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Fun is the key to England's football future

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Matt Slater | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

I heard a great quote about football last week: "A coach's moral obligation is to play beautifully whatever the opposition does."

According to the Football Association's coaching education manager, Steve Rutter, Guus Hiddink said that, and even if he didn't, it's the kind of thing we would want a citizen-of-the-world, footie philosopher like the Dutchman to say because we want it to be true. And not just of his teams.

But wanting something to be true is usually a response to knowing that it isn't. How many coaches in this country can honestly say they are going for Guus's Grail as opposed to securing three more points?

If the football I experience most weekends is any guide, not many.

Thankfully, the FA has noticed. It may have its well-documented failings as a vote-winner, financial regulator and property developer, but it has finally identified English football's most fundamental problem: a serious shortage of smiles.

England were humiliated by Germany in the 2010 World Cup finals

England's 2010 World Cup dreams ended in tatters at the hands of arch rivals Germany. Photo: Getty

The misery of England's World Cup campaign in South Africa (and so many other campaigns before) was the culmination of an often joy-free learning pathway for our overplayed but underprepared players.

What starts with the well-meaning but misguided urgings of a competitive dad, continues with prehistoric coaching methods at their first club. By the time a youngster moves into "adult football" at 11, the essential truth of British football is hardwired: it's the winning that matters, not the learning.

While youngsters in other nations are working on their weaker foot, trying (and failing) audacious tricks and playing different positions, our youngsters are pumping the ball forward to the biggest kid on the team.

What's the problem? The under-nines haven't lost for a year.

But fast forward 10 years and many in the team will have drifted out of the game, bored and disillusioned, and the big kid will be struggling to keep his place in a pro academy. He'll have a drawer full of cheap trophies but a terrible first touch.

This is why England's finest (and Northern Ireland's, Scotland's and Wales') are lauded for their courage, determination and effort, but derided for their control, passing and tactical inflexibility. Time and time again the best British players are found out to be honest workers when what is required are skilled technicians.

It was with this in mind that I joined 600 coaches at Wembley last Thursday for the launch of the FA's new grassroots coaching manual, "The Future Game".

You could argue anything that requires a manual - particularly one that weighs as much as a phone directory - cannot be much fun but if we are looking for the Promised Land we should probably bring a guidebook.

Full of illustrated drills, best practice on running a club and the latest thinking on topics such as injury prevention and sports psychology, "The Future Game" is an encyclopedia of good intentions.

But the manual itself isn't really the point. Just as most reference books end up as decoration, the FA's tome is bound to be more admired than read. It's real worth, however, is in the thought processes it represents and in that regard the journey is more important than the destination.

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For a start, this book is a more accessible version of the edition that was published in April. That book was pitched at the country's top 1,000 or so coaches - it was more of a mission statement from Sir Trevor Brooking's football development team at the FA than something AFC Kebab might use for their kickabouts.

But there is a connection. In amongst all the verbiage about four-cornered learning and the merits of guided discovery, you get the sense we finally have a plan: get as many kids playing as possible, teach them the basics (properly), allow them to develop those skills in a relaxed environment, introduce competition gradually and give the England manager the biggest possible pool of fit-for-purpose footballers.

Barcelona don't play beautiful football because they work on it in practice (although they do that too), they play beautiful football because Iniesta, Messi, Xavi and friends learned how to trap a ball and pass it when they were six and were then given the next 10 years to nurture that skill without being screamed at to "Get rid!".

So while the FA is keen to promote its glossy guide (available from the FA Learning site for £30), it is also eager to draw attention to the 7,588 people who became newly qualified coaches in the three months between September and November. That's not to mention the 1,500 or so who gained more advanced coaching qualifications in that period.

I think this progress - and we are only a month or two away from reaching 250,000 qualified football coaches in England - is something the FA can be proud of.

Once the book launch was out of the way, the rest of the day at Wembley was taken up by presentations from senior FA coaches and Q&A sessions with big-name managers, among the latter was Sam Allardyce: he definitely did not see this week's events coming.

To be fair to Big Sam, his talk was engaging and informative. I was pleasantly surprised and it is easy to see why he is so well regarded by many of his peers - he cares about player and coach development and is open to new ideas.

I wish I could say Fabio Capello's session was as interesting but I'll be polite and say much was lost in translation. I don't doubt for one minute that English football could learn much from his experiences in the game but, for whatever reason, it's just not happening.

By far the most interesting speaker, however, was England U17 coach John Peacock. OK, he had a great tale to tell - the story of how the Three Lions won their first age-group title earlier this year since the European U18 victory in 1993 - but it was fascinating to hear the new philosophy spelled out so coherently and then demonstrated with clips of Barca-style "passing through the thirds"...from an England team!

It was beautiful to watch and still fresh in the mind when I went along to the child protection module of my Level One coaching course that evening in Walthamstow. There were 14 of us there that night, on hard plastic chairs in a chilly sports hall bar. But we were hearing exactly the same philosophy as outlined by Allardyce, Brooking and Capello at Wembley that afternoon. Teach them well, keep them safe and keep it fun.

We should, barring serious stage fright, pass our assessments this weekend. Most of us will go no further up the ladder. But it's a start and the future of our game depends on it.

ps Touch wood, I will blog next week about how I became a football coach. If you are interested in joining the tracksuited ranks too, you could do worse than starting at the FA's coach and referee recruitment site.

pps Monday, 20 December: Follow-up blog cancelled due to...erm, seasonal weather. We will try again in the new year, by which time I will be Uefa Pro Licence standard at organising a 20-minute session of "target".

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    We always put the big boy at the back.. that way it could be kicked further up the park!

    Our coaches philosophy " they can't score if the balls in their half "

  • Comment number 2.

    I also attended the future game conference.

    I was slightly concerned that 'coaches' have had to be told and shown in a book how to develop young players; surely a good coach should be aware and already be implementing such drills and strategies and have some knowledge. During the coaching session a few ‘coaches’ used did not have a clue where to move and what the key aims of the session where, this has to be a concern as these same coaches are working with children and instructing them on how to play !

    I am fortunate enough to be a full time coach working at grass root level, thankfully for me, the conference reiterated everything I work on and strive to achieve on a day to day basis.

    A big issue in this country is 'coaches' are often only interested in winning at grass roots level and often for their own benefit not for the young players they have in front of them, hence the big players booting the ball forward for the quick striker to grab a goal.

    Often coaches are not interested in becoming better, they fail to develop their own beliefs and how the game should be played, and run out of ideas when there team come up against a mediocre set of players.

    I do hope this new initiative helps to improves coaching and ultimately the players coaches influence be that from a Sunday morning junior team right through to academy level and beyond.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's always been the same in the UK, from kids football right up the professional ranks. The "get it up the park" brigade are always there.

    Possibly the biggest hinderance in the kids game are some of the parents. If they're not getting stuck into their own kids for a misplaced pass, they're mouthing off at the ref or trying to fight with parents of the opposition players. Great example.

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Matt,

    An interesting article, sadly I couldn't make it to the conference this year, timing isn't great for those of us that work outside of London what with the bad weather and all. Anyhow, I'm keen to see if your experience is similar to mine, I've been writing a blog on the subject of trying to break into the pro game as a non ex pro player.

    Check it out at www.questtocoach.co.uk

    Best of luck

    Chris

  • Comment number 5.

    Recently, the local city-wide federation adopted a mentoring program for new referees, now they are doing the same for coaches.

    A lot of what seems "obvious" isn't. Coaches need to be educated more than their players, most people who give up the game do so because of coaches, not the game itself.

    Particularly youngsters, you really ought to have a clue about child development moreso than football to undertake that role. I can find a half dozen "trainers" who can, with proper supervision, teach skills to kids with a days notice. The trick is the proper supervision.

    The rest of the battle is usually a half dozen or so intimidating parents, of both genders, to keep the rest of the parents in their seats, with their slavering jaws shut, enjoying their children enjoying the game, because the ones that the coaches don't drive away, the parents do!

  • Comment number 6.

    Matt,

    good piece and something I'm always conscious of as a Scotland supporter. Results first, everything else second.
    I could be wrong (I'm sure someone will let me know if I am!) - but isn't it in Holland that they don't play full 11-a-side until a certain age with more of emphasis on smaller sided games - so that the players can get more touches thus developing their technical side to a far greater degree?
    Population of 6m and a several world class players speaks for itself doesn't it?

  • Comment number 7.

    Matt, I'm glad you mentioned Sam Allardyce in this blog- the personal abuse he gets sometimes is just ignorant. People criticise the way his teams play but they forget that he brought flair players like Youri Djorkaeff, Nicolas Anelka and Jay Jay Okocha to Bolton and established them as a Premier League club. There are those that try to paint him as a basic, British long ball meat and potatoes manager when he's much more progressive than that. I also suspect that many of those people are bitter Big Four club fans who have found a trip to Bolton or Blackburn a tougher game they they expected. His sacking at Rovers this week was deeply unfair and illogical. I'm delighted that when journalists like you attend these conferences they discover that Sam Allardyce is a deeper thinker about the game than some of your peers choose to paint him as, thus influencing some fans' negative opinions of him.

  • Comment number 8.

    Totally agree Matt - football at kids level should always be primarily about fun. The way the parents treat I'm certain 99% of them are sure little Johnny will make the national team given the intensity and verosity of their sideline banter. I also agree with previous comments about every youth side sticking the big boy at the back and the constant shouts of 'get rid' - as if the football's a hot potato or incendiary device.

    You can tell a decent player from an early age by spotting the kids who don't seem so hurried, are still hold on to the ball and show patience.

    One ot two downsides to the F.A's calls for the more technical approach are one - the dire state of most pitches amateur football is played on in this country. In the Winter sometimes the best youngsters can do is to dig it out and go for yardage. Secondly the parents often shout and jump up and down on the sidelines just to keep warm ;) In Spain they're naturally more laid back, whilst in Italy it's all hand gestures.

  • Comment number 9.

    Couldn't agree more. I'm only 21 now, so it was just a few years ago that I grew too old for the kids' game, but I'd already given up on it by then. Our village had two teams, but then the better one folded and most of them joined our side. Our manager then started picking all of them instead of the guys like me who played football for fun, and ruined the whole thing. Sure, we won games, but my friends and I only played about ten minutes of those games. It was rubbish.

    As to the point about parents: our manager was actually the father of one of the guys from the better team, so make what you will of that. Either way, the pursuit of victory at any cost utterly stripped the game of any enjoyment.

  • Comment number 10.

    Sam Allardyce was there was he sharing his wisdom? That must have lasted all of 10 seconds!

  • Comment number 11.

    "Keep them safe". From what?

  • Comment number 12.

    Great article Matt. I agree that the progression from the youth game to 'mens' football is a stage where a lot of young players are lost from the game. Hopefully the development of more trained coaches within the FA will help. But I do feel there is only so much you can learn from a manual, a lot of it is about man management and creating a team atmosphere where the players want to be.

    Check out my article on the happenings at FIFA and the English reaction:

    http://upper90magazine.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/will-fifa-change-because-of-the-english-reaction-4/

  • Comment number 13.

    The first thing the FA need to do is to sack themselves!

    Remember the promised 'root and branch' reforms? Whatever happened to them? They didnt even tidy up a few dead leaves!





  • Comment number 14.

    I'm not sure it was Guus Hiddink who said it, I seem to recall it was a certain Mr. Cruyff. It is definitely part of Dutch football philosophy though. (doesn't lead to more attractive games mind!)

  • Comment number 15.

    I'd like to think that had I had this more nurturing style of football coaching as a young child I'd now be streaking up and down the wing at Old Trafford, instead of playing Fifa 11 in my underwear

  • Comment number 16.

    Cheers Matt, look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Level 1 qualification.

    I also highly recommend the FA Youth Award which expands on the ideas in The Future Game in a much more meaningful way - it gives you plenty of practical ideas you can use in your own coaching sessions.

    You might also enjoy this interview with Peter Glynn, one of the FA's coach educators who contributed to the writing of the Future Game http://betterfootball.net/soccer-coaching/fa-coach-peter-glynn-age-appropriate-practice/"

  • Comment number 17.

  • Comment number 18.

    Perhaps if the FA stopped making expensive and futile bids for the world cup,they would have the money to put that smile back on a lot of young players and get them playing with more style.

  • Comment number 19.

    Going in the right direction, on the face of it.

    Fun should be at the heart of any sport, because it's the best way of getting people to spend the hours they need to become any good, or just to have a game they can spend years enjoying.

    The key to getting better national team players is that, but it's also getting players to develop their skills young. The truth, which isn't always comforting, is that just like violin players, other things being equal, the kid who plays a lot very young will be better than the one who starts a few years later. It's so important to build development around something to maximize potential.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry Matt - whilst I agree with the idea about football being fun and playing with a smile on your face etc we 'old timers' have heard it all before many times, especially after England have failed at the WC (either winning it, or even hosting it).
    These 'new dawns' never happen (manual or no manual) because the FA is now the 'Kiss of Death' to any initiative in football in this country, anything sponsored by them will fail. Why? Because its a closed shop, 'old boy' network, or if you prefer its expecting 'Turkeys to vote for Christmas' and that they never do!

  • Comment number 21.

    The game has been discussing this for over a decade and still nothing has happened and looks as likely to as ever.

    And let's not forget Sam Allardyce, the biggest hypocrite of the show, lecturing people on the necessity of youth while prolonging a mediocre vision of football on the back of a string of ancient has-beens.

  • Comment number 22.

    The administrators of football blunder from pillar to post, it's completely relentless, now they want fun, and why not ? This is how we make football fun. We get rid of the cheat culture, increase the bans for yellow card accumulation, get rid of the pro fouls, teach the players to respect each other and not leave their foot in, instill some integrity and professionalism. We get rid of the complete and utter weekly farce of injustice which leaves us all angry, dispirited and catastrophically cheated, we do this by introducing two video appeals per team per game, introduce transparent time keeping procedures with an independent time keeper. Respect the Referee's integrity. We'll all enjoy the game much more and it'll be an absolute joy to watch, the skill levels and flow of the game will excel all expectations. To have fun requires certain psychological parameters to be in place, without them you can't have fun ?

  • Comment number 23.

    As someone who grew up learning football (soccer) here in America, it always shocks me when I get the chance to see my young cousins playing back in the UK. It really shows the disparity in coaching methods and organisation between countries. British coaches really need to start embracing these types of instruction at the lowest levels if we expect to see any tangible difference in national teams.

  • Comment number 24.

    I have coached my own 4 (now 14-20 yrs old) and about 125 other boys and girls as they have moved through their ranks of recreational, youth (travel) and semi-elite competitive soccer. It has been very educational for them and for me.

    The "style" (or lack thereof) that has afflicted English youth development until now is almost identical to what we have seen week in and week out -- both in the youth and high school ranks here in the US. Most coaches don’t realize that they are doing their kids a disservice by having them focus on scoring goals and the final score line.

    With the help of some very good professional (and yes, English) trainers, I have tried to stem the tide with those I have been able to reach and influence. It is what you would expect.

    Those that have listened and worked hard to understand the why and how of their "first touch" and technical skills are turning out to be the better and more complete players -- right into their high school careers. Where any of them go from there is unimportant. What is important is that it engenders a deeper appreciation of the game, whether they are participating or spectating.

    And these lessons will hopefully echo into their involvement with future generations of soccer players.

  • Comment number 25.

    Whilst the FA promote success of 250,000 coaches 200,000 are dads/moms who have been pushed to get basic coach badge to run one of the 38,000 clubs that their kid plays for - positive play and enjoyment with ball at feet is what mourinho quotes youngsters to do and coaches guide bad habits into good and not win at all costs - FA never inform of failure of basic course as you cant fail. Too many coaches have natual talented players but dont know how to guide other than upto big player they see on tv - let the youngsters have a ball and let them express themselves. Question to 250,000 coaches - how many of you do warm up & how much time in that warm up the players have a ball at their feet? 250,000 now thinking - 200,000 thinking how does a run round the pitch or touching toes benefits ball control??

  • Comment number 26.

    The FA laid out mini-soccer, made it mandatory and then arrogantly never re-visited the game, presumably because as they implemented it there must not be any problems.

    Perhaps it is that same arrogance that managed to achieve just one or two votes, depending on whether our man voted for us, from world football for their world cup bid. The only reason we got the second vote was so the six that promised us could say "that was me".

  • Comment number 27.

    I don't think there is a lack of talent in England, I think the problem is the National team doesn't have a successful syste.

    Have a read of....Does England Lack Talent?

    http://upper90magazine.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/does-england-lack-talent/

  • Comment number 28.

    @ #11 To answer your question ... from the likes of #10 wo will ruin them and their enjoyment of the game before they trn 7.
    @ # 10 It was you ..... and others like you (your username has a "1" on the end ... heaven forbid there are more) that #7 mentioned at the end of his comment.

    @ Matt .... great article.

  • Comment number 29.

    This reminds me of where the post-World Cup debates went. The fact is that the "results at all costs" approach does work to an extent...at all levels up to the Premiership. Hence why most coaches assume nothing is broke and as "results at all cost" is easier to understand and implement...that's what they do.

    Another fact is that we see football as a physical "man's" game, playing less physically is seen as virtually playing one legged. The continentals don't have this attitude.

    As far as my kid cousins are concerned, well some of them embarace the continental attitude and others on a trip to Spain with their school team wondered what the ref was on about when he said "no slide tackling".

    Not every kid is interested in developing technique, let alone coaches teaching it. It'll be interesting to see how this scheme plays out.

  • Comment number 30.

    Matt,
    When i first read your blog could have sworn you were also speaking to coaches and parents over here in America.
    I live in Florida and have loved football since I first saw it played in 1972. My "mistress", as my wife refers to the all the matches i record, is a focal point in our family's life from the beginning.
    both my son and daughter have played the game since they could walk and enjoyed to different extents. Both started on rec teams at church at ages 5 & 4 while i volunteered to coach and referee. (What is the saying about the blind leading the blind).
    Coaches most certainly need help to start. just playing doesn't give you the skills to teach and train or to know what to teach at what age.
    knowing the psychological development of children is critical to what is taught and how it's taught.
    Any way the key was on fun and beginning the love affair with the beautiful game.
    I so enjoyed teaching these 4&5 year olds the sport and watching their improvement over the years.
    The training was disguised as games and activities and they had a blast. First touch and dribbling were easy to learn when they were fun activities. However when the matches came they some how remembered and took to it. And i reminded my parents why we were all there.....their uniquely individual children. To that end, when the season closed i always held a party.
    I would give each player a different candy bar that reminded me of them and told them why. the kids loved it and so did the parents. to think that is over 20 yrs ago and i consider that to be the highlight of my football career.

    As for my two: My son now 17 took a break from team football from age 9 to 13 to play baseball as a catcher. I wondered would he return to the game but was determined to let him decide what he wanted to do. On afternoon a friend from school invited him to watch his Club team play a match in a local tournament. as we walked to the field, his friend turned and asked, "Have you ever played before? our keeper broke his leg and is out for the year. It's just like playing catcher without the gear." My son replied,"Sure I've played. I'll give it a go." So began the re-acquaintance to the game. He's now the starting keeper at his high school and on his club teams and wants to play in Europe before it's all over. i told him go for it.

    As for my daughter, she too started young and asked to play competitive team football at age 8 while in North Carolina. Saying the rec ball wasn't that fun anymore. She took to it right off and was starter from the first day. Our move to Florida brought about new teams and a new attitude about the game. the talk was about team and individual development but for the parents we learned early it was always about winning and their child playing at any cost. At age 12, while playing for her a coach who recruited her 2 years earlier suddenly told her she might as well stop playing because she was as good as she was ever going to be. He released her from the team in mid tournament. she was devastated and didn't understand why Coach would say and do such a mean thing. half her team refused to play the next match as a show of support for her.
    She did not touch a ball for months but played one more year until in tryouts she was left off her team when a package deal was struck by the parents of the "star" player. She never played competitively again. done with the game she loved at age 13.
    The best part is she has developed her voice and now is a singer and actress. New York and London are her goals. we still snuggle up to watch the EPL on Saturdays and i dream of her on the field as only a dad can.

    all that to say, let the kids have fun and support them.
    give the coaches the training and tools need so they can do a good job.
    and parents, sit back and cheer (not coach) from the touchline.

  • Comment number 31.

    Interesting article, with a son turning two tomorrow. I am one of the prospective Dads who could end up coaching. But without a framework and ideas then what else can you do but play games and aim to win. It strikes me the FA are two very different beasts, Professional Game very poor Amatuer Game much better.

    The irony of it all is Mr A. Carroll who gets, for want of a better term, a promotion whilst on bail for attacking his (ex)girlfriend. The message the FA sent out was none other than 'you can do what you want as long as you score'. What other organisation would not see domestic abuse as a barrier to success?

    It was reported around the world cup time that 3 England players have super injunctions around them. Most football followers that I know have heard the rumours of one of them but again it smacks of 'morality no, results yes'.

  • Comment number 32.

    Lets be honest soccer has died as an entertainment. The skill level of the game now is just kick and rush. Blatter has lowered the standerd of soccer to the lowest possable in order tospread the game. He has gone dor quantity not quality its not a game worth supporting or watching anymore. Soccer stuck in the stoneage.

  • Comment number 33.

    The FA needs to have a quick look at its own academy system, the "friendly" matches at the weekend are the, be all, and end all, for the "qualified" coaches. Which invariably means big athletic lads, and a panic attack if a kid dares to try a couple of skills on the ball, in case the team loses possession. In a system were keeping your academy job relies on the result at the weekend, how much encouragement for trying new things and basic skills do you think there is? Some academy coaches have all the badges and are excellent in running lots of different ‘drills’. Well done! But how many are teaching the kids any technique? The main coaching seems to be to shout ‘faster’, ‘quicker’ etc.

    Imagine a scenario, kid A, gets an academy trial; he’s a small technical player. Although the academy can sign up to 30 lads, they only want 16 or 17 signed players because if they don’t give players enough games they can up and leave, without the club getting any compensation. Player A is very good technically and competitively in the trial, but there’s a big problem! The team already has two small players and although player A is told by the coach he is as good as them, they can’t accommodate another small player in the squad as they couldn’t play them all in matches??? I’m sure Barcelona have similar policies.

    Any kid who has developed early and has an athletic edge is quickly picked up by the academy regardless of technique. Some academies have a huge team; a quick look at the parents at the sidelines tells a different story. Look along the line and you’ll see an average sized bunch. Kid B is big for his age and athletic, he gets trained as an academy centre back, all his training focuses on this. A quick glance at his dad shows a below average height adult. Poor kids never going to be a centre back. Do you think the academy coach is bothered? No, because right now his team is winning every game at the weekend.

    I’m all for a mix, some athletes, some big, some small but mainly everyone with good technique. Train a large bunch of lads 25 to 30 kids, train them all every week with the freedom to try things and instilling good technique and maybe 1 or 2 will be world class. Or stay as we are, train 15 lads to win a match in 1 particular position and when the big lads lost a bit of his height advantage let him go and poach the new big lad from your nearest rival academy.

  • Comment number 34.

    Sadly, as much as I would like it to, I can't see this having much influence on the game at grass-roots level. It only takes one team to play the "Long Ball" method and all the physicality that comes with it to get each team they play to counteract it by doing the sane thing. I have experienced this first hand as a keen, but small U14. My Height on it's own is not the issue, but 95% Of my team have a similar problem. We get muscled out of games easily and therefore get hammered nearly every week. We did manage to draw a team of similar stature to us in the cup, and were able to use the skill we do have to beat them 10-2 (scores like this are actually quite common due to the difference in quality and brute strength, however we are usually on the wrong end of them!). It's not nice losing every week and if everyone endorsed the "future game" maybe our style would pay off. I just can't see it happening though.

  • Comment number 35.

    At present the academy system really doesn't help youth development. The Fa could do worse than taking a look at the way they run Rugby League in Australia. Over there, the big clubs (particularly in New South Wales) are responsible for the juniorb rugby in their area. This could give football clubs a real incentive to develop the local clubs so that all players and coaches are encouraged to develop their potential. At present, if you haven't made it by nine you're seriuosly playing catch up. Get a system where the local teams have a stake in the success of their "pro club" and the "pro club" has a stake in the success of local teams and we could really be onto something. No more kids being transported to and from training for several hours as week, competitive local leagues rather than the big local clubs getting the best talent (from the pushiest parents). All the talented kids would be on the clubs' radar, you could have coaching clinics every half term - rather than charging for a fracnhised coaching camp. No-one would get missed and everyone would share in success. I won't hold my breath.

  • Comment number 36.

    I totally agree. Until we shed the current mentality that praises victory over pleasure, physicality over skill and size over brains we will never be successful in the international game.

    http://www.inofftheghost.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 37.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel - just ask around for which clubs send their coaches to the new FA Youth modules, watch their practice to see that sessions are built around directly recognisable in game techniques with high ball time and that they ASK the kids what they learnt.
    Anywhere you see queuing up to kick a ball followed by a mass kick n rush, training once playing twice, the kids being TOLD what they learnt; walk away and spend your kids football subs somewhere better.

    The good clubs & coaches are out there and the sooner everyone demands the right training the sooner the bad old ways will disappear.

  • Comment number 38.

    I've coaches jnrs in Australia for 6 years now and one of the biggest problems can be the parents - They want to see their kids win every week.
    Last season I took over a team of 9s when the coach walked out as he believed the club hadn't given sufficient recognition for his efforts in previous seasons i.e. No trophy 'cos his U6s were undefeated etc.
    At the 1st game I was met by an enthusiastic parent who informed me the position that each child played in! This is a 7-a-side game on a postage stamp of a pitch for 9 year olds and this previous coach had kids from 6 years old playing as a defender, midfielder or attacker every week.
    It took me a few games to change this 'philosophy' and some of the parents weren't initially happy as the kids lost some games, but by the end they could see progression as all the players were scoring goals, passing the ball, trying a trick and generally being an active part of the game rather than a supporting role to the better players.
    Next year I'm letting a 14 year old from the local High School Football Academy coach these kids and hopefully getting a parent to take them on matchday. Hopefully they're all starting to understand that as long as the coaching sessions are well run and the players are improving winning or losing matches isn't the main focus. Then again they might all jump ship and go back to 'the winning coach'.

  • Comment number 39.

    Mr Slater, NOTHING can be imposed on any one when the stakes are so high and 3 League Points are everything. A 'Beautiful Loser' is NEVER REMEMBERED!

    If the English FA truly want to push English Football into an untouchable orbit, stop the talk and act! We can put in the SMARTEST INCENTIVE possible and watch Football EVOLVE GLOBALLY!

    * 0 Points for BOTH Clubs in a NO SCORE DRAW

    * 1 Point for BOTH Clubs in a SCORE DRAW, Plus
    * 0.5 Points for the Club SCORING THE FIRST GOAL!

    * 3 Points for a WINNING CLUB, Plus
    * 0.5 Points for the Club SCORING THE FIRST GOAL!

    - Yes Winning Clubs can earn 3.5 or 3.0 Points, and
    - Yes Losing Clubs can earn 0.0 or 0.5 Points, and
    - Yes Clubs in a SCORE DRAW will earn 1.5 and 1.0 Points!

    Football now has a Game with a SERIOUS OBJECTIVE and 'Beautiful Attacking Football' has been 'forced' on our Sport ....... THE SMART WAY!

    I can - but will not - list a million BENEFITS and ADVANTAGES for Football, the Global Game, our Supporters, Television Audiences, our Advertisers and Sponsors, Partners, Suppliers, associated Businesses and Industry but you will not have the time to read them!

  • Comment number 40.

    So the FA produce another superb top secret document that will be distributed to the 'grass roots' in the autumn. How about making it a freely available public document so that all coaches, professional or just school teachers and casuals can get started right away?

    How many kids actually learn at an academy or with a professional coach? Most I'm aware of get taught by their dad and then by somebody equally unqualified at their school or cubs/social clubs, etc.

    Make the guide freely available, and let's see if the real grass roots can make a difference.

  • Comment number 41.

    The counter-argument is why do so many players 'dive' in other leagues outside Britain?

    Surely professional coniving is an indicator of players wanting to win more than they want to play the "beautiful game".

    No matter what league you are playing in, everyone wants to win. It's a primal instinct. Any argument that says otherwise should not be an excuse from the FA for England's failings.

    The FA can analyse until the cows come home but ultimately, the top pool of English players are just not good enough to cut the mustard against other nations. Let fate decide if the next generation of footballers will be up to scratch and please God, make sure that the British Media stay well away of them.

  • Comment number 42.

    Lots of interesting comments hear, sorry if this has already been mentioned but Futsal is the future, smaller heavier balls which so-say improve the technical ability of younger players, also brazilian soccer schools are also great fun for kids.

    Ask a 6 yr old to do laps of a pitch and he or she will lose interest, ask a 6yr old to do a Robinho step over or the Ronaldo chop and they will do it over and over even going home and practice in the garden, this is the sor of thing we should be teaching kids.

  • Comment number 43.

    If we're talking about the future generation then you have to expect there will be a time delay before we see the results. Probably about 10 to 15 years delay. Sadly, people in Britain, not just the media, will see national sides failing over that time and keep on shouting that "it's not working".

    You can't implement something at grass roots and expect to see results the next year. That's like planting a foot high tree in the garden and expecting it to be 6 foot the following morning.

    There must be a change in mindset which is what I believe the efforts are with this new guide. There then needs to be dedication, persistence and a lot of patience to nurture this in to successful British footballers.

  • Comment number 44.

    Good column, Matt.

    #11 - sadly, there a group of people who take advantage of trusting younger children in their care. This is just one aspect of "safety". The more obvious aspect being limiting injuries, as well, I should think.

    #39 - you seem to have fallen into the trap of believing that every 0-0 draw is a tedious non-event, when there are examples of fantastic, end-to-end matches capped by two goalkeepers playing the games of their lives or the strikers just having "one of those days". You sound like you are a hair's-breadth away from introducing a basketball-style "shot clock" or a handball-style "passivity" ruling.

    #41 - you ask an interesting question. Is "beautiful" football played in part because players fall over at the first sign of a challenge, winning a free kick and guaranteeing that they retain possession? How can this realistically be policed when a foul is determined (in effect) solely by the referee? Another case for retrospective video evidence?

  • Comment number 45.

    Let kids play football for the fun of it. All this coaching at young age takes the fun away from it when they get older, as the kids with skills who are continually sidelined for not being big&tall become dis-enticed from playing the game, and England gets left with players who just think the game is a size-matters all game, especially when you have the likes of Sam Allardyce as coach. Coaching should only start coming into the game from age 13 at the earliest, as at this age kids are beginning to have a bit of an idea of their strengths and weaknesses. The likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Messi, Robinho, Zinedine Zidan, Ronaldo, i bet did not have coaches between the ages of 5-11 when playing football on the sand beaches and street corners close to their homes when growing up. Their skills developed from having fun playing with their peers in the playground with no parents and coaches hanging around howling out worthless instructions.

    let kids be kids and natural skills will be developed. The kids themselves will know who are the better players within themselves as they certainly don't judge each other according to size (some parents and most coaches do and this is where we get it wrong in this country)
    Clubs should only be allowed to watch kids between the ages of 11 -13, and also should only be able to scout them after the age of 13, and have them formally in their clubs from the age of 15. In this way, kids going into the professional game, will going into it knowing the are their to blossom and improve the skills they had developed by themselves, which they will be doing with joy.

    There is so much emphasis about manuals in this country, from health & safety and now to football coaching? Wow, the likes of SAF Wenger, Mourinho, Rafa, Cappello, Lippi, Bobby Robson (R.I.P), would have lost out a great deal, not having a coaching manual to teach them how to coach !!!!!! The FA are just a group of poor comedians, who have fallen for the idiosyncrasies of society, where they seek all sorts of 'consultants' who come up with ideas for the sake of getting money to pay a mortgage. Where is this going to stop, maybe at some stage in future generations, mums-to-be will be provided a manual to read if they want their babies to be future pro-footballers..how about that.

    Peace

  • Comment number 46.

    a couple years back i went to watch my cousin play a match in the Portuguese little leagues. They were outclassed 4-1. I thought he would be really depressed. he wasn't as he went past his marker time and time again, did 4 tricks in the middle of the park and the assisst for their goal. 'Get rid' really is a foreign concept over here... can you imagine telling a 10 year old ronaldo, figo, r costa, futre etc to get rid at the age of 10??? at a young age what is important is the number of tricks you know, not how many boring 1-0 wins you have... great article! even worse is that normally as a joke, the less skillful defender that hoofs the ball in whichever direction he is facing is taunted and nicknamed 'Inglês' (English) there is another theory that I find a bit more far-fetched: in england all kids have grass available to play on, while in Brazil, Portugal... kids play on the streets, on gravel, on the beaches where controling a ball is harder, which makes controlling a ball on grass very easy and something they are predisposed to more, explaining the more skillful approach to the game in general.

  • Comment number 47.

    Interesting to read comments regarding Academies. My son is in his third year at a League One Centre of Excellence and has, from day one been encouraged to express himself and to push his skills and to make mistakes that he can learn from. He has played in every position on the pitch bar goalkeeper and the emphasis from any area has been to see how he can "play", that is to say, not just hoof it about. The goalkeepers are actively dissuaded from kicking the ball from hand and full backs are expected to be able to play when they receive the ball whether under pressure or not.
    The players are asked how they can improve and how they can learn rather than told.
    While the coaches regard the Sunday matches as being more important to the kids and the parents and the training sessions are for the Club, the results on the Sunday are plain to see in the skilful and intelligent football on show.
    However I have also been involved with coaching local league football and have transferred some of these lessons; my experience is that the players at that level are never more happy than when they have won on a Sunday, however that result was actually achieved. Those that are not technically gifted are quick to try and give up on the teckkers; they are keen to be involved in the team but have no more footballing ambition than to play a game once a week with their mates. Their "fun" and the FA's are not necessarily aligned.

  • Comment number 48.

    The problem the FA have is that as well as these bottom-up changes to coaching of youngsters, there is a need to change the game (with the help of FIFA and UEFA) from the top down - the professional game sets such a bad example with its 'win at all costs' attitude. I'm not just meaning the style of play, as after all Barcelona, Man U, Arsenal etc are capable of playing brilliant, technical and very effective football without resorting to long ball tactics, but there is also the attitude towards the officials:
    1) Complaining about every foul given against you
    2) Diving, simulation, going down for 'soft' free kicks i.e. playing the ref as much as playing the game.

    Football fans see this week in, week out. This includes the kids who aspire to be like Cristiano Ronaldo (as one of any number of examples) - great player with the ball at his feet, and does some magical things but then will also throw himself to the floor from the slightest contact, and frequently tries to 'buy' free kicks for tactical advantage. Our kids should be being taught to do the good stuff (dribbling with skill and pace, passing accurately, taking up good positions and scoring great goals), but to not mimic the bad stuff.

    One thing that could be introduced would be that in junior football, each team should be selected by drawing lots for the position of each player, with the referee allowed to judge whether each team is following the spirit of this - the idea is to give youngsters the opportunity to play in all the positions over the course of a few weeks, and so all learn to understand the techniques and movement required in different parts of the pitch.

  • Comment number 49.

    >Surely professional coniving is an indicator of players wanting to win more than they want to play the "beautiful game".


    Interesting point and it's one that came up during the World Cup debates. Someone claimed that the only reason Arjen Robben dived so much when he was at Chelsea was that he was genuinely scared that a hard tackle could compromise his fitness and endanger his career and so dived to avoid them(also supposedly why he left the Premiership).

    It was the first time I'd heard that idea but it might explain the motives of a lot of divers - self preservation/cowardice. Football isn't seen as a physical game on the continent and for some, maybe that's the way the avoid having to live with a more physical approach.

  • Comment number 50.

    It's all very well saying that a player should play in every position, but for every local league player that is happy to try it, there is another who feels uncomfortable playing "out of position" and it becomes "no fun". I'm sure every coach has had a dad or a player complain that he is not being played in his best position and is "fed up taking one for the team".
    As soon as you ask a player to do something that they are not comfortable with it ceases to be a fun thing to do. Some will suck it up, others will not.
    It just adds up to the feeling that there simply is not a one-size-fits-all manual for coaching kids - each kid will have different goals and therefore different ideas as to what makes football fun for them.
    How you reconcile these goals in the group that you coach is the challenge, and that challenge is harder the more diverse the talent in the group - there's an arguement that while the pressure on Academy coaches may be more acute, the actual job is simpler than for a village coach with both gifted and not-so gifted players in the squad.
    If you succeed then you will have the outcome the FA apparently now desires - smiling players; what you won't necessarily have is a production line of England World Cup winners.

  • Comment number 51.

    Comment 45 has nailed it. The last thing young English players need is more 'coaching'. Give them the ball and let them have fun! Don't even think of coaching them until they are in their teens. 15-20 years ago when I was playing in park football as a kid, we didn't care about facilities, or winning at all costs! We just had a football and passed and ran with it and had FUN! One great goal was worth a 100 Sam Allardyce coached and approved long ball bundled goals. It was only when we all started to play for teams (Schools, Men’s teams) that the fun was taken away and the win at all cost, hoof it, and negative football started.

    Natural talent can't be coached it is either there or not. There is plenty of time to coach players when they are in their late teens, let them develop in their own way and you might just see some flair English players, rather than the identikit tall, fast, strong lumps that we have now.

  • Comment number 52.

    Seriously?

    All the problems currently in the game, and the conclusion arrived at is that the biggest amongst them is a lack of "fun"?

    Simplifying the entire problem with English football into claiming every under-9 team is compulsively and methodically drilled with long ball tactics is not just misleading, its also completely inaccurate. Sure it exists. Sure it's quite common. However, it isn't even close to being universal.

    The real problem is in two parts. First, not enough football is played. Fewer and fewer pitches seem to be available. More and more grassy areas get sterilised with big signs ordering "No Ball Games!". Fewer and fewer schools offer extra curricular coaching. Sadly this is only going to get worse thanks to the government's huge cuts in this area.

    The second problem is the quality of coaching. At grass roots level it is often shocking. Most local teams in my area didn't even have trained coaches. They had the dad who was most willing to give up his time to help out. For about two years my team all pitched in to hire a proper coach to help us, but many players were already old enough to be unwilling to listen to his ideas. After a while, the cost was too great and we went back to being "trained" by someone's dad again.

    People can whine about manuals and coaching badges as much as they like. The argument that Sir Alex Ferguson never needed one is a toothless one. Great natural managers and coaches are exceedingly rare. There are not thousands of them lounging around waiting to train every young kid who wants to kick a football. We need more coaches, and for that to happen more aspiring coaches need to be taught the basics. They need to know how to set up drills to improve a team's first touch, or the best way to develop stamina and fitness at different ages. The idea that England will produce world beaters simply by throwing kids out into the street with a football and letting them "have fun" is nothing short of delusional.

  • Comment number 53.

    Kids football is taken far too seriously.
    I saw a game eleven years ago, where the six year old goalkeeper made a fine save, he clutched the ball and made the huge mistake of stepping back over the goal-line. The referee (dressed in black) awarded a goal.
    The kid was distraught. Hero to zero!
    Now, wouldn't it have been better if the ref' just had a word with him?

    I had a word with the ref'. He threatened to report me to the authorities.
    That boy, my son, never played competitive football again.

  • Comment number 54.

    Great article and encouragaging to hear. One thing that still baffles me however is that the virtues of the five-a-side game of futsal never seem to come up in these discussions. I live and regularly play football in Madrid and seven aside and futsal to a greater extent are the dominant forms of football played through all age categories at amateur level. Every district of the city is teeming with futsal pitches. I cannot speak highly enough of this version of football played with a smaller and heavier ball with less bounce on a pitch with with narrow, tall goalposts and a boundary unlike English walled fived-a-side pitches which encourage hell for leather hoofing the ball around much like our eleven-a-side culture does. Spanish children grow up primarily playing futsal and are gradually weaned onto seven and eleven-a-side while continuing to play futsal throughout. Futsal encourages and necessitates real technique; close control, quick feet, sharp vision and 'tiki-taka' one touch triangles and movement. We send out our children for competitive games on bogged-down muddy full sized eleven-a side pitches with absurdly massive distances and goalposts for people who haven't fully developed. It is utterly farcical. With that amount of time on the ball and space to cover of course close control, touch and overall technique will suffer and the long ball game thrive. Until we realise the virtues of futsal and understand the fundamental role that this game plays in countries such as Brazil and Spain and adopt it as part of this attempt to overhaul our grassroots culture, we will continue to lag behind.

  • Comment number 55.

    Kids football is taken far too seriously.
    I saw a game eleven years ago, where the six year old goalkeeper made a fine save, he clutched the ball and made the huge mistake of stepping back over the goal-line. The referee (dressed in black) awarded a goal.
    The kid was distraught. Hero to zero!
    Now, wouldn't it have been better if the ref' just had a word with him?

    I had a word with the ref'. He threatened to report me to the authorities.
    That boy - my son - never played competitive football in that country (USA) again.
    Rules is rules!

  • Comment number 56.

    Sorry for the repost, the system was playing up!

  • Comment number 57.

    "51. At 11:59am on 16th Dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:
    Natural talent can't be coached it is either there or not. There is plenty of time to coach players when they are in their late teens, let them develop in their own way and you might just see some flair English players, rather than the identikit tall, fast, strong lumps that we have now."
    --------------------------------------------------------------

    How right you are.

  • Comment number 58.

    #51 and #57 - whilst I agree that natural talent cannot be coached, I feel you have missed the point (or haven't registered the point that I am about to make).

    A skilled coach can identify the limits of any given player's talents and help them develop to the best of that player's abilities. It may be a vision, right or wrong, to develop a National squad full of players with skill, patience and whatever other characteristics are required to play the talented style but it is unreasonable to think that every player can be developed in this way. Therefore, for every 1 "Iniesta" (for example), a coach will be developing 49 (or so) other grade of footballers, too. Teams do need the water-carrier type player, too and many more of them than the Messi or Ronaldo (or whomever) type.

    Given that there are 92 professional teams in England (too many, perhaps) there is a (minimum) requirement for 1000 footballers to keep those teams active. If we (naively and equally impractically) aim that ALL of these are English, then the National squad will be picking the best 30 out of this. It would seem unlikely that Cambridge United's midfield dynamo will be doing stretching exercises at Burton with Theo Walcott anytime soon, but, ultimately, why not?

    I would suggest that attempting to coach a hitherto uncoached 16 year old is too late to take that player to elite level. Players do need guidance and direction to their own understanding to take them up to the peak. That they are coached does not imply that this cannot be fun.

  • Comment number 59.

    58. At 14:16pm on 16th Dec 2010, Titanicus wrote:

    I would suggest that attempting to coach a hitherto uncoached 16 year old is too late to take that player to elite level. Players do need guidance and direction to their own understanding to take them up to the peak. That they are coached does not imply that this cannot be fun

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    I can see your point, but whilst I can understand that some coaching is required when a player starts to reach the age where they are entering the professional game, I would strongly disagree that they need or require it at an earlier age. Look at the South American or African players (most of whom are technically gifted) how many of them were 'coached' at a young age?

  • Comment number 60.

    59. At 14:54em on 16th dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:

    ... Look at the South American or African players (most of whom are technically gifted) how many of them were 'coached' at a young age?

    ---

    I cannot directly answer that question as not only do I not know but I'm not sure how I would even find out. I think we may be approaching this from two different angles.

    I think the discipline side of the game - by that I mean (a) working as a team, (b) understanding the tracking of players when defending, (c) understanding the concept of space, how to use it and how to defend it, et al - does need to be coached at a younger age than "entering the professional game" because I think that later than that and those players have missed the boat in this idea and will be playing catch up to those who have developed those ideas already. I have no way to prove this, of course so we may have to agree to disagree.

    Being able to perform keepy-ups, step-overs, round-the-worlds or trap a ball moving at any pace at almost any height is an impressive skill but next to worthless if you cannot integrate that skill into a team environment, when required. That is not to say that they are worthless skills in their own right as they can form cornerstones of the game.

    I agree that technical gifts should be freely encouraged and then harnessed into the game. I believe that a skilled coach can do this.

  • Comment number 61.

    I agree that coaches need to first and foremost ensure young kids enjoy the game. When I coached a young team I considered a week successful if the kids came back the following week. However, as they get older things change. I then moved on to trying to make the kids technically good, and I was not concerned with the results. I looked on my role as developing young players. Unfortunately, if kids are not winning they will tend to either give up or move to a club where they can win something. I am proud to say that the group I coached have now left school and the majority are still playing.

  • Comment number 62.

    60. At 15:24pm on 16th Dec 2010, Titanicus wrote:
    59. At 14:54em on 16th dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:

    ... Look at the South American or African players (most of whom are technically gifted) how many of them were 'coached' at a young age?

    ---

    I cannot directly answer that question as not only do I not know but I'm not sure how I would even find out. I think we may be approaching this from two different angles.

    I think the discipline side of the game - by that I mean (a) working as a team, (b) understanding the tracking of players when defending, (c) understanding the concept of space, how to use it and how to defend it, et al - does need to be coached at a younger age than "entering the professional game" because I think that later than that and those players have missed the boat in this idea and will be playing catch up to those who have developed those ideas already. I have no way to prove this, of course so we may have to agree to disagree.

    Being able to perform keepy-ups, step-overs, round-the-worlds or trap a ball moving at any pace at almost any height is an impressive skill but next to worthless if you cannot integrate that skill into a team environment, when required. That is not to say that they are worthless skills in their own right as they can form cornerstones of the game.

    I agree that technical gifts should be freely encouraged and then harnessed into the game. I believe that a skilled coach can do this.
    ---------------------------------------------

    I think that you are correct and we may have to agree to disagree!

    Personally I think that concept of space, tracking the ball etc are perfect examples of coaching that should be left until a player is older. I also think that kids will pick up a lot of these things by themselves as they get older. I don't think that coaching does anything more than maybe 'polish' the diamond. In my opinion it's far more important to let kids enjoy their football and learn from their own mistakes.

    However with regards to coaching, once a player is at academy or reserve team level, I think it is so important that they are encouraged to continue their education and advised on skills such as speaking to the media etc.

  • Comment number 63.

    #42 - Totally agree, my 10 year old son has been at Brazilian soccer school for just over a year and a half. Completely different to any other form of coaching in the uk and he and the other kids love it. The emphasis is on skill - you have do all the skills with both feet. Best thing is the skills become 2nd nature so it's near on impossible for a coach to knock it out of them.

    When the county trials finished earlier this year they split the kids into 2 groups - those who had made it and those who hadn't - there was a clear 3-6 inch difference between the 2 groups, no guesses for which one were selected.

    For info, 3 of the best 4 players in the world - Xavi, Messi & Inniesta are all 5ft 7. If they were English they would have been rejected lol Ronaldo being the 4th - 6ft 1

  • Comment number 64.

    62. At 15:39em on 16th dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:

    >

    I think that we actually agree on more points than not - we just have a different way of expressing it!

    I think my real issue is: if you are the organiser (or manager, leader, coach, whatever term you like) of a group of football mad 9 year olds, you can't just take them to the local rec with a football and let them get on with it (not all the time, anyway) because they will degenerate into a gaggle of kids chasing the ball around, which is probably controlled by the most skilful/biggest kid of the group. These kids, if they want to play football, MUST have some direction.

    It is then the skill of the coach to let the kids have fun whilst teaching the importance of some fundamentals of the game; teaching them in a way that it becomes (almost) innate.

    Naturally, if I was any good at this, I would be doing it and not just writing about it!

    It is clear to me, from other comments posted here, that the current, general, set up in the UK is not the same as for other countries and that the UK will continue to produce a certain type of footballer for many years to come.

    That said (and moving on with a newer point), I genuinely believe that there is a time and place for route 1 - just as much as there are times and places for others strategies in the game - and it is important for both coaches and players to recognise the need for strategic and tactical changes and then be comfortable implementing them. Teams, in my opinion, should be completely flexible and this is the logical continuation of "Total Football".

  • Comment number 65.

    Hello all, I just wanted to say thanks for reading and commenting. A really good debate developed and I'm sorry I've come to it too late. I wrote this at the beginning of the week and have been busy with other stuff ever since....poor show as I always like to answer questions and contribute to debate after posting a blog. So apologies for this time but I will be coming back to this subject next week - I'll try to tackle some of the issues you've raised here in that one. Cheers, Matt

  • Comment number 66.

    @64 Titanicus

    I'm interested in your comment about there been a time and a place for route 1. Personally I'm not a fan of that type of football, but it can be effective. Interestingly even Spain (The masters of the short passing game) occasionally call on Llorente of Bilbao to add a bit of variety, however the key difference is that they play crosses into him and pick him out rather than the aimless route 1 and percentages game that we see all to often from England.

    Will be interesting to read Matt's thoughts next week.

  • Comment number 67.

    66. At 13:28em on 17th dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:

    >

    rather than the aimless route 1 and percentages game that we see all to often from England

    ----

    Aha! Nail on the head! It shouldn't be aimless. Or perhpas I should write it needn't be aimless.

    Germany's first goal against England in South Africa was about as route 1 as you can get - caught the pondering defence napping and a shot on target. Perfectly simple.

    There are other examples of a rapid ball over the top against a defence caught square too far up the pitch - like I said, a time and a place. Realistically, any tactic if applied constantly will become predictable. For all of Spain's achievements (and I don't mean to belittle them in any way) there is a reason why they scored the fewest goals of any World Cup winning team - their style of football takes them ages to create opportunties (whilst simultaneously denying the opposition the ball and, hence, opportunities). Add in the mix (in this case) of an out-of-sorts Torres and they leant heavily on David Villa. I thought Llorente looked very good when he came on and I thought he should have started ahead of Torres.

    Anyway, back to being general. I believe that the point of the short rapid passing is to entice the defence to commit, thus leaving a hole to exploit (back to understanding the space concept). If you can hit that hole with a 5 yard pass or a 50 yard pass, the ultimate effect should be the same - put your man in with a percentage strike on target. Naturally, the percentages of hitting a 5 yard pass accurately should be higher than those of a 50 yard pass but a coach/team should be willing to keep their opponents guessing.

    Not only interesting to read Matt's thoughts but thanks for the debate! The more I read and write, the more I'm interested in getting involved first hand ...

  • Comment number 68.

    Football is supposed to be fun? In the post there is talk about 'beautiful' football too. Does this mean that we should have cheap thrills, useless technique show-offs etc to keep everyone happy (and ignorant about the problems with football)? Making football into pure entertainment instead of a competitive sport would be a disaster, and it would be a recipe for corruption. Entertainment = corruption. However, if people want football to be more like wrestling or a glitzy tv show, then I suppose it must be changed... Making football fun would I think be as useless as, well, a manager who thinks that his/her "moral obligation is to play beautifully whatever the opposition does". :)

 

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