Grassroots football

Since the launch of the national training centre 30 years ago, a building that was built to boost the quality of English youth development, nothing much has changed. There is still a huge expectation on England to deliver a trophy at every major competition, but how can we seriously expect that from a team born out of a lackadaisical youth development system with hardly any financial backing whatsoever?

During last year’s World Cup, La Liga’s president  Jose Luis Astiazaran stated that in contrast to La Liga where 77.1% of the players are Spanish, just 40% of Premier League players are English. Coming from a country that is both the European and World International champions, it’s hard to say their philosophy is wrong.

In order to improve the crop of young talent we are developing, more focus has to be on coaching kids properly from as young as 4-5 as countries across Europe do. Increasing the number of working FA qualified coaches, and getting them into schools would also help to improve the level of football among the youth in England. An increase in the amount of soccer camps around the country, offering quality coaching to kids of all ages would also help to achieve this.

Is this really a possibility though? There have been plenty of new things that have taken precedence over youth development; from bidding to host world and European tournaments, to rebuilding Wembley (which in fairness needed doing). If the FA does continue to put off seriously investing in youth development, that 40% figure will continue to diminish even further. We need to make sure this happens now! If not, we may not have any representatives of the UK in future major international tournaments!

One more thing to consider is the image of the style of English football. Our football is notoriously linked with the long ball and a big lumbering striker to receive it. If we want to embed a certain style of football into our image, it has to be taught to kids from a young age. Countries like Spain and Brazil have thousands of players that hold the ball up and pass consistently well because it is how they were taught to play from childhood and thus is just natural to them. If we want to change style, trying to coach pro’s to do is 15-20 years too late.

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