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Competing interests hamper youth development

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David Bond | 19:09 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

World Cup 2010: Cape Town

Anyone searching for an illustration of the deeper problems in English football - highlighted again by this World Cup - should look no further than the game's response to a report by Richard Lewis, the chairman of Sport England, published three years ago.

The "Review of Young Players' Development in Professional Football" was produced when Lewis was still running the Rugby Football League and was supposed to provide a new structure for youth development in English football.

A brief history of what happened to his 64 recommendations is enlightening in the context of the debate the game is now having after England manager Fabio Capello's ageing side was taken apart by a resurgent young German team just over a week ago.

Lewis's key proposal was that a youth development group would be established and run by an independent chairman, free of the influence of the bodies which oversee the game.

In April 2008, after eight months of arguments and power struggles, the three bodies which run football - the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League - agreed a compromise, with former FA technical director and Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson appointed chairman of a new youth management board.

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Highlights - Germany 4-1 England (UK web users only)

After a few promising meetings, with some of the early ones even attended by Capello, the spirit of co-operation broke down. By January 2009, it had been disbanded, with Wilkinson never getting beyond the report's terms of reference.

Here's what Lewis proposed on the hot topic of club versus country:

1. In the best interests of talented English players, the FA and clubs should
continue to work together to support the production of talented English players for
England teams.

2. Allow greater opportunity for talented English players to experience international

3. Full support and investment to be given in the drive to improve the quality of
coaching available at the very youngest age groups.

4. The FA to cement the long-term player development strategy and make
available a core national coaching syllabus to assist clubs.

5. A change in ethos in age groups 5-11 so that much more emphasis is given to
skill development and acquisition rather than an emphasis on results in matches.
This should include consideration for the enhancement of development centres
and their possible future licensing.

Speak to the FA and one of its biggest complaints is that, while the Premier League and Football League clubs do invest huge amounts of money in their academies and centres of excellence, there has never been a core coaching strategy aimed at delivering talented young English players for the national teams.

Interestingly, just before the World Cup, the FA finally produced that strategy entitled "The Future Game". Despite the FA having no power to impose the ideas in the document, it is hoped the clubs are prepared to adopt what it is proposing.

There is far more concern over the issue of specialist coaches for younger age groups. The German FA has more than 150 full-time coaches dedicated to working with these younger children, while the FA has only 20. The FA says it simply doesn't have the money to increase those numbers.

As a consequence, the number of hours of coaching received by English youth players in the academy system is way behind that received in other countries - and other sports and disciplines. The standard measure to produce an elite athlete is 10,000 hours between the ages of 10 and 18. A player produced by the English academy system would get 2,600 hours. A player coming through the system at Ajax will have received more than double that.

Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, has long argued that the key time for young players is between five and 11, as highlighted by Lewis. But the FA says it doesn't have the resources to tackle the problem. While the FA should undoubtedly lead, it argues that it is also a problem for the government, schools and clubs to deal with.

In fairness to the Premier League, who do far more than the Football League clubs in this area, it argues that the FA has a turnover of £200m and should be able to find money to develop coaching programmes. The FA, it says, shouldn't keep coming cap in hand to the Premier League and then expect it to dance to the FA's tune.

It should also be said that the Premier League, under its new director of youth Ged Roddy, is more enlightened than it has been in the past. Roddy has proposed four key reforms:

1. An academy grading system.
2. Encouraging the best players to train with the best in their region. A pilot scheme involving young players from Birmingham, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion is seen as a model to follow.
3. Increase coaching hours to the 10,000 hours standard.
4. For clubs to develop a deeper pool of talent.

This all sounds very promising, but what this boils down to is that the FA wants - and in many ways should have - the greater say over how young players are developed if the priority is the national team and winning World Cups.

The Leagues and the clubs are the ones spending the money and believe they shouldn't be dictated to on how they develop players and what the priorities should be.

In a little over a month, the Premier League machine will spark back into life once more and England's summer of misery will be forgotten.

But if England are to avoid another humiliation in Euro 2012 or in Brazil in 2014 then the lessons must be learned. Re-reading Lewis's report might be a good place to start.


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  • Comment number 1.

    A recent article in the New York Times looked at the Ajax model of child/youth development. The results that Ajax have achieved over many years, and the current success of Holland in South Africa, make it a relevant read.
    It is rather long, but if you are interested, do not dismiss it just because of the source - I believe there are a lot more kids playing football in America than in the UK and the oppeortunity for playing is excellent, but the actual development of the talent is still in need of great improvement. This is the perspective that the author has come from, and it is very relevant to this blog.
    It looks as though live links don't work so you will have to copy and paste

  • Comment number 2.

    The problem in this country is that, if a decent team has a decent young english player coming through the ranks, they would rather sell him/send him out on loan to a lower division and bring in a young foreign player of exactly the same quality as the english one, stifling the decent young english player's development.

    Its a clear issue in any matchday squad, just look at the bench of your team and you will see this.

  • Comment number 3.

    Lets go 21st century and drop this nationalistic rubbish of a "national" team, the world is shrinking by the second as demonstrated by the EPL being a virtually world cup of international players. One of the big problems unlike Germany, England does not exist as a political entity and has not done since 1284. It is actually Wales and England (=Britain?) and in cricket it is the Wales and England Cricket board that governs the game. BTW there are a couple of Welsh teams that play in the FA....... So with football there is no overriding political force to bang some heads together, so nothing will happen as it is not economically expedient for the teams in the EPL.

  • Comment number 4.

    Its more than just changing things at grass roots and accepting that we need to catch up with other countries and how they develop their players. The whole genetics of football needs to be altered. We need to accept more.
    I see kids of Asian backgrounds, from the subcontinent, who play football with a great deal of flair and watch football with immense passion... but the thought of ever playing in any level let alone the top level is somehow stolen from their thoughts and dreams before ever being given a real chance!... Why?.. It needs to be addressed.. thats the future of English sports.
    What I love about this country is its willingness to participate in every sport going regardless of how often they lose and how better the opponent is... the English are always up for a good game.. of anything... Tennis, cricket, Rugby, Boxing, Football... but one thing that is severely lacking however, and it may be genetics, is flair! in any given sport, the English wrote the text book on how to play these games and still adhere to it, while every other country going ripped the book apart and said "thank you... but we'll do it our way" and boy have they done it their way! in spades!!!
    The subcontinents play Cricket with great flair. The Aussies are just good at everything, its in their blood, the South Americans and the rest of Europe have left England behind in regards to technical ability in Football... in other words... if your not English (or British) or at least have parent(s) from over seas then it is most likely a given you will have more flair and technical ability in your genes than an English man would.
    Zesh Rehman, once of Fulham, was told in his youth he would never make it as a footballer cause his diet was all wrong... well.. the English will never play like the rest of the world (in any sport) because the genetics are all wrong.

  • Comment number 5.

    The Premier league's view of this is incredibly short sighted considering that they will have as much (if not more) to gain than the FA. Considering buying a world class player can cost in excess of twenty million pounds, with no guarantee of success, developing home grown talent can cost significantly less, as well as producing a club asset that can be sold as they mature into first team footballers.
    Manchester Utd's youth system could be seen as the most successful in the development of British talent and is one of the major reasons for their position in world football. It seems that most of the premier league is only taking their responsibility in the development of british players seriously since rules were introduced requiring English players to be named in the squad.
    In addition, the number of foreign owners and managers have no interest in the development of English talent. Their interest is their club, and their profits. Im sure that the Glazers, Gillette, Hicks and Lerner dont care at all about the development of English talent and the England football team.

  • Comment number 6.

    The great loser in all attempts to sift out talent and potential at an early age is the sport of football itself. The scouting practice of the league clubs is nothing more than a selfish means to gain players for the benefit of a club either as a player or as a commodity on the open market to enrich their own financial aims. As a result only those who eventually command a price tag or attain marketable skill benefit from the system. The majority are disgarded when their efforts do not reach these club criteria.

    The fact is that a radical new vision towards the whole concept of young people in football needs to be devised. This must start by allowing as many who show an interest to have an outlet to play. There are thousands of youngsters, this minute, who will never be chosen for a school team or the like, yet to what extent does this mean that potential talent remains undiscovered or never utilised. Fledging football should be assisted at school and at a local grass roots level to increase the ultimate pool of players within the game. Furthermore Local Authorities, Education Boards and the like should be charged with the proliferation of organised football. The FA should produce a guide and offer assistance in the starting of clubs and leagues run by willing volunteers to spread the actual playing of football. This is very much a self-help programme but if it was centrally administered a network of clubs/schools could be set up throughout the country to cater for a giving a wider opportunity to youngsters. I could go on at much length, the above is just a sample, but it is my conviction that the real work needs to be done at the local community level but with a clear sense of direction. I have said on an earlier thread I am aware of a past captain of a premiership club who at 14 always remained on the subs bench at his local school team. Talent may develop late,that which never sees the light of day is a waste,particularly for the individual concerned. Give emphasis for youngsters to at least participate whatever the ability and this will reap dividends.

  • Comment number 7.

    The younger a kid is introduce to a sport, and gets proper coaching, the better. Tht applies to any sport ..... look at Tiger Woods begining at 3 years of age in golf, etc.

    The studies claim that the period from age 5 - age 11 is not only etremely important, but alo badly neglected. So, i that not a good place to begin?

    From what age do the Premier League clubs Academy programs kick in - 11? 12? 13? 14? I really am not sure, but am sure they do not really cover the young age range.

    And, as stated, most Pre Clubs would rather bring in an oversaes youngster and loan theirs out. Now, surely, it should be obvious that the English younster is no getting the same level of coaching and eperience urig a loan spell at a Championship side that his continental "replacement" is receiving at his home club .... even if he is maybe getting a few more starts.

    And what about the "rules" regarding "English" numbers in the squad? When continental youngsters can be brought in, and after 3 years "training" count as "English" in terms of this rule it defeats the object. Doesn't it? Am I alone in this view? If this were not the case, the maybe those "continental younsters" would not be brought in (at big expense) and the local younsters would get their chance, rather than being shipped out on loan?

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 3. MichaelRK

    Lets go 21st century and drop this nationalistic rubbish of a "national" team, the world is shrinking by the second as demonstrated by the EPL being a virtually world cup of international players. One of the big problems unlike Germany, England does not exist as a political entity and has not done since 1284. It is actually Wales and England (=Britain?)...


    I am English. I was born there. And last time I checked it was still on the map. 1284 or not. The PC brigade haven't managed to wiped us off it just yet.

    I'm confident that I'm not alone when I say I'd like to see my countrymen represented at international level football. That's English countrymen.

    There will always be an England.

  • Comment number 9.

    Craig Levein whilst manager at Dundee United was looking at different ways to encourage kids into football, but also was interested in the idea of better development in the age groups of 5 to 11 year olds. He employed a coach, whose name escapes me (apologies) but whose main ideas included getting the kids comfortble on the ball from an early age, and that most of the coaching of these kids would work on passing, ball retention, shooting skills and the like instead of doing what currently seems to happen in Scotland, and England ie putting kids into a competitive environment whereby there basic skills dont actually improve.

    Now I grant that up here in Scotland we wont see the rewards for a couple of generations but if it works, then the reward will hopefully be a better national team for Scottish fans and more importantly more Scottish players at Scottish clubs. Perhaps this is the same method English clubs need to take in order to have a stronger talent pool? Otherwise the same as what has happened up in Scotland ie non-development of young players plus teams filling their positions with foreign players equals a rather poor national team, will happen in the next five to ten years with England.

  • Comment number 10.

    ..i said this 10 years ago... you have to develop young players who are better than the young players being developed in other countries.. you have to use your common sense hear.. a create players who can pass like the spanish.. dribble like argentina and holland ... be disciplined like the Germans.. and be organised like the italians.. you have to create complete players.. who can pass with both feet .. ( not like leighton baines who needs 2 seconds to bring the ball from ´his right foot to his left because hes only got one foot !!! ).. the next thing to do is change the Peole running our Football institutions.. they have had 44 years and havent won nothing .. with all respect " ITS TIME FOR A CHANGE " this is so obvious it hurts.. why cant people relaise they havent got what it takes.. they havent got the ideas they have got the work rate they havent got the will power.... its so sad and extremely annoying that this is probably where the problem trully lies... its time for a change of personal !! or are we going to wait another 44 years before act !! come on if your primeminister was acting this bad.. there would have been a revolt and anarchy going on...spineless idiots all of you !

  • Comment number 11.

    Give me strength! I'm not English but do support them when my owm team aren't participating. This whole debate is nonsense and every time England 'disappoint' we get the same rubbish trotted out.

    The fact is that 'achieving their level' for England in to reach the QFs of a World Cup. What determines the worlds leading nations is an (admittedly inexact) equation that realtes to population, footballing culture and competition from other sports. Brazil, Germany and Italy all outscore England in this equation while Engalnd are (roughly)on a par with France and Argentina. Spain fall just below this with the likes of Holland and Portugal just below them on the list.

    In 13 World Cup Finals England have been winners once, semi-finalists once, quater finalists 6 times, and round of sixteen/2nd round twice. What that says is that overall England have, on average, slightly under-achieved.....but not by much.

    What England have suffered from is a complete lack of luck. In 1970, when 2-0 up against Germany with 20 minutes to go, Bobby Charlon was taken off and, with Gordon Banks injured, Germany came back to win 3-2 in extra time. England were excellent that year and unlucky not to make the semi's.

    In 1986 it was the 'Hand of God' that robbed England of a semis chance; 1990 saw a lucky German equalizer and losing the penalty shoot-out lottery deprive Engand of a place in the final. In 1998, despite the infamous Beckham dismissal, Sol Campbell had a legitimate goal disallowed in extra time against Argentina and yet again the penalty lottery went against England....a QF place denied and probably more than that.

    2002, England reached their level but were unlucky to meet the eventual winners (Brazil) in the QF. 2006 had the Rooney sending-off and, yet again, no winning ticket in the penalty lottery.

    This year England were undoubtedly poor but had Landon Donovan not scored in the 3rd minute of injury time they would have been in the other half of the draw and, despite their mediocrity, could now be facing into a semi-final. How many thousand of column inches would read differently if that were the case? As it was, England drew the form team of the tournament and were denied a perfectly legitimate goal at a crucial stage........and don't tell me that that goal wouldn't have completely changed the psychology and course of the game.

    Talent is in the genes. It is not coached and never will be. Before the days of acadamies and FIFA coaching badges.....indeed any significant organisation in the did players like Pele, Charlton, Best, Gerson, Beckenbauer, Moore, Eusubio etc etc emerge?

    Talent will out and all this nonsense about the FA, foreign players in the PL and 'grass roots' coaching is just that......nonsense.

    England's level in world football is top 8, no more. By and large they have achieved that level, although with some luck along the way they would probably have exceeded expectations.

    Accept it.....and get over the theories that suggest you can 'control' your way to football greatness.

    You can't......and you won't!

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 you make your own luck in football, in 1990 germany did not equalise they went ahead 1-0. in 1970 england lost 50 per cent of their games. i agree with you on this year, if usa hadnt of won the group england would have prob met the argies in the qf....but we didnt win the group, because we couldnt beat 2 football minnows usa and algeria, therefore your argument falls down. you also failed to remember the hurst goal that wasnt in 66, the owen dive in 2002, and i could sit here all day telling a few more, luck evens out over a period.

  • Comment number 13.

    My two sons were not allowed to play football in the playground at school in case they bumped into girls playing hopscotch or chatting. This is perfectly right and I'm sure it's the same in Germany - the playgrounds of my youth were hell - matches played across other matches - a massive bullying ruck always just about to happen. Germany, like the Holland and many other countries have moved with the times and made provisions for more civilized
    football training and so developed a more modern form of football- we're still in the playground.
    How's the England hopscotch team getting on? We definately rule the world at chatting.

  • Comment number 14.

    "The FA says it simply doesn't have the money to increase those numbers(specialist coaches for those aged 5-11)."

    Are you pullinjg my leg? How much is Capello on? I don't care how good the coach is if he hasn't got the players what can he do? I worry about the FA. In 10 years time they will still be wondering why they aren't producing young talent, and probably still paying more than any other national team for their coach! Shortsighted beyond belief!

  • Comment number 15.

    Mr Bond

    There is no story in recalling all the reports left unimplemented. We all know that happens. Has been happening since the EPL was founded.

    The reason is the important thing. And no pussy footing about please when you start highlighting it. No mercy for reputations. The cold truth and all its implications.

    That's your job..............

  • Comment number 16.

    The website of the Premier League lists their 'Roles and Objectives'.

    It does mention the England team:

    "Use our resources to develop playing talent that will provide for international success with the England team at all levels - with the status of World Champions being the realistic goal."

    But this comes last, well behind other objectives like

    "Generate increased commercial value...."

    There's the rub.

  • Comment number 17.

    "the three bodies which run football - the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League"

    Nuff said!!

  • Comment number 18.

    I think with game in England is there is so much pressure on results for the biggest clubs that they would much rather spend millions on talented players (regardless of nationality) than invest properly in youth development. So they do what they can for the youth with what is left over. As a Scotsman and looking at the differences between the Scottish and English game it is obvious to anyone that Scotland is the lesser, poorer footballing nation compared to England. However I am actually encouraged by developments in Scotland. Our "Big Two" i.e. Rangers and Celtic have in the last 2 to 3 years ran out of money (hence their desperation to join the English ranks) and this has helped bring the lesser teams (like the Mighty Hearts - guess who I support) closer to them. I believe although we have a massive adjustment to make over the coming years the lack of money will be beneficial to our game and you never know we may even make it to a World Cup in the not to distant future.

    I believe if English clubs had less money to play with and did not have to deal with the pressure of the tag "the best and most competitive league in the World" you would find you produce better players. Before the EPL became massive at the start of it you produced Beckham, Fowler, McManaman, Scholes, Shearer, Giggs, Owen, Lampard to name but a small few... Where are your many names of the future, yes England is still producing players for the future but not (at least for an outsider looking in!) in the quantities of yester-year.

  • Comment number 19.

    #6 - I agree with much of your post, especially the importance of ensuring that kids have an outlet to play. The difficulty with this notion is that kids already do have outlets and opportunities to play. The big reason behind the football success story is that you just need a ball and..... that's it! Doesn't even matter what kind of ball it is.

    I think the obstacle to more kids playing football is more one of the porevalent culture than anything else. Too many computer games, too many overprotective parents not letting kids out on their own in the evenings, to much kudos given by kids to their peers for anti-social behaviour. I feel like an old git just writing this! Football needs to provide an alternative. Personally, I'd like to see school days starting half an hour earlier and finishing an hour later, with the final hour being given over to the kind of activities that currently take place in after school clubs, the difference being that they're compulsory.

    This doesn't address the issue of developing elite talent though. In this matter, I think #6 is a bit harsh on the big clubs. Yes, they develop talent for commerical gain but this doesn't mean it isn't good for the kids as well and it also doesn't mean that they don't look after them. The days of the unsuccessful YTS boy being booted into the dole queue are over. Kids at academies receive an education and life experience that they would not otherwise have had in many cases.

    Personally, I think the age old problems with youth football remain and most are highlighted in this blog:

    - The preoccupation with winning over the development of skill
    - The permitted presence of parents screaming obscenities on the touchline - ban them for a season the moment they are heard uttering just one swear-word.
    - The continued use of full-size pitches and balls

    And the big one that Mr Bond writes about: the lack of qualified coaches. I believe that this is what ultimately leads to the problems in the list above. It would surely be in everybodies interests to pool resources here. When the FA gets its big donations from Corporate sponsors such as Barclays, perhaps the cost of coaching could be planned in to the big astro complexes that are being built?

  • Comment number 20.

    Point 3 - "Full support and investment to be given in the drive to improve the quality of coaching available at the very youngest age groups." Brilliant - so what are the FA doing from August 1st - increasing the price of coaching courses e.g. the Level 1 Coaching Course from £95 to £160, For a Charter Standard Club this goes up from £75 to £140. They have obviously taken point 3 on board.
    This is a huge increase when you consider that a youth football club could have 10 age groups and are meant to have a qualified coach per age group. This just highlights the fact that all they want to do is make as much money as they can from the people with the weakest voice, they are not interested in improving things at the grass roots level.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree that there is a huge problem with regards to youth development in football in this country, though I believe that's a very separate issue as to why we failed in SA. I keep hearing the word "flair" being mentioned, and how our players lack it, but the Germans don't play with flair - they are simply organised and manage to string passes together. Flair is something I associate with Ronaldo, and flair doesn't win a world cup on its own.

    If you're looking for a reason why we didn't have success in SA I would argue that is down to pressure, the lack of a winter break, and too many egos.

    Look to the future and why we won't win anything for the next 10 years (At least!) then you can start looking at the youth development issue. The problems in this country are obvious - too many foreign imports filling our clubs, and this increases year on year which directly influences the quality of home grown players that are available. Surely it's that simple - restrict the number of foreign players a club can have and clubs will be forced to look at home grown talent. They will improve their academies, do better scouting in schools for talent and we might have a chance of stopping the rot.

  • Comment number 22.

    10,000 hours between the ages on 10 and 18 is simply unrealistic, that's about 25 hours per week with no breaks. What about schoolwork and other interests?

    With only approximately 1 boy every 3 years becoming a professional from a centre of excellence the sad truth is that until you get to 16 (and you still stand out), then football can be no more than a hobby that you do for fun, you shouldn't risk your future on being a footballer when you are an 11 or 12 year old. My son was at a Centre of Excellence from 7 until 12 doing about 6 hours training per week (+ about 2 per week travelling) and his schoolwork was suffering because of the hours he was putting in, therefore we left.

    Also boys enjoy competing and winning. If you take the competition out you also take out much of their fun. It's possibly ok to treat the elite players a little differently but why make hundreds of thousands of children miss out on compeating for the benefit of a 23 man national squad?

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi all,

    I dont think it would matter how many youths that England brung in, even though it would be good to have some young players and then the more experienced ones, most of the Sqaud still play in england. They need to branch out a bit more, and play against some of these top world cup stars in leagues and not just every 4 years.

    Anyone Agree?

  • Comment number 24.


    Pele and Charlton were from footballing families, most of the others all joined youth teams in their early teens. They also only had to play against the players of their time, which makes it hard to compare.

    If early youth schemes are a waste of money, explain why Ajax have had such success with it.

    Yes, there's not much point coaching someone with no inherent talent if your aim is to produce a top footballer, but that doesn't mean there is no point in coaching. Done correctly, it enables you to identify those with talent early, and allows them to maximise their talents.

    As for allowing the genius to shine through in constant competition - given the tendency for these to be based on academic year, this is a disadvantage while growing up to those born May to August, particularly given the physical nature of the English game. I don't think it's a complete coincidence that there were more players on the England squad born Sept-Dec than May to August.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'd love to see an England team that is good enough to win the World Cup. A team brimming with talent, technique and flair. The fact is, we're a million miles away from that. If we start now, I might live to see an England team win the World Cup. On merit! Rather than by some million to one fluke. I was too young (4) to remember the '66 win. I'm 48 now, and time's running out! Yes, if we start doing the right things, RIGHT NOW, we might just have a GREAT team in 20, 20-odd years time, and I might still be around to see it..!


  • Comment number 26.

    I love the FA's excuse about not being able to increase the number of coaches, becuase they dont have the money???!!! How much are there salaries? How much were there fancy new offices worth? How much do the 5 star hotels England stay at when they play away cost?!!
    Rubbish FA. The truth is, they have no genuine love for the game, and as such, have completely the wrong priorities.

    I love how people criticise the Premier League clubs for buying overseas talent, but as shown above - the amount of coaching foreign youngsters have received is scary compared to our kids. The PL clubs have ploughed literally millions into academy's, but when you complare the ability of 16yr olds here, and 16 yr olds abroad, its no contest, and at that point, the whole system falls down, and the clubs use their magnificent academy's and coaches, to develop these better foreign players - why wouldnt they!!
    The other problem, is the 10 mile rule - My club United for example, couldnt sign up a youngster from London. Therefore if there are good players getting missed by say the London clubs, that is it unless by some Beckham like situation, another club has spotted them and moves their family - hardly a good practice. The fact is, that is highly unlikely as clubs do not scout kids outside of their radius nowadays. Quite frankly, it's a ridiculous rule, and needs looking at.

    Rant over. FA are a shambles.

  • Comment number 27.

    Here is a really simple idea that if implemented would see a significant improvement in the quality of football by English players.

    Take the England football squad. Give them all a ball. Line them up opposite a big wall. Now, you know that greasy paint the council puts on the top of fences to deter ASBO yobs from climbing over them, as it is really hard to wash off? Get some of that and paint it on each players dominant foot's boot. Paint Ashley Cole's right boot. Now, instruct each player to kick the ball against the wall with their non-dominant foot. If, at the end of the day, there is any paint on any balls, they all do 100 laps. That's week one. Week 2, move on to long-range passing, same punishment rules apply. Week 3, crossing. Week 4, shooting. At the end of week 4, play a match, still with the paint on the dominant boot.

    The fact that we have professional footballers - by definition, paid to play football - who can only use one foot, and we regularly see players cutting back and wasting shooting/passing/crossing opportunities is a scandal, and a testament to the fact that skills development is poor at all levels is poor. Why has no one ever said to Steven Gerrard "Hey mate, don't you think you should be able to use that left foot if you want to be thought of as a top class footballer?". After all it is achievable, even as an adult. Jonny Wilkinson scored the winning drop goal in the 2003 rugby world cup final with his right foot. He is left-footed. He practised. Repeatedly. And a non-dominant foot rugby ball drop kick through the middle of the posts in a world cup final is considerably trickier than crossing a football first time when you get to the bye line. But if skills development was the focus of children's football we wouldn't be embarrassed as a nation when we seemingly don't have a single player in England who can play on the left side of midfield.

  • Comment number 28.

    I meant Ashley Cole's left boot obviously.

  • Comment number 29.

    Anyone know if this FA "The Future Game" strategy document is in the public domain anywhere ? I and several people I know would be keen to have a read ... thanks

  • Comment number 30.

    How about also, when it rains - PE is not brought indoors! Football is played in the rain - slippy ball, fast surface, improved technique?!
    Also, I know it was true back when I was at school - how about splitting groups for sports by ability? It may sound harsh, but I remember there being part of the group/class that werent bothered about football at all, and some that werent very good, and probably would have enjoyed it much more, if they didnt have to play against the better players! That way the best players would be playing each other - instantly better for development!

    People will say that this is outrageous, shouldnt be allowed - usually the ones who werent very good - but they do it in schools with every other subject - why not PE/Sports??!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    4 - Nido214

    Genetics eh? If that proposal was volunteered in the other direction its author would be castigated, vilified and probably banned from these threads for all eternity for "racist" comments! Explain exactly how the genetics of the average Australian differs from the average Englishman for instance?

    Now if you were to suggest that Australians learn sport in a more encouraging environment, with nicer weather conditions to make it more pleasant and with a different ethos towards winning then I would have to agree with you but genetics? No way!

    It is certainly clear that English kids don't develop the same skill levels, partly due to the attitudes of coaches, partly due to the overemphasis on competitive leagues (parents above all love this as it allows them to live in a kind of vicarious fantasy land!) and significantly it has a lot to do with the kids themselves. The way English education has gone has encouraged kids to believe that turning up is, in itself enough. The idea that long hours of practice are required, that actually listening to coaches is necessary is beyond most kids who live in a wannabee fantasy encouraged by American cod-psychology in which simply wanting something hard enough will deliver success.

  • Comment number 32.


    Steven Gerrard can use his left foot - he scored a rocket with it in the 2006 World Cup, for instance. And this "we don't have a leftsided midfield player" stuff is ill-informed nonsense. Who do the Spanish stick on the left side of their midfield because of his trusty left foot? When France won the World Cup the only left-footed player in their team was the left-back. What's needed is for midfielders and forwards to have the flexibility and technical ability to be equally comfortable wherever they are on the park. Gerrard is just one example of an English footballer too tactically ignorant and too egocentric to perform when ten yards "out of position". The Spanish or German players adapt and move. Why don't the English? Jose Mourinho summed it up when he said that boys in other countries are taught to be good footballers, but in England they're pigeonholed immediately in one position and have no idea what to do when asked to play somewhere else. Another example of the neanderthal understanding of football which underpins our unending lack of success.

  • Comment number 33.

    Not saying that we have an adequate youth system, but didn't we win the under 17 championship last year? Isn't our ENGLISH team filled with some of the best players in the world? How is this a talent problem? Are we really saying that we have less talent (both professional and youth) than Ghana or Uruguay?

  • Comment number 34.

    I think that the failure of the national team lies very far away from a lack of talent in English players. You look at our squad that we took to the World Cup this year and I would hazard a guess that in today's market, there was close to, if not more than, £500M worth of talent there. The only world cup that England have won is in our own country held in front of our own fans. We also did well at Euro 96 in front of our fans too. The problem lies in the English mentality going abroad as a National team. I would suggest that it is a failure of our players to adapt to conditions away from home that leads to our problems. I take the point that we have been unlucky in certain situations, Italia 90 when Waddle hit the post and the rebound missed Linekar by about a foot, the loss in the lottery of penalties to Portugal and Argentina but is that really a coincidence? There is no doubting the talent of the likes of Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard, Ferdinand etc but what they dont have is an ability to adapt to foreign surroundings. You look at the rugby players and in particular, the Lions. They are used to spending up to 8 weeks abroad on rugby tours each summer, not counting the training that they do beforehand. Most of our football players spend 3 weeks abroad on their holiday, not doing the training or matches that other sports do. The players often talk about how bored they are in between matches and after training and it creates a system and an attitude of negativity. You never hear of other players from other countries being bored. Our players spend too much time moping around and I would suggest that it is because they dont know what to do when they are away because they are away from their comfort zones, out of the privacy of their own houses for too long a period. The players from other countries seem to have a focus and an adaptability that our players do not have and I think that it comes down to the English mentality. Most of our clubs train for about 3 hours a day and then the players have the afternoon off or go and do their various commercial duties. If you look abroad, the Germans are used to training twice a day, Barcelona players regularly are held at some function or training until the afternoon/evening and I would imagine the rest of the Spanish teams are too. The Italians train pretty much twice a day and are finished late afternoon. Our players are too focussed on going shopping or playing golf that when they have so much time to do something, they get bored of it easily which leads to problems.

  • Comment number 35.

    Nice blog David, although I think a lot of Richard Lewis's report findings were pretty self evident (more pen/paper pushing) and most suggestions were or could be implemented without the need for muc additional funding. First off, he stated the obvious about clubs and the national team trying to work together more (no brainer), secondly it should be easy for players to meet up more - they manage it enough socially and for adverts etc - the F.A. should have a good youth coaching structure in place by default or what's their purpose in the modern game and competition in age groups 5-11 in schools was wiped out by the last government - a move now seen as a retrograde step!?

    The Premier League by nature is now and forever more a 'multi-national', self-serving private business and the amateurly run F.A. has little say in it's relationship to their involvement in 'our' national team. Apart from funding Wembley it's incredulous an organisation such as the F.A's with an annual turnover of +£200m can only employ 20 full-time kids coaches anyway! Sponsorship from 'Nationwide' or 'Coke' etc surely covers that?

    Looking at it simply and logically, we know the German team is heavily drawn from players representing Bayern Munich and Bremen, the Spanish - Barca and Madrid, the Dutch - Ajax and PSV etc..we need one or more of our 'big' clubs to go down this road of concentrating more on home grown talent that play together every week like Hurst, Peters and Bobby Moore did at West Ham years ago and new UEFA 'home-grown' limits might just help in that regard?

  • Comment number 36.

    Looking at some of the comments about the amount of training required for a young professional footballer also raises questions about English culture as a whole. We claim to not be able to give the time to our young players to put the hours in to get them up to standard, does that not raise questions about the way our country is as a whole? On the continent, a work/school day rarely starts later than 7.30 in the morning, in our country, school usually starts around 8.30 and work can sometimes start at 9.30-10.00. I spent some time in Africa and also in Germany and you find that German school kids are usually finished by about 2pm in the afternoon when they can go home, have lunch, do what they wish which usually leaves time in the afternoon for sport or some activities. When I was at school and was playing 1st XV rugby, the players rarely left school much before 5.30 on 3 days per week. Add to that the swimming, athletics, cricket etc and it meant that we were doing around 12-14 hours plus of sport per week at school alone. That doesnt take into account the swimming and running clubs, cricket and rugby at weekends and of course the football too. We cannot give the time to our children to play these sports because they would end up being out until about 10 each night, certainly with something like football where you are usually required to have an outdoor area that is floodlit and there are not enough of them to give our kids the time to play. In our most successful sports in recent years, the swimming, certain athletes and the rugby, you tend to find that most people are putting the time in before and after school from a young age. It is not uncommon to hear of swimmers being in the water at 6.00am each morning. I would suggest that we will not be as successful as countries such as the Spanish and the Germans until our whole culture recognises the need to make time for talented kids and especially our footballers. Our top pros are not usually at training until about 10-10.30, why should the young kids do any different?

  • Comment number 37.

    I have maintained for some time that the game of football in England (and many other countries) is hampered by allowing so many players of other nations into our game. Due to the labour laws in Europe, we cannot stop European players being signed but we can stop Africans, Americans, Australians etc from playing. Everton have had a good supply of young tslent coming through the ranks for many years and yet they still have to send some of them out on loan or transfer because there is so few opportunites for them in the Premiership side - AND EVERTON ARE ONE OF THE BETTER TEAMS AT GIVING YOUNGSTERS OPPORTUNITIES. Arsenal and Chelsea regularly put out a whole team with not an Englishman in sight. The percentage of non-English players in the Premiership is so much higher than in other countries and as there are 3 other European countries in the current World Cup, I feel that there is a correlation.
    How many of the players who got England to the finals of the recent World Under 21 Cup played for England in South Africa and how many Germans were there ? I would be prepared to believe that hardly any of that English team will be even playing in the Premiership in 2 years time because the Clubs want the instant success they believe they can achieve by buying ready. made stars from abroad

  • Comment number 38.

    I don't see any possibility of great improvement until the FA and the Premier League are actually seeking the same thing. At the moment they have fundamentlly different agendas, and as the body with the money the Premier League are in the driving seat. The problem with that however is that the Premier League are only interested in themselves - they aren't even interested in the Football League, let alone the amateur game or the development of kids outside their own academies. The Premier League wants shot of the FA so that they can do whatever they want, whilst the FA wishes to retain control of the Premier League. Until this is resolved there will be no progress.

    As for what we have now, I sometimes see local youth matches when I'm out walking my dog, and you can see exactly why there is so little talent coming through. Small kids playing on full size pitches with full sized goals, and emphasis on running and dribbling rather than passing. This results in little positional awareness and poor ball control, and players playing with their heads down watching the ball. And all the time parents are shouting conflicting instructions to their own children, rather than leaving it to the manager. Eventually the game peters out as the kids get tired from all the up and down running they've had to do, and this allows the kids with the best stamina to come through and look like they're the best players, when the reality is they're just the best runners.

  • Comment number 39.

    Englands problem now is that the big teams have sold out for the money. These guys that own the big EPL teams want success and they want it yesterday.

    They are not interested in bringing through young english talent as they want to spend 20-30 million on household names.

    English teams sold their souls for the cash and fans where happy to se this happen untill now when they have realised that the national team is suffering, unfortunatley for them its to late.

    As far as im concerned the full English game is rotten and has put cash and big names before development and deserve all they get.

  • Comment number 40.

    The problem of coaching is relatively serious. England could definitely be coaching more young players to a higher standard than it is now. The problem lies with the structure of the game in this country.

    The FA have the inclination but not the money. The Premier League has the money but, currently, not the inclination. The Football League doesn't have the power. So a change won't come about until the focus of investment, in the Premier League, changes.

    As the clubs are commercial enterprises it needs to be in their best interests to develop their youth systems rather than import. Currently that's not the case. The demands of the Premier League mean you have to maintain your level of competition every year or go down - you can't spend seasons blooding youngsters. Even if you do, bigger teams will buy your best homegrown players.

    Until there is some major change in the structure of this football economy - e.g. when the German TV market collapsed in the early 2000s - the current youth set up won't change drastically.

  • Comment number 41.

    The problem lies largely with mentality, both perceived and expected. Playing junior football, I lost count of the times when all the lads wanted to do was to play a match rather than to train and hone their skills. I believe that in Brazil players aren't expected to play 11 a side until the age of sixteen, so instead of having eight and nine year olds learning how to hit the ball all over the park, you have eight and nine year olds who can pass the ball to each other and take players on. At junior level, my team were pretty good for a few years; the reason? Quick forwards and wingers and a solid central midfield and defence (and a very safe keeper too!) but, bar a couple of players, none of us had the required skills to play truly decent football. If you're twelve and thirteen, then a football pitch is huge. As a left back there were both acres of space to either run into or to play a ball over the top. When we got older and the space diminished we got found out and went from being one of the best teams in the league to one of the worst. We had neither the confidence nor skill to play the ball around even though we were taught and taught and taught and practised, it was just something most of us didn't want to do. Even the really good skilful players wanted to make cross-field Beckham/Hoddle/Gerrard-esque passes when they won it, not neat one twos in triangles to expose and draw out the opposition.
    Imagine that as a microcosm of the game, and imagine that a lot of clubs didn't even practise and train with short passing games and positional awareness, imagine that in every region all over the country there are thousands upon thousands of boys all wanting to score a screamer, put in a slide tackle and hope they get away with leaving their foot in and hurting the player. That's what it was like, week in, week out, that's what it will always be, week in, week out, until we change the attitude attributed to Sunday match days up and down the country.
    Our coach used to try all sorts of techniques and tactics, and like I say, it worked for a time until a lack of patience of behalf of the players took over, and even when training drills were being undertaken, they were not often taken as seriously as they should've been.
    The trouble is that when you being to play league football at under 11 and even before with seven a side etc, the be all and end all is winning, and whilst a winning mentality, grit and determination are commendable aspects of any character, they should be an additive to a player's skill, awareness and ability. I'm sure plenty of people have the determination and will power to play for their country, compete at anything for their country, even do anything for themselves, but without the ability it is pointless.
    There are those that undoubtedly have ability. I have played with and against players who I was convinced would make it at least to some level of league football; they could not only read the game, but were quicker, stronger and so so much more skilled than the rest of us. None of them have gone on to greater things. A couple sat on the bench for Berwick Rangers and I often see reports of a few of them starring for Sunday league sides, but that is a poor return from a whole region. Sure, a few more were at Sunderland and Newcastle academies, but bar Steven Taylor (I played against him once, we won!) I don't know of anyone in my age group to have gone through all the way.
    One main thing overrides all the issues and forms the umbrella of the relative failure of such a large, prosperous nation and that is patience. Patience to listen and to take note of what is being taught to you as a youngster, patience to work at it if it doesn't come off (how many players at top level have limitations that should've been ironed out years ago?), patience on the field to keep the ball and find another option if the first one isn't present, patience off the ball to find and/or create space, to think of second and third options and not make one run and spit out the dummy when you don't get the ball, patience to do the boring things that make you a better player, make you more comfortable with the ball. 10,000 hours isn't just a random number, they say it is the time you need to spend to become a 'genius' at anything whether it be musician, writer, and why should football be any different. Players need to know what they will do wit the ball in any given situation at any given time, the players without the ball need to know what to do whatever happens on the pitch, it should be automatic; they shouldn't need to think twice. Football is about so much more than 22 men on a field trying to score a goal - it is like chess; draw your opponent out and then make your move - don't rely on the individual ability of one player to score from forty yards, or set pieces, or mistakes by the opposition - play with the ball, love the ball - that thing should touch your feet, chest, knee and head so many times in your development as a burgeoning professional that you should know where it is at all times - it needs to be an extension of the body and the mind. Until the FA realise this, then we will keep falling at the final hurdle, we will turn possible superstars into also-rans and keep on getting embarrassed with our 'best league in the world' with barely an Englishman left in it.

  • Comment number 42.

    Also, we seem to think that our players are the best in the world when they are not. Every single Algerian player looked more comfortable on the ball than we did, every single Slovenian, Ghanaian and Chillean, so in response to *33, although are talent pool maybe massive, the pool can get stagnant if not properly treated.

  • Comment number 43.

    8 Jedidiah England: Well spake pilgrim....for England thou art dowry

  • Comment number 44.

    This World Cup has shown that Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner and John Terry are all over-rated. The midfielders and defenders that Germany, Spain and Holland have are all just as good if not better.

  • Comment number 45.

    One of the big problems unlike Germany, England does not exist as a political entity and has not done since 1284.

    What a piece of nonesense.....

    The big problems is the idiotic mentality of the masses. Watch how the fathers {and mothers} shout, rant and rave at 10 year olds making a mistake every Saturday / Sunday. Listen to the "coaching" from the side .."get rid of if" or "put it in the box" - No wonder British players are A) terrified of the ball B)useless in possesion. Throw in the fact a big percentage of players are thick as two short planks {ok you don't need to be a rocket scientist to play but a brain cell or two MUST help} live their lives as "stars" rather than players and believe their own {over - rated} hype and praise foisted upon them by an equally stupid and niave media then it's little wonder we're a laughing stock of Europe.

    England are ALWAYS among the favourites, I'd like to ask on what basis? 1 {questionable} home vicory in nearly 100 years of comp doesn't exactly strike fear into the world yet we think the world are terrified to play us!!! This initself shows how utterly deluded a large prtion of our population is, the world aren't terrified of us, they are laughing at us!

    Earth calling England

  • Comment number 46.

    When will this country realise that speed, strength and height are not the main ingredients of a top class footballer?

    This country have an obsession that a centre half or centre midfielder needs to be 6ft 2 and built like the side of a house, the best english midfielder of the last 30 years in my opinion is Paul Scholes and he is 5ft 7 and not exactly built, but what a footballer, top class passer, touch and all round knowledge of the game.

    We need to start judging players by skill and not size or we will fall even further behind the top sides.

    I for one would rather watch a team of 11 players who can control and pass a ball than one full of 6ft plus players who batter their opponents into submission. Look at the spanish and dutch sides one or two players who are big and strong but a squad full of players comfortable in possesion. British players in general seem to treat the ball like a hot potato and loose possesion so easily its pathetic.

  • Comment number 47.

    #39 - the Premier League clubs would much rather bring through young English players - how much money would that save them!!
    truth is, the young English players arent good enough. If they were - they would be the household names, not the foreign stars. You also only have to look at the greed of the smaller clubs - they hold the big clubs to ransom for their talented English players. Its no wonder clubs look abroad - Think about it. United have just bought a good young international, now with a couple of quality World Cup goals to his name, for £7m - in todays market! Arsenal paid £12m for a 16yr old who had made what 20 Championship starts at the time?!
    Chelsea bought Drogba for £25m - same as Torres. How much would an English CF with their ability have been sold for?
    Essien £25m - ish. Milner - £30m ish?? Ashley Cole £20m - Patrice Evra £5m.
    Glen Johnson £16m - *Insert any other RB in the world here* (wish I knew Maicon's/Lahm's transfer fee)

    I could go on for a while!

  • Comment number 48.

    #47 I could not agree more.

    The problem though is that while this happens no young English talent will be brought through.

    Teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelse and Liverpool should not have to buy young talent they should be bringing these boys through themselves.

    I agree smaller clubs hold big clubs to ransom but ask yourself why shouldnt they?

    Why should they spend time and money bringing these lads through to loose them on the cheap because the bigger clubs dont bother to invest in their own youngsters?

    These teams would save even more money where they to invest in the youth and not pinch smaller clubs talented youngsters

  • Comment number 49.

    "A change in ethos in age groups 5-11 so that much more emphasis is given to skill development and acquisition rather than an emphasis on results in matches.
    This should include consideration for the enhancement of development centres and their possible future licensing"

    To me this is a grounded proposal which was taken up and skills developed from 1984+. Although a young teacher I was sent on an FA course for Primary school taught by the under 15 coach, for which the skills and abilities were the main objectives. As I had only watched football played I was so impressed with the high standard of the course I promptly put my name down for the second course.
    The school team coming up were exceptional team players and with the new skills taught were able to play in the 6 aside matches organised for the county, but as we lost in the semis to Rushden, we went as good sportsmen to support Rushden in the 6 aside final at Wembley.
    Then we took all the class up again to visit Wembley for a day out that those youngsters will never forget nor myself.
    The under 15 coach from the FA had done his job of developing good ball skills and team spirit in those children.
    So what happened to him and the FA input after that?
    I used even the ethos and skills, with my colleague, to enhance the netball teams, and the summer sports, so again a better game and attitude was played and developed thoughout the school.
    I even used to look on the football/netball/games lists for those children, as they headed into secondary school and wondered if any would continue to be picked and play for the county at the higher levels?
    The spirit of games needs to be encouraged and developed from a very young age so that all sports in this country can be well represented.
    Roll on Olympics.............

  • Comment number 50.

    English football misses out on so many talents as parents don't know where to go or what to do neither do coaches of kids in sunday league teams. My son's team as a couple of top quality players have been head and shoulders above the rest of the league since they were six and now there fifeteen, But how can they prove themselves when English football ignores kids unless they pay loads to go academys which all parents cannot afford. Or they get lucky and get spotted 1 in a 1000 chance, And that means they and England miss out.

  • Comment number 51.

    I think one telling quote from the NYTimes article about Ajax from post #1:

    “I am never looking for a result — for example, which boy is scoring the most goals or even who is running the fastest. That may be because of their size and stage of development. I want to notice how a boy runs. Is he on his forefeet, running lightly? Does he have creativity with the ball? Does he seem that he is really loving the game? I think these things are good at predicting how he’ll be when he is older.”

    Now compare this with your own experiences of youth football in England. For me the coaches were only interested in the fastest kids, the strongest kids, the ones who dribbled the ball about selfishly and scored the most goals. Positional awareness, discipline, intelligent passing - none of it matters. If you weren't big, strong, fast, couldn't dribble past players or hoof or head the ball 60 yards no one was interested.

  • Comment number 52.

    Everyone we need to take a step back and realise the ethos of money within the EPL. Its generally regarding that each lads cost around £4000 per year to coach at acadamy level. While not vast sums in terms of the top half of the league clubs still find it hard to justify when players are not breaking through.

    My lad has just been released after 5 seasons at Chelsea, a goalkeeper who's birthday is in August so is he youngest in the team and thus would have returned to pre season as an Under 14 who has just turned 12. His reports have always been first class and as his parents we were constantly told by the coaches privately that he was technically excellant.

    Now having been bone plate tested at the acadamy he was predicted to be 6 foot 2, not the tallest but with agility still one that could prove Shay Given is not a one off !.

    Instead what is a commercial decision is taken in that they can not gamble with him achieving a acceptable height and cut him loose despite his techincal ability. Conducted in a manor which I might add would result in a lot of skilled lads giving up all togeather.

    Its my view that talking about coaching at grass roots is somewhat miss guided as the professional clubs are scouting and coaching kids as young as seven already. What must be done is the investment must be increased within the elite structure (ie Acadamies and COE's).

    I understand in Italy a lot of acadamy coaches collect kids from schools (which finish at 2pm)in mini buses and thus need no parental assistance getting to training ground and train most afternoons after school. The Watford FC model where the acadamy is linked to the Acadamy Status school being a good example here in UK but one which seems to be failing due to financial restraints.

    Finally we need to just have a giggle about the new UEFA rules regarding 6 home grown players in squad. The rules say that be be deemed homegrown the lad must have been trained within the clubs acadamy for three years below the age of 21. Go down to Cobham one morning and watch the Youth team, potential home grown players that if they make pro will understandably play for their country of birth but alas this wont be England.

    £££'s spent on developing foreign youth players, why not be bold and say homegrown is that they must have been at the acadamy from the age of 12 but it will never happen.

  • Comment number 53.

    #46. Too true. How many blog posts were there about how Beckham shouldnt go to the World Cup, because he had no pace, cant beat a defender. Such an ignorance to his wonderful ability as a footballer, is a damning illustration as to the problem with the mindset in this country. People would rather have fast, headless chickens, than someone who can actually do what he wants with the BALL, which at the end of the day is the most important thing in a football match. This is carried right through to grass roots.

    Someone mentioned about English kids being shoe-horned into positions. very true! A kid is big, strong, can head really well, and kick the ball far. Stick him at CB! Never mind the fact he has no positonal sense whatsoever, and is tortoise slow. At young level, that tends to work - they just bully the strikers off the ball, but it is so exposed later on (JT, JC, MU etc. etc.).
    A kid is lightning quick - stick him on the wing. never mind the fact he cant get his head up, or cross to save his life. (AL, TW, SWP etc. etc.).
    A kid is undoubtedly a quality player, but is tactically useless. Lets just let him do what he wants, instead of actually teaching him to play in a position and use his talents in that position. (SG..sorry to pick on you Stevie, but it is one of the most common problems).
    A kid has great positional sense and can tackle brilliantly, good touch, good stamina/athleticism, but is quite small - FB - tell him to play like Cafu, and then he loses that defensive awareness he had (GJ, AC).

    Hands up if this rings any beels for anyone from school/Sunday League?? :)

  • Comment number 54.


    I've lost count of the number of BBC reporters in South Africa or people blogging on the BBC website from South Africa, no doubt from the comfort of a 5 star hotel. It's nice to see the BBC gravy train is still going strong and our license fee isn't going to waste by sending hundreds of BBC staff on a 5 week holiday to cover the world cup. Are there any jobs going?

  • Comment number 55.


    Could not agree anymore.

    Been saying since Beckham got injured it was a blow to England. The guy gets so much stick yet he is supremly talented. Can pass, shoot and control a ball yet he cant run as fast as others so he is usless in some peoples eyes.

    Boys club football is for the fast, strong and tall. The wee guy with ability is pushed to the side as he cannot bully other boys off the ball.

    Yet we wonder why we are so far behind other countries in terms of ability

  • Comment number 56.


    The big problems is the idiotic mentality of the masses. Watch how the fathers {and mothers} shout, rant and rave at 10 year olds making a mistake every Saturday / Sunday. Listen to the "coaching" from the side .."get rid of if" or "put it in the box" - No wonder British players are A) terrified of the ball B)useless in possesion. Throw in the fact a big percentage of players are thick as two short planks {ok you don't need to be a rocket scientist to play but a brain cell or two MUST help} live their lives as "stars" rather than players and believe their own {over - rated} hype and praise foisted upon them by an equally stupid and niave media then it's little wonder we're a laughing stock of Europe.


    Spot on (except the last 6 words - Europe doesn't really care). And 51 and 53 are superb posts too.

  • Comment number 57.

    Most of these comments are just wow... from the stupid (Genetics) to the usual..........

    The players most people are screaming about being overrated talentless donkeys aren't actually half bad and would make it into the majority of top club sides (if they aren't already playing with them).

    Yes the influx of foreign players has been killing the English game for a while now, this isn't a new thing. A lot of promising younger players do exist and do move to big clubs but only to fill English player squad quotas.

    The solution I think would be relatively simple make the FA cup a competition which requires a minimum number of English players in the starting 11 (if the Champions league can set quotas why not domestic cups). A competition guaranteed to showcase the top English talent, coupled with increased coaching would only benefit our national side.

    When UEFA finally introduce rules about outside investment the game will change for the better. Too many billionaire owners are pumping vast sums of money into clubs inflating salaries. Lots of agents make a very good living brokering deals for average foreign players to move here. When a club has to begin living within its means the England, Scottish and Welsh national teams will begin to prosper again.

  • Comment number 58.

    5. At 9:36pm on 05 Jul 2010, redmacuser wrote:

    The Premier league's view of this is incredibly short sighted considering that they will have as much (if not more) to gain than the FA. Considering buying a world class player can cost in excess of twenty million pounds, with no guarantee of success, developing home grown talent can cost significantly less, as well as producing a club asset that can be sold as they mature into first team footballers.

    This is true, and there's also one thing developing a home-grown player will give you over spending astronomical amounts on foreign players: loyalty.

  • Comment number 59.

    11.WordsofWisdom wrote: In 1986 it was the 'Hand of God' that robbed England of a semis chance; 1990 saw a lucky German equalizer and losing the penalty shoot-out lottery deprive Engand of a place in the final.

    There is your problem right there. It's mentality. You often hear folks say that penalty shootouts are a lottery.
    I assure you, Germany and Brazil do not think its a lottery, and indeed it is not. Just look at the record, Brazil and Germany have near perfect records in penalty shootouts, whereas England has an abysmal one. Why? Because players are taught to regard penalty shootouts as lotteries.

    Penalty shootouts are the ultimate test of skill and nerves. There are a few simple rules that must always be adhered to in order to have a better chance at winning.

    1. The goalkeeper must under NO CIRCUMSTANCES elect a corner and dive for it. Statistics prove that a goalkeeper who 'waits' saves 32% of penalties whereas the 'diver' saves 11%
    A near 3-1 ratio. I refer to Ghana-Uruguay for the most recent example of this.

    2. Players should be forbidden to shoot the ball 'over the ground' or through the center. A penalty must either be extreme left/right and at least 'half high' or half left/right and then just under the crossbar. This part is most trainable. And any professional ought to be able to kick the ball in one of these areas.

    Just draw the opening of a goal and then color in the areas where the goalkeeper is most likely to be able to reach. It tells all.

    Penalty shootouts are not and never will be lotteries. But if you treat it as one, you are more likely to lose. Its a question of mentality.

  • Comment number 60.


    Your post totally hits the nail on the head. The English mentality that penalty shootouts are a lottery and cannot be trained for is completely and utterly ridiculous.

    Taking a penalty is a skill like anything else, which follows that if you practice this skill you'll get better at it and succeed more often than not. And practising for penalty shootouts doesn't amount to taking three penalties each then heading for the changing rooms as the great Sir Bobby Robson did at Italia 90.

  • Comment number 61.

    While I yield to no one in my contempt for the neanderthal mentality that dominates both the "coaching" of boys and the media coverage of football in England, might all this not be a bit irrelevant to the question of why England were so pitiful in this World Cup?

    After all, the same group of players that were so feeble this summer (James, the two Coles, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard, Lennon, Heskey and Rooney) were terrible in the 2006 World Cup, and failed even to qualify for the 2008 European Championships. The same failure, the same set of players; three different managers with very different styles from three different countries. Logic would seem to suggest that these players just weren't good enough at international tournament level.

    Interesting questions would then seem to be:

    (1) why did the media think they were so fantastic? Answer: because it's almost entirely given over to brainless and overexcited hype underpinned by a total lack of information


    (2) why did the players think they were so fantastic (see any of their press conferences)? Answer: because they're arrogant and ignorant.

  • Comment number 62.


    Correct, they aren't half bad, but they are painfully by our international competitors.

    The influx of foreign players isnt killing the game in any way, shape, or form. (not to insult you or your post personally), but this is a typical English football attitude - someone else takes the blame, someone else must do something about it. If the English players coming through are good enough - they will get in!! It's simple. If not, we wouldnt have the likes of Rooney, Lampard, gerrard etc. We do also have some brilliant young players coming through - Rodwell, Hart and more. trouble is they are the exception, as opposed to the rule, whereas Ajax, Barca for example - if a young player doesnt make the grade, it is a shock. This sint because htere academies are better than they are in England - England has the best academy facilities in the World as a whole (ie not picking out individual clubs like Barca and Ajax). The fact is, the youth education before they even reach academies in the rest of the world is brilliant compared to England, where they get no education sport wise.

  • Comment number 63.


    Yes the influx of foreign players has been killing the English game for a while now, this isn't a new thing.


    Completely wrong and easy to disprove. Count the number of foreigners in the English game in the 1970s (virtually none) - England failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 World Cups. Then count the number in the English game in the early-mid 2000s (vast numbers) - England reached three successive quarter-finals.

    The truth is that foreign players have hugely improved the quality of English players. If you don't believe that, you're probably too young to have seen how desperate England were from about 1970 to 1990. Believe me, even this year's bunch of deluded egomaniacs were far better than THOSE.

  • Comment number 64.

    Hello, my son is aged 8 football mad he is a left footer very rare I taught him to use his right took me 8 months, He can now shoot and pass very well has scored goals with his right and left.

    He very good for his aged year 3 playing in 4 school team already. He is the first boy in the schools history to do that.
    However, to find him a good youth team was very hard. We went to one club in Dover the coaches were very poor standard. One the coaches told my son he was not a left footer now even a boy of his age know what is his stronger foot. I was told, I could not coach my own son and support him. We found a better team set up better coaches we have to travel more but it is worth it. I would like to take a coaches course but the cost keeps on going up and up. So that I can put something back in to football.

    The catch area should be 5 to 10 start them young on the basic's e.g. first touch movement off the ball get them thinking about the game.
    This is what I coach my son on week in week out most kids cannot kick with both feet and do not know what goal side it even.

    It starts with the basic's ball at there feet first touch after that everything falls into place. If you first touch poor how can you play the game and progess. There are no clubs, supporting local schools its all money, money and the footballers behave very poorly and the kids look up to them as role models. There is talent but its needs to be helped along coached from a young age.

  • Comment number 65.

    One question. Where were all the 'coaching is the problem' obsessed people on here 4 years ago when the England 'Golden Generation' were (rightly) hyped for success in Germany. And where were they when an optimistic England public waved them goodbye as they left for SA?

    A squad full of world class players (more so in 2006 that 2010) with a good chance of success. The answer was that they were on the bandwagon with legitimate hopes for a good outcome.

    The point is, as is always the case when the outcome is disappointing, that everyone needs a reason......someone or something to blame. And why not 'grass roots' coaching?

    Like most things when people are disappointed/emotive, they grasp at straws and cease to be rational. If you all truly believe what you say then I want to see it on your agenda next week, the week after that, next year....and the year after that.

    If/when England storm to the top of their qualifiying group for Euro 2012, I still want to hear about this coaching issue on a regular basis and not see it fade away into another love-in with the England team.

    For you believers in this myth that's all I ask. I may be may be right, so I need to hedge my bets!

    But will it happen?......not on your nelly. Why? Because the whole coaching debate is a convenient scapegoat...because England produces plenty of talent and world class players....because over the years England generally achieves its level of top 8 (QF) in the world cup (and only bad luck has prevented them achieving much more on several occassions)....and ultimately, because this sort of irrational outpouring happens after every world cup disappointment.

    As I said at #11, you are born with talent and no amount of coaching will change this. For every statement I read that young players need to be coached from 7 or 8 to teach them skills, how to pass and be confident on the ball, I read another that suggests coaching is stifling the skills out of kids and stopping them expressing themselves.

    Which is it? Answer: neither. The whole debate is world cup emotional trauma that will be a distant thought in a couple of weeks.

    One final thought. All of this analysis of who is great and who is not happens after 3 or 4 games at the end of a long hard season. Yet it invariably concludes that previously world class rated players are now rubbish, previously brilliant managers haven't a clue and previously considered quality teams/nations need to go back to 'grass roots' development.

    It's a lot of tripe but it has ever been so and, no doubt, forever will be. As I said in post #11, as a non Englishman I'll continue to support them in major tournaments but without the inherent emotion that goes with supporting your nation of birth. I'll continue to remain rational in the aftermath....whatever the outcome, and laugh at the never ending post trauma analysis, delivered with conviction and belief but which, in the final analysis, always has the lifespan of morning dew on a hot summers day.

    So what's on your footballing agenda next week? The England youth coaching crisis?!..........didn't think so!

  • Comment number 66.

    @ 11 & 59
    Like England Holland didn't have a good record in penalty shoot outs. Now since about five years the KNVB (Dutch FA) have arranged that after every match of kids 6-10 years old every player takes a penaltykick at the other keeper. A lot of fun and scoring a penalty makes them forget about the result of the match as well :-). Not saying Holland will win all shoot outs in the coming years but it is a good example of action instead of talk.

  • Comment number 67.


    you are born with talent and no amount of coaching will change this


    Wrong. I played football as 12/13 year old against the following:

    Martin Keown (all right; went on to play for Arsenal and England)
    Mark Keown (his brother, much better at that age; disappeared)
    Jamie Spooner (better than either of the above; disappeared)
    Gary Parker (all right at that age; went on to play for Nottingham Forest)

    So what does that tell you? That even when kids are 12/13 you can't tell who will succeed and who won't. All depends on how they are coached and how they respond to it.

    And btw, Words - you misremember the 1990 semifinal. Germany scored first, and their goal wasn't "lucky" unless you think that a middle-aged goalie failing to backpedal (or, later on, failing to get anywhere near some penalties) is somehow "lucky".

  • Comment number 68.

    After obtaining my FA Level 2 coaching badge but also seeing the work done by the Brazilian Soccer Schools I believe that the systems we should look closest at are the Dutch, German and French models. Because of the climate in most of the Latin/S American countries the style of play is based on a slow intricate passing game which even though I think is brilliant for enhancing technical level of the players but I don't think would be a good fit for development of players in England. The Dutch and German models in particular suit the skills we already possess which are Speed and Strength but they still contain more emphasis on technique, ball retention and flair. English clubs need to develop a system and pattern of play and just stick to it,once this happens the players will come through and we will look like a cohesive unit at international level, we may not win every year but at least their will be a basis and a structure to do well in the future. Jurgen Klinsmann spoke yesterday about how quickly he managed to develop a centralised structure with the DFB so this can be done.... Of course this all depends on how willing the top clubs in England are to actually give English players that opportunity to develop, and at the moment the prospects look bad.

  • Comment number 69.

    @ 59. At 12:03pm on 06 Jul 2010, mvr512 wrote:
    "There is your problem right there. It's mentality. You often hear folks say that penalty shootouts are a lottery."
    Sorry mrv512....they are a lottery. It's cliche and cliches become what they are because they are truisms. The number of penalty shoot-outs in World Cups, for Engalnd and the other teams you mention, doesn't even begin to be statistically representative to draw conclusions but the popular phrase is correct.

    Every team prepares and ALL goalkeepers do their homewrok.

    It's a me!

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 22 and 36

    Your comments raise a serious point. This bit of the article struck me in particular: 'While the FA should undoubtedly lead [in improving youth development], it argues that it is also a problem for the government, schools and clubs to deal with.' My view is... why the hell should schools have anything to do with it? Yes, kids should take part in competitive sports at school (in my view) but I would be DISGUSTED if schools suddenly became a premier league recruitment bootcamp. It's hard enough to get kids to focus on their schoolwork in the first place... let alone doing 10000 hours (WTF?) of playing football when they should be doing their schoolwork. Yes, I know this is a football blog, but football is still just a game (one which I love dearly) but please... governments should, to be honest, not really give a t*** how good we are at football. Particularly as in the case of the UK, which team (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) should they be most concerned about?

    It just seemed that David's article (very good article mind) seemed to somehow hint towards re-structuring the whole of the UK economy and culture for the sake of a few overpaid ponces to kick a ball around once every four years.

  • Comment number 71.


    Dont agree at all. Yes in 2006, England did have a realistic chance. Yes we all may have got our hopes up that if everything went well, we had a chance (personally I tipped a Brazil v Germany final). We believed because we wanted to, desperately. We believed because there are world class players in our team.

    The reason it has all come up now, is because we were shown up so, so badly. Until something bad actually happens, you can never quite know how bad a situation is. Why havent we produced any top class young players that could break into the national side - in 4 years!?
    How can these world class players be so painfully exposed by our opposition? We have just gone backwards since 2006, whereas other nations have made strides forwards - USA & Uruguay as examples.

    #63 - absolutely spot-on. I'm not old enough to remember the 70's, but to back up my point earlier and yours about foreingers. Ask David Beckham, Scholes, Neville, Giggs what they thought about playing with the likes of Cantona. Ask Chelsea's English players at the time, what they thought about playing with Zola. Spurs' with Ginola, Arsenal's with Bergkamp, Henry. Again, the best players will play. If the English youngsters arent good enough, why should the FA/PL/Uefa force PL teams to pick them? Once they get to PL teams academies, they get the best coaching money can buy. Trouble is, it is possibly too late by then to develop the absolute core skills - technique and awareness.

  • Comment number 72.


    You make a good point. But watching this World Cup it seems to me that England's failure at international football is connected to its abject failure to educate its young people properly in school. Other countries seem to produce young men from poor backgrounds who can adapt, learn, think on their feet, go abroad and settle and learn languages, who can be coached and taught. The English education system seems to produced young men from the exact same background who think they know everything when they know nothing, who can't adapt, can't learn, can't think, can't be coached, can't pick up anything new, and who endlessly whinge resentfully (eg Rooney and the England fans).

  • Comment number 73.

    #45 spot on

    but it doesn't just stop at sunday league teams

    My youngest son got a trial for bradford schools under 11's - 80 children turned up and all the trial consisted of was 6 games 20 minutes each way. No drills or 5-a-sides to look at the boys' skills.

    My eldest son played for an U14 sunday league team in a tournament to commemorate the Bradford fire in which a German team played, themselves attached to a profeesional side. All the german boys knew not only their individual responsibilities on the pitch but worked as a team and had all were comfortable on the ball. By contrast the academy side from a local professional club relied on pace, the excellent skills of a winger and the centre forward who was built like Heskey (in a few years his natural physical advantage will cease as other boys catch up) but apart from that they lacked organisation, tactical nous and their skills compared to the germans were lacking.

    Not surprisingly in the match the German team won easily

    As an aside, as part of the tournament the team my son plays for hosts the german team, each English family taking in a German player. Because my son's team were unable to field a full side they used some of the boys from the U15's with the full knowledge of the tournament organisers. During a group match the opposing coach realising that U15's were playing in a U14 tournament remonstrated angrily with the ref at half time trying the claim a walkover, he only relented when the following was said to him:

    1 That my sons team need a full side to be able to host the german team and without the U15's the Germans could not have participated
    2 The tournemnet was part of the 25th commemoration of the Bradford Fire Disaster - the winning of a match is wholly unimportant given the events it commemorates

    Without a change in attitude at grass roots to both training boys and the attitude of the coaches it will be a long time before the senior improves

  • Comment number 74.

    A tad off topic but why the hell is Trevor Brooking a 'Sir'? When did being a better than average footballer get you a knighthood and it surely cannot be for his role at the FA. As he has done precisely F.A. since he has been there. The FA is a shambles and Sir Brooking does nothing but release sound bites. I plead the queen to get back the respectability of the knighthood and make him plain old Mr Trevor again!

  • Comment number 75.

    I feel we need to change the game substantially in England in order to progress in the future.

    Some ideas:

    1. Player registrations in the Premier League. Each club should have to register a set number of first-team players - 25 is a good number - and only be allowed to play those 25 in league matches, plus any players aged no greater than 19 years on the 1st of January midseason.

    This would ensure that clubs a) stay within a tighter budget, b) do not gain an advantage by operating outside their means and hiring an inordinate number of players (Liverpool, for example) which does nothing for the club itself and harms careers in the long-term, c) ensures that when injuries occur, young players will be given first-team oppurtunities but does not compromise the competitiveness of the clubs.

    2. At least 6 home-grown players in that 25-man squad, to grow to 12 home-grown players by 2018. This will encourage youth development.

    3. Force clubs to change from having "Under 18" sides to "Under 19" sides, coming into line with most of Europe.

    4. Expand the first round of the FA cup by allowing under 19 sides to compete in it, if clubs so choose. IE, Manchester United's academy side could be entered in at the first round of the FA Cup.

    5. Remove all restrictions on catchment areas for acquisition of young players until such times that academies can be set up at all 92 professional clubs. While fairness is important, it is not as important as providing the best coaching quality available to young players, IE at clubs with top youth facilities who can attract those young players. At the very least, modify the rules so that coastal clubs (of which, being an island nation, we have a significant quantity) are not affected unfairly, as they currently are.

    6. Bring back Lilleshall, or, rather, an equivalent national academy with attendant sports science department. Invest to ensure the highest quality research into ways to improve the game and how we play it.

    7. A national, bi-annual survey of coaches by the FA on current practice and ideas for improvement, contributing to a document henceforth known as the English Coaching Bible - produced yearly, at a meeting of the top coaches, managers, and scouts in the country, and collated from the survey's results. This would enshrine "English philosophy" in a single document that could be referred back to in training courses.

    8. A greater focus on technique and tactical development.

  • Comment number 76.

    69.WordsofWisdom wrote: Sorry mrv512....they are a lottery. It's cliche and cliches become what they are because they are truisms. The number of penalty shoot-outs in World Cups, for Engalnd and the other teams you mention, doesn't even begin to be statistically representative to draw conclusions but the popular phrase is correct.

    There has been scientific research into this, and they included u21, u19, u17 and u15 teams, and also club football. The results are clear and relevant: it isn't a lottery. You can train taking penalties just like you can train free kicks and corners.

    Particularly my point about goalkeeper being either 'waiters' (good) or 'divers' (bad). The difference in results is quite staggering, a disciplined goalkeeper who waits saves almost three times as many as a keeper who doesn't wait.

    Every team prepares and ALL goalkeepers do their homewrok.
    It's a me!

    Did you see Ghana in the penalty shootout? Did you see their keeper diving like a madman making it easier for the opposition to convert their penalties? Obviously they did not prepare as well as Uruguay did. Their goalkeeper stuck to the script and it paid off. In the long run, teams that take it seriously and stick to the script, will win more often than lose, because sooner or later they gonna run into a WordsofWisdom FC and they'll have the advantage.

    Anyway, thanks for proving my point.

  • Comment number 77.


    1. I think that is already in play, or is coming.

    2. Something similar is in play, but raising it isnt fair - the English youngsters arent good enough - why punish the PL clubs for this? It alos links into your catchment area point - some clubs would be at a disadvantage.
    Either that, or you would have clubs poaching players at 5/6 years old to try and give them the development they need to become top players one day - nobody wants to see that!

    3. Makes little difference. If a players good enough, it doesnt matter what age he is, or age group he's playing in.

    4. Nice idea, yes. Will it ever happen? No.

    5. As I have mentioned on the blog already. Absolutely spot on.

    6. It is going ahead, it isnt, it is, it isnt....who knows where we are with that?? anyone?? FA shambles yet again!!

    7. There is already a central guide for the FA, trouble is - the top coaches and managers have to then gain their UEFA license, which would have different requirements.
    On another note, which coaches are going to want to share there techniques with rival coaches??

    8. Took 8 points, but you got to the root of the problem. FA needs to step up. More youth coaches, more schools of excellence run by the FA, not relying on the PL clubs who all do it in their own way. Coaching for kids at really young age groups to be massively improved. Focus off biggest and strongest, but on the most technically gifted, and tactically aware.

  • Comment number 78.

    After reading the Klinsmann article I find him far more intelligent and knowledgeable and experienced than any of the bloggers who have attempted to discuss Englands downfall and what we need to do to recover. If you havent read it, do so now its on the main football page, and all these people seem to be recommending is that we copy exactly what he and Loew did at Germany to revolutionize their game...

    As much as I think what Klinsmann says is fantastic and makes total sense, and no doubt it would improve the standard of English footballers, if all teams had to adhere to new training schemes and ways of bringing through players I wouldnt buy into it at all. I care very little about Englands football team in comparison to the club team I support, and would therefore rather they do well in place of the national team, and if providing the national team with good young players would prove to be detrement to what we are trying to do, I'd rather see the national team continue to flounder and my club team do well...

    Just my opinion, but my club means way more to me than my country when it comes to football...

  • Comment number 79.

    I haven't read the article. Sorry.

    All I will say though is that if players are paid to represent their country at the same time that money is not available to fund national training then something is fundamentally wrong.

    Who should be held to account for that if it's true?

  • Comment number 80.

    If, as appears likely, the tiredness, poor performance and lack of ambition in England's World Cup performances is down to overcoaching and overtraining, there is little hope for the sport in England if the top coach can't see this.

    I'm a coach (in a different sport, however) and my experience of discussions with professional football coaches is patchy to say the least.

    From comments like: "I don't care about the performance, it's the result that matters" - So, how are you going to get a result if you don't care about the performance?

    to: "You can't teach a youngster confidence" - I would argue that confidence is the ONLY thing you can teach a talented youngster and if you don't know how to coach confidence, get another job.

    and: "I'm only interested in signing big lads for my team" - So that rules out Messi, Maradonna, Bremner, Eusabio, Matthews, Zola, etc., etc.

    And then you watch the youth team practising trying to hit the crossbar from the half-way line and it makes one realise that there may be a problem here!

    Sort out the coaches and coaching methods and maybe, just maybe, one day.....

  • Comment number 81.

    I've read quite a few articles in the past week from pundits and journalists attempting to provide a reason for Englands 'poor' performance at the World Cup. What's become apparent, and this is evident looking at most of the comments on this blog, is that there are a multitude of factors that have contributed to our downfall. However, I believe that they can all be categorised under one heading - mentality. Mentality of players, fans, journalists, coaches, governing bodies and anyone associated with football.

    The major issue is that everyone is singing off a different hymn sheet. Yes, all of the above mentioned would like to see England win a World Cup. The problem is that each one of those has differing mentalities, priorities and motives. The FA is full of 'suits' (with the exception of TB) who keep buying into short-term solutions (hiring expensive foreign coaches) rather than looking at the long-term. This may be in part down to the fans expectancy for International success, which again is down to the media creating this frenzy that everytime there is an International tournament, England "could" or "should" win. Add to this the differing agenda of the EPL clubs, and we have a recipe for disaster. We really need to be looking at Germany as the example in this instance, and create a collective mentality whereby we are all trying to focus on common goals. It's been mentioned before, but English clubs do want English players (Mourinho at Chelsea said Terry, Lampard and Cole were essential as the back bone of his team). The problem is they are too expensive (just look at Milner being valued at £28m!), and the reason for that is because at the moment, 'good' or 'really good' English players are a commodity. The reason for this being that the quality of coaching in the younger age group, where they need it the most, is poor. This is in part due to a poor coaching syllabus (which is getting better thanks to TB), and also because of a lack of funding at grass roots level. This is the fault of the FA.

    Over the years, these differing mentalities and priorities of all the different stakeholders involved in football have affected one another, to the stage where it's no use just debating it anymore, action has to be taken. Football is our national game and we invented it. But it ends there. Just because we invented it doesn't give us the divine right to be the best at it. Other countries have taken the football model and adapted it to suit their needs and the times. We are still living in the past. We need to create a new culture and mentality in the way we run the game and the way we play the game to run alongside, and not at the expense of, our English identity and virtues. Everyone needs to be patient and learn from our foreign counterparts, which is easier said than done for us proud English people, but we should be looking at success in 10-20 years time rather than at the 2012 Euros or the 2014 World Cup.

  • Comment number 82.

    I disagree completely infact the squad of players used 86 - 90 was much better than that of today Waddle, Platt, Lineker, Walker to name but a few.

    That squad (90) got to semi finals, and the squad of 86 to quarter finals and one Diego Maradonna had a hand in Englands exit. Some players develop quickly (Mark Robbins) some later (Teddy Sheringham) 1 thing players need is games and they wont get it with poor players in front of them.

    Over the last decade we have seen some poor foreign players preventing other players getting a game think of these little gems Massimo Taibi, Lee gong dook, Lucas, Jordi Cryuff, George Weahs cousin the list goes on and on and on.

    Gordon Banks wrote an interesting piece a while back about why we had such poor keepers now, he said its confidence if they make a mistake they get dropped and its the same all over the park.

  • Comment number 83.

    As with all other sports Talent alone will not get you to the top. Training, Fitness, Psychology and a will to make yourself win all come from training in the right environment. There is no "natural" level for a team, yes, population may count (thoeretical pool of available players) but Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Netherlands all show that is not necessarly the case. It all comes down to how important a National team success is to the people running football. I would argue that in England, there is a strong belief that Club football and the PL in particular are more important and if the wider public, ie. those whose allegiance is not to one of the big Four, then tough.

  • Comment number 84.

    I see the "psychic" octopus is now headline news on the BBC! Oh dear. :(

  • Comment number 85.


    I disagree completely infact the squad of players used 86 - 90 was much better than that of today Waddle, Platt, Lineker, Walker to name but a few.


    Those 4 players played in the 1990 team, which was probably the best England team of the last forty years. Confirming my point, Waddle, Platt and Lineker played club football abroad during their careers. In 1986 (no Waddle, Platt or Walker), we were generally poor, and in the 1988 European Championships we lost all our group matches - imagine that happening today. You really haven't proved that an influx of foreign players has "ruined" England, and you can't because it's completely untrue. Try, for instance, the 1950s: no foreigners in England (except Bert Trautmann) and the national side is knocked out of the World Cup at the group stage in two out of three competitions.

    If we're cr&p, it's OUR fault. Don't blame the foreigners.

  • Comment number 86.

    Bit of maths...

    Ten thousand hours, from age 5 to 11 equates to 4.5 hours every single day, including weekends

    It's considerably more time than a child spends in school during those years.

    We should we get all 5 year olds on the programme as soon as possible. In 20 years time we'd have a completely illiterate and unemployable generation - but we'd maybe win a world cup. I'd happily sacrifice my (male only, presumably) chldren on that altar...

    Don't get me wrong, I love football, and I was as disappointed as anyone but derrrr !

  • Comment number 87.

    It's what the East Germans did in the 70s. Pick out talented kids, train them from 5 and take away their life. Throw away the 99% who don't make it.

    We never admired them for it.

    I presume we'll skip the steroids though

  • Comment number 88.

    Referring to post #65 from Words of Wisdom

    The name "Words of Wisdom" couldn't be further from the truth. Experts across the world accept that genetics is likely to contribute 50% at most to successful sports performance, but this value is like to much lower in sports less dependent on size and fitness (yes football players are fit, but thier fitness is not remarkable compared to other sports).

    Talent can be developed. This is fact.

    The whole 10,000 hours of trianing to reach an elite level (quoted in the original article) is also a load of rubbish. Is the author suggesting that between 10-18 years old a child should put in 10,000 hours of training? That's 1250 hours a year, which equates to 24 hours a week. Lets say 4 hours a day, providing we're generous enough to give the kids one day off a week! This sort of approach is nonsense. Quality is far more important than quantity and the quality of coaching and training here just isn't that good at a youth level

  • Comment number 89.

    The same conversation. The same cliches. The same half hearted FA proposals. The same problems.

    My personal view as someone who has coached kids (in England, Holland, France, Africa and the US), coached in academies and coached at semi-pro level is that the biggest problem England has is the society in which we live. In Holland if I stop a training exercise to make a coaching point to a 14 year old he lsitens, takes it on board and thanks you. In England 90% the time the 14 year old either argues back or sulks. And then you get an earful from the parent at the end of the session too. We have a society that doesn't want to listen and doesn't want to learn. It's very, very sad.

  • Comment number 90.

    If anyone wants a bit of good news for the future potentially, look at Matt Slaters blog from the sports homepage "Good news for Englands Future". Well done Harry and the rest of the clubs for following suit I say!
    Getting the players together more often from a very young age must help the teamwork/understanding. That can only be a good thing - and its not as if they are first team players at that age. Why not gather U-17's, U-18's & U-19's together once a fortnight and have them playe mixed friendlies just against each other? playing against and with different age groups with differing abilities and physical development. Teamwork, understanding and communication certainly seemed to be something staggeringly lacking in the World Cup for England!
    And these youngsters playing more often with the older age groups would surely help their development too?!
    Win, win.

  • Comment number 91.


    In Holland if I stop a training exercise to make a coaching point to a 14 year old he lsitens, takes it on board and thanks you. In England 90% the time the 14 year old either argues back or sulks. And then you get an earful from the parent at the end of the session too. We have a society that doesn't want to listen and doesn't want to learn.


    Spot on. The 2010 England team will go down in history as the Vicky Pollard/Lauren Cooper generation. Yeah but no but yeah but no always nice to hear your own fans booing you. So we got frashed by the Germans - are we bovvered?

  • Comment number 92.


    I know a British Olympic swimmer. He got up at 5 AM every day from age 6-18 to go swimming for two hours. He then went for a further three hours of swimming after school. He did the same amount on weekends. He completed his GCSEs, A-Levels, and then went to university.

    You'd be amazed what you can find time for if you're willing to make sacrifices for your craft.

  • Comment number 93.

    the F A are a joke all they are interested in doing is like any other big corporation in the uk is to make money from the likes of you & me & lining their own pockets.i aim to do my level 2 course later this year at a mere £175 ! not sure how much the levels above are but there going to be alot more than this i did hear a rumour the uefa A badge is £7,000 like i got that much money hanging about
    How on earth do they think that grassroots coaching is going to improve when things cost that much & the average person can only dream of doing things like that.
    while we still have the dinosaurs running the F A nothing is going to change & therefore the majority of the kids WHICH ARE THE FUTURE will not get the coaching they need & only a chosen few will which means we are back to square 1.

    oh & whats with the likes of Stuart Pearce & other top FA coaches looking at the note pads telling grown men who are full internationals we are playing like this so run here & dont run there & do this & dont do that why dont we just let them play cos whatever they say to them dont work !!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    If Ryan Giggs had elected to play for England i think England might have won a couple of World Cups since. England have underachieved but not dreadfully so over the past 30 or so years

    Had Landon Donovan not scored in the 3rd minute of injury time England would have been in the other half of the draw, settled in to the tournament and it all may have been very different.

    If Lampard's goal had not been disallowed... The Hand of God never been raised, Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, Paul Ince, David Batty, Gareth Southgate,etc etc etc....

    In Tournament Football a Goal, a slice of luck, an individual player, a tactical decision, a piece of sheer brilliance or a refereeing mistake can completely turn a tournament on its head. Thats why we love tournaments so much.

    You cannot buy Tournament success like you can buy League success. But you can certainly culture it and nurture it as the Germans, Brazilians and Italians invariably demonstrate.

    The game has changed a lot in the past 40 odd years its no longer about the expression of the national pride of the working classes, its the expression of a multi billion pound industry with global markets where 22 advertising hoardings run round stadiums named after multinational companies who pay handsomely to promote their brand. We cannot turn the clock back.

    The hunger for success in the emerging markets is perhaps stronger, whereas the pressure to be successful is perhaps greater in the traditional markets.

    In the traditional markets, It may be trite but the desire for success appears to hinge as much, if not more so, on the desire to wear a Man U shirt and have a film-star lifestyle, than it does on the desire to belong to a team, much less your 'local' team.

    One of the reasons for Brazilian dominance of the game is that on a national political level it was seen as route out of poverty and a route to development, perhaps also this also the reason for the strong desire amongst African and other emerging nations.

    This is part of the reason we MUST have a national coaching strategy for 5-11's and right up to senior level. Its not just about technical skills its about nurturing and culturing pride and passion for the game as oppose to fostering expectations about the money or success. We cannot leave this completely in the hands of billionaires who serve predominantly there own interests, but they have to be involved, as do the FA ,the Premier League and the Football League.

    As for there being no money for coaches for the 5 - 11's Hmmm, lets think, 150 coaches, budget 40k a year for each coach, thats err 6 million quid! Where could the FA we make that kind of efficiency saving in the National interest I wonder.

  • Comment number 95.


    Good stuff!.
    But 40k a year for a coach? I'd happily coach football for considerably less than that!
    Thousands of well meaning fathers coach boy's teams in their spare time. How about the FA give them some financial support for their hard work and effort, instead of increasing the cost of them being able to attain their recognised coaching badges!
    The FA wouldnt have to make an added outlay to find 100 extra youth coaches. They just have to make it cheap enough for the working class bloke, who just wants to coach his/local kids out of love for the game, to gain qualifications, and hey presto, 3 or 4 years time - you have thousands of coaches working at grass roots level - with actual qualifications as coaches. All for the sake of the FA making a bit less money, and maybe adding a small financial incentive, you instantly improve the standard of grass roots coaching!?
    A guy I know does two evenings a week, and then Saturday games in a local U-7's league, and all he asks for from parents is a couple of quid a week each. He takes none of that money - it goes on stuff to help with coaching, kits etc. Now how much would it take for the FA to put a little bit of money into local grass roots footy - supporting people like this?
    Little things accumulate to make big differences, and are a lot easier to do!

  • Comment number 96.


    How about some of those highlyn and overpaid premier league footballers donating some of their salaries to help with grass roots football?

    Somehow I doubt they will!!

  • Comment number 97.

    #96 - too true. The players, the clubs, the EPL should all do it - BUT - the FA HAS to set the example. I mean, how many PL clubs and players have done their own soccer schools and similar kinds of things? I can't imagine the difference between the amounts invested by them compared to the FA? And the FA's turnover isnt far off the top EPL clubs!!

  • Comment number 98.

    Incidentally, the 10,000 hours number is probably including time spent practicing, not just guided training. For example, 2 hours a day with a single day off per week plus 2 hours unguided practicing... This is not all that hard to achieve. When I was a kid I must have been playing 20 hours football a week, at -least-, and most of that was unguided; if more of it had involved an actual coach...

  • Comment number 99.

    @97 The FA has a higher turnover than most of the clubs, possibly all of them, actually. Not sure about 2009 or 2010 because I haven't searched all that much, but for 2008 it was £261.8 million, according to at least one source. Man Utd in the same year had a gross turnover of £257.1 million.

  • Comment number 100.

    @ Nevs_a_Red
    40K a year as a budget for each coach to cover salary, training monitoring performance, infrastructure, equipment, expenses etc etc etc.
    when you look at that way 40k a year is not a huge sum per coach and probably slightly less than half that would probably represent salary. perhaps about 18k,
    The solutions have to come from the bottom up (grass roots) and the top down FA and Football leagues, moreover from the people who care enough about the game to put in the effort. rather than those who simply want to earn a good living.

    In this age of communications technology we could replace Capello with a small (3 or 4,) committee of ENGLISH club managers who could fulfil Capello's role without it impinging on their club responsibilities any more so than the players England duties impinges on their club duties. The prem may not be full of them (Hodgson and Redknapp stand out) but league has plenty talented English managers/coaches that would be proud/honored to contribute to the national game in such a way without renumeration.
    There would be some capital expense of course but i'm guessing it would probably amount to less annually than the legal fees paid to the FA lawyers and Capello's agent in the drawing up and ongoing renegotiation the current contractual arrangements.


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