Days away from the 2020-21 season's commencement, Melbourne City's Scott Jamieson has called efforts to re-brand the A-League a development league "disrespectful," saying that youngsters have to earn their minutes in a competition that's primary purpose was to be won.
Discourse surrounding the A-League heading into the new season has been dominated by talk of young players getting more opportunities to play, with salary cap contraction, travel restrictions preventing foreign signings and a jam-packed fixture seemingly set to force clubs to use their whole squads in the months ahead whether they like it or not.
It's been largely greeted as a positive, with a recent Football Australia research report finding that there existed a "performance gap" in Australia's developmental pathway that was hampering the development of Australia's next generation.
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But for Jamieson, the conversation surrounding young players getting game time has obscured the real purpose of the competition.
City has largely retained the core of their squad that went down 1-0 to Sydney FC in the 2019-20 Grand Final -- a fixture that Jamieson missed after opting to remain in Melbourne to be his partner for the birth of their first child -- and are expecting to be in the thick of the title race this coming season, new coach Paddy Kisnorbo's squad bolstered by the addition of Olyroo Aiden O'Neill and Socceroo Andrew Nabbout.
A one-time A-League Young Player of the Year, Jamieson has yet to win a championship in his decade-plus in the competition, losing Grand Finals in 2015-16 and 2008-09, and bristles at the suggestion that a title would mean anything less in 2020-21.
"I want to go on record by saying this isn't a development league," the City captain, speaking at a launch event for the leagues Melbourne clubs, said. "It's disrespectful saying it's a development league when you've got people like myself who want to win.
"I don't necessarily think that you get given a spot because of your age - you earn your spot. So anyone calling it a development league as such is wrong.
"We're giving kids a chance because of the salary cap restraints -- you look at the opportunities kids had last season on the back end, some of them had it -- but you've got to earn it, you can't just be given an opportunity because it benefits X, Y and Z.
"People have to earn it and that's my take on it. I get a little bit pissed off, to be honest, when I read people calling it a development league.
"It's just disrespectful."
Jamieson's sentiments on the league mirror those made by now-Socceroos coach Graham Arnold when he was in charge of Sydney FC -- he too declaring that the A-League was not a "developmental league."
Somewhat poetically, Arnold has since become one of the game's great evangelicals surrounding young players getting minutes after ascending to the national team post and its under 23 equivalent; decrying a lack of opportunities being afforded to youngsters at almost every level of the elite developmental pathway.
The 57-year-old has, however, remained loyal to the statement on the league's purpose.
Though initially appearing to be contradictory stances, Arnold's position, mirroring that of Jamieson, is that young players still need to earn their chances at A-League level and that the competition remains one very worthy of winning.
However, he contends that opportunities need to be given to players outside of an A-League context to ensure their development doesn't stagnate.
"By the time [young players] are 17 they're playing five or six games [in the Y-League] or they're playing 22 rounds [in the NPL] instead of going to 40," Arnold said back in November.
"If those kids start playing 40 rounds a year, you'll see a Golden Generation come. You'll see them in spades. But they don't play enough football."
For Jamieson, his next attack on a maiden A-League title was nominally set to commence on Dec. 30, when he and his teammates travelled to Sydney to take on the Sydney FC in a Grand Final re-match -- although that is now likely to change due to COVID-related border restrictions.