Lifitng up the carpet…..again!

By John Cartwright

Well, the time between the disaster in South Africa and the start of domestic ‘ hostilities’ here has been filled with all the usual ‘garbage’. The proverbial carpet has once again been quietly lifted and the vast majority of the vitriol emanating from our abject WC displays has been swept under it and ‘soft’ international matches have, once again,  ‘resurrected’ our national team from the pits of performance to potential world beaters.

Alan Hardacre, a former PFA chairman, once said after a previous poor performance from our national team, oh, give it six weeks and all will be forgotten as the new season begins.”  How right he was; that is what we have done time after time over the years and this time is no different. The problems caused by football here continuing to employ such dirty domestic habits eventually causes dangerous situations to arise; the dirt swept under the carpet becomes thicker and thicker causing the carpet to lift up so that one trips over it and injures oneself, and the dirt becomes the breeding ground for germs and disease. That is where our game is now, — injured and disease-ridden! Without ‘doctors’ with sufficient knowledge or ability to tend to the problems, ‘quacks and charlatans’ are expected to dispense the medicine to our game.

                        Standards set here for individual ability and team play that are accepted as high are in fact only the standards of mediocrity.  Poor playing quality throughout all levels of the game here over the years has been highlighted time and time again in World and European competitions.  Our so-called top players show, on a regular basis, that quite clearly they aren’t good enough to compete with the best. But what do we do? We go into ‘denial mode’ and sweep the problems causing our lack of playing quality swiftly under the carpet and go on our merry way — deceiving ourselves that we are better than we are! Once we accept the obvious and begin to seriously examine the problems within our game, we can begin to make progress and establish ourselves as a true force in world football. If we continue with self-deceit and denial, we could find ourselves in a hole from which we are unable to climb out of.

Spain - Light years ahead!

                             Our game’s ruling body the FA has never provided the game it oversees with the dynamic and inspiring leadership it needs.  Consequently, our game has careered from one mistaken initiative after another leaving a trail of financial waste and time. There are numerous areas of the game in which decisions have been made that have resulted in failure, none more so than within the FA coaching and development department. It is poor coaching and development methods over the years that have failed to deal with important issues that have subsequently created the playing disease with which our game now suffers.       

                                    Without first establishing a playing vision of attractive and effective football suitable for the game here, ‘amateur academics’ have written numerous programmes that have failed to provide both continuity and substance;—– they have written routes to nowhere!   

Mediocrity not greatness is the result in terms of individuality and team play. Our game struggles from year to year in a ‘fog’ of incompetence, continuously travelling up blind alleys as a result.  To cover the lack of direction and poor quality on the field, a whole variety of ruses are used by all those financially ‘interested’ in the game in order to ‘camouflage’ the true paucity of quality on display.  The time is now here when the saying, ‘you can fool some of the people for some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,’ is appropriate. People are beginning to recognize the truth through all the ‘hype’ and are questioning the lack of quality being served up before them – domestically and at international level.

Lampard - Mediocrity hyped as greatness?

                            ‘ Going nowhere coaching programmes’ provided to our players by uninspired coaches produces uninspired players who play uninspired football. From very junior levels the type and quality of coaching provided to our young players offers them scant chance to achieve their full potential as both a person or player.  Subsequently as time goes by, should they continue on through the different age levels, the poor foundation work they have received requires ‘patching-up’ not progressive practice, Simple not superb is the level only attainable or expected from them. Thus the ‘papering-over of the ‘cracks’ in the development of players here has become a necessary priority throughout the whole of the time they are involved in the game. 

                                Is it any wonder our game is in such a mess! Poor administrative organization from the top compounded by greed and inefficiencies throughout all areas of the game has provided the ‘bacteria’ for a disease that will cause death to our game. It’s time to throw away the ‘carpet’ under which so much rubbish has been allowed to ferment and make a clean sweep of all it has concealed.

                               Greatness, not mediocrity must be the standard set for our game from this point onwards —— but who is capable of taking up the fight and use ‘the broom and the sword’ with vigour and determination!!


13 thoughts on “Lifitng up the carpet…..again!

  1. I dont know much about your career, so can you enlighten me as to why you believe you have the answer to Englands woes? I know you have been involved in the pro game, but who have you developed that has been better equipped to cope at the top level. What does premier skills offer that Man U or Arsenal cant or dont offer?

    I agree that the FA lack the leadership and their courses leave a lot to be desired. But it is not just the FA who are at fault when it comes to us coaches, you have mentioned that the coaching is not good enough here, but how many ex pros or academy coaches go out and help grassroots players and coaches. I have asked a local football school, set up by ex academy coaches just to help,not even coach, but they dont want to know, its always the same, but they wanted me to spread the word that they have a pay to play training session. There are just not enough people out there who want to share the knowledge, mentor coaches or work at the lowest levels of football.
    Now Im on my soap box, it seems that there are not many coaches who are realy interested in developing, I say that because I have been on numerous courses and 9 times out of 10 the numbers are low, I am not refering to FA courses, people like those because of the recognition, I am talking about events such as you guys have set up or freeflow etc. considering how may adults are involved in the game, you would expect a better turn out. It is a shame that those involved in the game dont recognise people such as myself who are 100% dedicated and do it week in week out what ever the weather, cost or time it takes.

    Great blog, keep it going…

  2. Thanks for your comments Dubs. My background in playing and coaching is quite substantantial. I have been heavily involved ion coaching for over 50 years and have been a critic of development methods here for a considerable time. The problems you are experiencing have been around a long long time and this is the reason i have been so critical of the FA as they have controllled development matters throughout this time but have failed to provide the leadership and direction ouir game needs so much.
    I wish you good luck with your coaching in the future, our game and the youngsters who play it require the passion you seem to have.
    Best regards……… John

  3. Hi John, so you have 50 yrs experience of coaching, so what is wrong within the academy system? Do you have any connections with any pro club?

    I will play devils advocate, could part of the problem be that there are too many ex pro players who are now coaches involved in coaching children the same way they were taught?

  4. Hi Dubs, Thanks for your continued interest. Can i suggest that you read the other ‘blogs’ i have provided to keeptheball. I think they will answer the questions you have asked.
    May i also say how imprtant it is for questions like yours to be asked because our game has been heading towards trouble both on and off the field for a long, long time without questions being asked.
    I look forward to reading your comments on the articles in the ‘blog’. I hope you find them interesting and informative.
    best regards…………………..John



  6. Hi Tony. Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed the visit to Ireland and the warm welcome i received. I hope that the work and the methodology we are trying to provide to coaches and players will be effective in producing more skilful talent to football.
    It seems from comments i have received since returning home that our own FA have started to make changes to their methods of work ——— now more realism required. I wonder where they heard that from?
    Best regards to all ……………………. John C

  7. What a lack of passion there is out there. Just remember, we went to South Africa told by the so-called experts that our so-called stars would win the World Cup. It didn’t happen — big time!!
    So what’s happened since? Answer, interest swings to club football and the next weekly ‘fight’ on the fixture list for three points. The carpet’s covered it all up once again and all the so-called experts have regained their self-confidence and are once again promoting mediocrity as the pedestal our game should aspire to.
    Wake up Coaches! What’s happening once again must be clearly perceived as dangerous for the future of our game. Start becoming annoyed that wholesale changes are not happening. Don’t let the carpet cover up the rubbish any more.

  8. When I became interested in coaching in the late sixties,although at first it was more an interest in wanting to know how the game should be played,there seemed to be many like-minded people at that time and there was more of a situation of pooling together ideas.Because there was less hype surrounding the game then and less money involved it was somehow more accessible.People in the game were more accessible and it was commonplace for top coaches in the game to give freely of their time to put on sessions that everyone could relate to whether you were involved in the top spheres of the game or running a Sunday morning boys team on the local rec. I always thought that this was one of the great strengths of Ron Greenwood and then his successor at West Ham,John Lyall, in that they had a great ability to communicate their ideas and coaching practices to everyone.When they put on a session it left you enthused and inspired to get to work on your players regardless of the level that you were working at and also regardless of the facilities and equipment at your disposal.And of course at that time and right through to the present day John Cartwright was absolutely in that category.
    But it is less and less common these days for a major figure from a leading pro club to put on a session at a coaching association and more often than not the sessions are provided by an FA man.I have never seen a session put on by Wenger,Ancellotti,Benitez,Mancini,Mourinho or anyone else of that ilk.In years gone by beside Greenwood,Lyall,Cartwright there were many occasions when people such as allison,sexton,Robson,Nicholson,Howe and many others put on sessions.This image of hype,tribalism and money in football has alienated many with a real love for the game and we need a return to the old standards.

  9. Hi Peter. Thanks for your reply to the article. You are quite correct when you say that senior coaching figures were more available for sessions in the past than seems the case today. There are several reasons for this to have occured ; — money has taken away the need for many to seek the extra ‘few bob’ that could be earned doing sessions; — coaching has followed a prescribed formula of do’s and dont’s demanded by the FA ; — anyone who offers a challenge to prescibed coaching methods is excluded from regular participation at major events– we’re ‘REBELS’ because we want change !! ; — there is a banding together of ‘coaches’ who protect eachother from criticism , conform to prescibed methods and deny the opportunity for different ideas to be heard.
    I was fortunate to have been deeply involved with all the people you mentioned in your piece. We were all open to ideas and were always trying different ways of working with players of all ages. This coming together was destroyed when regular visits to Lilleshall were discontinued ; when local/regional coaching associations were cut back ; and when schools’ football no longer employed young coaches from the pro. game to act as visiting teachers for football sessions.
    There is a vital need for a renewal of local coaching associations as well as more opportunities for those interested in coaching to work with young players. Local /regional centres could cater for all aspects of the game at all levels. Subsequently, any highly talented people could aspire to further education at a National Centre before taking positions in the game.
    There is no doubt in my mind that the paucity of playing talent in this country is hidden from view from the general football public and mediocrity is camouflaged and descibed as greatness by those who have financial reasons for doing so.
    There is an urgent and vital need for honest direction to be administered to our game from top to lower levels if the sport of association football is to remain as a dominant part of our national character.

  10. The FA seem to be continually changing,modifying and restructuring their coaching courses.So often it does not seem to be for the better.The latest development is that as from December 31st 2010 it will not be possible to do a Level 3 (UEFA ‘B’) course at a local county FA but you will have to attend a course in a National Centre,(presumably somewhere like Lilleshall,Bisham Abbey,Durham etc.) This may or may not be a good thing but the issue that i have with this development is that it does not give flexibility to the people from so-called ‘grass roots’ football.I started a level 3 course at

    the London FA in October 2008 and finally achieved the award in Septemeber 2010 at the third assessment attempt.During those 2 years from October 2008 until september 2010 I ‘guested’ on numerous other level 3 courses run by the London FA during that period in order that i could observe,participate in and learn from as many sessions as possible.I
    also have done about half a dozen ‘mock’ sessions in that time where
    coach educators could could give

    me feed-back on my progress.
    Under this new system i do not think that continually ‘guesting’ on other courses and assessment days will be possible.I mean you cannot slip off for a morning or a day to Lilleshall or Durham if you do not live in those areas.Of course I realise that in London we have beeen very lucky because the London FA have always run several Level 3 courses a year where in other areas of the country it is just one a year and in some just one every 2 years.But under this new system you will evidently go on

    a residential course for a week and then wait 12 months before going back for your Final Assessment.I think that this is unsatisfactory and a backward step and although you will go back to your own club/school/youth organisation etc. to do your own coaching this does not have the same value as being able to participate on other courses which local FAs run.
    My other issue is with the new FA Youth Award courses and how these fit in with the Level 1 and level 2 Awards.It seems as though everything has become so game-orientated.I know that children enjoy playing games and many of the games are excellent but what about the actual coaching of the techniques of the game?This was brought home to me when attending a coaching association meeting and someone from the floor,who held FA Coaching Levels 1 and 2,asked the FA Staff Coach giving the lecture what books he could recommend outlining the coaching of various techniques of the game.Because the Level 1 and 2 courses which he had done had been so game-centred he did not have the necessary knowledge to actually to coach, say, a turning technique.
    When i did the Level 1 course about 15 – 20 years ago it was called Junior Team Manager Award and the technical content was excellent.we got a video called ‘Soccer Star’ with an accompanying booklet and and the course plus those attachments gave you a good base for coaching young players.When i have enquired why the level 1 changed its emphasis to games from what you were taught on the junior Team Manager I was told that many women began to take the course and were not capable of demonstrating the techniques outlined on the Soccer Star video.Besides being disrespectful to female coaches i think that this remark is also
    untrue because women would be just as capable as men of practising the techniques so as to be able to coach and demonstate them to their players.
    The result of all this is that when i started to do the Premier Skills courses I discovered a way of providing enjoyable coaching practices to children which also provides an effective game education to all participants.The strength is how each level links in with the previous one and the clear vision from the start which john Cartwright continually refers to.
    The blogs on this web-site clearly create a lot of interest and i hope that this can help to spread the Premier Skills approach around the whole country.

  11. Thanks Steve. I would like to impress on other coaches who might happen to read these ‘blogs’ that you are a great example of the real strength available at ‘grass-roots’ levels. I know how interested you are at becoming better at developing future young players for the game. The FA schemes traps students in a maze of un-cordinated courses leading to a visionless football wilderness. It’s been going on for years — nobody seems to have the guts to break it all up and find a better way——– possibly the PREMIER SKILLS way!

  12. Lift up the carpet and sweep the problems with our game under it. Well, is this what we do or isn’t it? How much longer are you all going to be continuously misled over football matters by the ‘hype’ infecting the game. Are you all prepared to see our game crumble before your eyes and have the residue neatly covered over year after year, or are you as passionate about this game as i am and prepared to question what’s happening to our game and where is it going? More comments wanted…. surely you’re not satisfied with what’s going on !! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

  13. I thought that the FACA Conference at Wembley Stadium on December 9th underlined many of the points brought out by John Cartwright in the above blog.
    Not once did I hear the question asked – “When are we going to produce the English Messi?” The message that came out seemed to be – “How well we are doing!”
    Of course wonderful work is done to bring active participation into the lives of disabled people and the FA does tireless work overseas in poverty-ridden countries.These initiatives deserve every bit of recognition they get but surely this FACA conference should have faced up to the glaring paucity of talent among English players and the dismal failure which comes from one international tournament to the next.As i recall,the only time our attention was drawn to the sumptious skills of players outside these shores was when Trevor Brooking urged anyone who had not seen the recent Barcelona-Real Madrid classic to obtain a DVD or video of the game at the earliest opportunity.But that’s where the search for excellence ended because instead of pursuing this path for real skill and imagination the whole conference became largely an excuse for self-congratulation.
    I think that it is particularly disappointing and frustrating that under the stewardship of Trevor Brooking we have not had real leadership and inspiration in the cause of improving english football.I have no doubt whatsoever that Brooking knows how things should be done and how a real coaching structure should be put in place.As some one who was such a brilliant player and played under two such brilliant coaches in Ron Greenwood and John Lyall i am certain he knows but he seems to be dragged under by the establishment.
    we saw clips of the England Under 17 team which won the UEFA Championship last summer and we were reminded that the last time this was achieved was in 1993 by a team that included Robbie Fowler,Sol Campbell,Gary Neville and others who went on into the full England team.Sure,but why was the question never tackled as to why no success was achieved with these players in several senior international tournaments?
    Very soon there will be no room left to sweep anything more under the carpet.

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