an academy graduate, much of it from this correspondent. Nevertheless, Frank Arnesen, the club's former director of football, did raise funds by selling off those who failed to make the grade. And Neil Bath, the current academy manager, took a lead role in the creation of the new Elite Player Performance Plan.
Most of all, Villas-Boas' words should resonate with those academy players at Chelsea who, given a lucrative professional contract at 17, seem to assume they have already made the big time. Their manager's damning indictment of the standard of youth and reserve-team football is a warning to them that they remain a very long way from walking in the footsteps of Frank Lampard and Co.
Latest in Sport
Phil Jagielka: I may never win back England place, says Everton defender
Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
Rio Ferdinand mocks Jamie Carragher's Liverpudlian accent... but Liverpool man hits back at Londoner
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Just like Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United, Gareth Bale says he hopes to return to Tottenham 'one day'
- 1 Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes