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Fixing youth development in England: A few thoughts – Part 1

Whenever any country exits an international tournament without winning any fan can expect an inquest into what went wrong, why did their country not acheive their supposed potential, what can be done to avoid such disappointment in the future and most importantly where to firmly lay the mark of shame and blame! Such inquests carry a lot more ferocity when the exit is as embarassing and upsetting as England’s was for their fans. I’d like to put forward my two pennies regarding how England might go about rebounding from this in the long term.

Coaching hierarchy

The most damning set of figures to come out of this World Cup has had absolutely nothing to do with the England team itself, not directly anyway. The depth of good coaching in England is dwarfed by other European footballing heavyweights. England has 2,679 coaches holding Uefa’s A, B and Pro licences: Spain has 23,995, Italy 29,420 and Germany 34,970.

There are a number of reasons for this lack of education within the game, the cost of the course is a hugely prohibitive factor for many budding coaches out there. The UEFA B license costs nearly £400 to attend and the A license can cost as much as £2,500. The real worry though is the way educated people are perceived from within the game. Simon Kuper writes:

“This is a problem with a long history in English football (and maybe broader English society) – a distrust of anything ‘clever’ or ‘theories’. When England got humiliated by Hungary they could have learnt something but the response actually laid the foundations of the Stanley Reep school of hoofball with its emphasis on physicality and athleticism.

Anyone who played football as a kid in England,be it at school, district or club level, knows how it works. A coach screams at you to get stuck in, to get it in the mixer, to hoof it out. The big fast players are favoured and the technical kids get kicked about. Pitches are mudbaths and the games are helter skelter. The Gerrards, Terrys and Defoes dominate because their style suits this environment. Never, ever are players encouraged to think for themselves. Anything ‘expressive’ is stamped out of them.”

Much of the blame for such a culture has to be attributed to the FA, if we look at the three other nations mentioned above when I quoted number of coaches, those nations have some excellent academies that encourage education. Education not only of their coaches but also of players, Pep Guardiola attended University and Arsene Wenger was an economist, Wenger would never have been appointed manager in any traditional club in England without having had some sort of playing career.

England lack a flagship centre of coaching. The FA don’t have anywhere with the quality and prestige of Coverciano (Italy), Clairefontaine (France), KNVB Academy (Netherlands) or La Cuidad del Futbol (Spain). St George’s park has finally been agreed and will be ready in a few years time but they are already decades behind their counterparts.

Later on

In the next part of this article I will be taking a look at what is available to many of the grassroots coaches, the confines they have to work in, the lack of good technical training before any tactics are considered. As always I look forward to hearing any comments or criticisms you may have.

  • Defensive Minded

    The FA could easily subsidize the cost of the UEFA coaching license. England need a systematic approach to the way they develop players. They don't have to copy other countries but they do need to find a process that works for them. The fact that they don't have a decent holding midfielder or goalkeeper is shocking when you look at how much money the the game has.
    I don't know if increasing the number of coaches will help.Youth coaches in England are clearly under pressure to produce wins, not necessarily to play a certain style. So they will chose the low risk strategy. Its a problem of incentives. England under 17 recently beat Spain under 17 and were congratulated for it. No one said anything about style or technique or ball retention (all things which the Spanish players excelled in). So if you are an English coach at youth level you will look at that and say ” No one in my country values technique or whether my players are improving individually so why bother?”. The coaches want to keep their jobs and that is tied to winning so all these bad habits come out of that.

  • Adewale Sherif

    i will like to join u.

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