BBC BLOGS - Football Tactics
« Previous | Main | Next »

Are club and country now working together?

Post categories:

Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 23:53 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

As much as there is a growing sense of excitement about St George's Park finally opening its doors in August, there is also a feeling of what might have been.

Taking a tour around the 330-acre site last week, it looks as if the Football Association will be able to boast one of the leading national football centres in the world, but you also have to wonder what position English football would be in had the facility opened as originally planned in 2004.

How much better would a 25-year-old England regular be, having first trained at St George's Park as a 17-year-old? And what influence would a coach attending courses there have had on a five-year-old now in the throes of junior football?

The FA's director of elite development Gareth Southgate says it is "pretty pointless" to speculate about where we could be. Like a seasoned pro he is focusing on the future, and in the coming months youth football in England is set to undergo some fundamental and exciting changes.

Costing £100m, St George's Park near Burton will host all of England's 24 national teams in state-of-the-art training facilities and, perhaps more importantly, will be a coaching centre of excellence similar to Clairefontaine in France or Coverciano in Italy.

The elite turf has been laid next to an indoor pitch, with both mirroring the dimensions of Wembley.

Set in the rolling Staffordshire countryside, it will feature 12 pitches allowing England teams of all ages to train in close quarters, complete with a sports science centre, enormous spa and gym facilities, and a 282-room hotel which includes an England wing. Walking around the site, the plastering is done, the bathrooms are in and we even got to step inside the manager's room ('Harry's suite,' one builder joked).

As you stroll deeper into the complex it becomes more impressive. The elite pitch, which mirrors the dimensions of Wembley, has already had its turf laid next to an indoor pitch which has a unique bubble roof. Between them is a running track for warm-ups and rehabilitation and, on a crisp day as the site was bathed in winter sunshine, it was an inspiring glimpse of the future.

With 400 builders on site, it has come a long way since work began on 31 January 2011, the same day that Southgate was appointed. And both are making their mark on English football at the same time as the professional game takes on its biggest overhaul since club academies and centres of excellence were first proposed in 1997.

The introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), due to begin next season, will re-shape the football landscape by independently grading academies. And it will have as much effect as the FA's plans to delay 11v11 matches until under-13s level, the concentration on qualifications specifically geared to coaching youngsters or the new philosophy for teaching players.

Although there are many understandable concerns, former England defender Southgate believes this period marks a sea change as England's major football bodies begin finally to point in the same direction.

"At the moment it is one of the first times in many years that those bodies are sat around the table together trying to improve things for the better," the 41-year-old says.

Of course, there are many unresolved issues within the EPPP, not least how clubs will be graded among the four academy categories, and it will be a huge story in coming months.

I want to leave aside problems surrounding reduced transfer fees for the moment, as they have already been discussed in length elsewhere. Yes, there are many valid worries about the welfare of clubs' academy systems and whether it will lead to some closing down. That is a bleak picture.

But the fact remains that without this evolution, the desire to pit "best against best" would have remained elusive. For too long, the academy system has allowed teams with top quality players to be diluted by those of a lesser standard and something needed to change.

After years of clubs winning the club-versus-country battle, it seems that the future of English football is finally finding a higher place on the agenda.

It is not all rosy in Southgate's garden, though. The former Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace defender accepts that the FA's influence over youth development is limited and in an ideal world the national association would be running youth football in its entirety via a number of regional centres. But he believes the FA can still play a crucial part.

"The Premier League are running the academy system with the Football League and that's a history I don't understand," he says. "We have to keep helping coaches and be a voice that they can turn to for help, and the types of courses and events we run at St George's Park will aid that."

However, with the clubs exerting their own way of playing, how much can the FA really influence English coaches with its own philosophy of producing technically competent and decisive players who can play a short-passing game?

"Individual clubs will have their own nuances on philosophies, but it is clear that the clubs at the top of the Premier League and in the Champions League all play a passing game," Southgate adds.

"They all play good quality football, they all have, and are looking for, players who are comfortable in possession of the ball throughout the team, so if you look at elite clubs in our country, that philosophy is actually there."

Whether that is the same for clubs like Stoke is another question.

The end result of all this should be that the cream rises to the top and, in that, there should be a tangible benefit to England football teams. But it does place a huge responsibility on the clubs and they have understandably put their interests ahead of the country's.

One thing is for sure: once St George's Park finally welcomes English players and coaches to the Staffordshire countryside, the FA will have the best evidence it can muster that it is addressing the problems which have plagued English football for so long.

"In any business there are no guarantees of results," Southgate says. "But if we don't build St George's Park, if we don't change the way that we coach kids, and if we don't change the formats of the game for youngsters then we are doing everybody a disservice."

Are we now entering a phase where the professional game and the FA can be trusted to work together to address English football's biggest issue?

You can also discuss more tactical issues and follow me on Twitter


  • Comment number 1.

    It seems like a great development. I'm crossing my fingers that it doesn't end up dying because of bickering at the FA about how it should be used.

  • Comment number 2.

    Somehow everyone will mess it up, it is the English way of doing things.

  • Comment number 3.

    With the Premier League continuing to be dominated by foreign money, Tottenham’s title challenge (whether credible or not) is refreshing. Spurs have bought young British players and are bringing them through the ranks, either by clever loans or Carling Cup/Europa League appearances.

    Without doubt though Gareth Bale is the jewel in the crown, but how long will it be before the Oil barons, or Spain’s top two make a serious offer for him.

    Gareth Bale: On His Way to Becoming a Legend

  • Comment number 4.

    Need the mentality to junior kids football to change before we see England winning honours at senior level. Still today it's about winning at all costs, as opposed to learning to play the game of football and promoting talent.

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    If this training centre can produce English players who don't need three touches to control the ball, and encourages them to have a wider array of passes than just hoofing it forward to the nearest big lad in direct line of sight, then it'll be £100m well spent.

    However, I feel the problems which create the technically inept English plodders who populate the domestic game, run much deeper than this.

  • Comment number 7.

    I still don't fully understand how SGP will work with the Premier League club's individual academies. You can immediately see friction building as different coaches have different opinions on the right way forward for the young players.

    If there is a disagreement, then the club that pays the player's wages will always win.

    As I have no confidence in the FA whatsoever to successfully deliver anything, I doubt it will be long before this descends into farce. We should've had it 8 years ago but for their inability to get a deal done. And the less said about Wembley, the better.

    Sadly, I think the only way we're likely to see an England team lifting a major trophy is through a top-down overhaul of the old boys club that still runs our national sport. Cricket and rugby have done it with great success, so why can't football?

  • Comment number 8.

    6.At 11:24 2nd Feb 2012, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:
    different day same ole billix.

    we understand you hate the english game, we understand you dont like the english way, but god can you stop with typing the same stuff day in day out. i mean it cant be good for your own health buddy.

    we get it, spain are great, not many teams can live up to that, but when was the last time you put a pair of football boots on and actually discovered how hard it is to play a full game for 90mins with 11 men in each team, not every team can play like spain, but hey in 3 years time that teams will be a shadow of its former self.

  • Comment number 9.

    even when it's up and running those bladdy londoners will still be moaning about it being up in the sticks,they still think that the world ends at luton and that they will fall of the edge if they venture further.let me reasure them that the centre is set in a very nice part of the country and you will be able to breath in fresh air not that poluted stuff that most londoners think is air and don't worry ,it will work and if you lot darn sarf had stopped waffling 10 years ago it would have been fully functional by now.

  • Comment number 10.

    Whilst the center is of course a welcome addition to the coaching process of youngsters in this country i can't help but feel a lot of people are pinning their hopes of a competitive English national team on the wrong elements.

    Clairefontaine and Coverciano are cited as the inspiration behind the development work. Essentially copying a system put in place nearly two decades ago in the case of Clairefontaine. Whilst both of these centers have produced technically gifted players at one time or another, lets not kid ourselves into thinking they've been a conveyor belt of world beaters.

    The reality is that the clubs will continue to have more of an input into the development of their youngsters than a national body ever will. They have an inherent interest in grooming young players towards their particular style of football. The British mentality being what it is there are only a handful of clubs that believe, or are able to, implement a short passing game.Therefore the vast majority of players that will be produced, in spite of this new center, will continue to be more physically able than technically proficient.

    The two systems that are worth looking at, rather than France and Italy, are the Spanish and German systems but for different reasons.

    Spanish success is more or less down to Barcelona. Their players make up the majority of the national 1st eleven, these are players brought up believing in their club's mentality and the national team have simply copied how Barcelona play. So the most successful national team of recent years, possibly playing some of the best football ever seen, is mostly due to their leading club taking the lead in player development.

    The German model is an interesting one, it's still in its infancy and only time will tell how well it works long term but right now German football is at it's most optimistic for years. They have a team they are proud of, full of young, technically proficient and attacking players. All of the professional clubs now have to have some sort of academy and there is a national style of play that most adhere to. They've managed to put the collective good of German football, both from a national success point of view and also economically before the individual needs of each club.

    Unfortunately being England neither system will work for us. We are too fixated on our individual club's success to think about the bigger picture. As too are the clubs. The game is so out of balance now due to the money involved in the Premier Leagues that instigating one system that is fair to all league teams is nye on impossible. Clubs will go bust if forced to implement academy systems and the new rules about compensation will now also severely dent their financial capabilities.

    We've gone too far down one road to now suddenly expect a change in philosophy. It's a sad note to end on but i honestly don't see England winning any major championships in my life time, and i'm only 28.

  • Comment number 11.

    @the title of this blog

    No... probably not

  • Comment number 12.

    England have the best centre backs around, from all levels. Capello said that when he took charge. That's due to the English mentality.

    I'd rather see a good tackle than fourty 5 yard passes for 10 minutes. Barcelona's style of play is not my cup of tea and they spend their time on the flooring pretending to be injured. I don't want to see English football go down that way, like Spain have been.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm so out of love with the national team and domestic football in general in England, please allow me to not get excited and reserve judgement on the output.

  • Comment number 14.

    apologies, bad typos there.

  • Comment number 15.

    It seems ridiculous that people still beleive in the myth that all english players are unable to cope technically with other nations and that there is still a long ball mentality with young English players. As a coach of young footballers I can honestly say that the approach of the vast majority of youth coaches in this country is to promote technical skills and take the emphasis away from winning games at all costs.

    Whilst it is true that the England National team have so far failed to get the England team playing cohesive attacking football, there are a signficant number of technically gifted English players at all of the top clubs in this country and we do not need to see a complete sea change. Its just a matter of identifying a successful way of reproducing the work of the top clubs at academy level in the England set up and encouraging the England teams at all levels to play the same technically grounded football.

  • Comment number 16.

    Soul patch is right....

    English/British football is ruled by the coaches at lower levels who still encourage the hoof and run, win at any cost, its a mans game far too aggressive element of the game over skill, patience and being comfortable on the ball and picking the right pass. Just look at my team Villa. Mcleish has not promoted any skill, just negative agressive tactics getting the ball forward as quick as poss. Mainly through Collins.

    It will be money well spent if it encourages players to be more like Scholes and less like Rio-Coker...not taking away the physical aspect of the British game that we love.

  • Comment number 17.

    @ 8

    Soul is just anything anti Englsh, he has adopted Spain as his national treasure of football because the SPL is based on the same principle, 2 teams owning the money, and the rest just play to make up the league, but the SPL is so bad they need to go abroad to look for a decent game, England wont be his first choice.

    But i agree that Spain will be different in 5-10 years time, they are having a purple patch, and as Barca struggled for domination against Valencia last night because Xavi and Iniesta was missing, 2 players short of perfect football made Barca a normal team.

    England does have talent, and its a game where you can still see a game being played on each corner every day here. But the problem is not the FA, not the technical ability of the English but our lifestyle. Most teenagers smoke weed, drink to much and more concerned with IPhones, bling and being one of the boys, and always the better footballers in this country come from more deprived backgrounds and its the social issues and behavior of them that stunts them more than anything else.

  • Comment number 18.


    Soul patch is not right,anyone who says Paul Scholes is a bad football player certainly has an agenda. if you read most of his comments over the last year you will see that he is actually one of the most uneducated football people on here. England and the prem don play rush and hoof football, try watching an actual game, yeah Villa are crap i agree and Mcliesh is a negative manager and we as Blues fans are enjoying great football and a good season.

    Just because Barca play tippy tappy to perfection, doesnt mean that it is the only way to play football, thats just for the puritans of football, football is about passion and commitment and being ultra competitive, for me if i was a manager i would look at this before skill.

    Micheal Carrick English, maybe one of the best passers on his day in the world.

    Lampard keeps the ball very well short passing range excellent, movement off the ball second to none.

    Rooney world class when is head is on right.

    Scholes pure legend

    Beckham, nobody can ever play the ball like him, a pure master of his own ability.

    The list goes on and on for Decent and world class English players.

    But we dont do very good teams anymore, the England's national dressing room is filled with Prem Rivalry, and we dont get along with each other as good as other teams so we cant push on as 1 unit.

    There is not a issue about the ability of our players there are other factors and that is England as a country is one big mess.

  • Comment number 19.

    Would the reaction have been different if soul patch had said Holland and not Spain? Holland a country of only 16m people with no tradition of football pre-1970's!

    Better technical skills and passing is the way forward for the whole British game. Its no accident that teams in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have been by-passed by European countries: we value and promote physicality and athleticism more than technique. Wales have Dutch assistants, Wotte the new SFA performance director in Scotland is Dutch and the Irish and English have Italian coaches.

    We all need to change the way we develop the game.

  • Comment number 20.

    The problem with English footballers being poor quality isn't just down to poor training which leads to their technical ineptitude.

    The deeper problem is with English society, as a whole, and especially the shoddy education system. English footballers lack footballing intelligence. It's not that English people are less intelligent, it's that their mental powers are stunted by the education system.

  • Comment number 21.

    if St Goerge's Park can work with local initiatives like Watford FC's link in Harefield then we could have a winner. If self interests prevail then it will be the same old story

  • Comment number 22.

    without being to harsh on the current english crop of footballers, i cant see anything good coming from the euro's for them, terry and ferdi cant ever play together again, that leaves a bit of a problem for cappello, who does he leave out? terry who seems to be the one that should be punished or ferdinand, who is the bro of the victim so to speak, plus jack whilshire looking like he's going to miss the comp means cleaverley may get a chance, first big international comp for him may be too much.

  • Comment number 23.

    football is about passion and commitment and being ultra competitive, for me if i was a manager i would look at this before skill.


    In 7 year olds? In 12 year olds? Stick to Championship Manager please and never work with children.

  • Comment number 24.

    22. At 12:33 2nd Feb 2012, King Red wrote:

    Terry and Ferdinand are over-the-hill plodders, anyway. Neither of them should be on the plane to Poland, on footballing reasons alone.

    The centre-back partnership should be Ledley King (if fit) and Smalling.

  • Comment number 25.

    20.At 12:29 2nd Feb 2012, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:
    I can back that up!!
    Although education as a whole in europe is suffering, 5m unemployed in Spain atm theres no prospect for anyone coming out of uni, same in France and Germany is closely following. its a sad state of affairs

  • Comment number 26.

    24.At 12:37 2nd Feb 2012, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:
    they wont risk King being the CB to accompany Smallings, if anything Jones with them having a good understanding of each other, although i'd prob play Jones as a Def mid instead and ferdinand stay as CB but tell him not to move for fear he will hurt his back.

    I can see england having a very hard time this summer

  • Comment number 27.


    Firstly, I said more players like Scholes, so I didnt mention him as a bad player - im not sure where you have got that from.

    I also stated that I dont want anyone to take the agressive edge out of British football and I agree with you its about Passion. My point is this is coached over everything else - we struggle with players who like are comfortable on the ball and know when to pick a pass - Englands problems over the years has come down to breaking teams down by playing patiently - we always resort to lumping in forward to Crouch, Carroll, Bent, hoping for knock downs while genuinely good players like Rooney come deep looking for the ball.

    I know all about Soul Patch, but I think he had a point with that post.

    By the way, I go Villa regulary and live in Manchester and due to my job go to Old Trafford a fair bit. So I have seen a few 'actual' games in my time...I'm not asking for Barcelona type perfection just a little more creativity on the field...

    And sorry I cant agree with Michael Carrick...unless him being on his day involves passing short backwards and sideways.

  • Comment number 28.

    26. At 12:41 2nd Feb 2012, King Red wrote:

    Jones is a glorified utility player who shouldn't be anywhere near the England squad. If King's not fit (which is likely), then they could just opt for Cahill or Lescott.

    But, knowing the way that England don't drop their ''star'' players, we all know that with everyone fit, Ferdinand will partner Terry in defence, if that remains a possibility.

  • Comment number 29.

    How many good young players have been turned away at youth levels in the last 3 or 4 decades because they were too small? Thousands I'm guessing.
    For too many years we in this country have had that incorrect mentality and because of that the national game is in decline and smaller (size) teams like Spain are flourishing. The whole set up needs an overhaul and I don't think this new centre will solve much.

  • Comment number 30.

    With the introduction of the new EPPP ruling, will Is there danger that St George's Park could simply become a cattle market for the wealthiest clubs to pick off the best talent for next to nothing?

    I know you say you don't want to get into the financial side of this, how can a lower league club send their players to St James Park knowing it will certainly lead to top clubs getting a better look at their young talent.

    The two are (as far as I can see) intrinsically linked. St George's Park + EPPP = the death of lower league clubs, however well that may improve the 'National' game.

  • Comment number 31.

    @24 - You have to be joking, how can we trust a player who can only play 1 game every 2 weeks? Smalling is still not there with his all round defending game and I personally would opt for Dawson and maybe Cahill or Lescott.

  • Comment number 32.

    Stable door,horse bolted comes to mind.

    International football is being marginalised,there remain issues with players being reluctantlly released by their clubs.

    Football is like the banking profession,Goodwin and Hester are good soundbites and make good headlines but no one is actually addressing the basic issue which is the offering of obscene sized contracts to bankers in general.

    Same with football, great, attempts to improve from the bottom up but the root cause of our problems at international level is that the High Altar that is the Premiership consumes everything else whether thats the other 72 league clubs or the England team. Unless the power of the Premiership is reined in, this will be nothing more than an expensive folly.

  • Comment number 33.

    31. At 12:52 2nd Feb 2012, Reinasbaldhead wrote:

    Dawson is hardly that much less injury-prone than King. In addition, Dawson is a tortoise-like plodder.

    When fit, Ledley King is the best centre-back in England.

  • Comment number 34.

    England have always had quality players. The so called 'golden generation' had Gerrard, Joe Cole, Beckham and Rooney. 4 incredibly gifted players. Yet none of them were played to their strengths, and were slated by the media when England failed. Gerrard has been hailed as the total footballer by Zidane, Kaka, etc. Beckham is known as the best ball player in set pieces, Cole at a young age had so much flair and needed to be central with a free role and Rooney at the age of 16 had a nation on his shoulders.

    Scholes, Gazza, so many good players that get overlooked in terms of rating.

  • Comment number 35.

    For once its nice to see something like this be built in the heart of the country rather than squeezed into Greater London, equally acessible for all!

  • Comment number 36.

    This will help but what would be better if our best young players have central contracts by the F.A. like in cricket where national & player interests are placed before club. This could mean youngsters actually playing matches from 18 yr old onwards where valuable experience can be gained. I would even go as far as saying we should ban the transfers of players under 18 placing an emphasis on having to work with what teams have got with the FA cherry picking the best and offering compensation where due. We need to stop the big clubs from poaching youngsters and then letting them rot in the reserves, too much talent gets wasted in this country this way.

  • Comment number 37.

    @33. Once Dawson is fit he will be back to his best. The guy is far from tortoise pace, I'm guessing you don't watch many Premier League games?
    You did hit the nail on the head with King 'when fit'...King and fit shouldn't be used in the same sentence.

  • Comment number 38.

    hahahahaha now soul patch is parading around as an expert of the English Education system - what a muppet!

    Guys we have to realise how to deal with this guy - never answer his posts directly, do not bite the bait.... Imagine how boring it will be for this troll if he cannot get any reactions out of people!

    Back to the article itself,

    I come from Gibraltar, on the south coast of spain (british colony remember!) so we have an interesting mix of both cultures. Football-wise, however, we are more in the spanish mould, generally shorter, technical players. We do not start doing 11 aside until under 15s.

    I think the best thing about this whole thing is the re education of coaches, an 8 year old should not be getting shouted at by his coach because he has gone for a dribble from his left back position and lost the ball... the rigid adherence to tactics from such a young age, undoubtedly has to change, to be replaced by encouragement of expression and development of technical skill.

    One of the better tweets I have seen in a while was the following, a couple of days ago:

    betterfootball Pavl Williams
    "Teach Kids to Play Without Fear MT @barcastuff Most balls lost in La Liga: Messi 261 - Verdu 239 - Didac 234 - Valero 227 - Navas 209"

    the best player in the world, has given the ball away more than anyone in La Liga.

  • Comment number 39.

    The development of St George's Park, I think, is now incredibly outdated. Even when the concept was first mooted, other nations had far superior resources than what could be found in England.

    Sadly, for me, the line I take away from this is... "For too long, the academy system has allowed teams with top quality players to be diluted by those of a lesser standard and something needed to change". For me, this only promotes an elitist view and that, which I fear, the EPPP is going to strongly reinforce.

  • Comment number 40.

    37. At 13:04 2nd Feb 2012, Reinasbaldhead wrote:

    @33. Once Dawson is fit he will be back to his best. The guy is far from tortoise pace, I'm guessing you don't watch many Premier League games?

    Sadly, I've watched all too much EPL football over the years.

    Dawson has the pace of a tortoise and the touch of a hippopotamus.

  • Comment number 41.

    Does ' The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa ' have a clue about football? Hmmmmm

  • Comment number 42.

    28.At 12:45 2nd Feb 2012, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:

    for only being 19 he is outstanding, utility players are almost essentail for top teams now, i can see Jones becoming well sought after in years to come, with very little talent in the world of football for RB and LB positions i can see utility players like Jones become more common.

  • Comment number 43.

    The main problem with the whole youth system is simply that all people that manage kids team are generally failed footballers who never make it. All they want to do is win a trophy as a manager, usually meaning putting a big fat guy in goal, two big defenders, and a their son up front for pride and hoping maybe he will get noticed by a scout for scoring goals.

    It happened to every club I played for when I was younger, and probably for at lot more people. I stopped playing simply because the whole seriousness of it all, at the end of the day these people need to realise they are playing about 25 leagues below reaching even the conference and it should be a laugh.

    Maybe if children between the ages of 5-14 were taught how to 2 touch pass and move, and possesion football in this country, then maybe the standard of players produced will improve. I highly doubt this will happen though...

  • Comment number 44.

    42. At 13:33 2nd Feb 2012, King Red wrote:

    i can see Jones becoming well sought after in years to come

    Yes, I can see ''The Pig and Whistle'' and ''The Cherry Tree'' vying for his services on a Sunday morning.

    He's not good enough to be a central defender, and he's not nearly good enough to succeed in midfield. He's not some mystical defender/midfielder hybrid; he's a utility player, and £20m is a lot to pay for a poor man's James Perch, even allowing for Ferguson's blank chequebook.

  • Comment number 45.

    @24 Soul_Patch

    I actually agree with you, Terry has been terrible this season, and with the racism arguement, I don't want him to play for England, let alone Captain the team. Ferdinand has been lacking as well. Other than when Smalling slips (he seem to every game, need better studs) he is a solid player. I think with Ledley King you only has to see Tottenham's win percentage with him in the team.

    But you know it will be all the old guard starting the group games failing as ever to perform in an England shirt.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'm 21 and have played football my whole life. Its very clear to me to produce good quality, technically decent players you have to keep them playing small sided games as long as possible while they're young. When I played mini soccer as a youngster there were players that were bigger and stronger than everyone else at a young age and were immediately carted off into achademies which had a purely winning mentality. My coach made our team continue playing small sided football when the other teams in our age group had moved up to 11 aside and always coached us to play. I'm forever thankful for this coaching early on in life as when as a team we grew we soon caught up and overtook the "good teams" of our age. Nearly all of my team mates that continue to play are now playing a higher level than any of the players which were part in academies when they were younger. The emphasis should always be on developing technically and winning should be a bonus when you're young and I'm glad to see that English football is finally taking steps to address the serious imbalance in coaching priorities.

  • Comment number 47.

    45. At 13:41 2nd Feb 2012, jdowling18 wrote:

    But you know it will be all the old guard starting the group games failing as ever to perform in an England shirt.

    Yes. If the FA can sort out some agreement between Terry and Ferdinand, then we all know that, if fit, England's team in the opening game will include Cole, Terry, Lampard, Ferdinand and Gerrard in the starting line-up.

  • Comment number 48.

    So why Burton? Is this where all the talented kids are from? What about the rest of the country? I would have thought you could have spent £100m right across the UK by simply having professional people teach kids in schools and clubs how to do the basics; control, pass and move. You don't need modern pitches, buildings or facilities to do this, or at least they don't seem to in places like Brazil. It's not so much about money, it's more about education and unfortunately our F.A lacks this quality.

  • Comment number 49.

    jdowling is right to an extent, see post 43. In Holland they combat the effect of positional rigidity by rotating player's playing positions. So regardless of how good a player is, he will play right back one week, then up top the week after until they cover all positions on the pitch. The thinking is that it helps you appreciate what your team mates need from you, and teaches you what to do if you find yourself in a situation anywhere on the pitch. It also teaches humility to players, something that is sadly lacking at times currently.

    #39, thoughtfulphil makes a good point too. Surely the aim is to raise an overall standard, rather than a select few?? If everyone else is better, then good players have to rise higher. This is a similar issue to the quotas that are often mentioned. That won't improve anything, all it will do is lessen the quality in the Premier League and so make it easier for young British players to emerge. When what we want is for it be as hard as possible for them to emerge, but them to have the talent to do so nevertheless.

  • Comment number 50.

    38. At 13:07 2nd Feb 2012, TeniPurist wrote:

    betterfootball Pavl Williams
    "Teach Kids to Play Without Fear MT @barcastuff Most balls lost in La Liga: Messi 261 - Verdu 239 - Didac 234 - Valero 227 - Navas 209"

    the best player in the world, has given the ball away more than anyone in La Liga.


    Absolutely hit the nail on the head hear buddy, I recently left a team because a senior player at the club would constantly berate every member of the team upon every mistake. Playing without fear is one of the most crucial components of coaching for me. When a player is going through a confidence crisis it is up to a manager to make the player remember who he is, and what he does best. Self believe is everything if you look at some of the most aesthetically pleasing football teams i.e Barcelona and even recently Swansea City. They're defenders play in a way that some people suggest to be suicidal, yet they are playing there football in an uncompromising fashion regardless of the opponents.

  • Comment number 51.

    why Burton someone asks.... its about time the midlands had something to boast about instead of london london that london!!!!! no its not renouned for its talent but theres alot of talent north of watford gap!!! the midlands and the north is, always will be the capital of football.............

  • Comment number 52.

    regarding all the hype with Spain, national teams as much as clubs and their performances take turns in cycles

    no club and no country has been awesome since 1904 (creation of fifa in paris), you had uruguay, the brazilians, the dutch, the italians, the germans the french...same with clubs, you had reims and madrid, gothenburg and anderlecht, mucich, manchester...

    you have to accept that you can't have every competition a team that will go far. so there is no point in using spain as a benchmark as in 3-4 hyears you will have to change that again.

    you have to find you own identity, one which is already installed in your footballing world and perfecting that. you think in the french academy we look at spain? nope, we know how much success we have had our way, although being aware of a rival's strength isnt a bad thing in the long run

  • Comment number 53.

    #49 Stevat;

    I completely agree with you and also endorse the Dutch model. I think players can learn so much about their own game and position by experiencing playing in another role. Nigel Clough has done this a few times with our reserve/development squad (albeit I can't say for sure he was using this tactic or decided to play players 'out of position' for other reasons) and I think it could possibly have benefits. For instance, a young striker coming through the ranks may get a better appreciation of space and movement if they experienced playing as a centre-half. Equally, wingers/wide midfielders playing full-back and vice versa; for me, I admire a player who can undertake many different roles in a side competently and by having players in your team who are capable/comfortable with doing that would surely promote a fluency and creativity that other more rigid sides struggle with.

  • Comment number 54.

    I manage a local men's reserve team and i have seen a difference in the standard of football players coming through now to the standard myself and mates where like 6 year's ago. It does seem that now a days players are more confident on the ball and look to play short passing football. The key for english football is improving the standard of coaching when they are 6-10 years old so the standard of football improves throughout the game not just at the top this will in turn give the youth scouts better players to look at aswell as pushing the youngsters more.

  • Comment number 55.

    It would also be a shame if we tried to copy Spains way of playing football instead of sticking to a style that is based around english principles. I personally find it boring watching Spain play as possession football across the back line is in my opinion boring to watch. This does not mean that i do not respect their approach or regonise that at the moment it is porducing results.

  • Comment number 56.

    28. At 12:45 2nd Feb 2012, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:

    But, knowing the way that England don't drop their ''star'' players, we all know that with everyone fit, Ferdinand will partner Terry in defence, if that remains a possibility.
    Same old spiel from Soul Patch, however England is no different to spain. Fernando Torres come to mind. At present there are better strikers, yet I'm sure Torres will be included in the Euros due to past glories.

  • Comment number 57.

    Alistair -
    "...It is not all rosy in Southgate's garden, though. The former Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace defender accepts that the FA's influence over youth development is limited and in an ideal world the national association would be running youth football in its entirety via a number of regional centres. But he believes the FA can still play a crucial part...."

    'Limited' influence??? , not the ideal???......yet £100m investment in new facilities?... for who then? I thought this country was 'broke' .... jobs for the boys, never fails does it?

    comm'n up the FA!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    Actually, the problem with the youth system is money. The sheer potential of it.

    Many parents and coaches promote the win at all costs mentality - coaches are afraid to take issue with parents' and kids behaviour. Parents push their kids towards the pot of gold of the premiership. Then come the agents - why do clubs continue to pay agents when all they are actually out for is their player to get the biggest wage and signing on fee and 'loyalty bonus' so that the agents cut from the players negotiated terms are bigger. After that - the club then give them money for allowing themselves to be battered into submission - it is crazy.

    The only way for the right attitude to be developed would be for the top 40 kids at U12 level signing a 'national contract'. They are then contracted to the FA - they go to a local school and effectively board at the St George's. They would then be contracted until 16 or option to stay until 18 and do A levels and then clubs pay transfer fee's to the FA - in the meantime these kids have been brought up with the right footballing philosophy, great coaching to improve the technical aspects of their game, and above all, a solid education - a la 'coach carter' if they don't attend lessons and achieve pass marks - they get cut adrift. In the meantime their education and living costs are supplemented or free so it doesn't matter what background the kids are from as cost would not be an issue to the family. That is why tennis fails - the costs for coaching and sending to tournaments means the sport is an upper middle class sport cutting out a large proportion of the gene pool.

    More managers and should look at Ian Holloway's example - spent the first few years with the win at all costs mentality and realised he wasn't enjoying it. Took some time out, visited the top clubs to look at their coaching philosophies and style of play and decided, win lose or draw my next club will play good football. Blackpool were a breath of fresh air last season.

  • Comment number 59.

    The word "technically" is bandied about a lot when this topic comes up. But in fact, what are the "technical" traits required for top level footballers? Passing, shooting, dribbling, tackling, heading? Well, there are English players who can do these things and do them well.

    It is more a question of tactical awareness and footballing intelligence. It requires more technical ability to play an accurate 50 yard vertical pass than it does to play a two yard horizontal pass. However, in many instances, the latter is more sensible and effective.

    This ultimately comes down to coaching though. A team has to be patient, disciplined, organised and above all, confident. Good players know when to carry the ball and when to release it and Jack Wilshere serves as proof that we can produce this kind of player.

    One of my problems with coaches in this country is that they seem to be unprofessional and at times unintelligent. Okay, it's difficult to convey your ideas and thoughts in a 3 minute post match interview when the reporter is asking inane questions, but the presentation of the average English manager is just poor. Look at Roberto Martinez, he speaks well (in a second language I might add) and stays composed in the face of adversity. I'm certain his players listen to and respect him.

    I know improving presentation won't be the primary objective at St George's Park, but I definitely feel individual managers need to take care of how they come across. It helps not only with gaining respect of their squad, but also with future job prospects.

  • Comment number 60.

    My own opinion on what could be improved in England:

    Winning is the be all end all, how many times do we hear it's all about the result champions win ugly etc. Football isn't fair winning doesn't mean you're good. After 'winning ugly' every manager even half-decent will hammer the players regardless and correct the errors else next time they won't win. In schools youth training and academies it should be all about performance.

    The acceptance by coaches and fans that the purpose of the game is to put the ball in the mixer as it gives you more chance to score. Which translates to hoofing it on every opportunity from set plays or going wide and puting crosses in the box. Sometimes it works but usually it won't as you lose control and you aren't the boss any more. Putting the ball in the air is lack of responibility as it's the easiest thing to do without being blamed.

    Too much emphasis on the role of the manager when it's all about the players.

    Too much emphasis on fitness, you see it even in top league teams running up and down all day long rather than ball exercises and routines. The results are sprinters and muscle beasts who don't know what to do with a football.

    Endeavour guts and spirit is praised as something 'mystical' often to conceal shortcomings at high level or in schools. How many times do we hear British players have never say die or try their hardest (as if other nations don't). Or they they lost but gave their all but should be proud (as if others don't give their all). This blood and guts often means lack of positioning and tactical awareness. How many times do we hear European football is 'boring' or continental players are 'lazy' just because they don't run like headless chickens. Once Gerrard was taken off because he was doing that and the manager was crucified by the media.

    The top players even at a young age are rich superstars too pampered and protected by the media the fans the FA and their managers. So they know that even if they don't perform they can have a laugh and after a few weeks they'll be gods again. All a result of the traditional pride and arrogance of the English fan which is duly exploited by the capitalist propaganda machine. Heck people think here that players have it tough by the media because they reveal they peed in the street or drink-drive and then these tabloids are criticised for causing trouble! Abroad players who don't perform ON THE PITCH are absolutely torn to shreds by the press even occasionally physically attacked by their own fans (not that I endorse this).

    Football isn't about facilities pristine pitches multi-million hotels in Baden Baden and conference rooms with fancy projectors, it's about playing in the streets the concrete and the beaches.

    Last thing, for England last 16 it should be par rather than a major crisis and quarters should be achieving the targets, people shouldn't be so arrogant to think for some reason England deserve better and put unreasonable expectations on the players. Or do they hear Sky calling every player 'world class' every other day or that England aim to win the cup before every tourney and they actually believe it?


  • Comment number 61.

    England's problems are still there and this new training centre will make little difference unless the coaching is right and England forms a consistant style like Brazil,Italy,Spain etc well a style that is a bit more complex than hitting the ball so hard you hope to concuss the poor bloke on Z row. A lack of cohesion and club rivalry has limited England nearly all of the German squad plays for Bayern Munich nearly all the Spanish squad play for Barcelona

    Also the number of games and intensity of the Premier League also limits England with none of the players from the premier league and this includes players who weren't playing for England performing very well at the last World Cup I don't think a winter break will make the difference less games and players not running around like a dog with its tail tied to a kite this is a step in the right direction but there is still alot of work to do

  • Comment number 62.


    I was speaking more about Pro Footballers, and i have played football all my life at at quite high levels.

    My experience on the pitch is that good players naturally have a winning mentality, not one good footballer i know over all my years is happy with losing and other players that lack commitment and effort, its the basics in football.

    Football is all about winning matches, no matter how much you want to wrap things up Cotton wool. Yeah Kids should play to enjoy, but even my lads and his mates look dejected after a loss, they by their own nature play football to win.

    If you want high quality players then you need pick Champions in the making, that would be my team. Flair players are not always the best, and teaching kids tippy tappy is also not a good tactic.

    I liked the post by the Dutch guy, we need to train dedicated athletes, and also for the first time ever i have to agree with Soul Patch, the English Society is to blame also and our education system cabbages our population.

  • Comment number 63.

    #59 has waded in with some irrellevance and started talking about managers 'Job prospects'. Very strange. The reason the word technically is banded around so much in these sorts of debates is because although you have pointed out that English players, generally speaking, are technically good when striking the ball its another skill set which is more important to the modern game. Unfortunately English players first touch, short passing, awareness, movement, comfort to play in tight areas, again generally, isn't as precisely honed as some of our European counterparts. Its a matter of correct coaching from a young age, if our young players were coached properly then we'd develop a lot more 'Jack Wiltshire' type players. I once went to an international youth 7 aside tournament where all the English lads were big and strong and could certainly strike the ball well and scored some pretty impressive long range goals. But the European sides there were so much more technically developed and this is the real problem. The European players will go on and develop physically to match there talent with the ball but in England we pick the more physically developed players and try to develop them technically. In the end when these lads get found out for now being technically good enough the majority of other kids are lost.

  • Comment number 64.

    Also there is nothing wrong with the long ball tactic, there is a massive difference between hoofing the ball and passing a long ball, and all this exaggeration about hitting the guy in row z is just an English thing is just pathetic.

    How many long balls do Real Madrid play, watch them, quite alot and i would say more than Man U, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool but perhaps not Stoke lol.

    But Real Madrid would beat any English Club hands down.

    Doncaster play some decent football, short passing ect but look at them. Has anyone ever seen how Acrington Stanley play, the are a lower league version of Arsenal, do they win that much or climbing up in the higher leagues, simple answer is no.

    Try watching the Spanish League, especially when teams play Barca, soak up pressure, hit them fast on the counter with, guess what.... a long pass.

    I think the best and most exciting games are the end to end games.

    Not sure if anyone saw Cardiff second leg against Palace in the Carling cup. For me this was an amazing game of good honest football, many times low in Barca quality but high in passion excitement and the will to win from Cardiff was exceptional.

    And all these people babbling about technical this technical that.....

    Clueless about the actual purpose of football and that is winning.

    Nobody remember teams who play well but lose, simple fact get over it.

  • Comment number 65.

    To reiterate what thoughtfulphil said above, and in the words of Cruyff, football is a simple game of space and movement made complicated by coaches and tactics. Essentially the game is made to look easy by Spain and Barcelona because they make it that way. If every player on a team is capable of finding space throughout the game, it means that the player in possession always has a glut of options from which to choose. The best way to emphasise the need to find space is to reduce it in training games, and play with smaller numbers on small pitches, means each player gets more touches and opportunities to learn how to find and play into space.

    England does produce some players that are comfortable on the ball, though not as many as perhaps it should, but even they tend to have a mentality that doesn't lend itself to a passing game. Effectively what you're doing is becoming a team, and unfortunately most English players these days seem more interested in themselves than the collective. Even good players like Gerrard and Lampard will look to make 70 yard crossfield passes to try and stamp their authority on the game. Influential though they are, I always thought more time should have been spent with players like Murphy and Wilshere in the starting line up.

  • Comment number 66.

    Shadow warrior

    You wrote 'our education system cabbages our population' You have probably hit a raw nerve for some. I also believe, that is exactly what we do. If the basics of education in any field are wrong, then it will remain wrong from that point onwards.

    Much of the intelligence, the freedom of thought has been removed from football in England, proven by the fact, that when we watch a match we know exactly how each team will play. Of course mistakes by players, usually define the result but ocassionally and it is not very often, a moment of individuality will change a match. That cannot be coached into a player but it can be discouraged by coaching and that is what we have done over many years.

    Arsenal play one way, Stoke another, one way is no better than the other but each time they take to the pitch, it has to be easier for the opposition if they know what they are going to face. Over coaching and the wrong type of coaching, has removed any suprise element from the game.

  • Comment number 67.

    Yes 66,

    The main thing that England could use universally is to encourage people strenghts. I asked my 11 year old lad who plays every week what is more important, winning or playing beautiful football.

    He said playing beautiful football but is it doesnt help you win then you need to change tactics and find a way that wins games.

    I wouldnt like to coach although i think i would be good at it, but my first rule would be to let the players play to their strengths.

    My lads coach is a joke, he encourages Barcelona style and over 1 year they won 1 game, they are not played to the strengths and also favoritism is a problem in almost every team i know and have played in.

    So its not about money, didnt Pele learn his skills from playing kick up with oranges, and loads of the best players learned there trade playing street football.

    So the main issue is let them play with freedom. Another example is at school the sports teacher changed and the team who didnt win one games last year with the previous so called coach who played semi pro just didnt work. So the new one asked the boys to choose the team and ask what was there favorite position. And guess what they havent lost a game yet.

    Let the players play to their strengths, give them freedom to play, they learn more by watching the top pros and trying to imitate.

    Modern football is becoming very dull boring and to professional the heart and spirit of football is being lost. And every player now is just a stat.

  • Comment number 68.

    Tomorrows 'white elephant'. Success for the national team cannot be summoned as if by magic from a field in Staffordshire,however expensive it is. The England team will continue to fail whilst the Premier League exists in it's current form because not enough English players get to play in it thus reducing the choices before any England manager. The FA will do anything but face facts and the facts are it has lost control of the game in England to the Premier League hirearchy who decide everything from when the Cup Final can be played to how many British born or coached players (not English you will note) must be included in each squad. This venture will not alter any of that I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 69.

    I am not sure why people think that England doesnt have good passing ability. From what i remember Liverpool were the pass masters and it was team of British players. So its not the abilty of our players but the way they are coached. Is neat passing all that it is supposed to be, look at Arsenal now and what has been happening for the last 7 years, lots of nice ineffective football. Passing is there always, over passing is risky and alot of mistakes can happen with short passing in small spaces and often leads to mistakes causing goals. Right now we have 2 amazing teams Barca and Spain who play the passing game to perfection but is not good to watch week in week out.

    Go back to the great teams of Brazil, they didnt rely on passing, they relied on exceptional attacking football, and for me the team of Liverpool and Brazil in the 70's was the best ever display of perfect football, more better than Barca, plus the pitches are like carpets compared to how they used to be.

    What England needs is a English manager, i dont care if we win or not for now, but what i want is England to revive our game be passionate patriotic and show every team we come against that they are in for the game of there life.

  • Comment number 70.

    yeah 68, doesnt really need tons of money. give a good coach a patch of green space, a few balls and 30 guys who want to win and get a good combination of players who will play and fight for each other and then you having the basis of a winning footballer.

    People also think we as English use this as an excuse but our players have a torrid time with the Media and pressure. plus i do think that when playing for the national team players should not be paid and let them just have the privilege of playing for the country which should be good enough. Now players make appearances to help boost there stock and get more in the transfer window and gain popularity.

    Everything is just about making money now and football is getting boring. Some games are good but as time goes on the way football is being played is becoming more like chess.

    Man City play good football but damn are they boring, if not for David Silva i wouldnt even watch them.

  • Comment number 71.

    Evening all

    A couple of quick points. Even though St Georges Park is costing £100m much of the money is put in by Umbro and Hilton are covering the hotel costs.

    #39 thoughtfulphil what I meant by this point is not to belittle good footballers but if want our top-quality footballers, they must be grouped together like they used to be at the FA National School at Lilleshall before it was disbanded. If the top 100 footballers at each age group are playing together more often, that can only be a good thing for England. Of course, others will be able to reach this group and compete at a level where they will become professionals but best have to play with best to improve the highest level.

    Overall, it appears that things are getting better in this country. In my experience as a coach and also when I spoke to several coaches who work in clubs after the 2010 World Cup, the right education is being delivered to those that want it and coaches are acting on it.

    10,000 coaches have taken the FA Youth modules, over 250,000 have done level one but I accept there is still a grassroots problem where volunteers, effectively, are worrying more about winning than developing.

    It might be eight years late but St Georges Park will make a difference. Maybe not as big as it could have done, but as Southgate says without it the FA is doing coaches a "disservice". It's a good move as is delaying 11v11 until 13s.

    In my existence football coaching takes a while to learn about but the more experienced you become the more you realise how simple it is. As long as you teach youngsters to how to do all the basics well, encourage them to practice and take risks, help them make decisions and be aware of their surroundings all in a fun and enjoyable environment, then it is amazing what they learn themselves.

  • Comment number 72.

    England will be great again one day if we get the basics back into football as you say Alister. We have a great tradition and so many people are going out to play football very single night, so we have the passion, its still a top footballing nation and we have and always will have exceptional football players not matter what the Scottish say.

  • Comment number 73.


    As far as I'm aware the Scottish Government have made no comment whatsoever on the state of the game in England. But top marks for trying to convince yourself that people in Scotland have a view on your game.

  • Comment number 74.

    England will be great again one day if we get the basics back into football as you say Alister
    Isn't his name Alistair?

    Its the Scots Gaelic version of Alexander! Given your earlier comment about the education system in England, I'm beginning to understand why this might be an issue, though you may be taking #66's 'free-thinking approach.

  • Comment number 75.

    "Of course, there are many unresolved issues within the EPPP, not least how clubs will be graded among the four academy categories, and it will be a huge story in coming months.

    I want to leave aside problems surrounding reduced transfer fees for the moment, as they have already been discussed in length elsewhere."

    Of course you want to leave aside the problems surrounding reduced transfer fees but it is of crucial importance. Just as the BBC's new website is predominately about the Premier League so is EPPP.

    The new centre at Burton is brilliant and it should be used to develop the elite and future English internationals at all ages. But football is about more than the premiership. For as long as some of our younger players can't get first team games at top clubs (Scott Sinclair at Chelsea) because they are full of foreign imports in order to try to win the premier league we'll never be world beaters. How would later developers (eg Smalling) come through under this system - I want to be positive but there are still too many doubts.

    On a more positive note this development is the right way forward, I just hope to see a team win the European or World Cup again in my lifetime!

  • Comment number 76.


    I worried about your response until I read the last paragraph, you wrote 'In my existence football coaching takes a while to learn about but the more experienced you become the more you realise how simple it is. As long as you teach youngsters to how to do all the basics well, encourage them to practice and take risks, help them make decisions and be aware of their surroundings all in a fun and enjoyable environment, then it is amazing what they learn themselves'.

    That is precisely what i wrote earlier, the basics must be right and from that point on, there has to be a freedom given to the individual player, to develop alongside anything a coach can give to a player in the way of tactical nous.

    I do not think anyone would say at the highest level, which must be the ultimate aim for England, that our coaches have been successful. Results and performances have proven that fact.

    Now we are expected to see an improvement because of a new development, the cost and who payed for it is irrelevant. The fact is the same old coaches will be employed to coach, therefore how can we improve? We are not addressing the issue, we are merely producing a glossy surrounding for the same old drivel to be taught.

  • Comment number 77.

    56. At 14:40 2nd Feb 2012, j_kopking wrote:

    At present there are better strikers, yet I'm sure Torres will be included in the Euros due to past glories.

    Behave yourself.

    Fernando Torres is ''Exhibit A'' in the - correct - argument supporting the notion that the EPL depreciates the talent of highly skilful footballers. In Torres' case, the EPL has turned a potential great of the game into a lame, metaphorical three-legged donkey, who should be put out to graze to avoid embarrassment.

    Torres won't be anywhere near La Furia Roja's starting line-up in Gdansk.

    The free-scoring, free-spirited, frugal-defence fracturing frontman, Fernando Llorente, will effortlessly fill the role which Torres has vacated.

  • Comment number 78.

    This one is addressed to Soul-patch in particular.
    What do you think of Soldado's chances of getting into Spain's Euro 2012 squad, or even getting a start in a game other than the final group tie?

  • Comment number 79.

    The comments by Shadow Warrior, Brian Gabriel and others show the fundamental problem with English football is cultural, i.e one of mentality as much as anything and which this new academy I feel will only partially put right. You could have 100 academies but if the desire amongst English fans is for typical blood and thunder type football then that is what will prevail. Brian Gabriel's comments in particular highlight a fundamental problem in the mindset of English fans, that of complete impatience. He like many others thinks that because teams like Barca don't rush the ball forward as quickly as possible it is therefore boring, much prefering to see the English style where the ball is pumped towards the penalty area as soon as possible in order to create exciting goalmouth action. The problem with this kind of thinking though is that it ignores the fact that all the best teams show a willingness to be patient with the ball and maintain possession whilst patiently probing for the right moment to create an opening.

    Shadow Warrior. A couple of your comments just beggar belief. Brazil's football didn't rely on passing? What planet are you on? Just look at the Carlos Alberto goal against Italy in 1970 and then tell me that their game wasn't about passing. That goal wasn't a one-off either, it was typical of their style of play. As for your comments about City. Well they are this seasons top scorers so they've certainly been more entertaining than most and with players like Aguerro, Balotelli, Yaya Toure, Dzeko, Nasri and Adam Johnson there is a lot of entertaining quality players there other than just David Silva, and I'm a United fan.

  • Comment number 80.

    78. At 21:45 2nd Feb 2012, Paul_Mersons_Blue_Pen wrote:

    What do you think of Soldado's chances of getting into Spain's Euro 2012 squad, or even getting a start in a game other than the final group tie?

    I consider Soldado to be the Spanish equivalent of Darren Bent.

    If you've seen some of my other comments on these blogs, then you'll know that I consider Bent to be one of England's few top, top players.

    Bent and Soldado are extremely similar, in a way, in that they may be completely anonymous for 90 minutes, but, given the smallest of chances, they are the doyens of making that old onion-bag bulge!

    I'd love to see Soldado used by del Bosque late on in a game - when the normal tactics may become a little bit blunt.

  • Comment number 81.

    mikey blathers

    You mention Barca, the style they play is not where football begins and stops. In a short time it will be a redundant style of football because that is the nature of the game itself. It continually changes, they may well carry on with the style but the success it brings will evaporate because it will be surpassed by another style. It is also misleading because it is totally dependant on the players abilities when it comes to success.

    As for your comments on Brasil and 1970, the style bears no relation to Barca today. In fact take a look at Brasil over the forty years since that great team, they have undergone many changes and have played many different styles since that time.

    You seem to be suggesting that possession football is the only way BUT it is what you achieve while in possession of the football that really counts.

    If the position was reversed and a team that lumped the ball forward, actually won a major tournament, would that be the way forward? I'd still say no.

    One of the issues that i have written about is our lack of creativity in playing the game. By the time we have learnt the Barca way, it will be outdated and ineffective. Are you seriously saying we should be a clone of the Barca school of football?

    We actually need creative coaching that can introduce a style of play that we are comfortable with and we can accomplish and achieve success because the nature of the game itself is to win matches.

  • Comment number 82.

    81. At 23:09 2nd Feb 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:

    You mention Barca, the style they play is not where football begins and stops. ''In a short time it will be a redundant style of football because that is the nature of the game itself.''

    You wish, pal, you wish!

  • Comment number 83.

    Its astonishing to think that the premier league is the best league in the world to watch yet there are so many english players who wouldnt look out of place on a sunday at hackney marshes.They may be big enough and strong enough but give them the ball and you can sense the panic straight away.
    How they make it to pro level is beyond me and to think that I was told that I was too small to make it,not strong enough,now is Lionel messi a 6ft tall giant?Was that fat Argentinian cheat a 6ft tall giant? Fact is if you're good enough then you're good enough.This was back in the early 80"s and the point is I believe the English mentality hasnt changed either.But the game obviously has. We as a nation should be at the forefront of everything good and new,modern and inventive regarding the game.Instead I think the game is still being run by the same people that told me that I was too small to make it,that said no we wont build our team around Glenn Hoddle when the French built there team around Platini.
    I hope and pray that I will one day see England win the World Cup and as a sucker still think we can every time it comes round.
    Until the brigade that run the FA come to there senses and get some young ideas in I just dont see much changing from my days of early 80's.
    Like thats going to happen!! Brazil 2014 Bring it on,its our turn.

  • Comment number 84.

    Londoner in exile returns


    I wasn't suggesting that possession football is the only way to play, merely observing that all succesful teams who have won the major honours in club and international football have all as a common denominator been teams who are comfortable in possession and have the highest level of skill, technique and tactical awareness.

    You are right that one day in the future Barca's style will become outdated and will be succeeded by a new and more progressive style, that's how things evolve in life. Brazil may have undergone many changes in the last 40 years but the ability to pass, move and dictate possession has always been a constant feature of their play within those changes.

    Technique, skill, tactical nous, the ability to accurately give and recieve a pass are fundamentals of the game but in which areas the English game and the players it produces are notably deficient in and until these deficiencies are adressed and corrected we will forever be lagging behind other main nations. The traditional strengths of the English game like power, stamina and pace are not enough IMO to make up for the shortcomings in the fundamentals mentioned above.

  • Comment number 85.

    Mikey Blathers

    i tend to agree, how english football is perceived, strength, stamina and pace first and foremost. But we do have players with the skills of ball control, dribbling skills, heading ability. Afterall it is almost beyond belief that a nation with 50 million people, where the national sport is football, cannot find eleven players with amazing skills.

    My arguement is, if the coaches that exist today are those that are involved in the education of the coach of tomorrow, then the problems we have will continue. For the coach, they all sign up to the same teaching method and adhere to the same principals, if they don't they do not become coaches.

    Our culture, our society in general does not encourage free thinking, sport is no different. Football is not a science, it is also not complicated, although those involved would like people to think it is.

    Before we can go forward we need to examine how our coaches are educated and maybe that is where the problems originate.

    Here's one example back in 66, Ramsey started the world cup playing one winger in each of the first three matches, he then dispensed with them altogether. He was crucified by all and sundry for it but England won a world cup, with a manager who was prepared to go against all the rules at the time. That is freedom of thought, it's called innovation.

  • Comment number 86.


    What has been said about Barca has been said about many teams, some even more dominant than they are at present.

    Everything in life has a cycle and it's Barca's turn at the moment, in a few years you will be going ga ga over some other club and thinking it's the greatest ever. That is what people like you do.

  • Comment number 87.

    Spain were once like England, unachieving, underperforming, too many putting club before country. The best hope for the England team is for one top club to lay down a philosophy, focus on bringing up young local players through the academy and into the first team. That's probably the only way we can get a cohesive national team. There are simply too many clubs trying to bring young players in from all over the world rather than bringing up local players.

  • Comment number 88.

    maccas 60 yard run

    That is a part of the solution for the number of footballers who qualify to play for England but it is not the answer to how we then play. Other countries notably Italy down the years have had a large amount of players from abroad but they have still won world cups.

    To get one home produced player from an academy, there would be hundreds passing through the system which all have a time factor which would have a cost. It's easier and less risk to go and get one from overseas, that is part developed at a fraction, of the overall cost of producing one home player.

  • Comment number 89.

    87.At 03:29 3rd Feb 2012, Maccas_60_yard_run wrote:

    yeah, united with jones, smalling, cleaverley, welbeck and rooney have a good back bone to the team, and with rodwell whilshire and hart there should be a very good team in the offing for the next world cup!!

  • Comment number 90.

    lol @ a lot of these posts.

    Why so negative?? I'm pretty sure a lot of you were calling for an establishment such as this and now we have one and you're still picking at it.

    England has definitely produced technically gifted players in the last 20 years.
    Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand, Rooney, Bale, Joe Cole, Ashley Cole, Hart, Gascoigne, Owen to name a few. I know a couple are Welsh but they came through the English system.

    How anyone can call Ferdinand a "plodder" (soul patch) is so football dyslexic its unreal, and i seriously suggest you go get yourself checked out.
    He is without a doubt one of the best technically gifted defenders of the modern era and SAF called him the best defender he's ever had which is why he paid £30m for him all those years ago.

    Zidane (probably the best player of the modern era) called Gerrard the best in the world just two or three years ago, and I do think he has a lot more to go on than Mr Soul Patch.

    To call England uneducated makes you look like you're fresh out of a nappy.

    Now we're not all fortunate enough to have a feeder club to our national team, and the fact that Spain can only call on 2 or 3 teams for their national squad leads me to believe that your country is infact more stunted than ours. We have 5 or 6 teams that could compete in the champions league whereas Spain have 2. Granted Barca are the best in the world, as are Spain and once Xavi retires, his heir (Fagregas) was moulded and made into one of the best by Arsenal (an English team).

    To sum up, you (Soul Patch) are deluded (with so little knowledge of football its astounding).

  • Comment number 91.

    HAHA also just read another insane comment by Soul Patch.

    The English game ruined Torres? LOL I do believe he was a decent player at Atletico...bought by Liverpool and transformed into one of the best, most lethal strikers in the world which then persuaded Chelsea to part with £50mil. If you think, had he stayed with Atletico, that someone would have paid 50mil for him then again you have mental issues that require immediate attention!

  • Comment number 92.


    Ah! A positive note or two, like you i refuse to believe that we have not produced some class players, in fact I believe your list is well short for the 20 year period in terms of numbers. But that is not the problem, is it?

    The real problem is getting a team together, playing in a formation that suits the players and can compete at the highest level, looking like they can actually win a game, when it counts. Yes i know we often reach the quarters only for fate to intervene and penalties or a so called lucky goal that knocks us out.

    In all of those games we never went into the matches looking like winning. Under Erickson we were clueless and looked more afraid of losing before we ever looked like having the enjoyment of winning. Capello is no different. The eleven best players no matter if many play in the same position, that was the best Erickson and Capello could come up with, is that really what coaching is all about?

    When we are at the level we are and with the players we have at our disposal, it is the coaches who determine play and that is where we fail miserably. I can honestly say Venables was our last decent coach. Prior to Euro 96, was the last time i saw a coach try different formations when our national team played, not all were successful but we tried different styles. That is one of the hallmarks, of a coach without fear.

    The 100 mill or so that this has cost will mean nothing because if history is to go by, we will have the same old coaches giving good players the same old style of play. It is the style where we fail so badly, we are predictable.

    Surely we should get the basics right first and that means good coaches, the blog speaks in numbers of new coaches but if they are being taught by the same old method then all we can expect is the same type of coach.

  • Comment number 93.

    Bad coaches coach bad players who go on to become bad coaches. Ady Boothroyd is a classic example. Awful football.

    On the technical side, we have far too many one-footed wonders who call themselves professional footballers. You need to be able to play equally well with either foot, trapping a ball dead, passing it accuratey, shooting with either foot. Until the whole coaching set-up is overhauled, we will continue on the same road we have as we have for the last 50 years.

  • Comment number 94.

    The problems we have are right here in some of these comments for all to see.How many comments are slating this idea before it has even began properly?This is what we and the British media do,build something up to bring it down again...yes a lot of money has been spent,yes its taken a while but this is what is needed in our game...there are currently,throughout our leagues, some talented English players who have technical ability,passion and good positional sense, the problems I can see is that there are perhaps not enough,certainly to make any impression on the international stage.If this type of academy is going to encourage pass and move,touch,control,positional awareness and better coaching emphasising these components of the game and if we can lose this ridiculous mentality for slating young developing players if they make mistakes,give the ball away etc then I am all for it...I dont think that our 'passion' would be lost/affected what I do not want to see or hear from the touchlines of a schoolboy game is 'get rid of it' 'get stuck in' or 'dodgy keeper' etc..(ok the last one is quite funny but not needed at grass roots level)we should get behind this and not think too negatively that it's going to be a glorious failiure...

  • Comment number 95.

    Make of this what you will, but it seems pretty clear to me when considering the English football supporters' mentality that failure is expected in everything that is done, suggested or practised...

    It is a pretty sad state of affairs when a new idea is not given the time to flourish (or in this case START) before it receives a slandering the likes of which some of you have thrown at this idea.

    Is this not the reason why so many managers are kicked out of their jobs at such early stages (Warnock, Grayson and Hughton to name but a few)?

    Take it from a Wanderer (and yes, criticism expected here for my choice of team) good things can happen if time is allowed. This season it would have been so easy for us to have sacked Coyle, but recognition that he is a good and developing manager encouraged Gartside to keep him on and low and behold the revival has started with only 1 defeat in the last 5 league games.

    The point is not about Bolton though, the point is BE PATIENT!!! France pre '98 were considered along with the Spanish as Europe's big underachievers. They have both since dominated world football as a result of drastic changes to the way football is structured in their countries. Yes I know, it isn't perfect here at all, but give it time and you never know

    *Your criticism here*

  • Comment number 96.

    Londoner in exile returns


    Your right about our society not encouraging thinking or using the intellect and this manifests itself in our approach to playing sport and football in particular. English players play more on instinct than on using intelligence, hence why we forever hear words and phrases like 'passion', 'heart', 'get stuck in there' etc. The issue here is that this is what the majority of football fans in this country want to see, blood and thunder, crunching tackles, high-tempo high octane excitement and this is what I meant earlier when I said the problems in English football are to do with the prevailing culture and mentality as much as anything. You can have all the academies you like and English football obviously isn't short of money but what happens when you produce highly skilled, technically accomplished players that try and produce those skills in a competitive match only to have thousands of impatient neanderthals in the crowd screaming at them to 'get rid', 'get stuck in there' etc.

    As for the next generation of coaches, well I'm hopeful that when the current crop of players retire and some of them move into coaching they will recognise the need for a more skills and technique method of coaching, having been exposed to the influence of more progressive foreign managers and players, only like you I'm not holding my breath.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.