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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


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Reserve Teams – Good, Bad or Just Different

Written by on December 23, 2011 | 3 Comments »
Posted in Ask the Extra

Q from Dave

After watching Barcelona’s B team destroy Bate, it got me thinking about the reserve team system in England.  La Liga “B’ teams compete in the Segunda Division if they get promoted that far and play against some good competition.

Are the reserve teams eligible to compete in the league in England?  If not, doesn’t this give Barcelona an advantage by giving their young players the opportunity to play and to play against some decent competition? 

How does this all work?

Response – The short answer to your question is that reserve teams in England are not allowed to play in the full league system.

From time to time there have been suggestions that Premier League sides should be allowed to enter the lower leagues but it has never been an idea that has gained any traction.

The major advantage put forward for the idea is that would it would help generate greater interest and attendance if say Manchester United reserves were to “come to town.”

The counter to that is Manchester reserves and any other Premier League side that wanted to enter a team in the lower divisions are taking away a spot from another full-fledged club and robbing a community of representation.

It would also require a change to the pyramid system in England or having the Premier League reserve sides enter at the lowest level of the conference. Neither would, I think, be deemed as acceptable.

Any change to the system would also mean that teams in the lower levels would not be able to tap the Premier League clubs for loan players.

A number of players – including David Beckham to Preston North End – have been farmed out to clubs in lower tiers over the years. I think it is fair to say that such a system has generally been viewed as a positive by all parties involved.

There is a Premier Reserve league in England that is based on a north/south split although it garners limited interest.

Years ago there was more interest as the reserve side was seen as a way to keep squad players match-fit, allow players to work their way back from injury and to allow younger players to gain insight from older players who were still under contract but unable to hold down a first team spot. 

Now teams carry bigger first team squads and fitness regimes are different and players are kept in better shape even when not playing regularly.

I am not sure that if the Spanish system does offers an advantage that it is much of one.

The lower the level the less technical the opposition so although the reserves players will be experiencing different styles of play it may not necessarily help them when or if reach the first team squad.

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3 responses to “Reserve Teams – Good, Bad or Just Different”

  1. John Bladen says:

    The reserve league in the EPL provides better competition than the squads would or could ever face in league one or two.

    But there is nothing stopping the lower league clubs from inviting an EPL reserve squad in for a friendly, so far as I know.

    Bobby, are the PL friendly tours of lower league clubs still very much limited to preseason? Obviously you wouldn’t get first team players (unless one or two were playing themselves back into fitness) in a mid season friendly, but it should provide a bigger draw than Accrington, Kidderminster or HUFC might…

  2. I think it is pre-season stuff. The rest of the season becomes very congested.

  3. John Bladen says:

    Sorry, Bobby, I didn’t make it clear but I was wondering about PL reserve team friendlies @ L1 or L2 clubs during the season.

    That said, the fixture congestion issue doesn’t disappear even for lower league clubs as they a) play more games and b) do have multiple cup competitions ongoing as well.

    Merry Christmas to all… even if it is above freezing in the Great White North and doesn’t feel at all like Christmas…

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