By Roger Wilkinson
Does anyone else get grumpy like me when watching Aaron Lennon run inside from the right wing and still use his right foot even though its closer to the defender and then show that he can’t thread a clever little ball in to the box with his left foot because his “other” foot isn’t good enough????
Does anyone wonder why Emile Heskey after 15 yrs in the pro game in a “one on one” with the keeper in the World Cup just hits the ball straight at the keeper????
Has anyone noticed that Frank Lampard can “open out” great with his right foot but can’t with his left foot?????
Compare that with Tom Finney who played right wing, left wing or centre forward for Preston and England and was comfortable off both feet. Same goes for Bobby Charlton, Colin Bell, Duncan Edwards and many of our other past Internationals.
I see too many lads in our academy system that can’t play off two feet. It’s too easy to blame the academies, these skills should have been developed at grass roots level from the time the young player first enters the game.
In my opinion we have got to produce a checklist of critical skills that we cleverly introduce to our kids from the age of 5 yrs onwards in realistic coaching situations. In my experience, if a young player reaches 9 and 10 yrs of age without these skills then they have very little chance of adding them to their game. These critical skills should be bedded in by age 10 to provide our kids with the ability to be the best they can be.
I suggest these as critical development skills;
Running with the ball with both feet – The ability to move behind the ball whilst running to transfer the ball to the “safe side”. Developing the touches and feel for the ball whilst running at speed.
Stopping with both feet – Learning to stop quickly to avoid interference.
Turning with both feet – Being able to twist, turn and change direction on both sides to attack space, protect the ball and beat opponents.
Quick touches on the ball – Quick touches with the inside and outside of the foot that allow the young player to adjust to threats from opponents, even in tight areas.
Eyes up – Looking around before receiving the ball and also keeping their “eyes up” when running with the ball.
Receiving with both feet – Being able to adjust the body to open out when receiving the ball with both feet.
First touch movement– Moving smoothly off the line of the closing defender instead of stopping the ball dead.
Receiving side on– Enabling the player to have greater all round vision and the ability to protect the ball when receiving under pressure.
Passing – with feel, accuracy and weight using all sides of the foot.
Other coaches may want to add other criteria BUT if as a minimum we started producing young players who had all these qualities I believe we start producing the quality and quantity of home grown players needed to rejuvenate our national game.