By John Cartwright
At the end of my last ‘Blog’ on this site I finished with an adapted poem;
Who’s in charge of our struggling game,
the effort’s still there, but skill’s on the wane.
The cupboard’s bare due to complacency and fear,
Whilst hype rules our game more year after year.
Red lights flash warnings each season in vain,
For NEGLECT is in charge of our struggling game.
Over the last couple of months we have clearly seen how true those words are. Throughout the whole structure of our game, from senior to junior levels in various Fifa and Euro competitions, we have produced lots of effort but little in terms of quality – either individually or in team play. How much longer are we to accept the ‘hype’ that blinds most to the poor standard of our game? Unless we change the development and playing methods that have historically and so obviously failed, we will continue to offer effort as our main ‘weapon’ against an increasing number of foreign opponents who display better individual skills and team play at all age levels.
In the first reply to my last ‘blog’ the person commented on my not being prepared to give more details on points I had made. I fully agree that I have not expanded ideas on; – Regulating our Development Structure: Detailing more on Initiatives in development: Explaining what Positive action is required: Changing the Infrastructure of development. The reason I have been so sparing, ‘uncharitable’ and unforthcoming on all these vital issues is not because I don’t have plenty to say, but because I have seen over many years how ideas are plagiarized and introduced indiscriminately into coaching here. I prefer to keep my ideas on hold until a suitable platform for discussion regarding development problems is arranged. I refuse to continue being a ‘provider’ of fragmented ‘bits and pieces’ to coaching when it’s in need of a total restructure.
Unless a well planned development model is established that provides a solid teaching and learning base in which a visualized national playing style is taught and practised throughout the ‘golden years’, we will never produce highly skilled players able to perform together in team play. Numerous isolated, ‘quick-fix’ ideas and initiatives that have failed has littered coaching and development here and is testament to a lack of foresight and negative planning. It seems difficult for our coaching hierarchy to understand the importance of reorganizing the national development structure. Producing an inter-linked and effective ‘pathway’ towards a national playing vision is urgently required. In so doing, we would all be moving in the same direction, thus allowing our young talent to be taught, practised and played in a more effective and less wasteful way than at present.
To organize a country-wide development structure for coaches and players should not be difficult; much of it already exists but is not utilized productively. The development ‘voyage’ through all the levels of football learning must be made enjoyable, interesting and worthwhile for coaches and players and not the boring, pugnacious and wasteful ‘nightmare trip’ that it so often becomes. Coaches must be taught to progress their players through development ‘tiers’ each of which should consist of carefully integrated stages that provide a gradual but increasingly difficult competitive test. From schools’ football to senior professional players, the route ‘up the mountain of success’ should be planned intelligently and be both stimulating and physically demanding for all involved, making the ‘climb’ a truly worthwhile experience.
I have recently done some work with two groups of boys: one group were 10-11 years old, the other group were 15-17 years old. All these youngsters were a credit to their families and themselves; they listened, they practised and they worked extremely hard. However, there was a problem that was obvious to all — the boys struggled to perform the work that was actually designed for players of a much younger age! Even more alarming was the fact that this season the junior group would have to play 11v11 in their local league. With such great kids available to our game, it is a disgrace that they have been denied the opportunity to learn and play the game to a much higher standard. The time lost to them during which they should have been given high quality work is not recoverable and the ‘scars’ of football coaching’s neglect is clear to see — to all who open their eyes!
We must accept our ‘football cupboard is bare’ and begin to re-stock it with quality coaches and players. To continue to NEGLECT the obvious will increase the frustrations and failures we have experienced so regularly in the past. Our ‘stumbling game’ is in desperate need of some TLC or the gap between ourselves and the rest of the football world will continue to increase until, ‘the game we gave to the world’ will be a game we have meekly given away.