Impatience In Our Game!

By John Cartwright

The impatience that is so prevalent in football in this country is due to low playing ability; impatience is a ‘camouflage’ for poor skills and limited tactical knowledge; resulting in FEAR in every corner of the game!

Impatience radiates through all sections of football in this country. From the top down to junior levels, the sad demands for simplistic performances that avoid difficult decisions and actions has created ‘robotic’ reactions and stifled performances and this mediocrity is then perceived as satisfactory by most associated with the game here.

Skill acquisition creates confidence and confidence is the ‘armour’ that protects the playing of the game from being reduced to simplistic monotony. Individual skill, gradually nurtured and embellished to gel with team-play, is the ‘holy grail’ for all coaches, junior to senior, to seek and develop.

A football team should consist of skilful individuals in every position—even goalkeepers. Fear of mistakes is lessened when each player is comfortable on the ball and has the ability to combine effectively with team-mates. Impatience when pressurized is not something that should contort the playing style of individual or team as it does here today; Barcelona are the present day example of individual flare and team style as opposed to the ‘huff and puff’ recognized as the English game.

We have seen several attempts to improve the playing style here over the last few years, Arsenal – Wigan – and Swansea, have shown the ‘guts’ to make changes to the historical game-style ‘expected’ to be played here. Each have had their problems when trying to ‘re-educate’ Directors, Staff, Players, Media and Fans. The ‘up-and-at-`em’ culture that persists throughout our game is incredibly difficult to overcome and the clubs’ who try to introduce more sophistication find the transition almost impossible. Winning is the key. Whilst results are positive all sections of the football public will accept a more subtle approach to the playing of the game. However, should results fall away, impatience returns with a venom and the fear from beyond the field of play is soon transferred onto it!

The problem of lack of individual playing ability is the main concern with clubs’ trying to ‘fast-track’ from ‘direct play’ to a ‘keep-ball’ style. Lack of talent in the country has forced the game into what we mostly see now and attempting to ‘force’ a more sophisticated playing style onto ‘unprepared’ players is unlikely to succeed. Playing with more concern about possession is fine as long as the players are able to produce the skills – especially when opponents pressurize those questionable and unreliable skills!!

To play possession football requires all players to be highly capable performers on and off the ball. The players who tend to have more time and space to begin attacking play – are back players. We have rarely conceived the idea that our back players should be equally good starters of attacking play but merely good stoppers of it! So right at the beginning of the ‘keep-ball performance’ we find players without the playing quality to provide the ‘opening prelude’.  Opposing teams’ recognize this weakness and make it difficult for limited skills to flourish – this causes panic especially when nervous back players are caught close to their own goal.

Football of the quality we see from abroad has been ‘downloaded’ over many years to players as they have developed – not forced in a few months!  Skill quality in all positions is maximised abroad whereas here we have substituted ability for athleticism. Yes, athleticism etc. is an important ingredient in top sporting ability, but we have sacrificed skill to the ‘god of power and pugilism’. Tactical variations that are necessary to offset the problem of pressurization in games is virtually non-existent due to the inability of our players to modify and adapt the ‘installed  roboticism’ they have acquired from day one of their football upbringing.

It has become painfully obvious that the playing quality we see today here, even with the ‘imported mercenaries’, is falling further and further behind other leading football nations.  The impatience ‘infecting’ our game is not just seen on the fields of play, but in Boardrooms, amongst  Committee’s and Selectors etc. at all levels, who see winning as a priority without noting that….. ‘all fame is fleeting’ and that ‘patience is a virtue’.


52 thoughts on “Impatience In Our Game!

  1. An excellent piece, highlighting the issues with having a forward thinking philosophy. Incredibly in this country Academy managers, who ate under no pressure to achieve results on a Sunday persist in installing a ‘get results’ atmosphere at Sunday fixtures at the detriment of skill acquisition and long term understanding. It would be very worthwhile doing a follow on article on the transition from the English mentality to a more possession based style of play.

    • Hi Ben. I have said many times that the whole of the development structure that has been ‘jumbled’ together from the start of the game in this country needs a complete overhaul. There is a lack of continuity throughout the whole development period. The structure was contrived in ‘historical stages’ by different groups who had a self-interest in different areas of development. Due to no playing vision being agreed, (except DIRECT PLAY) development of our young players has been more a ‘shot in the dark’, than a planned approach. Because of the long term mis-direction of the game here, the problem of poor game understanding has spread from generation to generation and is apparent in present day coaching and playing methods.
      You mention the problem of ‘results’ at junior levels. One has to ask the question; who allows this to be part of the development process? The pursuit of silverware rather playing quality during the ‘golden years of skill learning’ has been an obvious factor in our football demise. Only PREMIER SKILLS has had the ‘balls’ to redesign an improved teaching method for our game — a method that has a planned route towards a playing vision. It provides careful stages of competitive practice to produce realistic learning and playing ability for young and old to acquire.
      From the ‘heady heights’ of the main footballing bodies of the game here to the parent and school/club leaders, an interlocking and progressive chain of development must be established. Disunity brings defeat and this has been the main factor in our long and disappointing football history.

  2. John does get to the crux of the most worrying problem – conquer this mountainous hurdle and anything is possible. A hurdle to be met both on and off the pitch; boardrooms and spectators.

    Liverpool – in their heyday – had Hansen to ‘start’ the game, and Thompson, West Ham had Mooro and others schooled this way. Liverpool learnt in Europe to play with patience – I remember Steve Haslam writing on here about Liverpool’s two styles – and this being quite a deliberate ploy of theirs.

    Maybe, during this current era, English football need to embrace the idea of a libero, standing deep not three in a line, and selecting the right type, to play this role of ‘key starter’ – Beckenbauer was the prototype and the best. I was looking at a youtube clip of England 4 Northern Ireland 0 (1982) and Wilkins played as libero – although the English persist with the term sweeper. BUT THE LIBERO IS FREE – he starts it all, can break, overload, cover, intercept, offer support.

    So whilst the continental back four man displays the comfort on the ball his English counterpart lacks; a bright manager, wanting to play his ‘vision’ might feel the need to tactically change it and play with the spare man; as an antidote to the pressurising John speaks so eloquently about.

    • Hi Brazil 94. I’m so pleased to see that you mentioned Liverpool during the Hansen/Lawrensen period. The club, during this period, produced a game-style that included all the qualities needed for success at Domestic and International levels — and we failed to recognize it !! Oh, without giving the impression of ‘blowing ones own trumpet ‘ ———————- I RECOGNIZED IT AND HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS!! I saw the cultural integration of ‘fighters with fantasy’ ; a conjoining of British and Foreign playing styles that was unbeatable and i used this as my playing vision to aspire to when i produced the PREMIER SKILLS programs.

  3. John, you wrote: ” You mention the problem of ‘results’ at junior levels. One has to ask the question; who allows this to be part of the development process? ”

    This is a complex situation in which to a degree, we are all culpable. The parents demand “success” (at U10/11 etc) and threaten to take their kids to a “more competitive” team if you, as the coach, don’t win games and, preferably, the league and cup ! So the coach wants to encourage the better developed kids as well as the less well developed as so, to a degree, accedes to the parental demands.

    For those of us who are confident enough in our knowledge and experience to espouse another way, at least some parents will argue with you and say “you’ll win nothing with the weker kids”. When you say it’s not about the winning, it’s about teaching kids the game, the parents (the paying customers) vote with their feet and take the kid elsewhere to a “more competitive team” (which, of course, is nothing of the sort. Just some unscrupulous managers/coaches who will hoover up the best local kids to win trophies at U11 to make their own CV look good. They will often not provide development for the players and when other catch up at U16 and above the ‘successful’ teams often break up and a lot don’t play again).

    Now, so far as Centres of Excellence and Academies are concerned, so far as I can see, they don’t have those issues. They are the experts and call the shots. The parents usually pay nothing and if they start trying to influence they are shown the door. But, as mentioned above, I have also heard that some Centres still do work on the basis of winning games is indicative of progress, which, of course it is / can be so long as it’s not the only indicator of development,

    So, even at the grassroots, the coach who gives less playing time to the less well developed kid because the parents of the better kids want THEIR child to play in a WINNING team and at the pre-clubs where long term development should absolutely be the mantra but some still get sucked into the ‘winning’ mentality we all have our place in it.

    For my part, I am tring in my small way to influence all the coaches and all the parents at the club at which I coach. A lot will agree but a lot won’t – they will think I am ‘soft’ – and depsite experience, knowledge and qualifications, I won’t be given any credence, by some, for that – they will know better than I do. The BEST parents are those who are teachers – they can see what we are trying to do. The worst ones are the ‘traditional’ football supporter type parents but of course, there are all the others in between.

    At the pro club level, there really is no excuse – at least at grassroots you can accept, to a degree that parents as paying customers can say, “we don’t agree, we are off”. But, if the pro clubs set their own agenda and development programmes, they only have themselves to blame.

    • Hi Steve. I asked the question, ‘who allows this to be part of the development process’? with regards to results being over important at junior levels because i believe this question needs to be answered in a definate manner before we can begin to correct the problems we have in developing talented and skilful players. You say we are all culpable for allowing winning to be such an important factor during the early learning years– and to an extent i agree . However, in my opinion this problem is one that lays firmly at the door of our National Football Association.
      The FA have sole jurisdiction over the game in this country and can impose rules and regulations concerning all aspects of it. They have failed to administer that reponsibility in relation to junor development resulting in the foundation period becoming merely a ‘cut-down’ version of the senior game. Little thought has been given in producing a progressive DEVELOPMENT MODEL with a DEVELOPMENT GAME that ‘forces’ playing emphasis towards skill and understanding rather than just kicking the ball through three white posts as being the ultimate achievement!
      The FA have shown a lack of initiative when it comes to junior development. They have ‘tinkered’ with it but have not taken fundamental steps to ‘cure the disease’ of winning instead of learning. The FA have the means but not the mentality to create a different learning experience for young players here. They have continually failed to deliver a workable and appropriate learning method for our youngsters to experience from day one of their football ‘journey’. By not confronting and dealing intelligently with the destructive and ‘fleeting fame of success’ at junior levels we have deprived millions of eager and responsive youngsters from ‘finding and enjoying’ the real qualities of this great game.

      • Hi John,

        Up to a point I would agree with you. I made the comment in an open forum a couple of years ago that, following consutation and research, if we have the evidence to show a ‘better way’ the FA as the experts should ‘dictate’ the best way to go and have the courage of their convictions.
        Of course we all know that the constitution of the FA is set up that dictats are rarely acceptable as certain aspects have to go through a democratic / voting process.

        Now the way the organisation is constituted will be a whole new discussion, but, that said, that is why everything often takes so long.(to be fair, you probably understand that better than I do )

        The FA did outlaw the playing of 11 a side football for club U10 and below with the introduction of mini-soccer around a decade ago (met with much outrage at the time which has now settled into open acceptance by the majority). The banning of collection of league tables at the young ages was again met with outrage more recently, but The FA is trying to move things in the right direction.

        The new recommendations for youth formats ( plus selection periods changes etc) I hope will also add to the gradual development of young players by those grassroots coaches (for that is where a deal of the problems exist) responsible for their development.
        The accompanying information / rationale to those recommendations should also help convince people of a different way to teaching young players the game. I know you are not a fan of The Future Game document but this again encourages coaches to teach game related practices not irrelevant drills – it and the youth awards supports game-like and overload practices etc to help players have success while learning the game.

        I hope that in another 5 years time we will be a lot further down the road but, of course, a lot depends on the mentality and approach of coaches, parents and the watching public as well.

        Hopefully the appointment of the new Technical Director by the FA will also aid our forward progress.

        But we all have our role to play in the development of the game in this country.

  4. So John by definition; the Madrids, the Barcelonas of this world, did it the other way around:they conjoined ‘fighters with fantasy.’

  5. Hi John can you give us an analysis of how you saw that GREAT LIVERPOOL?
    How did you then make the transfer into your BRAINCHILD?

    From an historical context I think this will interest everyone.

    • Hi Brazil94. In answer to your question, it was a matter of environment– discontent — employment; I’ll explain each.
      Environment: i was ‘lucky’ to be brought up during the period of ‘street football’ in London’s East End .
      Discontent: I hated the way i was asked to play during my time as a Pro here and and became obsessed with the Brazilian Style and players and i tried to emulate them when paying and as i gained experience in coaching.
      Employnent: Liverpool were one of the most successful clubs in European football for a period from the late 1970’s to the mid 1990’s . I was fortunate to see them extensively when i was at Lilleshall as FA Technical Director at The National School and then having to play against them when i was First -team Coach at Arsenal.
      After leaving the FA i decided i would , when time allowed. construct a development method that contained the qualities of ‘street football’ in conjunction with the cultural English style with Continental ‘trimmings’ that was apparent with Liverpool FC.
      I also became aware of the closeness of the game of football to the Military in both individual and group terms and read many books on Generals, good and not so good, and Gen. Montgomery’s approach to soldiering took my attention. i recognized the importance of first conceiving an achievable objective and then creating a suitable development program to attain it.
      These were my aids in establishing the concept of PREMIER SKILLS METHODOLOGY and Roger an Sam are carrying the concept forward very effectively now.
      I hope that this brief summary of how it all began will tempt you and anyone else who reads it to join the new coaching and playing mentality that PREMIER SKILLS is determined to deliver to the game here……. Welcome to the club!

  6. Watching a Championship match yesterday, an important one with a strong bearing on promotion to the mega-millions on offer in the Premier League, I was struck by the conundrum which has surfaced before and which relates to John Cartwright’s subject on this blog concerning the issue of patience. That is the high physical development and conditioning of the players but which seems to be at the expense of technique, intelligence and subtlety. The players gave the impression of being capable of running all day, they were tough and aggressive in their frequent physical confrontations which they required to ‘win their personal battles’, and they displayed well drilled confidence in playing a functional, simplistic game-style which ultimately produced a point apiece in a high scoring draw which left the promotion race on a knife-edge, to the delight of both the media and fans.
    I thought that it was noticeable that the physical build of the players was different to what you would have seen in days gone by. These performers are athletes rather than footballers, and they are built like it. From what I have read, the majority of clubs at professional level, these days have a whole array of coaching and training staff. These include a battalion of fitness and conditioning trainers and these people also work in the Youth and Academy sections. I am wondering if this is to the detriment of the development of real footballers playing real football?
    I read a quote by Arsene Wenger recently when he said that he preferred young boys in the junior youth teams to be small and slight because then they would have to learn how to shield and protect the ball, and trick and wriggle out of difficult, pressurised situations, by skill and subtlety, rather than by the physical strength and power of the bigger, stronger players. As the development years go by those big, strong players suddenly hit a brick wall and their development stops because physical strength and power will only take them so far. If one or both of those teams I saw yesterday is promoted this season to the Premier League, then in a year’s time I shall be surprised if the majority of those players are playing regularly in that division. If they are then I would expect their team will be facing a fight against the drop.
    Arsene Wenger’s comments were made when the topic of discussion was the promising young Arsenal player, Oxlade-Chamberlain. When he was young, Oxlade-Chamberlain was very small for his age and was turned down by a number of clubs. This has been the fate of countless numbers of young English players and goodness knows how many players of real talent have been lost to the game because of it. Fortunately, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s father was a former top-flight professional himself and was able to take him under his wing personally and channel him through to the right club, but not everyone could be in such a fortunate position.
    No doubt, people far more knowledgable on fitness and conditioning procedures than me, would point out that correctly applied the modern exercises are of enormous benefit and in no way detrimental to the development of the modern footballer.
    However, if you look at the physical build of many of todays players in the English professional divisions, then it is completely different to that of players of 30 plus years ago when we were producing more players of superior individual skill. Had Xavi, Iniesta and Messi been on the field at yesterday’s match then they would have looked like dwarfs, but they would have been the ones playing the football.

  7. so as chairman of a brand new club with kids 5yrs old to an u16s team next season are you telling me the blueprint for success is to focus on core skills at the younger ages to develop players (ALL PLAYERS) & to educate the parents so that they understand that winning plastic trophies at age 11 does not mean success

    • Hi Mike. An important question has to be asked; why are you working with young players? I suggest your answer should be, to improve their paying ability and character qualities. If this is the case, then providing them with a suitable development program that starts with laying the ‘football foundations ‘properly and working towards the ‘construction of the football roof ‘ is the intelligent way to do it. Introducing young players into unrelated competitve match-play of any number if they are unprepared is totally, totally wrong! Would any teacher introduce Calculus Mathematics before teaching Addition, Subtraction etc?
      If you attend a Premier Skills introductory course you will see quite clearly how Practice and competitive play can be CAREFULLY, REALISTICALLY AND ENJOYABLY introduced and successfully COMBINED to satisfy learning and ability at all age levels.

  8. This is a great follow up to the previous article with relation to development of positions vs players. It is an impatient mindset that fosters the development of postion to create results, and it all is a product of fear of failure in a sense. In the US we are miles away from developing true skill, we are stuck in development of bigger, faster, stronger as the way to succeed. For us we are generations away from understanding a sport that is not obsessed with power. Unfortunately it seems as if the EPL and English football has also fallen victim to this.My thought is its easier to create power and choose size in players then it is to develop creative and intelligent footballers!

  9. damian it has always been so, thus the English want them big. AQs Steve Haslam said X,I and M would have looked like dwarfs, but they would have been the ones playing the football.

  10. Big Mike. In my opinion yes. The most important thing is player development, not plastic trophies (as you mentioned).I’ve seen hundreds of kids games from all age groups and it’s heart breaking to see a team of monsters who are at least 6inches taller than their opponents punt, chase and out muscle the opposition. But then this same team of monsters struggle to control a ball or even pass it 5yards. Get the kids into good habits as soon as possible. Teach them the basics skills of control, passing, moving and let them try as many skills as possible, the more they try the better they get, trust me. However the biggest obstacle you will face will be the parents. Steve the seagul has said he’s got a mission statement for his club. If the parents agree to follow something similar then it may make your life easier. But the most important thing (and I can’t stress this enough) is that all the kids enjoy themselves. Because at the end of the day it’s about the kids and no-one else.

  11. Hi Matt. Yes, Yes, Yes. It is all about the kids, that’s why i have been so critical of the lack of direction that has been evident with regards to junior development for so long. The FA have never really made a concentrated effort to get this area of the game ‘under control’ and expend enough time and thought on ‘conquering’ the ‘evil’ consequences of ‘Trophy Hunting’ on development here. They have ‘tinkered’ and ‘fiddled about’ for years with bits and pieces but have failed to introduce a well-designed, PROGRESSIVE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM and equally important, they have failed to devise a suitable, NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE for it to function successfully.

  12. Hi Matt…”the biggest obstacle you will face will be the parents.”
    I think that the parents,brother/sister,grandparent or whoever it is who brings the child along to football training and matches is almost as important as the child him/herself. I think that it is vital that we educate the parent/guardian as well as the child. The

    child will spend far more time with their parent/guardian than with us,
    the coaches, and on average we give 1 – 1/2 coaching time in grassroots

    football per week, which is only a fraction of the time required to
    really improve the technique and skills of the young player. The parent must be shown work that can be done in the back garden or in the park with the child to accelerate their progress, so our coaching on the training night is showing them how they can practice.
    In this regard, the courses which remier

    • Hello Steve – yes I was generalising when I stated parents, but agree it should be to anyone that brings their kids to a football club. I also completely agree that it’s important to educate all that are involved in youth football set ups. As we all know for too long there’s been a win at all costs mentality in football and this is the reason why we aren’t producing top level players, coaches or a national team. In my local area there is a lot of good work going on with soccer schools that provide (in my opinion) excellent training because they’re being run, in some cases, by full time professional coaches. These Soccers scools aren’t in any mini soccer leagues (although they do play freindly/exhibition matches) so there’s isn’t a win at all costs mentality.

      The question is: Could these Soccer Schools be the way forward and replace the traditional Sunday Morning teams?

      In my opinion they won’t and they shouldn’t, but they can definitely aide the local Sunday teams by supplying extra curricular training in the correct way. These soccer schools also give kids homework – i.e. learn how to do this turn, skill or pass and then come back and show everyone else. This type of homework is good as it sets the children a target or goal to achieve. Once they’ve achieved it they get the sense of accomplishment which makes them feel great about themselves.

      If the local Sunday team coaches were willing to sit in and spectate at these sessions they would be able to see professionals at work first hand. They would also see all the kids trying to playing in the correct fashion, playing without fear of being beratted if they make a mistake and trying all the new skills and techniques they’ve acquired in a match scenario. But more importantly they’d see the kids playing with a smile on their faces!

  13. continuation of above post……
    In this regard, the courses which Premier Skills runs on One To One Coaching and Football Homework are invaluable. They are supported by videos/DVDs which you can work from if it is difficult to get to the

    Any parent or older brother/sister can oversee and advise through being made familiar with this work and it is of enormous benefit to the development of the young player.
    I think that in the days of street football it is wrong to assume that there was no adult involvement and that this has become a problem in later years with the disappearance of that type of football, being replaced by the present organised form with the proliferation of leagues and competitive play. When older players/adults joined in the play it was to coach and instruct during the play and the benefit rubbed off on the younger ones. It also introduced a controlled physical element with younger kids aquiring the knack of retaining and protecting the ball under physical duress which helped to give them a combination of toughness and footballing savvy.
    I have noticed that in the slightly higher levels of youth football during the last few years, there has been a tendancy to isolate the parents away from their children during training and matches. I think that this is wrong because it is vital that they should be aware of the aims and objectives of the work which is being performed, and then they can also become a part of it.

  14. Hi Matt.
    The example you quote of coaches from the local pro club giving the benefit of their knowledge and experience in your local community, is a good one. We need more of this. at one time, players finished their training at about noon, got shwered and changed and then went to a local school to do some coaching in the local schools. West Ham United were particularly prominent in this, and Ron Greenwood really encouraged it.I read a quote from Harry Redknapp recently, when he said that was how many of them in that era got started in coaching and managing.He said that if he could, he would reintroduce that with his players

  15. Premier Skills should get the Likes of Joe Cole involved. I understand as a young player he had a thirst for knowledge; and would understand the problems in the English game as he faced them!!!

    I say this because he is the product of a ‘coaching’ environment – he may have been misused/mistrusted/misunderstood by others however.

  16. I really appreciate the comments that Steve has made in regards to keeping the parents, or guardians of the youth players involved. It will do us all a favor to educate the adults who transport as well as support the youth who are playing.

    Here in the US we have so many issues to tackle as far as education in the sport, that it is hard to know where to start. In reflecting back to the issue of “Impatience”, our current club system will always be at odds because of the “pay to play” cycle that has become such big business. Parents have expectations, rather then understanding of what player development is, therefore coaches who are expected to develop players are under the gun to win more so then provide development of the individual.

    I am not sure how we battle this? The big selling point for our soccer culture is a college scholorship, and parents choose to send their children to clubs placing players in scholorship positions at College Level. I know this is a systemic difference then the rest of the world, but is our system so flawed in the US that we will never truly develop a pipeline of players? I think the only total footballer that our current system has developed is maybe Clint Dempsey, if you will.

    I know our problems arent all the same, but do you have any thoughts on this Steve, anyone?

  17. Hi Damian…
    I think that you have similar problems in the USA with the development of young players as we have in Britain. But I think that there is an important difference. Because in your country, football has struggled to be recognised as a leading sport for so many years, I do not think that large sections of the adult population consider themselves to be ‘experts’ in the same way as they do here.
    So many coaches in this country pass on the benefit of their own playing experience to the young players in their care and unfortunately, in too many cases, this means an over-physical, winning-is-the-priority approach.
    I suspect that many of the volunteer coaches and managers in the

    American system had no background in the game until they began

    running/coaching a team that their children started with their friends.

    So i would see this as an advantage rather than a disadvantage, because in this scenario the American volunteer coach/managers have no ‘bad habits’ to drop into. If the game can be presented to these enthusiastic volunteers as one of cleverness and high skill then they can present it in this way to the young players in their charge. in england, in too many cases, it is not presented in this way and so year after year, at the top level, we struggle to produce

  18. (continuation of above post)…….
    high quality players who can lead us out of the internaional wilderness in which we have been stuck for so long.
    Even when we have a really talented youngster, too often we look at his size and physical build rather than his actual football talent. I cited recently the example of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who was turned down at a number of clubs because of his size. I would not be surprised if this is also a problem in the USA because I understand that many of the sports in which you excel require physically big and developed athletes. Its all a question of presenting the game as one of skill, intelligence and imagination and one, as i said before, in the opinion of Arsene Wenger, at which it is actually an advantage to be small in the early development stages, so as to aquire the ability to protect the ball and withstand challenges by stealth and cunning, rather than by physical strength.

  19. The chronic illness in English football was portrayed in an interesting interview I read the other day with the Tottenham right back, Kyle Walker. In his early years, Walker was a striker and joined the Sheffield United Academy. Though he has a big, powerful build now, in those days Walker was small for his age and dwarfed by big strong defenders he came up against. But the sole tactic in his Academy Team was the midfield players would get the ball, quickly work it out of their feet, and hit long passes into the channels for Walker to sprint on to.
    Walker was not physically developed enough to make anything of this approach but ball after ball was put into the channels. There was no variation and no technical work to develop real, all-round players. Fortunately for Walker, he gradually developed physically and eventually moved back to the fullback position and, of course, is now a Premier League player with England caps.
    But is there no ‘policing’ of the Academy system and, if not, should this not be something which the FA should be scrutinising with the greatest urgency? If a young player is under the wing of a professional club, receiving regular coaching and match play, then should not the coaching which he receives consist of the highest possible technical content? The first team Manager may say that the limitations of his playing squad and the endless pressures to get results, precludes him from producing a high techncal game, but there should be no similar excuse in the Academy.
    I understand that big clubs are going to be free to snap up the best young talent from lower league clubs at any time they want. So surely, the FA should be able to keep a close eye on the methods which are exhibted in the match play of all the Academy teams and step in if it is clear that the approach is so one-dimensional as that which Kyle Walker experienced in his younger days.
    If these young players do not actually belong to a club when they can be snapped up at the drop of a hat by one of the big clubs, then in the same way, the FA should point out that all young players belong to them because they are all potential England players who could, one day, win the World
    But, first and foremost, the coaching must be right and much closer scrutiny must be kept on young players’ development.

  20. Sounds Steve, like the influence came from the FA anyway ( HOW!).. and therein lies the problem… you effectively use the words ‘chronic illness’… well I wonder who spread the disease… surely, Premier Skills is the antidote, the preventative…BUT THE FA policing the their own heretical ideas; moreover, and more likely just like during the Spanish inquisition, quite impossible….!!!

  21. Unless, they the FA have a vision – which is doubtful – of ‘how’ they want to see the young players at PRO clubs play, then how are they going to scrutinise?

    • Brazil94 – Old and outdated viewpoint – The FA does have a Vision. Read The Future Game document and tell me that that isn’t a Vision.

      It may be that you don’t agree with what is in there, but that’s a different argument.

      Oh, and previous reference to National Socialism and communist regimes and now you bring up the Spanish Inquisition?

      Try and keep it real !

      QUOTE: I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition (“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”)

  22. I managed to obtain a copy of the “A Kick In the Right Direction” report.

    Interestingly, the proposals included a recommendation that “Any syllabus for the content of football education programmes should be the responsibility of the youth development officer and coaches at the club”

    Further in the report it cast doubt as to why the FA would wish to inspect the programmes if the development officers / coaches were already Level 4 coaches.

    Notwithstanding the crticism of the content and structure of the FA courses (another recommendation of the report was for a 4 tier coaching qualification which subsequently was implemented in conjunction with UEFA) that are delivered, the suggestion seems to be the current status.

    So, given that clubs actually are responsible for developing their own football education for players, as the report stated back in 93/94 why does that now become the fault of the FA?

  23. What i think is hypocritical Seagull, is that you have a pop at me about ‘vision,’ yet when others mention it YOU ARE SILENT.

    If you had read earlier posts you will have noticed that I quoted from Eric Harrison who was part of the original PFA Study group, and he is considerable in his attack on the FA.

    YOU also fail to pick up on any range of technical points that would have/could have prompted the FA to move in another direction. In terms of the KITRD these are surely the important points re the playing of the game.

    You also do not take Steve Haslam directly to task for what you see as a contradiction in his idea of scrutiny. Is it because you know these people?

  24. However, my previous comments should not detract from the real importance in this blog which is ‘playing the game.’ The FA of course had for so long a Vision of direct play- that did an awful lot of good for the game!

    My real interest is in the game.

    Countering the IMPATIENCE IN OUR GAME is where it all starts – hence JC’s term of ‘starters.’ And they have to be patient. Looking at the two FA Cup Semi Finals over the weekend, I felt that without a doubt the best starters were Chelsea’s initial two David Luiz (I know he has his critics!), and John Terry. It helps that the former is a Brazilian.

    The best semi irrespective of the goal tally was the second, as better ‘starters of the game’ were playing. quite often show me bad starters and I’ll show you a bad game!

    Steve Haslam made the point that the smaller boy who develops into a big guy has had a far greater opportunity to learn the technical skills of the game. So the English obsession of wanting them big – at a young age – needs analysis.

    The Germans moved their starters out of midfield into the defensive set up – Beckenbauer, Stielike, Sammer etc; maybe the British need to do something similar and go with a ‘libero system.’ Two/or one can man mark and the free man get ready to stand of and pick off, and then START. This is a MAYBE.

  25. Brazil94, I have consistently said that the FA has a Vision. Not everyone on here agrees with that observation and/or whether or not the Vision is well formed. I have posted elsewhere on this blog (different posts) about the FA moving in a different direction.

    My response to your post above is, as I have said before, (and not just in response to your posts) that a lot of the comment about the FA is based on historical content not about what is happening right now.

    I respond to your comments not because you make them but because I feel you have a less balanced view of the situation. So, I add another slant to the comment merely to try and provide a balanced view.

    I also made the remarks above about the KITRD report (Thanks for the abbreviation, by the way, saves a heck of a load of typing) in direct response to Steve’s observation that the FA should be scrutinising what goes on in the Academy system.

    The FA does police the Centre of Excellence process to an extent (not sure about Academies, I haven’t worked in one of those) but not what goes on in the programme itself.
    The KITRD report stated that scrutinisation of the programme by the FA was neither required nor desirable especially if coaches delivering the programme (in the Clubs)were already well qualified.

    Again, I don’t doubt the criticism from the report by various individuals (they aren’t posting on here right now so pointless to address that to them) but, that was around 18 years ago. Things are not the same now as they were then.

    Yes, I know Steve Haslam a little having met him on a Premier Skills course and again briefly at the FA Coaches Conference. So what? I’ll disagree with him too from time to time, as I have done above.

    So, to clarify – this is addressed to anyone who believes the FA doesn’t have a Vision of how they want the game played or how they wish to approach coaching. It does.

    Now, as I said above, I know John, for example doesn’t consider it to be especially well thought out but that is a different argument and, possibly is one of personal interpretation or preference.

    I also know John is unhappy with and critical of the content of the individual courses that the FA delivers, but again, that is concerned with the detail of the steps to achieve the Vision rather than the Vision itself.

    Now, arguably, the steps are at least as important as the Vision itself (although I personally wouldn’t argue against that )- it’s OK knowing where you are going but if you don’t know how to get there or have a confused map that won’t make life any easier.

    Again, within the Future Game document, it espouses a way to play (I have a pedantic issue with the order in which it is presented – ‘use build up play IF counter attacking opportunities are thwarted’ – personally I prefer build up play as the start point).

    To place counter attacking as the first point of order would seem to indicate that you won’t have the ball – we know from long and painful experience that English (British?) football regularly gives the ball to the opponent. So, starting from a position of possession would be the most logical start point, for me (possibly semantics, but sue me!). Additionally if we are teaching young players to play WITH the ball from the outset, why we choose counter-attacking as the start point for a playing vision is a tad flawed.

    The document also talks sensibly about counter-attacking – we often counter attack in this country to a forced conclusion – an inappropriate / ill-conceived cross/shot at goal etc whereas the report espouses recognition of when counter attacks are thwarted and a return to deliberate build up play.

    Lastly, there is a considered approach to defending. Not so much the get “stuck in/be strong” nonsense (and which in my 22 years I have never heard from an FA tutor or course content) but which HAS been the preference for a lot of grassroots coaches as well as the watching public.

    So, hopefully, those that wish to be educated as to a different way can be (those that don’t will carry on in their myopic way until we outnumber them or they give up!)

    I will continue to challenge comment on here, where I believe it to be unbalanced. Personally, I think it is too easy to jump on the ‘Bash The FA’ bandwagon (I’m not saying we shouldn’t scrutine what goes on and question things – that is the prerogative of any democratic, free thinking people) but let’s all have a balanced view. As I mentioned before there aren’t black and whites there are shades of grey.

    Finally, sorry, I just had to have a dig at The Spanish Inquisition remark – I did think it was somewhat fanciful but it was also an opportunity to make reference to one of our national comedic treasures, Monty Python and a sketch they once did on the Spanish Inquisition.

  26. PS Brazil94 in response to a couple of your observations above:

    ” However, my previous comments should not detract from the real importance in this blog which is ‘playing the game.’ The FA of course had for so long a Vision of direct play- that did an awful lot of good for the game! ”

    – I wouldn’t disagree with that observation. However, to add a degree or two to that statement – Charles Hughes (whom you refer to a lot) stated (in print, in his book) that Direct Play should provide success from a balance between the extremes of kick and rush and possession play (between the extremes of…).

    Again, my observations and personal impressions are that the worst examples of Direct Play (which were based on kick and rush) were the fault of certain individuals who took principles and some statistics in isolation and determined to play biff-bash fightball. Not my way nor has it ever been and nor would I encourage young players that way.


    “Steve Haslam made the point that the smaller boy who develops into a big guy has had a far greater opportunity to learn the technical skills of the game. So the English obsession of wanting them big – at a young age – needs analysis.”

    Again, this is an interesting point – where does this favoured selection come from? It comes from individual coaches, not from the FA.

    The big, strong, quick kid is often used to help dominate games. And when they do (at young ages) it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. The coach and parents (spectators) see ‘results’ going their way and think it is success.

    Only when they realise it isn’t, really, (several years later) the damage has been done (or, rather, PROPER development hasn’t taken place).

    ” maybe the British need to do something similar and go with a ‘libero system.’ Two/or one can man mark and the free man get ready to stand of and pick off, and then START ”

    – I think this is more difficult to dictate or agree on. The FA takes enough stick as it is – can you IMAGINE the OUTRAGE if the FA tried to dictate a set up (as opposed to a style of play)?

    I know the Australian FA have dictated that everyone should play 4 3 3 but, so far as I can make out, there is quite a bit of gnashing of teeth over that.

    Anyhow, as far as I can tell, formations are mainly evident at kick off.

    How on earth does a governing body dictate that all youth teams play with, say, a 4 3 3 if you and I decide we wish to play a true sweeper system with two markers and a sweeper who has free reign to move forward / play out when the opportunity arises or others create the space for her to do so (I coached a team for 4 seasons where they played two markers, a sweeper, 5 in midfield and two attackers and worked well for that team at that time)?

    Now, working with a game STYLE I think is something else entirely and is especially where I like the Premier Skills courses content I have seen and experienced so far. The build up game style is obvious from the outset with INDIVIDUALS being put in charge of a ball to start with BEFORE we start passing / combining.

    And that is what I have been promoting at the club at which I coach currently (and to be fair most of the ones I coached at before – there was one exception !!). Individual expertise has to come first (foundations as Prem Skills refer to it). If a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, sooner or later, it all goes wrong when you rely on just the physical attributes.

    Now, having said that, I am sure there IS a change coming. More youth coaches, even at grassroots levels, are giving players the encouragement to PLAY (not just boot it) the game. So I do have hopes for our future national teams.

  27. Hi Stephen. I must disagree with your comment that, ” the FA have a Vision”. I have read their latest attempt to produce a coaching document –‘THE FUTURE GAME’ and notice that although they mention a host of playing requirements there is NO CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED ‘BUILDING BLOCKS OF PRACTICAL WORK TO PROVIDE THE COACH AND THE PLAYER WITH A ‘ROUTE TO FOLLOW FROM FROM START TO PLAYING VISION. There is a great deal of terminology ‘acquired’ from other sources and an array of un-related practises and although the manual moves through various age categories the ‘smoothe’ connection of practises within an age band as well as adjusted practice progression into the next age band is not noticeable .
    Of course i should also point out that our National Association Coaching Department seem to have forgotten that HEADING THE BALL is a skill in the game but it doesn’t appear to receive the recognition it deserves in the manual !
    Of course all teams will not play in the same way, but the vision to achieve is the production of talented COACHES AND PLAYERS with the ability and understanding to adapt to systems and circumstances of the game as is required of them. This manual ‘talks a good game’ but once more fails to actually provide the methodology to actually ‘achieve’ high quality coaching and playing standards.
    Your other point regarding ‘DirectPlay’ being described as…… ‘a balance between the extremes of ‘Kick and Rush and Possession Football’. I suggest you read page 175 of ‘THE WINNING FORMULA’ and under the heading of Tactics: Phase 1. LONG FORWARD PASSES. it states; effective long forward passes may be played either straight down the field or diagonally across it, but are almost invariably played 30 yards or more into the space at the back of the opponents’ defence. The best chance of success comes when this type of pass is HIT IMMEDIATELY A SIDE WINS POSSESSION OF THE BALL………….I think that says it all !!

    • Hi John,

      I was waiting for your reply to that !!

      Well, as I said above, you may feel that it is either not well thought through or you may disagree with the detail of the content but I would still argue that it is a Vision.

      It talks about all the things that we want to see in the game – technically competent players playing through the pitch, and being considered about how, when and where to defend.
      It talks about a development philosophy rather than purely one of winning and talks specifically about the qualities needed of coaches who are to coach to improve players and to deliver a different style of game and with reference to, but without slavishly copying other nations.

      I would agree that some elements of the content are obvious elsewhere but, I feel, that is the nature of the game – it evolves and changes as does appreciation of different coaching (and playing) approaches and I just see that as the acquisition of best practice.

      As well as seeing similarities with Premier Skills work, I also see similarities with what the Give Us Back Our Game movement advocated, some of the content of Laureano Ruiz’s books and Horst Wein’s work on Developing Youth Football Players; but, as I say, I feel that is just the accumulation of best practice.

      Similarly, I see very close alignment between the Premier Skills work and elements of philosophy from Rinus Michels book Teambuilding and the game like structure of the Prem Skills practices themselves with the intended outcomes from the KNVB book (or it’s English Language translation version) Coaching Soccer .

      I haven’t yet seen all the Practice Play courses (but I intend to and am eagerly awaiting a PP3 date and venue) and I would tend to agree with what I think I understand by your comment:


      I think you mean that there is no specifically stepped route, a bit like a ‘road map’ (if I can steal jargon from the business world) from point A to point B. To be fair, this is why I am keen to see and experience all the PP levels. I would tend to agree if my interpretation is correct.

      However, I do think that there are groups of work, or practices, that are logically collated to provide game like exercises which are created to arrive at a specific outcome.(e.g. possession exercises, playing through areas of the pitch, finishing exercises, as broad examples)

      My view is that the practices contained are templates and, depending on the ability and experience of the players you coach, can be adapted appropriately. I feel the practices are built around the principles of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) and are modified games being used to teach specific aspects of “The Game”.

      I thought you may also make reference to the lack (or, actually, absence) of heading practices. I can’t imagine how ‘they’ (for I believe it to be a collective piece of work, though I don’t know for sure) managed to omit that but, to be fair, as a pretty experienced coach, I would be confident in my ability to be able to address that myself, but, I can’t say you’re wrong on that score!

      Finally, (I could be on a pasting here as you worked with Charles Hughes and know what he was “about” first hand) but the comment I included about the “balance of extremes..” is also taken from The Winning Formula (Page 8).

      Again, your reference to the long forward passes is, of course, accurate and in his book exactly as you say.
      My view of that point is that it is an available and relevant option at the point of transition of possession – i.e. when the opponent is not ‘set’.

      However, my interpretation of’immediately’ would be; if I can be sure that the forward player is aware of my intent, that I have correctly assessed the space available, distance to be covered and the covering position (or lack of it) by the defender(s) would lead me to make a decision as to whether or not it was the correct pass to make, if I could do so accurately (depends on whether or not I am under pressure when I win the ball).

      But, as I have said before, I think SOME coaches decided to do that as a matter of course and without the thought process / assessment I mentioned before; and so would, as you intimate, just “boot it” whenever they got it – punt and run !

      But, that is only Phase 1 – Point 1. In point 3 of Phase 1 it goes into some detail about the passing to feet and states that the majority of passes will be made to feet and not into space (may be some semantics at play here as to what is defined as ‘feet’ or ‘space’ but I would take the long pass into space as ‘space’ and anything that involved a shorter pass that allowed up to a small movement to receive as ‘feet’).

      He goes on to say that teams would benefit from practice in quick support and forward play (though I’m not always so keen on restrictive conditions as he suggests “allowing only one touch” – sometimes those restrictions aren’t always realistic to the situation in the game / practice, but I take the point).

      In Phase 2 there is also reference to dribbling, what he calls ‘interpassing’ or combinations and crossing and later in Phase 3 he talks about the mastering of a range of techniques and skills related to passing, control, dribbling, shooting/finishing as well as defensive elements.

      Now, as I say, I know you used to work with him but all my views are based around what I read in the books and, perhaps, are influenced by the way I like to see the game played (I grew up watching Best law and Charlton ! although I did see them beaten by West Ham 2-1 at one stage, though Ferguson saved a Willie Morgan penalty, so should have been a draw!!).

      So, I may be biased and maybe I am wrong to interpret the Winning Formula and FACTS the way I do, but, as I’ve said before that is my interpretation of the content and I can’t say I ever appreciated the way some of the teams in the 80s and early 90s, especially, played(and there are some still a bit like it now). But, again, I believe that was down to individual coaches / managers choosing to interpret an approach in a particular way and taking it to the Nth degree.

      Still, I suspect we won’t agree on that !

      • PS Be interesting to see what the new Technical Director does when they are appointed. Will they tear it up and start again? Will they adapt and evolve? I guess it depends who they are.
        I hope they select the best person for the role…..

  28. Hi Steve Seagull

    In response to your response. I am not suggesting the FA brings in a directive as to what system coaches should employ. All I am suggesting is that for me it might be a good idea for some to choose to integrate a ‘libero’ system, whereby the natural cover is put in place and that player can be a starter of the game. I cited Raymond Wilkins playing in that role for Greenwood against N Ireland years ago which can be found on YouTube. For whatever reason, playing with a sweeper never really caught on in England; and rarely used a man from midfield. On a technical point when the Italians used a libero he played free behind three defenders; rather than the two you advocate, although it possibly is easier to mark down two and play with the fullbacks pushed in as you suggest.

    As far as the Future Document is concerned I have not seen it- I understand it can be bought. Interesting though that the FA prioritises the counter attack ( transition) ahead of deliberate build up/possession football. In a way this is reminiscent of the old era when the ball was transferred forward – often long – very quickly.

    I think of course that teams need to be able to recognise transition – counter plays – situations that are available to them, but it can still be a way to constantly play the ‘Hughes’ method – which was a vision – not one that I adhere to in general terms; however, MANY BRITS LOVE IT ( and so in lies a problem for coaches).

    I would like to see more detail about what you state is the FA vision. Are you able to put your email address down here and we can make contact.

    You do state that Premier Skills at the outset put the individual in charge of a ball – Now this was so apparent in Barcelona’s performance in the – unfortunate – loss at Chelsea.
    The Catalans governed the ball; Chelsea did not. Chelsea’s outlet was longer and transitional, Barcelona’s more intricately collective. Getting back to your comment that the FA prioritise counter play this seems to match up;however, Barcelona were always going to have more all of the ball. They were not in a hurry to get the ball forward; the English mentality has always been different and so even with an adjustment from the FA; some attitudes still persist.

    Chelsea – represent a modified FA; Barcelona PREMIER SKILLS.

    What do others think?

  29. If my reading is correct – then that tells us everything. WOW, to have a vision that can be seen in the modern Barcelona is something quite remarkably special.

    I was watching chelsea v Barca, thinking “YES” – Iniesta ‘Premier Skills’, Xavi ‘Premier Skills’ and et al – I can see the picture as the players individuality shone through as did their combined team play.

    And the BY FAR THE BETTER FOOTBALL TEAM LOST – they will prevail in the Camp Nou.

  30. Hi Brazil94 and Steve The Seagull…..
    Your current exchange of views seem to have arisen because I brought up the thorny old issue which has long been prevalent in English football, certainly during my time and probably a whole lot longer. Namely, the preference for the big,strong powerful boy/girl over the smaller,slightly built child and which must have led to countless numbers of very talented young players being lost to the game over the years.
    I suggested that the FA, or whoever it is who runs our game, (probabaly the Premier League but they are not interested in the England team and so the reponsibility rests with the FA), should “police” the clubs for indications of poor practice and if really talented youngsters like Oxlade-Chamberlain are rejected, as he certainly was at other Premier League clubs, because of his size, then action must be taken because we simply cannot afford to waste, or fail to recognise, real talent. A report has been quoted rejecting this draconian approach, but it seems that was written 20 years ago.Well, the situation in talent development was bad then, but it is considerably worse now and I feel that no stone should be left unturned in correcting the situation.
    Brazil94 recalls the use of Ray Wilkins in the role of continental style libero when playing for England against Northern Ireland during Ron Greenwood’s term as England manager. I well recall this match and the circumstances surrounding it. It was a few months before the 1982 World Cup in Spain and Ron Greenwood converted Wilkins to libero from his normal position of midfield. The experiment was a great success. England won 4-0, although the opposition was very average, and from his free role behind the defence, Wilkins got time and space to initiate many attacks with vision and good passing. But the experiment ended there and then and was never tried again! Why? Because the over-powerful clubs rejected and criticised the idea! No one more so than Ron Atkinson, who, at the time, was manager of Manchester United which was Wilkins’ club. Atkinson said that we don’t play that way in England, meaning that we didn’t play a thoughful, possession-based game but a direct style based on longer passes.
    Atkinson should have been ordered to play Wilkins in that libero role at Manchester United for the rest of the season. It was the only chance England had of winning that year’s World Cup. In fact, he should have realised that playing Wilkins in that role would have greatly aided his team’s performances and results in the League, and if he had misgivings in being able to put on the correct coaching sessions for his team with Wilkins in that role, then I ‘m sure Ron Greenwood would have been only too willing to assist because it was to everyone’s benefit.
    It didn’t happen because in this country the clubs are too powerful. Some reference has been made regarding certain other countries dictating the way that the clubs should play in the League. I can tell you that in the seventies all West German clubs in the Bundesliga played 4-3-3. They played a central striker and two wingers. Defensively they played strict man-for-man marking and a spare defender behind in the Wilkins libero role. So it was relatively easy to slot players into positions in the National Team and everyone was fully aquainted with their role. The success of the West German team bears testimony to this approach and ,of course, it has carried on with the unified Germany.

  31. National teams abroad, by and large, have no real problem when selecting players for International duties. Their Domestic game reflects the way they play at National levels. This is because they develop their young players through their learning years to be skilful individuals first and then incorporate team-play at a later stage. There may be playing adaptations and variations between teams but there is always the hallmark of careful transition from junior to senior games. A playing vision doesn’t mean a bland playing similarity. Players, if brought up properly, should be capable of producing a performance that satisfies any playing situation It is the poor education of players that forces them to ‘cling’ to the constancy of basic mediocrity in games. The oft.used term in football; ‘simplicity is greatness’ , does not propel the correct image for the playing of the game. Simplicity, when used , is just an option available amongst the arsenal of skills and decisions available to the well-prepared player.
    Our individual playing skills in conjunction with other important playing attributes are woefully weak and do not seem to be improving. Coaching methods that have been applied to devlopment here have not created the quality of coach and player that was expected. Not only is coaching methodology at fault but so is the devlopment infrasructure of the game. A ‘network’ of competitive football at all levels merely provides ‘prooving grounds’ for the strong and speedy and not for those who are skilful schemers.
    Nobody will ever convince me that foreign coaches and players don’t want to win ….at all levels; it’s not natural to enjoy losing, yet more talented players regularly appear on the team-sheets of foreign sides The difference between here and our overseas opponents is the importance they place on individualism and the how this is ‘injected’ into a game-style that allows all elements of talent to be displayed during games. Should a game be lost it will be because the winners were better all-round players of the game than the losers. Until we encourage a game-style that requires total playing ability and not just pace and power, we will continue to call mediocrity great and camouflage it with ‘hype’ and any talent that may be around will continue to disappear down our football’s ‘plug-hole’ !!!

  32. What a great post this has been.I’ve really enjoyed the passionate reasoned posts from Steve the Seagull,Brazil94,Steve Haslam as well as many others.I don;t always agree with everything said but we at Premier Skills will fight for your right to say it.
    Remember we’re all on the same side in respect of wishing to give our kids the best possible coaching we can.
    When John criticises the FA its from many years of watching the coach education programme being inferior which David Sheepeshanks has recently admitted.
    Although the FA have implemented changes in recent times I get the impression it is because they,ve had to rather than because they want to.Their rhetoric is often impressive and theoretically they try to cover all the bases but then they show, with the practical sessions that are illustrated in the future game and youth model documents ,that they don’t really have the core understanding .

  33. We at Premier Skills recognize the importance of Direct Play as part of a playing style. Because of this we have introduced the teaching of longer passing situations as part of the Level 5 coaching program where space and time considerations become more complex as tactics and physical qualities become more advanced. It is delayed until the latter stages of the work for several reasons: 1. The reasons for using longer passes are not necessary during early development work. 2. Young players are not physically capable of playing in this way in a correct manner. 3. It is vitally important that young players develop individual skills followed by combined movements in the smaller areas to acquire subtle football intellect during their skill acquisition years: 4.Longer passes require other elements of the game that are not necessary in the early stages of development…eg. Competitive Heading: One touch passing: A simplified playing ‘get out’ that replaces more skilful qualities and opportunities:
    As has been said many times before, “coaching’s not easy ” , it needs careful introduction and equally careful progression in which individual ability and game understanding are developed in conjunction with physical maturation and increased tactical awareness.
    ALL PREMIER SKILLS PRACTICAL PROGRAMS consist of work that is age, individually and tactially related to allow gradual progress into senior football……towards a pre-designated playing vision that is designed to satisfy our domestic and international playing and viewing requirements for the forseeable future.

  34. For me this blog represents the real problems that the FA has caused through its scheme over many, many years. Now supposedly, they are trying to rectify the chaos caused, but as John and Roger state don’t really get to the hub of ‘How’, although it could be conceded they have a vision; without the means. This – vision – seems to be an arguable point on here and is open to debate.

    I have witness over many years how the FA Approach has been so incredible destructive and feel on balance they have run out of goodwill – they have really lost the right – they cling on to – to provide a coaching scheme.

    That is not to say that coaches have followed them slavishly;clearly coaches haven’t BUT THE DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE!

    John, as we know, has worked with the nemesis Hughes and has obvious misgivings; hence his creation of Premier Skills.

    I think TWO VISIONS are incorporated into Premier Skills – one the collective ‘team play’ vision and the INDIVIDUAL PLAYER VISION. Taken in order the later comes first, inasmuch as a mental player ‘kitset’ of all the required skills is the basis of a template. Once the team players have acquired – and as they are acquiring – the kitset, they learn to combine. The foreign boys witness weekin weekout, on TV or in the flesh good to great players individualising or combining. The young Catalan sees his heros Xavi, Iniesta show wonderful touch/skills etc and they COPY. The young Spaniards are influenced by the game style (vision) they see. Just as in England when the young fullback sees his hero down near his own corner flag boshing the ball down the line he relates to that. Who spotted Alves being chased down by Cole in a similar situation and coming inside looking to play the other night? Cultures prevail.

    In street football combining becomes a natural component as they share the ball, or lend the ball. A coach can modify,polish, help advise etc. So in a very real sense Premier Skills is what I call an across cultural coaching programme; that has as its essence, a strong focus on INDIVIDUAL MASTERY. I believe the Ronaldo’s, the Messi, Xavi’s of this world would have flourished in this programme and this is WHY PREMIER SKILLS is playing a far more effective hand – MORE IMPORTANT – than the one the FA have been sitting on all these years!

    Well done.

  35. Referring back to Brazil94s post above:

    “Hi Steve Seagull

    In response to your response. I am not suggesting the FA brings in a directive as to what system coaches should employ. All I am suggesting is that for me it might be a good idea for some to choose to integrate a ‘libero’ system, ……… For whatever reason, playing with a sweeper never really caught on in England; and rarely used a man from midfield. On a technical point when the Italians used a libero he played free behind three defenders; rather than the two you advocate, although it possibly is easier to mark down two and play with the fullbacks pushed in as you suggest….”

    I agree, I quite like 2 markers and a sweeper, personally and I can only assume that it never really caught on in England as we (well, most of the population) have enjoyed high energy confrontation and ‘physical battles’ rather than being clever.

    “As far as the Future Document is concerned I have not seen it- I understand it can be bought. Interesting though that the FA prioritises the counter attack ( transition) ahead of deliberate build up/possession football. In a way this is reminiscent of the old era when the ball was transferred forward – often long – very quickly. ”

    You are correct, it is available for purchase – there are two versions; one aimed at professional clubs youth development sections and one for the ‘grassroots’ clubs – essentially the recreational community clubs.

    I actually prefer the Grassroots version as it carries much more information about young player development and coaching philosophy and approach. I guess the assumption is that the pro-clubs wouldn’t need so much emphasis on that….

    “I think of course that teams need to be able to recognise transition – counter plays – situations that are available to them,…….”

    I agree, counter attacking is very important and the content about counter-attacking in The Future Game is actually quite considered. Too often in the English game (and at the top end of the game) I still see so many counter attacks which are forced to an often poor conclusion rather than recognising that the opponent has managed to re-establish a good position and reverting to a considered build up approach.

    To be fair, it may only be the order in which it is stated in the book so I may be being a little over-pedantic

    “but it can still be a way to constantly play the ‘Hughes’ method – which was a vision – not one that I adhere to in general terms; however, MANY BRITS LOVE IT ( and so in lies a problem for coaches).”

    Sadly, I fear you are right – howling thousands shouting “Get Forward” is quite a lot of pressure on players and coaches to abandon a thoughtful approach and just launch the ball forward. But, I think the tide is changing.

    I saw somewhere recently though that crowds are content for goalkeepers or defenders to ‘give the ball away’ by smashing it aimlessly down the fieild yet howl derision if the same players lose possession in their own half trying to pass their way out. Same effect, just seen as more risky (which potentially it is) and based on ‘position on the field’ rather than possession of the ball..

    “I would like to see more detail about what you state is the FA vision. Are you able to put your email address down here and we can make contact.”

    Not happy to put my e-mail address on an open forum, but I am happy to communicate direct and exchange ideas (even if we don’t always agree !). Let me think how I can do that and I’ll post on here again

    “You do state that Premier Skills at the outset put the individual in charge of a ball – Now this was so apparent in Barcelona’s performance in the – unfortunate – loss at Chelsea.
    The Catalans governed the ball; Chelsea did not. Chelsea’s outlet was longer and transitional, Barcelona’s more intricately collective. Getting back to your comment that the FA prioritise counter play this seems to match up;however, Barcelona were always going to have more all of the ball. They were not in a hurry to get the ball forward; the English mentality has always been different and so even with an adjustment from the FA; some attitudes still persist.

    Chelsea – represent a modified FA; Barcelona PREMIER SKILLS.”

    Yes I think Premier Skills is definitely looking at the Barca approach (but with Variations).

    I’m not sure about Chelsea’s approach over the last couple of games. They won through OK and if I supported them maybe I would be happy but I was very unhappy with the way they played.
    It’s a paradox – I know winning is the main thing at the professional level, but I would still like to see an entertaiing game with both sides trying to PLAY the game. Someone will surely post that defence is as much a part of the game as attack (I agree, I spent a long time as adefender) but surely not like that?…..

  36. Interesting ideas Steve. When I have some time I am going to watch the second half again of the Barcelona -Chelsea semi final now devoid of the emotional impact. Watch it in the cold light of day as it were. Barcelona moved the ball forward and kept it there.

    I think a little tinkering – and I have read John’s post on variations and the suggestion of adding heading to their repertoire – albeit MAY NOT require a great header of the ball if they can find ways to make chances with the ball on the floor; when confronted with a Chelseaesque opponent.

    For a Guardiola/Villanova; can he devise a method that does not require aerial crosses?

    Can we put on hold any ideas that suggest a need to do something so specifically British? That is not to say, it might not come to that; but I want to see Barcelona defeat the Chelsea-types without having to using POMO in any form , now that would be something!

    Before I am derided, I do appreciate the near post ball, the angled cross/ or bent into spaces between defenders or the use of the Torres ( Portugal 66) knock downs; yet I wonder that as Barcelona are so conditioned to play THEIR WAY that they continue to be the TOTAL ANTITHESIS OF THE CHARLES HUGHES METHOD; if one can call it that.

    They can of course play on the counter and slice through teams, better than anyone, when space allows. Mostly they can force you back and play in the front play-rounds as Johns states. Can they now incorporate, greater intricacies of movement and link up in almost non-existence spaces around the box; without resorting to air balls to be headed NOW THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING!!!

  37. Hi,just finished reading your “impatience in our game” blog. I could not agree more,but until coaches ditch their ego and are willing to suffer in the short term while laying the foundations for a more technical approach (more touch time) only then will we start to change the mindset of the players,and once they realise that by keeping possession of the ball they reduce the attacking options of their opponents and increase their own.

  38. I have just got to read a couple of blogs and its a great read the more we talk openly about the game and what’s needed for the game and not our own agenda can only be healthy for the game in the areas where they are struggling to meet the demands of developing quality National players ( Great Britain and Ireland ) for the game.
    I have been involved in the game for over 35 years as a player and coach and now I am now in the USA coaching and earning a living here and its been great and it has now become my adopted country. I have been through the FA system and having done a lot courses in the USA and as young football Nation i can see that the USA is in my opinion heading in the same direction as great Britain and Ireland.
    I used to hear Alan Wade (Lord rest him) talk about the way forward and that
    ‘Good Technique is the foundation upon which class are developed” .

    Winning is important to any player no matter what age they are but its how you win that more important and if you don’t win its not the end of the world but in the USA they do not like to be a loser but its a beautyful game when played properly no matter what age.

    The USA will have some very good player come through the system but i think it is because of the Hugh number of players playing the game, rather than a Player developmental structure that should be in place.
    Coach / Parent Football education has to be the priority to help develop the players and we have to get them playing games like we did on the streets.
    Identifying talent at 6/7 years. Get and pay our top coaches to coach the young players.
    If the foundation is not right it will collapse like a house built on sand

    We have had a number of skills development programs brought out into the system i.e. Coverer Method, Strikezone Visual Training Aid and now Premier Skills which up to now I have not heard of or what its about and would like some information on. I need to finish as I want to read the other blogs before I hit the sack.

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