Youth or Experience?
There is always a debate for football managers about whether to sign that experienced veteran with a great reputation who used to play for a Premier League team, or to give a chance to the 18-year-old who’s just bagged ten goals in ten games for the youth side.
There is no definitive mix to get success, but Leeds United and Brighton & Hove Albion are two clubs who represent youth and experience respectively this season, and we have compared them to see which has fared better and which will ultimately fare better in the future.
This season Leeds United have fielded on average the youngest side in the Championship at 24.5 years of age.
When Neil Redfearn came in last season he was unafraid to implement a youth policy which saw him utilise players like Sam Byram, Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt, and bring the average age right down after succeeding Darko Milanic.
This season Uwe Rosler and Steve Evans have carried on with Redfearn’s youthful policy, and Evans’ side sit 15th in the Championship, Evans has began to bring experience back into the squad at the expense of players like Byram in recent games, but he has kept faith in youth thus far with the average age still under 25.
In the recent 3-0 win over Huddersfield, we saw everything that was good about having plenty of young players, Mowatt had the audacity and technique to hit a screamer for Leeds’ third, something a more experienced player could feel to be a waste to shoot from far out.
Leeds also managed to win the ball back from the opposition in better areas due to the natural fitness of the younger players in the team, which ultimately resulted in more chances for Evans’ side.
However at times this season, especially when in losing positions, the tendency for Leeds to concede free-kicks in poor positions has only increased pressure on the team, and the rashness from the younger players can affect the team on occasion.
This season has been indifferent in terms of results for United but the future looks extremely bright for the players unless large changes are made to the club.
The plethora of talent they have in the first team and in the academy will almost certainly prove vital to their future, as they look to return to the Premier League.
Steve Evans has brought his hard-working philosophy to the club and that will benefit the younger players greatly.
Brighton & Hove Albion
The Seagulls are having what can only be described as an unbelievable season. After finishing 20th last season, Albion find themselves second in the Championship and have not lost a single league game under Chris Hughton.
Their squad has an average age of 28 and it appears to be doing little to hinder them as they consistently put in remarkable performances week in and week out.
35-year-old Bruno epitomises Brighton’s defensive superiority, making few mistakes and constantly working hard and being level headed on the field.
While Lewis Dunk, one of their younger players at the age of 23, has clearly benefited playing with the experienced Brighton back line.
The players at Brighton are down to earth and grind out results when they need to, the experience in the side means there are fewer errors and Hughton’s only worry is that they don’t score too many.
Which as it stands, is a very small worry as Albion’s drive for promotion continues.
The future however is very uncertain for Brighton.
If they manage to make it to the Premier League then massive changes will be needed as the older players will most likely struggle with the pace of the top flight.
If they don’t manage promotion this season, then Chris Hughton will need to decide if he goes for a different approach next season or keep his faith in experience.
Lewis Dunk has been a success from the very beginning for Brighton and this example of an academy success will need to be repeated, for Hughton to keep the squad balanced.
While Brighton are having a season to remember, the future is just too uncertain. There is no way of telling when an older player will tail off completely and that could happen at any point which would leave Brighton with gaps to fill.
The younger players at Leeds will only get better as they hit their stride and the future looks a lot more certain for them despite the problems with Cellino.
Leeds under Steve Evans can develop and look to the future after a difficult few years.
Leeds fans, do you think the future looks bright for your team? Brighton fans, can you challenge for promotion this season? Share your thoughts in the comments below!