Deja Vu??

2 years on from the Steve Mclaren debacle are we really any better off?….An England team with no recognisable game style and mediocre players being hyped as world class!

  Below is an article in the Telegraph by John Cartwright from November 2008.


6 thoughts on “Deja Vu??

  1. It’s an interesting article and I am interested in exploring the notion of professionals vsacademic types mentioned in the piece.

    So, from my perspective, I am a volunteer coach (I don’t earn my living from football). However, I do attempt to be as ‘professional’ as possible, researching, discussing and developing different practices for players I coach. I am reasonably well qualified, having gone out of my way to become so and having an actively enquiring approach to see how else I could be a better coach.
    I am doing my best to be part of the solution – however, I was never good enough as a player to be a professional. Does that hold me back?

    From the academics point of view, are they not in a great position to look at how children / youths / young adults learn and develop and, as such, are they not also able to make a major contribution towards an improvement in our national game? I know the FA have some educationally well qualified people who also have a football background and are at the forefront of changing the coaching approach through the new FA Youth Awards.

    I have investigated the concepts of Game Sense and Teaching Games for Understanding and utilise those concepts in the practices and games I plan for the young players I serve and have a sense of how I wish those players to develop so that they can become the best they can be as they progress through the years.

    But I do worry that I,as an amateur, may be considered, by the professionals, to be part of the problem.

  2. Hi Steve. The involvment of academics in the game of football, especially in the coaching of the game, is an asset. My argument is that those who have not played the game to a professional standard should not be producing the coaching programmes for the game here. What would the teaching profession or any other professional organization say if somebody with a professional football background wrote the syllabus for the practice of Medicine, Law ,Education etc? We practice and play the game here to methods and standards set by those who have not experienced the needs of the game at top level. There is certainly a place for anybody to be involved in the coaching of the game, but the standards set should be made by selected people who can transfer their experience and ability for others to follow. Here the ‘amateurs’ lead the professionals. What other profession would allow this? —— answer — Nobody.

  3. Hi Steve

    I think we have to use the term “academic” carefully too. I think John is referring to senior PE teacher types who would today be profesors of Sports Science at places like John Moores and Loughbourgh. However I would say that John himself is an “academic” if by that term we mean an expert in his field. Having been a “student” of Johns I have to say that the Premiere Skills courses are far more “academically rigerous” than the the courses the FA have produced and the levels follow on logically and build up progressivly in an easy to understand format.
    In the Prem Skills courses you easily refer back from say Level 3 to Level 1 when you are trying to resolve a problem with a player or group of players. The design of the Prem Skills courses is highly “intellectual”in the best sense of that word because

    A The courses are built upon a definite vision of how to play the game and

    B The ease of the progression.

    As a teacher I want to move my pupiks through the learning process in this way. ie I need to be able to refer them back to work that we did previously. When I get my copy of Insight magazine which is an in house coaching educational, I have little interest in most of the content because it is written in the “academic” style. But English football needs a complete overhaul and this comes down to leadership. The FA have proved that they are incapable of such leadership. We need the right coaches to produce a world class national team and the players that make up that team need to come from a world class grass roots game taught by coaches who understand the big picture. If we are looking for an example of a model take Ajax or Barca. It is so obvious that they are doing it right because the fruit of their programs consistently produce on the leading stage.

  4. Hi guys, interesting responses thank you. I see what you mean now by ‘professionals’ vs ‘amateurs’.

    I am also very interested in having a playing style as a vision of how to play the game. Given the parochial even tribal nature of our own game do you think we can ever get to a nationally recognised style? I know how I want the players I coach to play, for example, but there are some teams against whom we play that adopt a more direct style – there are numerous stories of kids’ teams just playing to the ‘big, quick, strong kid’.

    So even within the grassroots there are those that prefer a more ‘continental’ style such as I do and those that favour a more traditional ‘English’ game approach. Even in the Premier League you can see notable differences between Arsenal, say, and Bolton.
    If the FA had a visionary at the helm of coach and player development, do you think it would still be a problem that individual interpretation or preference would dictate a playing style from Elite to Grassroots level? And, if so, how can we get to a situation where we can players who are able to perform at the top level of the game?

    PS Saw John on Sky Sports News last night – good job !

  5. Hi,

    I am not convinced just having ex pros is the answer, if that ex pro never played at the very highest level, does that mean that his experiences that he passes on will hinder a player from going to the very top? Having watched a certain mr merson coach kids, having pros in charge does not convince me anymore than the current system. Would Wenger or Mourinho got to where they are today if they were English, neither played the game to a high standard, but they have a vision of how the game should be played.
    John the difference between football and being a lawyer is we have all played football, watched football, discussed and listened to professional players since we were kids. In football we can have an opinion as we have an understanding of the game. Where the likes of me would struggle is to coach those children who have real potential, without the chance to work alongside quality coaches.

    Completely agree with you about having a vision, that makes sense.

    I think the answer to England producing truly world class players requires a complete overhaul of the whole system, from grassroots to elite.
    You mentioned Ajax, yes they have produced many top top players, but that is also down to the whole set up in Holland. Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord etc all have close links with their local clubs and help the coaches at grassroots. In England pro clubs do nothing for amateur clubs, why cant they help educate the coaches with regular coaching days at the clubs. This would help improve the standard of coaching which in turn may help the academies, as the young players that are scouted may have better technique and game understanding.
    The standard of coaching or should I say the courses are woefull. L1 & 2 courses offer very little, I dont need to be a professional player to know that. common sense and understanding the needs of children has shown me that. Why does having a UEFA A / B licence help when coaching 6-11 yr olds,the most important age by the way, it does not. For years the courses have been geared towards coaching the adult game. Even the new youth awards, which are far better by the way are not intensive enough. Too much time in classrooms, not enough on the field really working on how you set up, deliver and the technical know how. We have courses that are really aimed at amateur coaches, L1 & 2, may be the FA should have far more intensive courses for those who would like to coach at a higher level?

    Is too much emphasis put on coaching, maybe our kids need to play a lot more and fall in love with playing the game. Too quote Paul Cooper “history shows us that the best players come from the streets”

    Funny how with all the technology, advanced coaching techniques we seem incapable of producing flair players anymore. What happened to the likes of Marsh, Worthington, E. Gray, Beardsley, Gazza, just maybe we as coaches overcoach players??

    Last but not least, skill programmes such as Coerver have been around for years, so what is stopping the flair players coming through?

  6. Taken from the Irsih Times:

    SO WHAT will England do? Change the tip of the pyramid and sack Fabio Capello, or examine the entire structure which lies underneath and see if it could serve Capello better?

    Interestingly, England may have come to a crossroads with this World Cup. Most polls being run in the thoughtful end of the English newspaper market had football followers voting to retain Capello. Undoubtedly he made mistakes before and in South Africa, but he draws from the shallow end of a quite unhealthy football pool. English football has failed Fabio more than Fabio has failed English football.

    Imagine, for instance, that you are Sam Hutchinson. Nobody has heard of you but you are in your late teens and quite a talented defender. Been with Chelsea since you were a nipper. England Under-19s, England Under-21s. All good. A few injury problems over the last year or two but you are still part of the cream of the crop.

    Nineteen years old and you have made just a couple of first team appearances. So should you be picking out your Ferarri? Should you be alerting MTV that they might want to be featuring your crib in a year or so? Will you place an ad in the personal columns of Wag Weekly ?

    Probably not, because the downside of playing in the so-called greatest league in the world is that the debt-ridden corporation you turn out for is unlikely to take a chance on you when it has a shedload of expensively acquired foreign talent ahead of you in the queue. Look around you son. The last home-grown player to make it at Chelsea was John Terry.

    Or you could be Kieran Gibbs at Arsenal. Tipped for greatness, but not before Gael Clichy breaks a leg and Arsenal can’t find an established international to replace him in a hurry. Then you might get the 20 games or so needed to bed yourself in.

    Now imagine your name is Thomas Mueller and you are a few months older than Sam Hutchinson. And you are at the World Cup. You came to Bayern Munich as part of a youth scheme which specialises in gathering in players from Munich and its environs. Six of the current first team are from the city or just outside.

    You came through one of the club’s talent weekends when up to 500 local kids will play in street league-style games while coaches look for those with natural technique and an understanding of movement.

    They raised you to play within the club’s 4-3-3 system and coached you how to play in a couple of different positions. Coming through the system you trained at the same venue with the senior side, played a season in Liga 3 for Bayern’s second team and continued on stream.

    You played 52 first team games for Bayern last year, yet another product of a youth system which has produced Thomas Hitzlsperger, Philip Lahm, Bastien Schweinsteiger, Piotr Trochowski, Andrea Ottle, Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber, as well as up-coming phenomenons such as David Alaba, the youngest ever Austrian international, and Diego Contento.

    By the way, 52 games Thomas? Shouldn’t you be as exhausted as the English lads? How come you covered 8,296 metres in the course of the Ghana game then? And just short of that in each game since? What’s the matter with you? You play in a league with a smattering of foreign talent but one which draws excellent crowds and depends on local players. You play for a club which turns a profit, owns 80 per cent of it’s shares (Adidas and Audi own about 10 per cent each ) and which is run by football men like Uli Hoeness and Karl Heinz Rummenigge. And this World Cup is becoming your stage.

    In those two stories lies England’s football problem, a problem which having a manager who is paid twice as much as the next best paid manager at the World Cup cannot solve.

    The quality end of the Premier League is the place where English players need to be if they are to thrive and develop properly. The top end of the Premier League, however, is a festering pile of debt-ridden clubs hooked on foreign talent and desperate to keep their lips close to the teat of Champions League action.

    The English influence on its own league decreases annually.

    The so-called golden generation of English players who travel home from South Africa in what is by now a familiar gown of ignominy are victims of a football culture which leaves them under-prepared for the game at the highest level and a media culture which overhypes them.

    The Premier League, with its 100mph game and its dire financial management, is a poor learning ground at the best of times. Two-thirds of the clubs live in fear of the financial calamity that is relegation; the rest live in fear of the tsunami which is failure to qualify for Europe. In a culture of fear and overspending, managers take fewer and fewer chances on what young talent they do produce.

    We know that well looking in from an Irish perspective. Gifted player after gifted player has been denied the break and the time they needed. Richie Partridge was once the next big thing at Anfield. He played one senior game for the club, a 7-0 win over Stoke City. Not enough to earn a second game. Willo Flood in his Man City days, Graham Barrett and later Anthony Stokes at Arsenal. Liam Miller when he moved to Manchester United. The list is endless.

    Now with England’s golden generation trooping off into the sunset the pool of youngsters to replace them is shallow and (like Theo Walcott with England) mistrusted within a culture of damage limitation. Where else would you get a player like Michael Dawson, 26 and still uncapped and yet being talked about in some circles as the England captain for 2014?

    English clubs play the ball so quick and with such an air of desperation that players bred on the old British virtues of heart and bravery struggle when the game is slowed down and things become more cerebral.

    Before Sunday’s cruel dressing down by the Germans England had demonstrated a worrying tendency to give the ball away unnecessarily. The Fifa stats for the competition confirm this to be more than just a vague impression. For instance, while most of the German players maintained at least an 80 per cent completion rate for their passes through their four games to date (with Per Mertesacker up there with 86 per cent), a figure as central to England’s hopes as Steven Gerrard had a 64 per cent completion rate out of 250 passes: that is, he gave the ball away 90 times in the course of four games. John Terry was the only English player even to hit the 80 per cent mark.

    When you start with such a level of technical handicap that your star midfielder gives the ball away one in every three times he gets it things are all uphill from there. Incidentally, Toni Kroos, the young German, has had limited exposure so far but is a statistical oddity: he has a 100 per cent completion across the board.

    The English game is like the Wall Street of two, three years ago: storied, the brand leader at what it does but on the brink of collapse because all its castles are built in the air.

    It would be no harm to be able to afford fewer and fewer €170,000-a-week foreign stars, no bad thing to legislate for the phasing out of mass debts, a good idea to look at ownership issues. It’s necessary to look at the national coaching policy with the aim of producing less muscle and more imagination. The dearth of truly creative players coming through England’s youth academies is alarming. It can’t be there aren’t kids with creativity in them; just, in a culture of fear, the risk has to be taken out of the football and the kid must be strait-jacketed into a system.

    The scant dividend of a palsied football culture was what England experienced in the last four games, the shuddering realisation that technically they were no better than the best of the weakest of the teams they faced. Fabio Capello can’t change that, he can only work with what he is given.

    The task is to change the cloth and not the tailor.

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