Open Thread: What Now For England?

Topics: Better Football News

Written by Pavl Williams

Open Thread: What Now For England?

England are out!

And the enquiry has begun.

We want to know what should happen next at The FA and in youth football in general.

Please add your thoughts on what’s wrong with youth development in your country: What works and what needs to go? Who’s to blame? What ideas should be implemented? Anything goes…

++UPDATE – Please check out my youth development article over at Backpage Football for a much more detailed outline of my view!++


  • Mwmwilson101
    The blame for the England teams performance in south Africa can be put solely on the gravy train that is the F.A. They make all the right noises as far as our national team is concerned but when it comes to real help they do little to next to nothing. Youth development in this country in is a joke. It is not an accident that the country's that do well in the game I.e Germany, France Spain, Italy ,Holland, have large amounts of investment at grass roots level. We do not and that's despite having the richest league in the world. What do you expect from a load of business men that run the game.All there decision making is money based.That is why the F.A school of excellence at lilleshaw was shut down and the F.A school at Burton was moth balled. They left youth development to the clubs and the clubs went out and bought players instead.
    And if the situation doesn't improve then the English manager whoever he may be will be picking the England team from the second or even the third tier of English football.
  • eg1
    Another Canuck here. I believe part of the problem is too much reliance on organizations and not enough "ball at feet" everywhere and always -- those cultures where the ball is kicked to school and back, and played with at every possible break in the day will always outperform those cultures that depend solely upon organized opportunities to play. I agree that the organizations must be improved as many of you have pointed out, but I think the results will still disappoint as long as players don't spend much of the day with a ball at their feet from sheer love of the game before they even enter a structured football environment. For the inevitable hockey analogy from a Canadian, you don't get Wayne Gretzkys from the OHL, but rather countless backyard rinks like that particular one in Brantford in the '70s ...
  • Ian_anita
    My Thoughts on the England performance and beyond.

    the 23 who went were tried and tested players from previous years. Out of these players D James was carrying injury and had poor season, A Cole, been injured and not played much, J Terry all the fuse in his life away from football. G Johnson Poor Season at Liverpool along with J carrigar and S Gerard. Milner was ILL, G.Barry Injured and poor season, W Rooney looked like he was carry an injury still ( ankle problems), E Hesky hardly played any club football, R Green & M Upson awful season at their clubs. That’s a lot of baggage to take to a major tournament.

    With regards to the games i think we tried to put square pegs in round holes. Just looking at the germany game and the 2 c/b backs. J Terry is use to playing more on the left with England, M upson was playing there and his positioning was poor, terry kept drifting across to the left which left massive gaps between Johnson and terry which the Germans took full advantage of. the so called " world class" players looked like they were trying to go for glory all the time rather than keeping it simple. Football is a simple game and we tried to make it complicated. for sure playing 4-4-2 didn’t work for the England team and playing players out of their normal comfort zone is a risk which we tried and as shown failed.

    we didn’t take enough balance to the world cup in the squad. i was surprised that people like Johnson, bent and Walcott were left at home. these players are hungry and want to impress. the England squad has to many players who don’t care if they win or lose. Away from the prem-league etc if you asked any English player would he want to play for England i bet they would all most give blood to put on a shirt and play. Club has no doubt overtaking country.

    You can have all the best coaches, experts, managers in a team but if the mentality of the players isn’t right there is no way they will make it work. Players need to want to play for their country not expect to play.

    I’ve been coaching many year snow from 5year olds to 18year olds with varied abilities. One thing for sure that has all ways worked for me is a getting the balance and the mentality of the players right. Results haven’t always been great but they have tried and are willing to try and wanting to do well. Of course they don’t get the financial rewards of the pro’s but i encourage them to express rather than train them to system that is very rigid and not flexible. A game may start at 4-4-2 but during the game the system changes to the players on the pitch and who they are playing against. There is a clear difference between knowing your job and doing your job and i think the Current England players have lost this.
  • One of the things that amazed me during the World Cup was the difficulty that professional footballers, who have trained 20 hours a week for most of their lives, seemed to have in understanding basic tactical concepts.

    The exact same instructions are given - and understood - at Sunday league games across the country every weekend. Yet senior professionals were seen to make fundamental error after fundamental error.

    Personally, I don't think passion is anything to do with it, but you hit the nail bang on the head when you question the mentality of the players.

    It's great to see that you appreciate the importance of the psychological side of the game, and all coaches should remember the four corners (physical, psychological, technical and social) are equally important when planning sessions.
  • Rhickling
    You guys think you have it bad. I'm weighing in here from western Canada. We can't even field a decent team to challenge for the Concacaf title. Why? All the reasons above, especially the point about transition from youth to senior - our pro leagues are really lame. Plus, anyone who's got real potential heads to europe with a passport grandfathered from their grandfather - like Owen Hargreaves or Jonathan de Guzman (now of netherlands). and who can blame them? you want to play in the world cup? Canada's only been there once - mexico '86. and we didn't even score a goal. Luckily we have hockey, or I'd be really depressed right now.
    Here in BC it rains all winter and barely snows (very similar to a northern eurpean climate) so soccer is a year-round sport. The youth coaching is surprisingly good. but the infrastructure beyond that is almost non-existant. England at least has a chance. I was born in London so if my kids are any good, I'm sending them over.

  • IrishEagle
    Hi Pavl

    It's a combination of a lot of things in my opinion - technique, confidence, experience, etc. I recall Southgate making a comment on TV last night over the number of Germans vs. English who have progressed from u-21 to the senior side and the reluctance of PL mangers to take a chance on them. So influence of PL for starters.

    From a grassroots perspective, I would love to see the FA mandate 9v9 and roll out these new FA Youth Awards faster. I am doing Module 2 next month, having taken Module 1 just last April. As a long-time training and development experiencd individual (not an expert as imo you never stop learning!) I am fascinated to see what essentially is "common sense" being applied to coaching and providing an environment where kids can learn the game without adults bellowing instructions, or dolling out lot of boring drills etc. We were lucky enough to have John Allpress from The FA delivering it and he was excellent. And being mixed in with UEFA A and B coaches from the local Academy was interesting to say the least - but a terrific learning environment.

    Keep up the good work - I could write more but time is short at the moment....
  • Hi IrishEagle,

    I'm glad you've raised the issue of 9v9 because I strongly believe that players develop faster in smaller-sided games and that playing 11-a-side at 11 years old is ridiculous. [Then again the Spanish youth players have competitive 11-a-side right the way through from 8 and they seem to have decent technique and game understanding, so who's to say what's best?]

    Yes I've just taken the Module 2 and learnt a lot from the coaches on the course (almost all of Man City's academy staff and most of Man United's). But to be honest I'd really like to see grassroots coach education prioritised over re-educating guys who've got their Pro or 'A' Licences. The more you can lift up the base of the pyramid, the higher the peak will be.

    I've had the privilege of speaking to John in the past and he's a very knowledgeable guy! I hope you'll enjoy your Module 2 course. Please let me know what you make of it.
  • IrishEagle
    Ok Pavl - will do after Module 2.

    How did you manage to get on Module 2 with that lot? LOL. I'm only got on mine via a very long "route" as I have my local's clubs centre of excellence/academy etc. on it and as you say they already know most of this stuff - especially the older lot who have learned it over the years. Let's compare notes at some point. Cheers - IE
  • Haha I'd say friends in high places, but actually if you pester enough people enough times...

    I've just sent you my email details, I'll look forward to hearing from you once you're done.

    Enjoy!
  • Shola O-Thomas
    I agree with Nickknow 2000, the youth soccer development programme is fantastic only if these youths have a chance to show what they have learnt and go on to represent England, probably, on all levels. As for the number of foreign players in the premier league, i feel there should be a quota system and a directive to all clubs to allow for the homegrown players to play in their club fixtures, but can that happen? NO is the answer, becos of the money involved to all parties concerned.
  • Again though I have to ask why are young players from Africa, S.America or the rest of Europe good enough to break into top Premier League sides but those from England aren't?

    It's not as if Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Man City et al are buying exclusively over-25s from abroad. They've all bought players aged between 16-23 and the biggest commonality is that they are fast, technical players who can adapt to the pace of the Premier League quickly.

    My contention is that a lot of English boys shipped into low-quality Reserve (or kick-and-rush lower league) football at 17 or 18 aren't challenged enough at this critical stage when they are maturing into men (their bodies won't finish thickening out until about 22 in most cases).

    There might be an even more fundamental issue about whether the boys have technique, imagination and understanding of the game to rival their foreign counterparts by the age of 16.
  • Hi Pavl
    Just a brief point re kick and rush lower league football, the problem with this is that much of the lower leaugue football is improving and when the football is poor it's generally due to the skill or lack of it of the Coach(s) from a very early age the player is often taught by a willing parent, with little or no knowledge due to Football often thought as having to be accessable to everyone, so if someone offers to do it, everyone is extremely grateful.

    Do you see this happening in Golf,Tennis,etc..no! because it is thought to Coach in these Sports you need to have either excellent Coaching ability or years of Professional experience . Due to this the 'Learner/Student' parents will pay for quality Coaching and expect certain results achievements.

    As an FA Qualified Coach, it certainly wasn't easy to pass, quite the opposite on my Level 2 Cert only 25% passed back in 2000. The biggest issue was that in most cases the structure being taught was about 10 years out of date compared to most other major european countries.
    The FA is still slow in moving things forward but to be fair it is improving, what I would like to see is a alternative structure of Coaching and Development within local Communities, similar to Holland , where the better players are not all eaten up my the Professional Clubs but allowed to stay within their own Clubs , raising the standard of Local Football, whilst being monitored by a Parent Professional Club.
    This also allows more finance to go into the Community and allows for a structure within each Club and the sharing of better facilities with other local Communities.
    Also having a Coaching Cert/Award from an independant Company that is recognised would take some pressure off of the FA and allow, I think a greater flexibility of dates etc along with the ability to evolve the courses quicker , moving with the latest trends across Europe and South America.

    Sorry to go on so long and I apologise ,if it seems as though I'm moaning. It's not meant to sound that way, as a Sports Psychologist and Motivational Coach ,( still often looked upon today as being unnecessary in football !) I feel it's paramount that we lose the arrogance that we invented football and open our eyes and ears to what's happening elsewhere along with ensuring that the future generation grow up inspired and motivated to play Football not shackled by out of date Coaching Principles and yesterdays memories.
    A great source of inspiration and Youth development Knowledge is Chris Green's excellent book 'Every Boy's Dream'...essential reading to every Coach and Parent interested in football !
  • Geoff, far from moaning, you make some excellent points.

    It seems that there is a broad variance between coach's experience of Level 2 courses - and no doubt the other levels of qualification as well. That your instructors felt only 25% of candidates met the standard required should be commended, as there's clearly some instructors who are happy to pass anyone that turns up for the assessment.

    In that case an external body who has oversight might be the answer, however I think The FA already has the reach and infrastructure to roll out courses much more quickly and in more locations than they currently do. I would worry that setting up another organisation to take on this role would be expensive and inevitably take far longer to create an adequately scalable system?

    If you don't mind, I'm going to pinch your tennis analogy next time I have to present the case for better coach education!
  • Hi Pavl
    Thanks for your comments, i agree with your thoughts on the FA, along with many of the other guys I'm just concerned that there are too few Courses in many county FA's , i was also saddened this Year that hampshire FA due to economic cutbacks had voted not to field either a Hants REps Under 18's or Under 16's this coming season.
    Having managed the Under !6's with much success season 2008/09 , building strong links with Clubs and Parents as a priority to my objectives and to also build strong relationships with the Professional Clubs in the South, often having several scouts at the matches, I feel again money is being 'saved ' in the wrong areas , where the FA has the opportunity to build bridges with local clubs, parents and the Players themselves...but spends more money on administration and logistics which is not seen as being directly beneficial to the Communities the FA is saying it wants to support.
    The FA in local football is often see in a 'dim light' as the governing body that sets the rules and lays down the punishment eg. Fines and bans etc rather than being a supportive structure to benfit the game and support the 'Local community football initiatives...and when they gat the opportunity as with Reps Football they neither communicate the principle behind it properly or cancel it all together.

    I have several discussions topics running on my company Facebook ...Focus in Sport and the Blog of the same name, if anyone would like to add comments.

    Thanks again Pavl
  • C Stromsoy
    Gaz lee for the next England manager, couldn't have put it better myself!
  • Gazlee86
    I agree with Xarius the distinct lack of composure from the so call golden generation was evident, however the major factor for me from a coaches point of view is that England’s ability / desire to press the ball when the our opposition had the ball was terrible (in all 4 games). If you allow quality opposition to have time on the ball and when receiving a pass to turn and front you up enabling him to either attack the defender or play a pass as he can see what’s in front of him is amateurish. High intensity pressure in the correct areas (defensive 2 thirds) would force the opposition to play backwards towards their own goal. Secondly Square balls, it was highlighted in the post-match analysis that the Germans did not play in lines, the vast majority of the passes were along the floor and in angles to allow space to be created in central areas. Thirdly the work rate of the Germans was exceptional, football is not all about what you can do with the ball but what you do off, the ball the creation of space, moving in and out of pockets of space, which we have lacked for a while. Lastly the positive note of the under 21's getting to last year’s final is great but how come we only took 2 of the players who achieved this and the Germans who won that tournament had 6 of that squad, and two of them ripped us apart.
    In summary we need to adapt our style of coaching, have the better coaches at grass roots to develop this evident lack of technique, and this will enable us to develop young English talent for the future.
  • The progression from U21 to senior seems to be a key issue. Perhaps post-World Cup a lot of retirements will allow a new generation to graduate to full internationals.

    Surely it would be better to take a step back now to have a regular team in four years who have played together dozens of time and who can develop a playing style which will bring about the most success, rather than squeezing the most talented players into a rigid formation even at the expense of effectiveness?

    Good points Gazlee, thanks for commenting.
  • Xarius Desai
    I'd like to take a look at this from this England team's perspective. There were 2 features that stood out, both of which exacerbated the other's problem. First of all there was a total lack of composure, especially defensively. Where most teams have the confidence to take the ball down or a small sidestep and bypass the player closing them down, time and time again England would hoof the ball clear, either downfield or out of play immediately surrendering possesion. The second problem was an evident lack of technique. These are supposedly world class players, but even when they did try to control the ball it was bobbling horribly and took 2 or 3 touches to get it under control.

    From my (admittedly very limited) experiences as a coach, technique isn't taught or emphasised nearly enough. Far too much training time is spent purely playing a game, which favours the fastest and strongest kids. Perhaps a new structure focussing more on technique should be looked at by the FA?

    On a positive note, England did get to the u21 world cup final, so hopefully some new talent can come through and produce for their club sides and england in the near future.
  • Hi Xarius,

    Yes England got to the U21 final and also won the U17 championship so there's hope for the national side yet!

    There is though, as you correctly point out, an underlying worry that our players are still not technically good enough to compete at the highest levels of international competition.

    The performances against USA, Algeria and Germany demonstrated a lack of composure, lack of patience and lack of imagination that were destined to be shown up as soon as England met a decent side.

    In my experience there's a large majority of junior coaches who don't really know what good technique looks like, what coaching points they ought to be reinforcing in their players (and at what age). [This is partly why I set-up Better Football!]

    In this environment, playing games - particularly small-sided games with well-considered conditions depending on the learning focus - is preferable to boring static drills because they keep players involved in the game, enjoying it and developing skills through action and lots of touches.

    However, in an ideal development process, the coach would understand the key skills to an extent that they could break down the learning into simple repeatable movements and coach a mixture of technical repetition exercises and game-related situational practices.

    The FA's latest course the Youth Award (I've just completed Module 2) does change the emphasis towards developing these 'Whole-Part-Whole"/index.html"Constant->Variable->Random" practices.

    But without first understanding the technical information it will be difficult for many grassroots coaches to use this information effectively.
  • Troy Baker
    I agree with Ben but also there seems to be a recurring problem that along the way footballers forget about the game and concentrate on their "Status" or how much they are being paid. Kids look up to the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo and Gerard and see their behaviour and want to copy and coaches in the modern game seem to think that this is acceptable.
    We need to invest in our youth system and coaching system instead of trying to look else where otherwise teams like Germany won't be the only ones beating us 4-1
  • Thanks Troy,

    I think there are huge social and cultural differences between the current generation of young footballers and those twenty or thirty years ago (and between those in other countries as well).

    It would be very surprising if these weren't in someway affecting the mentality of players coming through the youth system.

    That's a great comment and I'll have to look into that in more detail because I think there's probably something fundamental to be found by examining the mindset of the young footballer.
  • Nickknows_2000
    All the youth development in the world from the best coaches won't help England while there are too many foreign players in our top league. You will soon have to pick an England team from the Championship!
    Not enough homegrown players get to play for the top teams and therefore we suffer internationally. I also think that these 'superstar' players think they are better than they actually are and it clearly doesn't mean as much to them to play for their contry as their club, except that once they become an international they can demand more money from their clubs.
    There are a lot of good coaches at academies and at grass roots level but if those players have no chance of getting into a Premier team due to all the other nations playing they hit a ceiling and have to accept playing in a lower league to get regular first team football.
    Of course, the FA won't act on this because all these foreign players mean more money and revenue for them and the big clubs. The Premiership is boring unless you are a fan of Man U., Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool but how many top players are English - a fraction across all teams.
  • Hi Nick,

    I can understand the frustration of a young English player who can't break into a senior side, but I can't agree with your argument about nationality.

    The fact remains that clubs are desperate to get players from their academies into their first teams - both because of the vast amount of money they invest in their youth development programmes, and because of the good will and support they garner from including local talent in their squad.

    There's no doubt that if the English players were as good as or better than their foreign counterparts they'd play.

    So the question is, why aren't the 18-19 year olds who've been through the English youth system as good as the French/Brazilian/African players?
  • Ben Ashmole
    The problem lies in the Premier League getting too much money from Sky and not distributing it fairly enough between the lower tiers of football.

    Junior clubs should get more support and rewarded when its their players who are snapped up by academys and go onto be sold for millions of pounds and the grassroots get nothing out of it. If the grass roots club gets more money they can pay for more coaching and better facilities.
  • Hi Ben,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes I think there's a massive discussion to be had about the funding of football in England, and how the funds are distributed so unevenly between the top and bottom ends.

    I'm interested in the idea of recompense for grassroots clubs who send players to academies, perhaps this would be the incentive junior clubs need to get better coaches and focus more on technical skills, gamecraft and enjoyment rather than winning at all costs?
  • Pavl, You always can use more qualified coaches, but maybe there is something wrong with the courses they follow to become a licenced coach. I'm not aware with the level of the English Coaching classes, but from a friend who just did his UEFA B I understood it was a almost a free ride. So more licenced coaches is always good, but maybe they should make it harder to get the license. If this is harder, a club is sure of quality when they hire a licenced coach..
  • I agree, there should be much more consistency between the coaching courses in different regions and a reassessment every three years, as is standard in many other professions.

    But rather than making the courses a free ride vs more difficult to pass, I'd prefer to see far more support for coach education. There needs to be better incentives and the minority of grassroots coaches who do make the effort to get qualifications should be rewarded for their part in improving the overall standard of the game.
  • I'll kick things off -

    More UEFA B, A and Pro licenced coaches are needed. I'd love to see The FA fund at least one person from every Charter Standard Club to A licence level, and make the Level 2 and Youth Award courses more readily available.
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