VIDEO: Roy Keane: Clubs must embrace change

Roy Keane has urged Ireland’s schoolboy clubs who might feel threatened by the new U17 National League to embrace change and put the development of their players first.

“Sometimes people are afraid of change,” he said at the launch yesterday. “And people want to hold onto their players at their clubs. I can understand that but you’ve got to do what you think is right for the player. That’s what it’s about. .

“At schoolboy level, they don’t own the player. It’s not like slavery. You’re there to help them and coach them and wish them well and go, ‘listen, if you can go onto another level, whether League of Ireland or England, then that’s what you’re there for’.

“So, hopefully, there’s that feelgood factor behind this where people say, ‘listen, good on you, good luck with it.’ That’s what I’d be thinking. And if you really care about a player that’s what you’d be saying to him, instead of looking after you’re own selfish little world.

“I know when I left Rockmount one or two people at the club were upset. But I had to go down to Cobh to better myself and try to get on the FAS course to give me a better chance of getting to England. So I don’t think anyone should begrudge a player for wanting to play at the highest level they can possibly play at. Whatever level it is.”

Describing the new league as “a very important development for Irish football” in terms of its aim of enhancing player, coach and refereeing standards from the bottom up, FAI’s High Performance Director Ruud Dokter said: “There are now less opportunities for players to make it in England because the academies are full of foreign players. It’s a big industry so it’s vital we have quality leagues in Ireland. Then at a later age when they are more mature they can move to England.

“What is good - to go to England to sit on the bench or play in Ireland in a quality league?”

Dokter also spelled out the kind of football he hopes will be encouraged in the new league. “It’s about an attacking style,enjoyment and skill development,” he said. “You have to be able to score goals. In Ireland, we don’t produce scoring players and it’s something to do with how players are educated so you have to look at winning games with an attacking style.”

The SSE Airtricity National U17 League kicks off on the weekend beginning August 9. The first season will be truncated, and will end in December in line with the U19 League.

The 2016 season will kick-off in alignment with the SSE Airtricity Premier and First Division seasons.

The opening round of fixtures are:

Section 1:

Cabinteely v Cobh Ramblers Cork City v Waterford United Limerick v UCD Wexford Youths v Bray Wanderers

Section 2:

Longford Town v Salthill Devon Mervue United v Shamrock Rovers St. Patrick’s Athletic v Sligo Rovers (Athlone Town - no opening round fixture)

Section 3:

Drogheda United v Monaghan United-Cavan FP Finn Harps v Derry City Shelbourne v Bohemians (Dundalk - no opening round fixture)

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