"We make them professional at 18 and no-one should be ready to be professional at 18"
Everton FC boss Roberto Martinez has warned the English authorities they must stop blaming foreigners and instead overhaul a development system that is seeing promising youngsters fall into “the void” of first-team obscurity.
Recent comments from Football Association chief executive Greg Dyke regarding the influx of overseas talent and the unconvincing World Cup qualifying campaign of Roy Hodgson’s national team have sparked a furious debate over the direction of English football.
Martinez, though, believes the problem is more deep-rooted with the Everton manager taking particular issue with the Under-21 Premier League which, in the absence of the old-style reserve league, is the finishing school for starlets before their elevation to the first team.
And rather than blame foreigners, the Spaniard insists the powers-that-be must address the artificial upbringing that is stifling fledgling talent.
“We need to develop our youngsters as well as we can and unfortunately now from the age of 19-23 we’re not doing that,” said Martinez.
“The games programme is not good enough, in terms of reserve team football.
“In the U21s you don’t learn to get promoted or to get relegated, you don’t learn that you can cost yourself something and can even cost people jobs; it’s not a real environment.
“I’m actively working with the Premier League, with (Premier League Youth Director) Ged Roddy.
“We need to take responsibility because the youngsters at 18, 19, 20 aren’t getting the education that they would get in France or Spain or Italy. That’s the truth.”
Martinez has already played his part in helping England, with Ross Barkley handed a recent call-up to the national team on the back of his impressive performances this season as a regular starter for Everton under the Spaniard.
Of Dyke’s comments on the detrimental effect of an increasing number of foreigners in the Premier League, Martinez added: “I can understand them. But good players always end up playing, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are.
“Up to the age of 18 we (England) are the best in the world. They’re too good but then they become over-protected. The U18s have got the same facilities as the first team, the same support team and everything.
“It’s too much. It’s good to have things, don’t get me wrong, but if we’ve got such a fantastic set up to the age of 18 why are we looking away at the ages of 18-21?”
While in no doubt the development of players would be accelerated by following the Spanish model of top clubs having ‘B’ teams in the lower leagues, Martinez accepts that would be a non-starter in this country.
Instead, the Everton manager advocates the introduction of a policy that is currently prohibited by FA rules.
“You could have feeder teams,” said Martinez.
“Accrington, for example, could have 10 players from Everton.
“I’m not saying that’s the solution but financially there are many teams in League Two and League One who are having problems and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for them to have 10 players from one club.
“I don’t think that B-teams will ever happen in our game because the lower leagues in this country are the best in the world so we shouldn’t lose that.
“But I’m sure there are ways to find common ground so that youngsters can play competitive football before they get into the first team.”
Martinez added: “I could give you so many stories of young players who have played 36 games for Barcelona B or had a great transfer to Real Madrid B, all those young lads are coming through and getting a great education.
“Here, lads of the same age are at the bottom of the dressing room. They’re in the first-team squad but what experience are they getting? They’re getting nothing.
“It’s the opposite. If a boy trains at U18 level he does 35 hours, if he goes into the U21s he’s lucky if he does 10. He’ll have too much time on his hands and then the boy starts thinking he’s made it with cars and girls and so on.
“We’ve created a void in that age group. It’s really common sense. It’s not big science.
“We make them professional at 18 and no-one should be ready to be professional at 18. We are wrong.”
Martinez has doubts over the fitness of new boy James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman ahead of Everton entertaining Chelsea on Saturday evening.
Gareth Barry is vying for a start but fellow on-loan signing Romelu Lukaku is ineligible to play against his parent club, while Darron Gibson and Antolin Alcaraz, neither of whom have figured so far this season due to injury, are both back in training but will not be considered.