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Why Greg Dyke's Second Team Brainwave Is A Second Rate Idea

18/05/2014 22:14 BST | Updated 18/07/2014 10:59 BST

They say that there is a fine line between genius and madness.

When Greg Dyke became Chairman of the Football Association last year, he made all the right noises, and, as a man with a vision, I genuinely believed that we were on the cusp of seeing a flat and outdated England set-up finally catch up with the rest of the world.

But more recently, I must admit that I'm beginning to wonder if the man in charge, and his merry band, come from the wrong side of that line.

His arrival into the organisation was billed as a revolution; supposed to signal a refreshing change from the long-standing culture of back slapping and gold grabbing within the body.

But his most recent proposal to reform an ailing game is just the latest in a long line of hair-brained ideas that he has gone public with - the bottom line is that it would kill English football, and it has left me completely dumbfounded.

His big idea? To implement a B Team league, sandwiched in between League Two and the Conference National at the bottom of the football pyramid.

It is a controversial notion which has attracted a wave of criticism from all across the media - and, however it is dressed up by Dyke and co, one thing is patently clear. The idea is ill thought-out, short-sighted, and fundamentally flawed.

The big boss has been quoted as complaining that the English game is too conservative, and requires a radical approach in order to shake it up - and, in some ways, he should be applauded for adopting such a brave attitude.

But, having studied the details of his proposal, I really believe that he is backing the wrong horse in this case. I am frankly gobsmacked that the FA have decided to go public with this divisive idea just weeks before the World Cup.

The way that it has been brought to the media has, in short, been a complete debacle, and I can't help but wonder whether the timing of this announcement was a not-so-subtle attempt to gently float a controversial idea - or, as some would say, 'bury bad news'.

If that is the case, then I reckon that Dyke needs to get a bigger shovel, as this news isn't buried deep enough - and he may well be digging himself a very large hole by forcing it upon an unwilling public.

As always, the devil is in the detail - and whilst in theory, if the idea would actually achieve the aim of injecting more homegrown talent into the top level of our game, it would be a no-brainer, just like the Premier League's flawed 39th game brainwave, it falls down very quickly under increased scrutiny.

To be honest, I expected far more from someone who has spent years working within lower league football at Brentford, Dyke really ought to be a little more in tune with the wants and needs of the majority.

Indeed, the Commission, put together upon his arrival, is certainly a positive move, in principle - but is the group really representative of the English footballing spectrum, or are they just more of the same 'yes men' that we have experienced in the past?

It speaks volumes that amongst the 10 members on that panel, there is no representative of the fans - the heartbeat of the game. The FA is not a private club owned by shareholders or one individual, it sits as a custodian of the national game. It ought to be a broad church, particularly when dealing with big ideas and fundamental changes to the structure of the game.

It is those millions of hard-working and money-paying supporters who are really left in the dark by these plans - and ultimately, for them, the proposal raises more questions than it answers.

For example, I think it's fair to suggest that most fans across the country would put their chosen club side above the national team in terms of priority.

Yes, it'd be fantastic if the English national team could challenge for top honours alongside the Spains and Brazils of the world - but would the majority of domestic football fanatics really put Three Lions success above the week-to-week experience of supporting their club? I'm not so sure.

In fact, the stats would suggest that, in the main, supporters are overwhelmingly against the proposal. At the time of writing, a massive 74% of votes on The Guardian website were against the notion.

Of course, the same old rhetoric keeps cropping up - that such an approach works brilliantly in Germany and Spain - and in some respects, that is correct; they do both operate successful second team systems.

But those structures were implemented decades ago, before the introduction of UEFA's Financial Fair Play conditions, and before football morphed into the multi-billion dollar global business that it is today.

Furthermore, there is a very important distinction to be made. The presence of B Teams such as Castilla and Barcelona B do not necessarily help the Spanish national team; they help Real Madrid, and Barcelona, respectively.

The likes of Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal have as many foreign recruits in their academies as they do British players. These top level clubs sign the best youngsters in the world, and put them on huge salaries at an early age.

I can't see how you can impose sanctions on league clubs who fall foul of Financial Fair Play, yet make the top sides exempt from these same rules. It really does make a mockery of the whole scheme, and the integrity of these leagues will be seriously undermined.

Frankly, the introduction of such a system would only serve to widen the gulf between the haves and the have-nots - and this proposal simply smacks of Dyke going out of his way to please the 'big boys' sitting pretty in the Premier League promised land.

It doesn't take much of an imagination to forecast complications and sticky situations arising should the plans be implemented in the near future.

For example, what would happen to the B Team, if their Premier League counterparts were relegated from the top tier? Surely they would no longer qualify for 'League Three' status?

Alternatively, what happens if a Championship club secures promotion, and subsequently wishes to create a second team themselves? Would an existing League Three side be required to make way for that addition?

There are, of course, other factors which deem the idea particularly unrealistic. The Conference, whilst a solid standard, is not exactly famed for its passing and attractive style of football - so effectively, the best up-and-coming English talents could be knocked from pillar to post by ambling, brutal centre halves every Saturday. Also, promotions and relegations in these respective leagues could end up involving teams that have actually finished way off the pace.

Let me make clear that I don't think it's a bad thing to follow the example models of other countries such as Spain, Italy and France, per se.

In fact, in my opinion, a better way to increase the amount of English talent at the top level of English football would be to do as they have done, and limit the number of foreign players in a Premier League squad.

Or, better still, shift the emphasis away from 'negative' restrictions, by simply asking that top clubs have at least, say, five or six home grown players in their match day 16.

In my experience, both in the Premier League with Newcastle United, and, most recently, the Championship, with Charlton Athletic, the current loan and reserve league systems work well - but just require a little fine tuning.

For instance, the current Under 21 Premier League has one major flaw - and that is that upto three senior pros over that age limit can take to the field each week, so you can end up with the likes of Demba Ba turning out in what is little more than a youth team outing for Chelsea.

The implementation of this wishy-washy B Team league proposal wouldn't save an English game currently drowning in the deep backwaters of international football, it would only serve to water it down even further.

If Dyke is to be successful in his rescue mission, then he needs something a little more substantial to keep it afloat.

He really must learn - and quickly - that big ideas and concepts are great in life, but you'd better have considered the finer details, not to mention the financial repercussions, when these big ideas affect the national game.