Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughTom Biggs, 19, (Former Arsenal and Brighton) Interview - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Tom Biggs, 19, (Former Arsenal and Brighton) Interview - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Tom Biggs, 19, (Former Arsenal and Brighton) Interview

At what age did you start playing football and when was it you got picked up to play at a good standard?

I started playing football at the age of four for a local team called Mile Oak Colts. I joined a year early, so played a year above for my first season because at the time, it was the youngest team available. The following year, I stayed in the Under 5’s as they were known, and played for them. I stayed with them for three years before I was scouted by Arsenal.

What club were you at and how many years were you there for?

I trained with Arsenal doing a ten-week trial scheme they had set up. At the end of the ten weeks I was about to sign for them. On the day I was signing the contract, they looked at my address and realised it was too far for me to travel aged 8. At the time, you weren’t able to travel for more than an hour and a half to training etc. It took me about 1 hour and 50 minutes, and it meant I was unable to sign for Arsenal.

I was then at Brighton Centre of Excellence for less than a season, if I remember rightly, before Wimbledon Academy paid £2000 to Brighton for me to join them. I was with Wimbledon for two seasons before they moved to Milton Keynes and once again it was too far for anyone at the academy at the time to travel, so we were all released.

What more do you think you could have done to stay on at the club?

I couldn’t have done much more to stay at the club, other than to move to Milton Keynes. It would have taken me three hours to get to the training and even longer for some games. At the age I was, you couldn’t travel for more than an hour. When Wimbledon moved to Milton Keynes and became MK Dons, they lost almost everyone from their academy.

What more do you think the coaches at your club could/should have done to help get the best out of you?

Obviously I left in different circumstances to most people who are released from their academies. However, in my second year at Wimbledon, it was obvious the coaches had favourites. While I was still playing in all the matches, they would give more advice to the players they liked. Academies and youth development centres have so much politics involved. If the coaches get on with the parents, their child has got much more chance of progressing, which really is wrong, but it’s why our youth system suffers. People pay/ become very friendly with the coaches to make sure their child stays on at the club for a long time.

What do you think the problems are in English football? (I.e. why we’re not producing the same sort of youngsters as the Spanish – Looking at aspects such as looking at technical ability rather than physical ability etc)

Very few small technical and agile players make it through the academies. All the way through the system, they prefer to have tall, muscular and strong players, rather than small and weak players. That’s the exact reason why Spanish youngsters are better, because their academies bring through small players who are technical rather than physical – obviously they bring through some physical players, but they strive to produce technical players – no matter what build they are. In England however, very few players make it through if they’re small. Obviously there are exceptions, for example Jack Wilshere. He’s arguably the best technical player England have produced in a decade, but only the best of the best small players make it. The rest are big and physical, which is a shame for people like me. I was very small at that age, and a number of clubs wouldn’t take me because of my height. They said I was good enough, but my height was holding me back. Southampton and Crystal Palace both said that. English academies don’t teach beautiful football, apart from an obvious few (Arsenal and Tottenham for example), but Spanish teams do. That’s why the Spanish National team is full of small agile and technically gifted players, while England have overweight, strong and built players in key positions.

A lot of people moan that there are too many foreigners playing in the Premiership, but I completely disagree. If the English alternative was available then they would be chosen, but the foreign players are much better at a young age. For example, Cesc Fabregas… If there was a midfielder coming through the Arsenal system that was just as good as Fabregas – Arsenal wouldn’t have signed him. But there wasn’t. People need to realise the only reason clubs look abroad is because the standard of youngsters is higher! Yes, our youngsters need a chance, but that’s why they go out on loan. Look at Welbeck (Sunderland) and Wilshere (Bolton last season). They went on loan to a smaller club, and improved greatly. Wilshere is now playing for Arsenal simply because HE IS GOOD ENOUGH! If more English youngsters were good enough they would be playing. Another reason is the inflated price tag of English players. For example, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Joleon Lescott, Andy Carroll and even Stewart Downing, all these players are nothing more than good. Yet they’re going for between £12m and £35m! Clubs who are not worried about being criticised for their lack of Englishman will go abroad and find a better player for less than half the amount, which makes complete sense. If you look at this summer – Mesut Ozil who had a brilliant World Cup went for £12m to Real Madrid, while James Milner (an average to good footballer, who had a dreadful World Cup) signed for Man City for £24m.

If you got released, when and why were you released and did you think it was fair?

Obviously the situations were different for me being released, and I don’t think it was fair. But the club was moving completely – which hardly ever happens and we couldn’t do much about that. I was not taken on by some teams though because of my height which was disappointing for me, because it was out of my control – it didn’t have anything to do with my ability, so I don’t think that was fair either.

If you were a coach what would be your main focus? (I.e. would you concentrate on their attitude, their physical ability, and their technical ability – think football manager attributes!)

Having trained at Arsenal, and followed Arsenal pretty much all my life, I would concentrate on their technical ability. Players will obviously grow as they get older, but if you’ve got the technical ability from a young age, everything else comes through age i.e. height, strength and build. I would also concentrate on their attitude. Many young players think once they’ve made it to an academy they’re already there. But they need to realise there’s a long, long way to go before they become a professional footballer. As a coach I would want my players to have brilliant fitness, and mental strength rather than physical strength. I would want them to believe in themselves, and the other players around them. They’ve been picked for a reason, and while some take it for granted, others grab the opportunity with both hands and are 100% dedicated. If every player showed the same dedication and commitment from a young age – our national team would be so much better.

What do you think the problem is with the current England team?

The players play for themselves. Not for their nation, not for their teammates, but for themselves. They are only worried about their performance and how they play. Nearly every player in the team at the World Cup had an inflated ego – think Rooney, Lampard, Barry even Glen Johnson! They need to realise as individuals they’re not the best (yes Rooney, Gerrard and Terry maybe) but they need to be playing as a team, and they’re not. That’s why teams like Ghana did so much better – because they played for one another and were a team. Capello doesn’t play them in their strongest positions and they don’t show the passion, desire and commitment as a number of other countries. Germany did well because their youngsters have learnt to play beautiful football – and they passed England off the park in the knock out stages. England didn’t pass, didn’t play beautiful football, because they are not taught that as youngsters. More players are coming through now who do play good football, like Wilshere, but until every club in England prefers technical players over physical ones, we’re never going to win a World Cup.

What do you think has gone wrong in previous tournaments for the England team?

Three things: Commitment, desire and passion. I think England as a nation have accepted we’re not the best technical or ‘footballing’ side (like Spain or Germany) but teams such as Uruguay and Ghana proved that you don’t have to be. Both these sides showed brilliant commitment – they worked for one another, supported one another, and did everything they could for their country. The same can’t be said for England (bar a couple of players). They lacked desire to win, desire to play good football, desire to grind out a result. When things were not going their way, they huffed and puffed and didn’t try anything new – some blame must fall on Capello for that, because his substitutions were awful. In previous tournaments our penalty taking has failed us – nothing can be done to change that, except practice, practice and more practice. The reason we didn’t qualify for Euro 2008 is because our team lacked mental strength – they didn’t believe they could qualify, which sounds ridiculous for a nation as good as ours. It came from the top, an appalling national coach in McLaren, who didn’t know who he should play, and didn’t install the idea of good football. The reason it’s gone wrong, is simply because we don’t play good enough football to ever beat the biggest teams.

What would be your England team?

Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
Defence: Micah Richards (RB), John Terry (CB), Rio Ferdinand (CB), Ashley Cole (CB)
Midfield: Steven Gerrard (CM), Scott Parker (DM), Jack Wilshere (CM)
Attack: Theo Walcott (RW), Wayne Rooney (ST), Adam Johnson (LW)
Subs: Gary Cahill (CB), Kieran Gibbs (LB), Ashley Young (RW/LW), Andy Carroll (ST), Darren Bent (ST), Tom Huddlestone (CM)

Capello needs to stop playing people in friendly’s who are never going to be first choice for England. Players like Stewart Downing and Leighton Baines. While they’re having good seasons for their clubs – he should be bringing youngsters through – giving them experience. There are better players in the positions both of these two play, and then there are youngsters who are good enough to step in when the other players retire, but they need the experience!

When do you think England will be capable of winning a major tournament?

Not until we have a completely new set of players. We need to get rid of our so called ‘golden generation’. Yes, I have kept Terry, Ferdinand, Cole and Gerrard in my team, but that’s because they are arguably among the best in the world. While we need experience, from these four, the likes of Richards, Walcott, Wilshere and Johnson are the players we need to move us forward. Our under 21 side looks good, but more of them need to get a chance in the senior squad if we’re ever going to improve. If they’re not playing in the qualifiers – then how do people expect them to be ready for Euro 2012 or the World Cup 2014? They need game time – in friendly’s we should keep a core few senior internationals, but bring through the younger generation. There’s no point playing 28 year old players who aren’t ever going to be good enough – give a youngster a chance. If we lose friendly’s, we lose friendly’s, but we need to take the risk so our youngsters get experience. In turn, our youngsters need to be taught to play beautiful football, but also grind out results. If we can do that, then we can win a major tournament.

Greatest England team of all time (or our generation)?

(Our generation)

Goalkeeper: David Seaman
Defence: Gary Neville (RB), Tony Adams (CB), Sol Campbell (CB), Ashley Cole (LB)
Midfield: David Beckham (RM), Steven Gerrard (CM), Owen Hargreaves (DM), Paul Scholes (LM)
Attack: Alan Shearer (ST), Michael Owen (ST)

Rufaro Fielding

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *