Winning mentality vital for youngsters, says Blackburn Rovers coach Hendry (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Winning mentality vital for youngsters, says Blackburn Rovers coach Hendry
COLIN Hendry knows a thing or two about winning.
From the Premier League title he claimed with Blackburn Rovers in 1995 to the domestic treble he enjoyed with Rangers in 1999, his playing career was littered with major honours.
So as the debate around how to increase the number of English youngsters playing in the Premier League continues to rage, Hendry believes the importance of having a winners’ mentality should not be underestimated.
The former Scotland international, now a coach with Rovers’ Under 21s side, said: “As a coach we want to put a team out that is going to win a game of football – because, ultimately, football is about winning.
“This is one of the discussions and debates I’ve had with a lot of people about players – are they winners?
“Football is all about winning.
“It’s a team game and you have to win. Maybe that’s got lost a wee bit in the transition from development. Maybe, maybe not.
“But from my point of view that is a very vital factor in whatever team sport you’re in – that desire to win.
“But at the same it’s very important for us that the players come through and push themselves for the first team.
“So if it’s to the detriment of the team winning a game if we set up in a certain way, then so be it.”
The Premier League has recognised the need to make its Barclays U21s League – which Rovers are part of – more competitive. From next season the league will be divided into two divisions based on the positions of the 22 teams at the end of the current campaign.
There will then be promotion and relegation between the divisions in future seasons.
The Premier League made the move to ‘prepare Academy players for the intense environment of elite competition and progression to the first team’.
But Hendry is adamant that time out on loan will continue to play a crucial role in the development of young players.
“We’re at the stage where the players have come through the youth system and they are at a level now where they have to make it or break it in the first-team arena,” said Hendry, who assists head coach Eric Kinder with Rovers U21s.
“Part of that process without a shadow of a doubt will be going out on loan.
“You might get a golden nugget every now and again like a Phil Jones who, all of a sudden, bang, they’re straight in.
“But generally they have to go out on loan and learn about themselves.
“Look at David Beckham – even he went to Preston.
“It’s not as if the best and the greatest haven’t done it.”
Rovers currently have four U21s players – Anton Forrester (Bury), Jack O’Connell (Rochdale), Ryan Edwards (Chesterfield) and Anthony O’Connor (Torquay) – out on loan at League Two clubs.
Hendry is convinced their spells away from Rovers will help the quartet truly understand what it means to win and lose.
But he disagrees with the suggestion that loans also help young players come to terms with the physical demands of senior first-team football.
As he reckons academies certainly provide a level of fitness which players outside of the professional game can no longer match.
“It’s the physicality of it now,” said Hendry, whose own career stared out at local league clubs Keith and Islavale.
“In days gone by you could get a technically good Sunday league player, you could pick them up, but now they’re not going to get the same physical attributes as the Academy players coming through because they are all physically fit and strong.”
Hendry got his big break with Dundee in 1983. He spent four years at Dens Park before moving to Rovers, aged 21, for his first of two stints at the club.
He also played for Manchester City, Coventry and Bolton in the top flight as well as winning 51 caps for Scotland.
He concedes the influx of overseas imports coming into the Premier League is making it harder for homegrown players to follow in his footsteps.
“The top clubs are no longer just casting their net over everything in the England and the UK – it is the world,” said Hendry, whose son Callum plays for Rovers’ U16s.
“The big clubs are signing players for so many million that we don’t even know about and who we will not see for five years.
“That has never, ever happened before.”
Hendry is happy to be back at a club where youth development – from first-team manager Gary Bowyer down – is central to everything it does.
“Gary Bowyer, for instance, went and saw Anton Forrester at Bury on Saturday because the first team did not have a game,” said Hendry, who captained Scotland at the 1998 World Cup.
“That’s just an example.”
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