Benitez reserve plan savaged

PETERBOROUGH director of football Barry Fry believes Rafael Benitez’s proposal for reserve teams to play in the Football League “would never happen in a million years”.

The Liverpool manager’s suggestion has been met with widespread derision among lower division clubs.

The Spaniard is concerned his second string are paying the price for an ineffective reserve league and believes they would benefit from competitive action in the Football League — an idea mooted by his Iberian counterpart Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, in December.

Reserve teams play in lower league competition throughout continental Europe, but restructuring would mean the Football League would lose some established clubs.

Fry said: “It would never happen here, not in a million years. The Football League is a thriving, 72-club competitive competition which is one of the best supported in the world – 16 million people watch it every season.

“No-one would want to watch the reserve teams of any club — I don’t care if they’re Real Madrid, Juventus or Fray Bentos! If Rafa Benitez wants his young players to get competitive games then all he has to do is loan them out to clubs like us.”

Meanwhile, Gillingham chairman Paul Scally believes the current loan system is more than adequate.

He said: “I can understand the rationale in loaning them out to Football League clubs, which is available to them, but I don’t envisage the situation of a nursery club system.

“That’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It’s insulting to suggest that a bunch of Liverpool kids could hack it as their own club in the Football League. The Football League has got far greater qualities than that.

“We’ve taken a lot of players on loan from the Premiership in the past and they haven’t been up to it, to be frank, because they haven’t had the grounding of coming through the youth system of a Football League club.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, if Premiership clubs want to blood their stars of the future, they should loan them out to the right clubs where they can cut their teeth.”

Mansfield manager Billy Dearden fears “plenty of players” would be out of work if Benitez’s dream comes on fruition.

Dearden’s League Two side would potentially be among those forced down the football ladder to accommodate the new teams, and he is worried that English football’s landscape would be permanently scarred by any such innovation.

He said: “It’s a silly idea — out of order really. We are getting knocked about by people who are not from our football world.

Fry added that supporters of club’s outside of the elite would lose out.

“Clubs like Peterborough are part of the community, as are clubs like Rochdale, Bury, Barnet, all these other clubs, and their supporters are only interested in supporting them,” he said. “They’re not remotely interested in the Liverpools, Arsenals, Manchester Uniteds and Chelseas.”

“They support their local clubs and you will never be able to take that out of the towns and the cities in this country.”

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