The website that lists the professions in greatest demand in the UK is an interesting and diverse list. If you happen to be a soil mechanics engineer, a forensic psychatrist or a skilled classical ballet dancer, for instance, please apply within.

Professional footballer? Sorry mate, we're full. There is no national shortage of people with that job title. If anything, you would hazard a guess at there being too many.

Well, there are, aren't there? All those squads, Under-23, Under-21 and so on, full of young players with nowhere to go. All that hoarded, drifting talent. All that "development", all those lavish facilities, at clubs across the land.

Many aspiring pros will be at, or approaching, decision-time today. A large number, as ever, will be released. And here's the thing.

If elite youth football in this country was truly working, rebuilding Carlisle United's team on a slashed budget would be a cinch, not the stressful challenge many fans anticipate.

The gates of top-class academies would open, and scores of young players would flood out, naturally more able and better-coached than the journeymen populating the lower leagues. The pickings would be rich.

It won't happen, though. It seldom does. For many, the fall is much steeper than Premier League to League Two. The cliff can be sheer indeed and, while United want to promote youth in a greater way, as part of general cost reductions, going into 2018/19's fourth tier without a core of gritty experience is a surefire application for the lesser end of the table.

The Elite Player Performance Plan has consolidated the way big clubs collect young players. There are successful individual stories, of course there are, and no doubt a broad improvement in technical expertise. But would you argue the system is raising the standard across the game, down the divisions, as talent trickles down?

Considering Carlisle's defence was rescued by a 39-year-old last term, one has to wonder. No doubt Keith Curle could have taken his pick of academy centre-halves with United's campaign spluttering along in September, but how many of them could have contributed even a fraction of what Clint Hill offered, alongside Mark Ellis and Gary Liddle?

Hill, granted, is a special case. Perhaps the next one is emerging, somewhere. But they aren't there as commonly as one would like to believe. A non-league manager, routinely forced to dip into academies for affordable loanees, complains that too many young centre-halves cannot attack the ball in the air like traditional defenders. They jump with head tucked in, rather than the vein-bulging thrust of a Kevin Gray.

Here, also, is what Hill said, a few months back: "Academies, and everything else - yeah, great, they've played a big part, and technically produced some brilliant players. Have they given players character, a mental strength, an attitude to succeed? That can be questioned. We've got to find a middle ground somewhere between an academy and that little bit of street. To fully wipe out what produced some outstanding players was I think a little bit too quick."

He was talking, clearly, about the culture as well as the coaching, and the fact a player can now reach 23 and be still cocooned from first-team reality cannot be healthy in this respect.

One wonders about the next step, for example, taken by a player like Macaulay Gillesphey, reportedly to be released by Newcastle. To his credit he sought first-team football with Carlisle in two consecutive loan campaigns, but in 2017/18 there has been no such frontline involvement.

Going back into the "23s", only emerging into the spotlight (sort of) in Checkatrade Trophy games - this seems like a step backwards, whatever work has been done behind the scenes. Hopefully such a player will pick up somewhere productive this summer. There would, though, be a sense of starting again at 22, and in a fiercely competitive marketplace, that cannot be easy.

One of the most eyecatching young players to grace Brunton Park in pre-season friendlies in recent years was the Sunderland striker Mickael Mandron. His career path, though, reflects the difficulty in making the transition to seniority: Fleetwood (loan), Shrewsbury (loan), Hartlepool (loan), Eastleigh, Wigan, Colchester.

Only at Eastleigh and Colchester has he scored goals at any kind of rate. Last season he managed 10 in 49 appearances - enough to be second highest scorer in League Two's 13th-best side. Now 23, there have been hints at that old potential, but only hints.

Time is less of a friend to these young players than it may seem, and surely something is being lost; something Hill talked about, in fact, not with a sense of nostalgia but a serious notion of what a long career needs in order to grow.

You think, in all this, of the emotional challenges faced by the discarded academy generation, as highlighted by Michael Calvin's No Hunger In Paradise . You think, at Carlisle, of the well-intentioned but poorly executed "development" plan hatched last summer, giving contracts to four teenagers against the manager's judgement, unable to afford the reserve side that could have pushed them further on.

You think of some clubs closing their academies and sympathise, considering the waste routinely generated. You think, also, that the much-discussed scrimping and saving needed by United's next manager would be a more attractive challenge were the game doing its job, and producing real players, instead of legions who can put the term on their Twitter biography without reality backing it up.

The glut is not helping the clubs it should, Carlisle and umpteen others. Officially, Britain needs more geoscientists, sous chefs, sleep physiologists and riggers, but not sort-of footballers. It's surely time to turn back the tide.


The following are some of the managers who have led League Two clubs to promotion in the last four years: John Coleman, Paul Cook, Derek Adams, Darren Ferguson, Michael Appleton, Darrell Clarke, Micky Mellon, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

What also connects them is that none ever played for the clubs they steered to success.

Others did, such as Gareth Ainsworth, Dave Flitcroft and Keith Hill, but the balance is tilted in favour of those who had no obvious connection.

There is no guaranteed template here, and the ideal man to revive Carlisle might well have the club in his veins.

It shouldn't, though, be a prerequisite. The popular choice isn't necessarily the right one. Those overseeing this huge decision need to show cold judgement, not play to the gallery.