Brian McClair Discusses Games Programme for Academy

McClair a fan of old system

Academy manager Brian McClair has admitted he is still a fan of the youth system that was in place when he joined United as a player in the late Eighties.

Brian McClair

The Scot also feels clubs can benefit from arranging their own football ‘festivals’ at training grounds to run alongside the new Barclays Under-18 Premier League fixture programme. Paul McGuinness’ side are not in league action again until 10 November so there is the possibility of more matches being set up at Carrington.

“If you go back to the old games programme in the sense of pre-Academy, it worked very well,” McClair told recently. “You had a ‘B’ team, an ‘A’ team and the Reserves all playing on a Saturday and the first team often played on a Saturday on the majority of occasions.

“All your players played. There was always the thought you were learning about what it’s like to be a football player in that you had 15-year-old kids who would play with the first-years we’ve got now, so the Under-17s and Under-16s, and play a lot with the ‘B’ team. Everybody got a game and, if you did really well in the ‘B’ team, you could get in the ‘A’ team.

“If you didn’t do so well in the ‘A’ team, you’d be back in the ‘B’ team and it was similar with the Reserves. So there was always that transition – when you’re doing well, the reward is to stay in that particular group. If you’re struggling or your performance is poor, you go back down to the level where you were.”

At least the fixtures should be more structured for Reserves boss Warren Joyce to contend with this term after having many games rearranged at short notice during the successful campaign in 2011/2012.

“The idea is trying to fix the Reserves’ games really because of the professional development,” added McClair. “Because a lot of players playing for the Under-18s could end up playing in the Under-21s and there’s two or three days’ difference in the games.

“Paul McGuinness can plan his week because he knows there is a game on the Saturday but Warren was all over the place with planning and, even within that, sometimes fixtures can change at a week’s notice.

“One of the ideas is Warren can plan his whole week of work going towards the actual game. I think most of our Under-21 games are on a Monday night so he can plan things but we just don’t know how it’s going to transpire until you’ve gone through it.

“We had a festival at Carrington at the start of the season and we can always arrange them. We had Chelsea, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Tottenham here playing four 60 or 70-minute games as there was flexibility depending on the weather and the condition of the players.

“For me, those three days had a very, very good games programme. It was a great environment and I think the players and coaches really enjoyed themselves. If you can have that over 24 weekends, I think it’ll be ideal.”


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