EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

"I’d like to do what Paul McGuinness and Warren Joyce do, get involved and try and progress the young lads and get them through."

- Alan Smith

22/08/2013 08:32, Report by Adam Marshall
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Exclusive interview: Alan Smith

difficult and we’ve got so many good lads that it’s difficult to keep hold of them. We have youngsters that play with England who can potentially leave to go to a team in the Under-21 Premier League and see it as a massive stepping stone. So it’s difficult for us to give them what they need.

How are you handling the situation?
We have got one game against Tottenham in pre-season and then we’re going to try and get 10 games during the season in an attempt to develop them. There is training but it’s difficult to bridge that gap between the youth team and the first team as it’s not as competitive. The Intermediate League used to be like a first-team game as you knew that, if you played well, you had a chance of playing on a Saturday. But it’s a million miles away from the Under-21 league and I think motivation must be a factor as much as anything. If you go out and have something to prove and do well, you had a chance of playing on a Saturday but I don’t think that is the case anymore.

With so much debate about youth football in this country and St George's Park starting up, you have first-hand experience of this kind of system..
I went to Lilleshall at 14 and it was difficult as it was totally different from anything that I’d experienced. Even looking back then, I knew at 14 that I was getting taught things by the FA that was just chalk and cheese compared to my club. I believe your make-up as a player is down to where you are brought up as it’s where you actually develop as a player and I knew I was learning the technical side of things from the FA but the other side of the game was massively necessary for me. At 16, I needed to have a professional contract. I was doing training and what I wanted to do but it was a difficult balancing act to go to the FA where they teach you the basics and what they want you to learn how to develop but then you go back to Leeds at the time and they want you to be totally different to the FA side of it.

So was it awkward in terms of the different messages you were receiving?
You think the club is more important at that age than the FA and you might not ever get that chance to play for England anyway. You want to make a living in the game, first and foremost, so you have to be adaptable to how your club plays.

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