West Ham boss Sam Allardyce hits out at lack of quality youngsters in Premier League

Sam Allardyce Press Conference 12/02/2014

West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce fears young players breaking through in the Premier League is becoming a worrying rarity.

The experienced 60-year-old is the second longest serving manager in the most watched league in the world.

But he has bad news for the likes of England boss Roy Hodgson after admitting it is fast becoming a deserted island for top quality youngsters.

Allardyce himself has come under fire from West Ham fans who feel he does not give the club's top Academy players a fair chance.

However, he has recently been forced to throw 18-year-old centre back Reece Burke in at the deep end after injuries to key players Winston Reid and James Tomkins.

The youngster has responded magnificently, helping his side to two clean sheets in his three games and winning plaudits for dealing with some of the league's most dangerous front men in Charlie Austin, Danny Ings and Christian Benteke.

But despite the emergence of Burke, Big Sam has an ominous warning for fans and the England hierarchy with a damning assessment of the current chances for youth development at the highest level.

“When you look across the Barclays Premier League today, there are very few players under the age of 21 that are actually playing [in first team] on a regular basis," Allardyce told West Ham's official website.

“In fact, probably less than double figures I would have thought. If you look across the whole of the Premier League, it’s a pity but it shows you how difficult it is for youngsters to break into a Premier League team when he is an under 21.

“Obviously Reece has got in our side out of the fact we have two of our main defenders injured, and when you get your chance, you have to grasp it in this game. For me, he has done that, he has grasped his chance."

Talents like Burke, Liverpool's Raheem Sterling and Aston Villa's Jack Grealish are proving few and far between in the English top tier.

And that may mean the league falls even further behind Spain where Champions League semi-finalists Real Madrid - with an average player age of 22.44 - and Barcelona (22.66) have profited from fielding younger players, according to a report by Football Observatory.

Allardyce says clubs in this country and getting lazy when it comes to identifying talent at a young age, opting instead to lure them away from the clubs that have put the time into their initial development when they reach their mid-teens.

Using his own club's role in Burke's development as an example Allardyce said: "I think that West Ham finding this lad from the age of nine is very unusual now, because when you see youngsters breaking in, you will see that they have probably been bought in by the bigger clubs when they are 14 or 15 not when they are eight or nine like Reece."

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