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Wrightie's rant gets ministerial approval

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Matt Slater | 16:31 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009

In the spirit of reconciliation between the BBC and News Corp (and to show James Murdoch not everything we do online is "chilling") I would like to draw your attention to a recent advertisement for The Sun's soaraway salon of soccer scribes, Harry Redknapp, Terry Venables and Ian Wright.

The billboard in question was for Wrightie and it was situated near West Ham's training ground in Chadwell Heath.

Above a toothy shot of the former Arsenal and England centre forward, a caption in quote marks said something about too many mediocre foreigners in the Premier League holding back young domestic talent: good, knock-about, back-of-cab stuff.

You might have missed it but Carlton Cole didn't and it got him thinking. "I can relate to that," the Hammers striker told me, which is hardly surprising given his stop-start progress to Premier League stardom and Fabio Capello's England squad.

Carlton Cole in action for Chelsea

Starved of first-team opportunities at Chelsea, the club that nurtured his talent, and unable to settle at any of the clubs he was loaned to, a stalled Cole (pictured right) moved to Upton Park in 2006.

He didn't pull up any trees there at first either but in the last 18 months the south Londoner, now 25, has started to deliver on the potential the ex-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri described when he said: "I've never coached a young player like Carlton - he's fantastic and has a very big future at Chelsea."

He was half right.

But having tried to patch up one row with a major player in British football, I should avoid starting a new one with another: Cole was not suggesting Roman Abramovich's millions were being wasted on mediocre foreigners at Chelsea.

"I'm thinking more about some of my mates who didn't make it at other clubs, they did have average foreign players ahead of them," he clarified.

"I think Ian Wright is making a big statement there and I hope clubs realise that sometimes it's cheaper not to bring in a player from abroad - a quick fix - but to develop one of your own instead."

He's right, of course, but it's easier said than done when Premier League survival is guaranteed millions, the continued employment of hundreds of staff and the feel-good exposure of playing in the world's most popular football league.

Relegation, on the other hand, is, well, rubbish.

But that doesn't make Wright's (hardly original) observation and Cole's shining example any less compelling, particularly in the wake of last week's Her Majesty's Government v Football Association ding-dong.

Media attention has focused on the government's frustration with football's governing body for failing to implement the recommendations made by leading civil servant Lord Burns in 2005.

The fact those recommendations were aimed at improving the FA's executive structure probably explains why Cole and the two other Premier League stars I spoke to at a Prince's Trust youth forum in London last week, Spurs striker Jermain Defoe and West Ham midfielder Mark Noble, knew nothing about them.

Having read Burns' review, I can't blame them.

FA chairman Lord Triesman

But they had plenty to say about another issue Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe flagged up in his letter to FA boss Lord Triesman (pictured right) and his counterparts at the Football League and Premier League, English football's patchy record on youth development - the same point Wright was making.

For Noble, the epitome of a local boy done good, it is all about opportunity: he got it at West Ham, while counterparts at more successful clubs haven't. That is why he is pleased with recent moves to introduce quotas for home-grown players in the English leagues.

Sutcliffe also praised these initiatives but wondered if more could be done.

Among the measures he proposed for discussion are a transfer ban for under-18s (a move being talked about by the governing bodies of European and world football, and grumbled about by every leading English club), bonus payments to clubs for fielding English-qualified players and relaxing restrictions on player loans.

It is a shame most attention has centred on whether the government really would withhold its investment in grassroots football just to get two non-executive directors on the FA board or not, when Sutcliffe had reasonable questions to ask about another forgotten football review, Rugby Football League boss Richard Lewis's look at youth development.

It is two years since his recommendations were announced - harmonising standards across the leagues, more emphasis on coaching, more age-specific work and so on - but evidence of actual change is hard to identify.

In the meantime the trends that prompted the review have continued: English clubs are using more and more foreign players, the leading clubs in particular, and the number of fully-fledged footballers to emerge from their youth set-up's remains disappointing (which partly explains why the likes of Chelsea have got themselves in trouble for their global trawl for young talent).

Properly implementing the Burns review on governance would be a welcome step for the FA. Properly implementing the Lewis review is essential for the future health of English football - it probably would not hurt the prospects of the other Home Nations and Ireland either.

Aerial shot of the proposed National Football Centre in Burton

There is another pressing piece of business Sutcliffe attempted to remind everybody of and that is the National Football Centre at Burton (pictured above). Remember that?

The FA gave England's answer to Clairefontaine/Coverciano the green light 15 months ago (for at least the third time in eight years) but it would take the intervention of Bagpuss's mice, the Ground Force crew and the pharaohs' foremen to get the project up and running by 2010, what with there being little more than 350 acres of Staffordshire countryside behind that expensive fence.

The sheer waste of this farcical situation is particularly galling when I recall what Defoe said was the moment he knew he would make it as a footballer, the day he found out he had won a place at the FA's School of Excellence at Lilleshall. If Burton helps to produce half the number of players Lilleshall did before it was shut down in 1999 it will be cheap at £80m.

Now it is unlikely that a Premier League footballer will ever credit a sports minister with making a "big statement" about the game - Sutcliffe has no medals or billboards - but he is asking the right questions. Football's guardians would do well to address them or the prospect of finding three young English Premier League footballers to talk to a group of young Londoners about career development could become considerably more difficult.

* As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about on Twitter


  • Comment number 1.

    If its a case about opportunity ,why don't they think about trying to get a game for a team in France, Portugal or any of the second level European divisions. Or is there more money in sitting on the bench at Chelsea and Manchester United.

    That also don't they watch any football outside that of the premier league during the week either. I still think the 1990 world cup team was made much better because of waddle and others experience at Marseille and other teams.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am a Newcastle fan and I have to say getting relegated wasn't and isn't a problem. Gutting at the time but we all knew this was gonna be fun and more important, different. Having been to the same old grounds over and over again, it's nice to play somewhere else and have a team full of hard workers rather than celebrities.

  • Comment number 3.

    That's the spirit, boils...but will you still feel that way after your 3rd trip to Glanford Park or London Road? A year in the little leagues to recharge your batteries/clear your decks is one thing, exile is another particularly when for a club of Newcastle's size it can only be self-inflicted.

    shades846, you make a good point, more of our players should go abroad, particularly now that the tax/exchange rate balance makes it more attractive financially. But do the academy generation want it enough? Are they willing to move out of their comfort zones to try a different country/football culture? Are they even good enough? I'm not convinced there are enough youngsters coming through the British system who can say 'yes' to these questions. The likes of Matt Derbyshire are few and far between.

  • Comment number 4.

    Very good article Matt. I'm glad you picked up on Gerry Sutcliffe's comments because the wider media have only focused on the threat to withold government money from the FA, not the questions Sutcliffe asked of the FA. The FA strikes me as an overfunded, rudderless body answerable to no-one, managed by people with vested interests in the case of the FA board members, and others who are enjoying the perks without bringing much needed change to the organisation. The last person who did was Adam Corzier, since then it's been a revolving door of incompetance and scandal (Palios and Sven enjoying the same perk). The National Football Centre is a shambles, it should be priority number one for the FA but it's been delayed and scaled back endlessly and seems no nearer completion now than ever. This, and other regional centres of excellence mirroring the highly succesful French model would solve a large part of the problem of too few English players making the grade, but noebody inside the FA has the vision nor the authority to push it through. I would like an independent audit of the FA; it must be the wealthiest national football governing body in the world, yet we have some of the worst facilities and least organised youth structures. Where are all the millions being spent? Flying WAG's first class to tournaments? In fact, I would see the FA replaced by a new organisation, with a mandate to improve the game at all levels, and most importantly of all free from any influence by the professional game.

  • Comment number 5.

    Interesting article from BBC for a change. Well done.

  • Comment number 6.

    Careful what you wish for, Mr. Slater! Both Ian Wright, who started all this, and Matt Derbyshire, whom you cite as a player gifted enough and confident enough to seek out a career overseas, were picked up from non-league football. Wright was rejected as a youngster and Derbyshire was never picked up. I live in the Blackburn area and we are overrun with scouts from the Manchester and Liverpool teams as well as Lancashire town teams, but nobody spotted Matt Derbyshire until he was playing for Great Harwood Town in the North West Counties League when he was 17-18. Perhaps we should scrap all the academies and divvy up the cash to the grass roots?

  • Comment number 7.

    It's rather ironic that the Sports Minister is getting so much praise for championing domestic youth development over the importing of foreign players when many of our youngsters trying to carve out rather more prosaic careers for themselves are coming up against exactly the same brick wall.
    Employers, with seemingly enthusiastic help from the Government, can hardly wait to import people from all over the world to do the jobs that our young people would normally do - meaning, of course, that wages spiral downwards as the job market gets over-populated.
    To me, that makes the Sports Minister a hypocrite.

  • Comment number 8.

    The biggest problem that football has had traditionally is that it believes that anyone who wasn't a great player can't see what's wrong with it.

    Fans see what's wrong with their team pretty easily: they watch it every week. Almost none of them were professional footballers.

    Anyone with any understanding of business management can see what ails certain Boardrooms. Almost none of them have been professional footballers.

    And anyone with any understanding of how to nurture the next generation can see the issues pertaining to youth development in English fooltball. Almost none of those were professional footballers.

    Now if football and the FA didn't regularly dip into the taxpayers' pocket (err....what was that £150m for Wembley etc?), then they could tell outsiders to Bog Off, or it's close more gutteral relative. But as they have frequented the begging bowl on many occasions, they might recognise the universal reality of 'He who pays the Piper calls the Tune'.

    And they might recognise the value of a co-ordinated, collaborative effort to kick seven bells out of all their 2018 opposition by winning the World Cup beauty parade with an all-star, no-prima-donnas team which includes great veteran strikers, iconic midfielders, a manager who can, if necessary, tell the Press that 'Youse are all flamin' idiots' and a few politicos who know how to nick the ball from the opposition, step across their run to block progress and generally tell the fourth official that they might referee the match with due neutrality and attention.......if, of course, such an eventuality were to prove to be necessary..........

  • Comment number 9.

    In answer to #1 shades teh difficulty with going abroad is that most countries don't have professional lower leagues the same way that we do. The French, Italian and Spanish leagues are part-time once you get past the 2nd tier (and often some of the lower 2nd-tier teams are only semi-pro)so it is very difficult for a youth player to do that. The Scandinavian leagues are an option but again the same scenario presents itself.

    There is no other country in Europe with 4 professional divisions and countries where an impact cpuld be made such as China, Austrial or New Zealand only have very small leagues. If football was more widespread in the USA & Canada the opportunitues might be there but once they sort out youth development over there even those could disappear

  • Comment number 10.

    More to the point the FA should invest more time, effort and money at the grass roots level... Minimal sports are now being taught or played at school in favour of the next set of school stats and why oh why, do they insist on getting 10/11 year olds to play organised sunday league football on full size pitches in all weathers and having parents pay in excess of £130 per season for the privilege .. it's a complete joke, no wonder there is little or no talent coming through... they'd rather spend the £130 on a Xbox and keep the home work pile down

  • Comment number 11.

    VPH81 I think you have actually proved Sutcliffe's point. Foreign workers can only take UK jobs if there are not qualified British people to do them. If we train/educate our young people properly as footballers or anything else foreigners will not take 'their' jobs. Totally agree with the blog, the FA needs to buck up or be replaced.

  • Comment number 12.

    a lack of coherent youth development seems to be the main issue based on
    a culture of getting youth from abroad, a lack of internal development and a selfish culture of cutting kids out of wider sports community, never mind the small kids on big pitches issue.

    The FA needs to overhall both its structure and its youth development and place less emphasis on the top end of the game. By developing the youth and grass roots the top end will be well fed

  • Comment number 13.

    The main problem is highlighted perfectly at the end of this blog when the FA are referred to as "Football's guardians." Can somebody please remind them that this is their PRIMARY reason for existance.

    They exist to safeguard the national game. As I see it that doesn't mean cosying up to the Premier League it means taking a proactive role in youth development and helping to safeguard the future of my real passion: the non league game.

    But the FA have lost their focus. The never ending list of Ad Men and TV execs they have had involved in running the Association over the past 15 years has nearly killed it. Let's hope that in Sir Ian Watmore, a former civil servant, service delivery will finally be restored to the top of the FA Agenda.

    The FA doesn't exist to sell England shirts, or deliver exclusive commercial contracts for merchandise related to the national team. Nor does it exist to negotiate "lucrative" TV deals for the FA Cup and England team. They exist to make sure that the future of football in this country is in safe hands.

    The should be focusing on getting Burton up and running, reducing costs for non-league teams in the current financial climate, and finding ways of providing real genuine help to the various youth football projects run very well, often on a shoe-string by local county FAs.

    "Football's Guardians." It's about time they started acting like it.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    As someone who's been involved at grass roots level for a number of years there is more that the FA should be doing in terms of investment but they seem to be held back from doing so by their county structure which makes any initiative very difficult to implement.

    The introduction of mini-soccer some years ago was a positive move forward although I disagree with Paradoxical Axiom re the move to bigger pitches. It's not the pitches which are the problem (mini-soccer pitches are far too small for 10/11 year olds) but the size of the goals. As many teams have to use park pitches, which are also used by adults, there's little alternative though.

    Having seen the change from when I was a kid to now when there are many FA led opportunities to be trained as a coach there is, overall, a far better structure. However, most of the initiatives are years old and the FA has lost its way a bit.

    The Burton example is a very graphic illustration of this. Leadership is needed at the top of the FA to harness much of the energy and commitment at grass roots level. However, without the opprtunities for kids to come through the professional ranks there is no incentive.

    As a Chelsea fan I applaud West Ham for the number of players in recent seasons who have at least had the opportunity to come through - Cole, Lampard, Noble, Johnson etc.

    David james wrote a veryn good article for the Observer recently in which he expressed amazement at the number of kids at Portsmouth and other premiership clubs and contrasted it with the number who were coming through to the professional ranks. Big clubs hoover up any player who is half decent and hoard them in their Acadamies until finally (in 99.9% of cases) rejecting them. Is this right?

  • Comment number 16.

    Why Burton isn't being developed is beyond me. As you said in the blog this was approved two years ago and not one brick has been laid.

    With regards to youth development, its an impossible situation for top teams to integrate youth players into the team. If you look at Mancienne at Chelsea. He's going to be a top player in the future but looking at him playing for wolves he makes way too many mistakes and being at the cut throat end of the league and in europe they can't afford to take that chance. And most of the young English players at big clubs were bought from lower league clubs in the first place anyway. Defoe - Charlton. Richards - Oldham. Lennon - Leeds

    I think along as the Burton project, english clubs should be allowed to have a local lower league feeder club. For example Man Utd have Crewe, and Tottenham have Leyton Orient. They would be allowed to loan 7-8 English players a season to get regular first team action. It helps create a core team which makes integrating them in the first team easier and gets them crucial first team experience at the ages 17-20. Plus it would ease the financial burden on the league teams, whilst giving them talented youngsters for free. Much in the same way spanish football works.

    Matt, you also talk about youngsters have to be dedicated enough to play abroad. Whilst I agree with this, if they don't have what it takes to take the plunge overseas. They won't have the dedication, force of will to get in the first team. Look at Jonny Evans, when ferdinand got injured. Ferguson had no qualms in putting him in.

  • Comment number 17.

    Sorry but the reason standards in English football are in decline and foreign imports are such an easy option stems directly from what we see on our parks and school fields every weekend: ten-year-old boys on a full-size pitch. That is the problem. The average height of a ten-year-old boy is 4ft 7in and the height of Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper, is 6ft 5in and they are required to guard the same target and kick the same distance. The following pitch dimensions were not plucked out of the air. They were expanded, by ratio, so that adults could enjoy the same competitive experience as 10 year old children. This suggestion was to take an average ten-year-old, place him on a full-size pitch and then expand that space in proportion, to equate to the size of the average man. The playing surface filled an area of 16,800 metres. The goal would be be 3.057 metres high, which equates to more than 10ft, roughly one and two thirds the size of Paul Robinson, making it physically impossible to touch the bar from a standing jump. The goalline would be be 9.174 metres long (about 30ft) or almost five Scott Carsons laying head to toe. A goalkeeper standing in the middle would have to dive almost five metres to get his body behind the ball and adequately protect inside his posts; the present width of the whole goal is 7.32 metres. The length of the pitch would be 150.4 metres (165 yards), placing the halfway line at 75 metres. Using these dimensions, for a goalkeeper to get the ball out of his half from a grounded goal kick, he would have to clear, without bouncing, to the midway point of the opposition half with pitch measurements as they are now. The edge of the penalty area would be extended to 20.68 metres (23 yards), almost a third again on the present space, and the width of the pitch would be 112.80 metres (124 yards), which is a greater expanse than the length of most present pitches. If adults played on a pitch this size and everything else being the same, including the number of players and the duration of the match, when this travesty of a game is finished, when everybody is exhausted and fed up and utterly frustrated with demands that are at odds with the strength of the human body and the fundamental skill-based nature of the sport, then, and only then, will we comprehend what it is like to play football as a ten-year-old in England

  • Comment number 18.

    'I still think the 1990 world cup team was made much better because of waddle and others experience at Marseille and other teams.'

    Yes but the English first division in 1990 was nowhere near as good as the current Premier league. English players don't have to go abroad to experience other football cultures or improve as its already on their doorstep when they play against some of the best players in the world and get coached by some of the best coaches in the world.

  • Comment number 19.

    Post Number 8: (rjaggar) - I think you have made some excellent points. Football is extremely insular, and if it continues in this fashion, then nothing will really ever change. Innovation and creativity are required, and that will need a fresh outlook and approach to youth development issues.

    Whilst I can accept that an ex-professional can provide lots of relevant information as a youth team coach to a young player in an academy/centre of excellence; are they really aware of issues such as growth and maturation at the different stages of a child's development, coaching/learning styles, an inter-disciplinary approach to sports science, or player development models from other countries/other sports? I suspect that in many cases, this would be a resounding no. A coach at this crucial level should be aware of VARIOUS methods to develop young players. Unfortunately many academies seem unwilling to accept or invite 'outside' help from Universities or good practice from other sports etc, and much Coach Education is a little stale at the top end of the Coach Education system (I know because I have a reasonably high qualification). I saw some really innovative and interesting sessions on my coaching course from college lecturers, and other skilled coaches who had never played professional football; but guess which candidates are working in the local academies? Thats right - the ex-professionals!

    I also take your point regarding boardrooms and the general governance of many football league clubs. I have had many (strong) dissertation students at undergraduate and Masters degree level over the past few years carry out some very interesting studies on the operations of professional football clubs, but unfortunately as accurate and useful as some of the recommendations were, there seemed to be some arrogance towards the findings - an almost 'well we know better than you anyway' mindset.

  • Comment number 20.

    Yo Slater. Matt and I have had many arguments about football in the past, so I'm sure he won't mind me sticking my oar in on here!

    I can see what Wright is saying about foreigners holding back young domestic talent, but, as has been said many times before, if Arsene Wenger was being provided with English kids who were good enough, he'd stick them in. He's in the business of winning football matches, so why wouldn't he?

    The problems with youth development in English football have been staring us in the face for decades. Almost everyone knows what's wrong with it, and still no-one does anything about it. Let me use the analogy of child pianists in China. Every year, China churns out millions, literally millions, of outstanding, technically gifted child pianists. It's no accident. They get the best tuition from a very early age, so that by the time they're nine or 10 or whatever, they've got almost all the basic skills. They're not the finished article, and they might not make it, but they've been given every chance. Sport shouldn't be any different. Why, every year, do Spain, Italy, Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Germany and other countries consistently churn out technically more proficient footballers than England? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that it's because their kids are being coached to a better standard from an earlier age than ours. A kid who gets the best piano tuition from the age of five might not make it as a concert pianist, but by the age of 18, he's likely to be a lot better than a kid who started getting the best tuition at the age of 12.

  • Comment number 21.

    The trouble with football, and English football in particular, is that it constantly fails to accept that other people have better methods of doing things.

    England's national team went from being one of the best in the world in 1970 to a bunch of also-rans by 1972 because Sir Alf Ramsey (yes I'm going to criticise him) failed to see that football was changing and in particular Holland and Germany had worked out better tactics etc. But of course, the 'English way' was always right.

    It's this arrogant attitude that has prevailed in English football, and although it has diminished somewhat, still lingers, despite England having won, well, precisely nothing since 1966.

    France had the foresight to see that their national team was struggling after the success in the 1980s and built Clarefontaine. England still doesn't have a set up to compare, and the FA's latest rebuke of Sutcliffe's comments shows how insular and self protective they are. They don't have the game's interests at heart, otherwise something would have been done by now.

    Regarding youth development, it's sad that big teams decide to find themselves a Kakuta or Macheda instead of developing their own. To be fair to Man Utd, they had a golden generation of Giggs, Scholes etc, but even they have turned abroad. I think this shows how much money talks nowadays. In my opinion, money and sport are a volatile combination, and the development of the Premier League has done nothing to change this view. The price of failure is too high.

    However, although clubs should bring English players through, I's not as black and white as that. They need to be coached properly, it's not just about being given a chance. Young players need the guidance first, like they get at De Toekomst at Ajax for example. It's no co-incidence that when the English leagues were not flooded with overseas players ie. until about 15 years ago, England still didn't win anything, so it's not just about the amount of foreign players, it's about the coaching.

    This country's grass roots involves 8-15 year-olds running around in matches not learning anything. In France, they don't even play games until they are ready technically. It's all about ball skills. Once you have the skills, the physical side will come with age and gym work and the mental side will come with guidance and experience.

    The closest the FA has got to admitting English methods are not the best is by appointing a Swede and an Italian as England manager. Instead of this method, the FA should look to develop from within, but with their level of arrogance and deluded belief that the English way is the best way, it looks like being a long way off.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm afraid the analogy with pianists is a false one, Ben, due to the physical differences brought on by puberty. For a pianist, puberty really doesn't make a difference to technique or development of a playing style. To a sportsperson, it can make a huge difference.

    You would be better off comparing footballers to singers, where proper training in vocal development can only begin after the voice has broken. Singers can acquire other skills before this point (sight-reading, musical theory, ensemble, etc.), but the mechanics of vocal production must wait until their voice has settled into its adult range.

    I would suggest that a similar approach could be taken with footballers. There are plenty of topics that could be covered before puberty, while delaying those that depend on physical maturity until after puberty. Tactics, development of awareness, link play, and ball-control (to an extent) could all be stressed in the period before puberty.

  • Comment number 23.

    Rob K - Obviously it's not an exact comparison! But the point I'm making, which has also been made by, among others, Trevor Brooking, is that young footballers should have most of the basic skills in place by the time they are in their early teens. So that when, for example, Arsene Wenger gets hold of them, he's not having to teach them basics which they should have learnt years before. Clearly, there are physical considerations in sport that don't apply to playing a musical instrument.

    It's like anything - learning a musical instrument, learning a language, learning how to paint, the earlier you start being taught, the easier you're going to find it. Take Picasso: obviously, the bloke had bags of natural talent, but it wasn't an accident he turned out to be one of the best artists ever. He was receiving formal training from his dad, another artist, from the age of seven. Funnily enough, by the age of 13, he was better than his dad!

  • Comment number 24.

    i think we all agree with Ian Wright to some degree but the reason for it seems to me to the short-term return that football clubs desire. You gotta win the league, you musn't get relegated, you can't measure success except by silverware. As only one team can win the league they must chase the short-term in order to stay on the merry-go-round and spend in order to receive. Reminds me of the last short-term return seekers.....banks and look what happened to them! As long as we all believe that success has to be short term then these 'bubbles' will keep being created.
    as way of keeping it in perspective my club, palace, Ian Wright's first league club have produced many acadamy players into their first team , some of whom are dotted around the premiership with varying degrees of success. it can be done but the short-term is not good for that kind of investment esp when players like john Bostock can be tempted away on the first day he sign as a professional (good luck to him, hope he does really well at spurs). so what will we spend the transfer fee on? if we want short-term success an import is very attractive. personally, i will support my local club and hoipe that the acadamy continues to roll out locally produced talent, and i can carrying on dreaming about the next "team of the eighties"!!

  • Comment number 25.

    The problem for English football is not that there are too many foreigners, it is simply that English footballers are not brought up correctly as has been said before. In 1982 England had, at best, a mediocre national team, and the number of foreigners in the top English league were next-to-none. England now has a better (albeit still not great) team because the players that were good enough play against top players from around the world week in week out. If we want to see more English players in the Premier League then we need to restructure youth football and perhaps prfessional football as well. There have been many good suggestions already in this blog. I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestions of sizing of pitches/goals to be relevant to the age of the players, and with finally getting Burton up and running. Both of these would be beneficial to young players. There should also be more training in coaches for the youngsters so that they actually get to know the basics of ball control rather than learning how to run about like headless chickens for the duration of a game. Yes, fitness is important, but it is a poor substitute for skill.

    I also think that consideration should be given to Vidicthedestroyers suggestion (#16) that feeder clubs should be allowed.

  • Comment number 26.

    Not all Premier league Football clubs ignore locally nurtured talent. I am fortunate enough (?) to support Everton and over the years a number of very good and 1 exceptional player(s)have been given the opportunity to play for the 1st eleven and may I say not let either Everton or themselves down. Now you might argue prehaps justifiably that this is down to the fact Everton have no money and are not fighting for the premier league or Champions league titles, but regardless of this young players from the academy can cut it in the premier league, as we have shown, provided they get the chance. I worry about the future of the game I love both at a national and Club level when the Nuveaux rich owners eventually tire of their new playthings and look for the next "en vogue" opportunity.

  • Comment number 27.

    What i find interesting as a Scotsman, is that for the best part of the last 5-10 years all we hear about is the "Golden Generation" of english football. Where we are repeatedly exposed to the over hype and over use of superlatives that descibe the english national team and its relative ability to win international events like the world cup and european championships. If youth development in England and the UK as a whole is really that bad, why are we constantly encouraged to beleive that england are "capable" of winning the world cup?

    In reality England has produced 5 or 6 world class individuals in the last 10 years of youth development. Players such as Rooney, Gerard, Beckham, Lampard, Terry. How many does one country with a population of 50million need? Why should england be required to produce more exceptionally gifted talents per individual than any other county?

    Reality is there are frailties in our youth development, but they exist in all the countries held as a template above. Holland, France, Germany. God 5 years ago germany was in a "crisis" after england gubbed them 5-0. How was there youth development working for them then?

    The fact remains if you have the ability in this country and more importantly your mentally attuned properly then you are as likely to realise your potential as in any other country.

    What most people here seem to be encouraging is the development of more mediocre british talent to fill the gaps??? I personally dont care whether the mediocre left back that plays for huddersfield town is english, scottish or ethiopian? and i doubt it realy matters to the supporter of said club either, all that matters is results.

  • Comment number 28.

    Unfortunately, concerns over overseas imports have come too late for football in Scotland, and for the Scottish National Team. Every youngster with football on the brain, wakes up dreaming of playing for "his" team. In his early years, this will be his local side, or a large club within the league structure of domestic football.
    Dreams are soon broken as the youngster realises that while he may progress through school/junior/Sunday league football, the places available for home-grown talent at the higher levels are fewer every year. The result: usually gives up fotball for another sport, or even no sport at all.
    The game in Scotland, and the National side, will take decades to recover, if ever. Please do not let it get any worse in England - After all, your best foreign imports always were the Scots!

  • Comment number 29.

    OK - so I've seen some incredibly interesting and reasoned posts this morning on this thread about English football and the development of English players. I have one question:

    What are WE going to do about it ??

    There are literally hundreds of thousands of football fans up and down the country that would agree with the majority of these posts, so what are WE, the fans, going to do about some of the issues that face OUR game ???

  • Comment number 30.

    Good idea. I agree with your sentiment. Good luck getting the FA blazers to take their noses out of the trough for long enought to listen. Trevor Brooking is an enlightened thinker within the FA itself and he has not been able to change matters sadly.

  • Comment number 31.

    One of the problems with bringing young players through seems to be the increasing wealth in, and globalisation of, the game.

    With the league getting richer more good players join from elsewhere in the world which means that teams have had to raise the bar significantly (most noticeable when Abramovich pumped money into Chelsea).

    This has led to teams being less willing to spend time bringing a player through unless they're good enough to go straight into at least the fringes of the first team squad - in order to compete they need players now and not in a few years (most obvious examples of the effect this can have are Man Utd, who had a couple of bad years when they were rebuilding a squad comprised of a mix of youngsters and older established players. Arsenal began to build a new team from scratch and they're still not ready yet - though it doesn't help that every time they start to look good they lose the core of their team again).

    At the same time top clubs can buy up the majority of the young talent outside the top league. With usually the same clubs achieving success each year these players are attracted to those clubs as being the only place they can fulfil their dreams (nowadays you can only be regarded as a top player if you're playing in the Champions League - there's also a similar process at work here). These players then usually stagnate in the reserves because at 19-20 onwards they need regular first team football to improve and generally they're not getting it. When they do go out on loan it's often to a succession of clubs with varying styles so they never settle, eg; Scott Sinclair.

    There are a few exceptions, and these are the clubs which seem to be producing most of the good young players these days (even if not all of them began their career at those clubs). West Ham, Everton, Middlesbrough, and Southampton have all either produced or played good young players regularly, and Leeds seem to keep losing their under-17's to top clubs.

    Which brings me to my other point. It's rare enough that a club really puts that much emphasis on their academy, so it's particularly frustrating when a club that invests a lot into it loses their best prospects for a pittance - probably barely what they cost to bring through.

    As an example, the other week Leeds were awarded a fee by a tribunal for a player who joined a top club. I forget who and which club but the fee was a few hundred thousand rising to £1.5m with add-ons, such as being capped by England. By comparison if they'd been able to keep him for a few years they could have had his services for a few years and then perhaps sold him for as much as Fabien Delph (£7m) which would obviously be much more if they weren't in the league they are in.

    Academys are only financially viable when it works out as it did with Delph, not with players leaving at 15 or 16 for a pittance. While the tribunal fees often cover the cost of those individual players, as far as the clubs are concerned when good players come through and are sold they need to pay for much more than themselves, as the club invests in many players who don't make it as well. It can be argued that those youngsters will be going to a club with top facilities and coaches and this is of course a great help, but not as important as first team football I think. Even with Arsenal players like Upson and Bentley didn't perform until they'd been sold and got a couple years of regular football under their belts.

    More needs to be done to make it worthwhile for clubs to invest in their academies, along with better coaching techniques and inducements to give these players first team football.

  • Comment number 32.

    Apologies for not posting more responses to your comments earlier but I was horribly bogged down with Olympic stuff yesterday (I'll re-phrase that, as I actually like the Olympics...I was busy).

    Bit late now to contribute much so I'll just say 'thanks' to you all for taking the time to read/comment. Some really good stuff and just to pick out one (it's the one above), I couldn't agree with you more, Hatfield Rover.



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