Your Kids Football Future: In Safe Hands?

July 3, 2007

Sir Trevor Brooking is trying manfully again to come up with a plan that improves the atrocious state of youth football in this country. He is obviously a good man with the best interests of the kids, the future professional players and the long term benefit of the England team at heart. Unfortunately he will face a wall of resistence from parents and coaches who were failed players themselves, desperate to win, teaching from the ridiculous FA coaches manual looking for the ultimate “box to box” player. It’s time this changed!

At grass roots level kids football from the age of 6 is competitive, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Parents turn up to see their kids WIN! Coaches want their teams to WIN! The kids who initially want to play a game with a ball eventually want to WIN! Now I understand winning is ultimately what the game is about but there are technical skills that need refining that cannot be learnt while under pressure to WIN! I’ll explain, go to a park on a Sunday morning and watch any youth game, within 5 minutes I guarantee you will see a child with the ball at his feet and a couple of options. He should get his head up and look to pass to team mate, basic possession of the football. What will happen is a coach or parent will yell out, the kid will panic and launch the ball as quickly as possible almost inevitably giving it away. No chance to learn, the die is cast and possession of the ball is lost. Fast forward to any England game where we are being outplayed by more technicaly gifted players and you can see these early lessons ingrained on the English psyche, even amongst the most talented of English players. 

This WIN at all costs mentality also brings the physically stronger players to the fore, not the most gifted. The stronger children wil be indentified as “the best”. If they can tackle and barge their way through a defence terrified of getting hurt then they will be picked out. I am certain that generations of technically skillfull players are ignored or simply give up as they are pushed and kicked by the more physically developed players who give a quick fix to the parents and coaches WIN mentality. Sir Trevor must stop all competitive “League” football for any child under the age of 12 to allow their skills to develop. Let them try and make twenty passes that keep possession and if it’s given away every time encourage them to try again. Then a revelation will come, the twenty first pass finds it’s target, they find a team mate and a move develops.  That is a result bigger than 3 points and another tat trophy at the end of a competitve season launching the ball forwards to the biggest, strongest, quickest centre forward who scores 30 goals against opposition not physically capable yet of stopping him. They will catch up in the end and nothing has been learnt.

This problem then feeds the professional “development  centres” and “Acadamies” with the biggest strongest players who don’t have the skill to progress being selected and inevitably failing to make the grade. From experience at 2 premiership clubs where my son has had trials the evidence is clear. I am not a bitter father, I don’t believe my boy could have made the grade whatever system was in place it is just the approach of these elite clubs youth coaches that is so disappointing. My sons chance came at 9 years old, when Wayne Rooney was making waves at international level and it was obvious that the clubs were looking for players in the Rooney mould, at 9 years old! Were they looking at technical abilty? Control, passing, being able to use both feet, balance? I don’t think so, they were looking for strength, athleticism and arrogance if you didn’t tick those boxes it was thanks but no thanks. Fair enough, that’s their choice but those players will continue to give the ball away, eventually to be caught up physically by more talented overseas players and then be discarded to the lower leagues before their 20th birthday. Leaving the England team in the state it is currently in.

The evidence is quite clear, more children play football in England than most other countries in the world. The Premiership has the lowest percentage of home players than any country in the world. Something is drastically wrong, which country buys up young English talent the way we buy up, French, Spainish, African young talent? There isn’t one because young English talent isn’t there I won’t accept the odd exception as evidence to the contrary. Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez and the like know their stuff, young English players aren’t good enough. I admire Martin Jols efforts at Tottenham with English youngsters, but if Darren Bent represents the best young English talent and £16 million then my argument is sealed. David Nugent is the future England centre forward but Preston can’t give him away to a Premiership club, especially not one of the big four. Nugent for Madrid, Barcelona, or Milan? I don’t think so and that is the best our system has thrown up.

I am absolutely certain that we have English Kakas, Ronaldos, Henrys driving trucks, stacking shelves or selling houses ignored by coaches because their technical development wasn’t encouraged, smothered by the stronger kids whose early physical development allowed coaches and parents an over inflated sense of their own achievement. 

Sir Trevor you have my support but this is a bigger job than even you know and I think it is something you won’t overcome. The parents, coaches and trophy makers for the under twelves won’t allow it. A WIN in a park on a Sunday morning at all costs while the potential talent freezes on the touchline is obviously worth more than allowing that potential talent a chance to flourish and the future of football in this country.

RIP English football, you never had a chance. 


2 Responses to “Your Kids Football Future: In Safe Hands?”

  1. Flint McCullough Says:

    Absolutely right.

    Arsene Wenger was saying that our problem has been in the early years but he did anticipate that English kids would come through in the next few years, certainly at Arsenal.

    I have just come back from France & Italy and it appears to me that even the smallest villages have a good, and often excellent, sports facilities. Can we see the same here?

    Unfortunately rather than addressing the real issues we shall see more attempts to limit the number of foreign players. EU laws will hopefully prevent this.

    My view is that if you are good enough & determined enough you will eventually succeed. In that case playing with & against the best can only improve you.

  2. bindzi bernard Says:

    dear, am a young cameroonian player trying to come throught my dearms am playering in divisiontwo in my country but am faceing diffieculty in developeing my playing du to the dead infractruture we have here in africa so i come to you if you can help me in becomeing a profesional i will be very happy if you help me to realies my dreams thanks for now hope to here from you.

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