Crewe Alexandra - Saturday 19th January 2008

Last updated : 01 January 2009 By Tim Graham

So, my first article for the programme, I'm not sure why I've been asked to do it either. I can only think that due to the big improvements in the matchday programme over the last few years the editors think that things need dumbing back down a bit. Anyway, I'm the editor of the unofficial Carlisle United website CUFC Online - so if you're a player reading this then I don't agree with what some people say about you.

Right, now the attempted crawling is out of the way I'll have to find something to talk about. Youth team football at the club is something I've been really interested since moving back up to Carlisle from the Skipton area three years ago. We're lucky as fans as well to have an official website team that show a keen interest in the young lads, the coverage some clubs give their youth team is truly shocking.

True to form I've cursed our youngsters too as they lost their first game in three months at Accrington Stanley last weekend. Still, one defeat in the last eleven matches to the time of writing is something they can be proud of under the management of Eric Kinder, a coach who likes his teams to play football unlike some previous youth team coaches at the club.

The improvement in results this season for me can be partly put down to the wider casting of the net for players. While we'd all like to have a team of eleven lads from Cumbria football has changed so much in the last ten years that it's unlikely to ever be the case in the future sadly. The clubs at the top end, Liverpool being a case in point, are taking players from all over Europe which leaves teams like Carlisle with a bigger choice of kids to choose from in this country.

It makes you wonder where football is heading in the long term as far as the England national team is concerned if Liverpool et al are more interested in bringing through the cream of the crop from Europe and not England. It's the same all over the continent now though, and it makes me remember the scenario from last year of Barcelona trying to sign a 12-year old called Muhammad Demirci from Turkish side Besiktas for a staggering £2 million.

I don't think we'll see the day when Carlisle sign a youth team player for any form of fee but the ones we've got now are doing fine enough. For me it will be better for youngsters at our level in the future too with the jobs they have to do off the field teaching them some responsibility in life, if that doesn't sound a bit boot camp-ish.

The lads at our club are much happier this year now they get to play their home games in Carlisle and they don't have to make the 20 mile journey down to Frenchfields. I don't know how many of you have been to Frenchfields over the years but I've never know anywhere that seemed to have it's own micro-climate, you could set off from Carlisle in the blazing sunshine only to get to Penrith and find the rain coming down sideways.

That's helped the youth team play better football too now they are away from the bobbly pitches and the continual gale force winds. The training pitch behind Brunton Park is disappointingly out of action but the Sheepmount is proving to be a more than adequate replacement. Even more so personally now I've hit 35 and there are railings around the Sheepmount pitch for me to lean on.

It's getting to the business end of the season now for the second year YTS players with Matthew Brown, Stephen Hindmarch, Matthew Wood and Dan Wordsworth all hoping to impress the United coaching staff enough in the next few months to earn that much coveted professional contract. Those four hoping to follow in the steps of young striker Gary Madine who has impressed everyone since joining the club just 15 months ago.

You can't begin to imagine how much of a nervy time it will be for them, and they'll have hoped to impress in the FA Youth Cup fourth round game that was played against Manchester United at Northwich's Victoria Stadium on Wednesday night. No doubt they are gutted not to have the chance to play at Old Trafford but it will have still been a great evening, regardless of the result, for players, coaching staff and supporters alike.

So, the moral of the story is that if you're at a loose end on a Saturday morning and the youth team are at home then why not come down to watch? It's not often you get to watch entertaining football for free these days, and I'm sure the lads would appreciate the extra support.