Southall: Grass-roots focus is key
Former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall believes the Football Association should focus on improving the grass-roots game before considering introducing B teams.
At the start of the month FA chairman Greg Dyke revealed the recommendations of his England Commission, with the ultimate aim of increasing the number of English players in the Premier League from 32 per cent to 45 per cent by 2022.
The idea of Premier League B teams forming half of a new 'League Three', dropped in between League Two and the Conference, was one of the suggestions put forward.
But Southall, who famously made the journey from being a binman in his youth to winning two league titles with the blue half of Merseyside in the 1980s, thinks getting things right at grass-roots level should be the primary concern before taking drastic steps higher up.
"You always start at the bottom and work your way up, you don't start at the top and work your way down," he told Press Association Sport.
"When they start building houses from the roof down, I'll agree with it but they never do."
He added: "What we need are real facilities and ones that won't cost everyone a fortune to use.
"If we don't make football more accessible for the masses it won't matter how many B teams you've got because you won't have anybody to fill them."
Speaking at StreetGames Football Pools Fives, a competition for disadvantaged young people which gives the finalists a chance to play at St George's Park in September, the former Wales international highlighted the disparity between what is available for youngsters lucky enough to be at top academies compared to everyone else.
It is an issue the FA, who also back the StreetGames initiative, and the Premier League are aware of and taking steps to combat.
Last October, shortly after Dyke's England Commission was announced, the Premier League, FA and UK Government joined forces on a Â£102million fund to improve grass-roots services over three years.
The scheme, which launched in January, will pump cash into improving existing facilities or developing new ones.
Southall, who scooped the FWA footballer of the Year Award in 1985, believes actions like this are a step in the right direction to maintain the strength of the game in the UK.
"They have to give back," he said. "If they don't give back, there won't be any football."
:: Neville Southall is a supporter of the StreetGames Football Pools Fives, a programme that takes football to young people in disadvantaged communities across the UK. Go to: http://www.streetgames.org/footballpoolsfives/
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