No wonder the academy system at our top clubs is failing.
The reason? An insider has revealed that all the millions ploughed into the academy system over the last decade has not been invested in developing the England players of the future, as many believed but to produce a cadre of ball boys skilled in gamesmanship tactics designed to help their team win games.
While everyone thought that the boys were being trained in Barcelona style ball retention skills, it is now apparent that a shocking regime of ball boy exploitation has been rife in the academies of the big clubs.
No ticca tacca drills. No pass and move exercises. No keep the ball sessions. Only endless practice on how to get the ball back on the pitch in a way that will help the team.
Parents of many future stars have been appalled to discover that their children have been subjected to hours of power-point presentations on a set of ball skills designed to make them world class ball boys not international footballers.
The ball boy training is rumoured to concentrate on 5 key skills;
- how to take FOREVER to dry a ball
- how to slip and SMOTHER the ball
- how to swing the arms SLOWLY as the ball is returned
- how to throw the ball AWAY from the receiving player
- how to make the RIGHT decisions within a multi-ball system
While the media lament our lack of qualified coaches, a black market has been established of car park held coach education courses producing European league numbers of ball boy trainers who now compete for places at the money soaked academies.
An even more worrying trend is the signing up of overseas kids to become ball boys thereby taking the place of home grown talent and threatening our place in the FIFA generated ball boy rankings.
The remuneration is good for the boys picked for actual matches. So good in fact, that many ball boys will never have to use their own money to buy a Mars Bar ever again.
Clubs have been forced to create huge stashes of confectionary to pay the going rate. A recent report by a major management consultant has shown that in some cases, the value of this inventory is higher than the vast combined revenues from TV, gate and commercial sources which clubs are now receiving.
Bullying among the boys is also rampant as the older teenagers who rely on twitter to build their status control the lives of the younger ones in ways reminiscent of modern day Flashmans.
Lower league clubs have openly given up the pretence of coaching their kids football reckoning that their use of ball boys is now the only way for them to win more games and secure a good cup run or to rise up through the divisions.
Managers and players are now involved too. It's not just wide men or wing backs that players are coached to handle but how to get the ball back as fast as they can when it goes out of play.
Players have also received their own tips on how to coax the ball boys in ways that will break the spell that has been cast over the lads by their relentless indoctrination.
But some players have gone too far. A recent incident involving a player tickling a ball boy to get him to release the ball has been taken to the European Court of Gamesmanship with the player's club questioning the boy's right to delay the return of the ball.
A top football official would not be drawn on the ball boy scam but suggested that at a time of recession, it was a good thing that football was providing so many youngsters with a future career.