The Influence of the NextGen Series


the-nextgen-seriesThis years Champions League has represented a series of disappointments for England’s most elite sides. Whilst the miraculous feat achieved by Chelsea last season has failed to be emulated, the Next Generation Series (NextGen) sheds a glimmer of hope that England’s most reputable sides can soon be reinstalled as European heavyweights.

Only in its second season, the NextGen Series has barely scratched the surface of European youth football, but with the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Celtic already showcasing the competitions progression, the NextGen is proving to be an ever-growing influence in modern day football.

Jamie MacLaurin, Head of the NextGen Series Press, spoke about the success of the NextGen and why it has proven to be an invaluable experience in terms of transitioning to the first team. “There’s a big gap between youth football and the first team. We just wanted to close the gap and help the players get the experience to play for the first team. Playing sides from across Europe is something different. They don’t what to expect. There’s a lot of learning off the field also, travelling, flying, eating in a foreign country and what it’s like playing away from England.”

Youth football has been scrutinised of late. Are the FA hierarchy doing all they can to benefit the National side? Whilst the NextGen Series doesn’t satisfy these demands, it goes a long way in furthering the education of the youth prospects, and giving them a greater chance of competing at the highest level.

MacLaurin discussed whether he believed it is already a growing success, despite its tender years. “Yes I think it has, Feedback from the clubs have been very positive, the managers get to watch players under more pressure and that benefits the club. The likes of Raheem Sterling, Tony Watts, Andre Wisdom and Suso show that it’s been a success.”

Arsenal have always been a club whose youth policy has been held in high regards. The likes of Serge Gnabry, Chuba Akpom and captain Nico Yennaris are the latest in a glorified list to be classed as the future of Arsenal Football Club.

Yennaris was quick to praise the potential of the tournament, “I think it will help most of the players coming up through the youth system. Especially in games like this, against European opponents, it gives them a chance to show the manager what they can do in these types of games against different opponents.”

Whether the NextGen Series will propel the latest line of unearthed European gems into their respective first teams remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, this experience will not only be beneficial, but will revolutionise the football education of these young prospects.

Previous to the NextGen, the youth set-up was home to a reserves league where Premier League sides pitted their finest youth prospects against each other. Whilst these teams experienced the competitive edge of English football, the failure to compliment it with the quality of a foreign side will restrict their progression.

The NextGen Series has addressed this issue and in doing so, Arsenal youth coach Terry Burton has witnessed the promising effects of this European competition. “We’ve been to Marseille, Bibao, Olympiacos, and places like that. The players will be together for six days, so those things add all to the experience for the players that don’t do that on a regular basis.”

The Next Generation Series has already been around for two years, but in this time the impact has been evident. After featuring for Arsenal in the NextGen Series, Gnabry made his anticipated debut for the first team coming on as a late substitute in Arsenal’s loss to Schalke in the Champions League. With the likes of Sterling, Watts and Suso all featuring for their respective clubs, the NextGen Series could prove to be a defining feature in the strive to make it at the top.

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