The Silence of Fear

Keep the Ball has dug out an article by John Cartwright from February 2010 – prior to the World Cup “fiasco”.  Many of the issues raised in the article have come into the public eye as a result of England`s performance in South Africa in June.  Hopefully this article will provoke comment and discussion from our readers!!

In the child’s fairy tale a King rides naked amongst a large number of his rather shocked people. Being respectful as well as careful of what they say, everyone cheers and utters not a word with regard to the king’s state of undress. In fact the crowd express a total disregard to the fact that their sovereign is completely naked and call out how well dressed he is! It isn’t until a small child, unaware of the implications his honest comment might bring, calls out, “the King has no clothes on!” What was the result of his honesty? was he taken to the dungeons; was he expelled from the country; or was he applauded for his statement of fact?  No the King continued on his way, undressed but majestic, whilst the child became lost in the normality of everyday life.

Brooking - the king with no clothes.

It must be asked, has honesty ever really been the best policy to follow? Honesty, as is prescribed in religion, taught in school classrooms and practiced throughout life to past, present and probably future generations, expects honesty to be coupled with acceptance. It all works out well if an honest comment is accepted by the recipient, but what about honesty when it produces an unfavourable reaction from the recipient? Should one keep their mouth shut or, disregard potential problems and say what’s needed to be said?

 It takes a brave person to be honest and, like honesty, it sometimes isn’t the best policy to act with bravery. Fear of upsetting the ‘status quo’ is a constant battle in today’s world.  Flourishing careers, domestic bliss, neighbourliness, friendships etc. can all tumble down in an instant when an honest comment is not accepted. So what do we do? Well, they say timing is the key to success in life, if so, timing and honesty must be combined and used with great care.

In my experience, being honest has not helped me to achieve the aims and objectives in my career; perhaps, also, I have not been as careful with my timing as I should!  Issues relating to the coaching of football in this country that I disagree with and have honestly criticised have not been accepted by those in control of our game. Lately however, it seems the ideas and beliefs I have tried to promote in the past have started to make an impact on those who previously only offered ‘dead ears’. Much of the new FA publication. ‘THE FUTURE GAME’ looks very familiar!!  I wonder how they saw ‘some’ of the light?  But even now they still they can’t get things in order; they produce a playing vision after first producing coaching programmes for all ages – a ‘cart before the horse’ situation if ever I’ve seen one; plus, they then forget to include heading as a skill to be learned!!!!  I could go on but, what’s the point?

"The Future Game"

It angers me beyond belief that generation after generation of football-loving kids have been denied the opportunity to reach their full potential as players because of the temerity, lack of vision and inefficiency at the FA.  After 60 years of control over football and the development of players and coaches in this country, the FA is unable to provide a head coach for its senior national team and needs to go to Sweden and then Italy to find suitable candidates. God knows how many enquiries and initiatives etc. have been set up by the FA over the years to find a satisfactory method by which a continuous stream of talented coaches and players could be developed. One appointment after another to the senior position in the FA coaching dept. has been unable to produce a successful formula for coach and player development.

The protectionism at the FA combined with the hype used by all areas of the media cannot continue to disguise the fact that our game is alarmingly bare of quality. The adoring public still cheer, but they are beginning to ask questions and soon, like the small child, they will cry out – “ the game is naked!”. Will the ‘king of games’ continue to delude itself and will the concern of its adoring public disappear into oblivion?  For this wonderful game’s sake I sincerely hope not.

8 thoughts on “The Silence of Fear

  1. Trevor Brooking has been an utter disappointment.When he became Director of coaching over 6 years ago I thought at last we would have somebody in charge who would cut through the politics and solve the problems pof the game.
    Not so!!
    The game is in a bigger state than 6 years ago.
    Brooking has totally failed to understand the underlying problems of the FA Coaching Scheme.
    It has taken him 6 years,I dare say “6 wasted years “to put out a blueprint that basically says what the FA has been doing in the past 20 years doesn’t work!! Yet still most of the same staff are in place .

    The biggest tragedy is that John Cartwright and Premier Skills tried to show the alternatives and Brooking and his FA mates couldn’t see it.or more likely didn’t want to see it because it diminished their power.Now by copying his statements from “Football for the Brave” try to take ownership of the philosophy they discarded..The English game has no chance with Brooking and his mob in place.

  2. Shortly after the World Cup had finished in S Africa the UEFA U-19 championship was held in France.There were 8 countries represented,split into two groups of 4 with the top 2 from each group qualifying for the semi finals.England narrowly beat Austria 3-2,lost more comprehensively to Holland than the 1-0 scoreline would suggest and then drew 1-1 with a last minute equaliser against France after being largely outplayed for most of the match.
    But England qualified for the semi finals having shown customary grit and endeavour but little technical ability or game understanding.They now played Spain and were thoroughly outplayed and were beaten 3-1.
    However,what was really noteworthy was that because this match was played in a small non-league type of French ground with just a few hundred spectators it was possible to hear the shouts and instructions coming from the England bench even over the TV transmission on Eurosport. Assisting with the commentary was Stewart Robson and on a number of occasions he pointed out that the shouted instructions coming from the England bench were unhelpful and often quite wrong.Certain England players on a number of occasions were told to press the ball but on many such occasions the Spanish simply passed the ball around them.There was not a coherent team strategy to deal with the threat and strengths of the Spanish team.On one occasion the England centre half was shouted at to squeeze up as the ball was being played forward and this player,and the whole England defence,were left completely stranded – a very basic point against any team and not just the technically brilliant Spanish.
    I have heard Stewart Robson on previous occasions make many extremely critical references to our football establishment on Eurosport and when he had a very interesting column in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’.During the commentary of England-Spain,not for the first time he pointed out that in England we have a coach,John Cartwright,who could revolutionise the whole coaching set-up in this country that would get us on the same level as the Spanish if the Establishment would allow him to but for whatever reason they choose not to do so.

  3. John and Co,

    Great blog, please keep up the good work. As a young coach who is just starting out, this kind of site is a goldmine of information.



  4. Found this quote from Arrigo Sacchi taken from Tim Hill’s excellent blog


    “When I was director of football at Real Madrid I had to evaluate the players coming through the youth ranks. We had some who were very good footballers. They had technique, they had athleticism, they had drive, they were hungry.

    “But they lacked what I call knowing-how-to-play-football. They lacked decision making. They lacked positioning. They didn’t have the subtle sensitivity of football: how a player should move within the collective. And for many, I wasn’t sure they were going to learn”.

    “You see, strength, passion, technique, athleticism, all of these are very important. But they are a means to an end, not an end in itself. They help you reach your goal, which is putting your talent at the service of the team and, by doing this, making both of you and the team greater.

    “In situations like that, I just have to say, Gerrard’s a great footballer, but perhaps not a great player.”

    Tim Hill quotes Sacchi in a piece written on Liverpool’s game at Man City on Mon night. Once again Gerrard is shown to lack game understanding and yet the popular media continue to mislead the public because Gerrard scores two goals against has been’s Hungary. I think it’s very telling that Sacchi describes passion, technique,strength and athleticism as a means to an end.

  5. Steve and Fletch, thanks for your comments. It’s a pity more ‘coaches’ don’t come forward with their comments. Is it fear; is it disinterest; is lack of understanding? The game here requires major attantion, for ‘hype’ is camouflaging mediocrty and calling it great! There is only one direction for our national game to go when sub-standard is accepted as as the level to be attained —- that direction is ——‘down the pan.’

  6. The English are a funny lot. Surrounded by water and so geographically protected from
    easy invasion, we have tended to be isolated and some may say this is responsible for
    us (the English) being seen as arrogant, and pigheaded in our attempts to protect our
    ‘way of life’. This is also probably why we are more reluctant to, and conservative in our
    approach to change than many European nations. Reform for us is difficult and more a
    response to some disaster or total failure. We tend to leave things ‘until they are really
    This national genetic ‘stamp’ is evident in our Industry and so football. The lack of
    willingness to invest in change has led to many industries giving up the ghost to
    foreigners and in youth football which is now a huge industry, Nostalgia, and perhaps
    the re surfacing of that initial arrogance has seen those making decisions in the game
    cling hopelessly on to many out of date values and beliefs whether they are valid or not.
    Change is viewed as a costly inconvenience in youth development and an administrative
    burden for the adults.
    But unless we invite organic reform into our national ‘psyche’ and build it into our
    business plans, enabling investment in the ability to evolve, we will always be falling
    back and catching up on others more wisely and progressive.

    Dan Micciche

  7. Is it fear, frustration or a sense of futility that has kept many from offering comments on this article. Are we going to keep watching our ‘naked’, national game but only visualize a ‘well-dressed’ version of it? Our ‘King’ of sports’ — football, is embarrassingly undressed and desperately in need of some quality clothing in which to display itself. It’s time for a good ‘tailor’ to be found to adorn the game in the Saville Row splendour it deserves.

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