A Reply To Jamie Redknapp

By John Cartwright

On Thursday the 10th January 2013 in the Sports’ section of the Daily Mail, there is an article by Jamie Rednapp, a regular ‘football pundit’ for Sky TV.  His article was entitled: WE’VE GOT LOADS OF KIDS DRIVING RANGE ROVERS, BUT WHERE IS THE ENGLISH — MATA, SILVA OR CAZORLA?

Jamie Redknapp

He continues by saying he’s ‘scared about the future of English Football’; so he should be! For far too long mediocrity in our game has been ‘camouflaged’ with hype and called greatness. Individual players, teams’ and the game in general have all been placed on unworthy pedestals to distract Joe Public’s awareness of the poor quality of our game. Yes, there are some exciting games in the Premier League’s program as he states, but there is also a great many that are extremely poor.

It’s time the truth was told regarding the mess our game is in. The Premier League is indebted to Sky TV for financial support; without it the vast majority of the clubs in the Premier league would be seeking ‘life-support’. Whilst the Premier League squander millions the rest of the game here survives on a financial knife’s edge. Foreign players are introduced in ever larger numbers each season thus denying ‘home-produced’ talent the playing opportunities that they need.

But it must be asked as Jamie does in his article; ‘where is our talent for the future’? I’ll tell him…….. we don’t have any!  Those young players he mentions as ‘rich in potential’ would not have cleaned the boots of the young players of the past. The easy use of words that over-emphasise standards;  great —  legend – star etc. by all involved inside and outside of our game when discussing football, be it about players or aspects of the game, has seriously distorted the true levels of performance that should exist. Money, ‘the root of all evil’, plays a significant part in ‘pedestalling’ mediocrity, for financial gain and advancing personal, professional status leads many to ‘talk the game up’ to retain public interest and advertising revenues.

It worries me that Jamie, a talented player who’s career was shortened through injury, should only now show concern for our game’s future. There are many who have signalled the demise of our game for many decades — it’s been obvious to anyone prepared to look, but ‘the greed is good brigade’ have smothered all criticism using money as an instrument to deter questioning about the route our game was going.  Like himself, I also watch all levels of the game each season and as he says, “there is nobody that gets him off his seat”. But why is this lack of talent regularly occurring ? It’s not just the importation of foreign talent, they are here because we have failed to produce the same high playing standards as our overseas rivals!

The ‘Red Herring’ that is  St George’s at Burton, is yet another development blunder in my opinion; putting a roof on a building prior to laying foundations for it is gross stupidity. It is the latest in a long line of disastrous decisions on development methods and playing infrastructure that have failed to produce the required standards for the game. Whilst we continue to wander aimlessly without agreement on where we should go and how we should get there, we will remain a frustrated football nation.

St. George's Park

Jamie, in my opinion we don’t have the best league in the world. But by repeating it over and over again it has become a fixation that is accepted without thought. The amount of players and managerial prizes won by the Spanish league recently puts our Premier League to shame. I have always been a lover of the game but I am becoming disenchanted with the physical ‘fightball’ I see week after week here. I thank God that I have seen football played in the manner I have always believed it should be — the artistic football of Barcelona FC.

All sports should consist of three major components; activity intelligence, realistic, high level skills and suitable physical ability. To become a top performer these three elements must be discernable qualities and all supplementary aspects are connected to these.  If one looks at the players on view in our football today, how many of them, if any, can one say has at least two of the three elements mentioned? Very few. The vast majority of our football ‘products’ cover their lack of playing intelligence and skill deficiencies by an increased physical ability—they can run and fight all day!

Yes, we have got exactly the football we deserve; over-hyped players playing over-hyped football for huge amounts of money. We have cheated and deceived ourselves continually by calling ‘rubbish – great’ and in so doing we have lost the ability produce and recognize true quality. Jamie, you should be concerned, I have been for many decades and have spoken about it, but honesty is not the best policy when criticising our money-obsessed game, criticism might reduce the flow of cash!


21 thoughts on “A Reply To Jamie Redknapp

  1. I was listening to Alf Galustien on Talksport last season promote Coerver on Keys and Gray and Andy Gray saying this is what we need to produce great players! Do we need more unrealistic drills, kids waiting in lines, yes that’s just what we need? Is part of the problem, people are just not sure what methods are best. You have people convinced we need more technique based coaching, others more conditioned games and some want a bit of everything. I have been trying to find out how often Barcelona kids do drill/technique work, from what I can gather they do some. Anyone know?

    As you have stated many times we need a complete overhaul of our system from top to bottom. How we coach the kids is not everything though, I honestly believe our society has a lot to do with it.
    Jamie is not the first to say this on tv or radio, many ex players, coaches, managers have said simular comments before. I think what Jamie said about the fancy cars has a lot to do with it. What young man would not want plenty of cash and flash cars, then his in eyes he has made it, if at 20 you have a bank balance of £50k then it is too easy. Many of our foreign counterparts have had tough upbringings, just like those Brits from the 30s, 40s, 50s, so wanting to succeed and knowing you have to work hard is important. I heard the other day that a young lad at West Ham has his boots paid for him and whilst I understand why they do that, is this just the start of setting these kids up to believe everything will be given to them. I also believe John that a big part of the problem is not football related, our society is breeding / has bred children growing up wrapped in cotton wool. Too many of our kids don’t want to work hard (not all), my mum rode 5 miles to work a 9 hour shift, rode home, done the dinner, went back out to work at 9pm -12am, just so she could pay the bills and look after us. Now social pay the bills. Why is it that foreigners come to the UK to do the work we do not want to do? Why are the low paid jobs filled with foreigners, how many Brits are washing the dishes in restaurants or cleaning toilets, hospitals or the boots of professional players? I watched a programme once that went to a poor school in India and a school in England and asked the children what they wanted to do when they grew up. One 10 yr old Indian girl said a doctor, another a lawyer and another wanted to be a scientist. One English girl said to be famous, another to be on tv and a boy wanted to play football.

    • Hi Dubs1968. Yes society has ‘softend’ living conditions for people and there are those who take extra advantage of welfare situations. I don’t believe this has such an impact on player development as one might believe. When a young player is accepted into a football Academy he is something special and should belive himself to be so. Players recruited into La Masia, Barcelona’s development School, are expected to feel important. But it is the education they receive that prepares them for both the game and for life outside of it; how to play and how to conduct oneself at all times. Great players of tomorrow will be the students of great coaches — greatness in todays world is something that is taught and not simply acquired in the ‘University of the street’ as in the past.

    • The Barca coach that came out to Lismore Aus used the Techique skill game method, as does the Coerver written skills acquisition program used by FFA for ages 8-13 in Aus.

  2. Great article John, as always you hit the nail on the head. With the EPPP now underway and poor coaching being highlighted as one of the big problems for English football, when do you think its too late for a young player to change his ways (if he’s been poorly coached).

    We’re all aware that kids as young as 7 are now being picked up by pro teams and coached by the teams development/academy staff. My hunch is they started this as this is what’s done in places like Spain, Holland and Germany. The idea being that train kids from a younger age and they’ll develop into better players (more practise = better players….). However do you think that If a 7 year with some natural ability is picked up and poorly coached until he’s 15, that it would be too late for that player to change what he’s been programmed to do for the last 8 years?

    The reason I ask is that the academy system must be flooded with lads that are in their mid to late teens that are never going to acheive the standards of a true professional player. I’ve mentioned before that I’m optimistc that things are gradually changing and some young coaches coming into the system are doing some very good work at grass root level. But if the current system is tainted by these old school coaches we’re probably not going to see a batch truely great English players (not just the odd one off) for another 10 to 15 years.

    • Matt I feel that there are big improvements in understanding how to coach children, but the practical side is still missing. I have watched many a young coach at academy level and I see the same drill type work, 1v1, 2v2 etc. and kids standing around too much. What do you call good work? What academy has a clear vision of how they want to play and a coaching programme that teaches you to play that way a la Barcelona? I am not sure we have many in the UK.

      • Hello dubs. I agree that there is some way to go but my main point is that things are starting to change (albeit very slowly). It’s going to be a cultural shift and that takes a very long time. I think English clubs should adopt a Dutch academy model rather than spanish. I do believe a lot of coaching is too much drill based. At the foundation ages I think everything should be based on learning and perfecting the basics, such as receiving the ball correctly, being able to use all parts of the foot to control the ball, learning that possession is vitally important as is penetrative passing and dribbling. I also think that all training should be with a ball at all times, including warm ups.

        I’ve mentioned it previously but I believe there is a lot of good work being done in the lower leagues as these teams now rely on bringing through your players as a way of conserving and generating cash. Crystal palace seem to always have youth that premier teams try to buy ,and I believe some of the work done by Dario gradi at Crewe has produced some very good players over the last decade. Lets hope this continues and grows across other clubs.

  3. Hi Matt. If one builds on soft and sandy ground the structure will fail. If one develops players incorrectly through junior levels those players will not achieve top player status. The teaching of the game has become more important than ever as self-taught players have disappeared.
    I don’t believe we have a solid base of quality young coaches who can invigorate our development shambles. As i have said in the previous reply ‘ great players of the future will be the products of great coaches’

  4. Last Friday evening Sky Sports, the ‘cash cow’ of English football, transmitted a live broadcast of the Championship fixture – Wolves-Blackburn.
    Neither side has been in good form of late and the standard of football was dire. But what i found particularly illuminating were the short interviews which the TV company did just before kick off with a number of Wolves supporters. Wolves had changed their manager during the week because their results have been so bad that they are in real danger of falling into League 1 following their relegation from the Premier League last season. With Dean Saunders just installed into the managerial ‘hot seat’, the Wolves fans were asked what they hoped to see in the forthcoming months from their team.
    Without exception, the supporters interviewed said they hoped to see “more passion”, “a never say die attitude” and other battle-rousing phrases. Not once did anyone say that they would like to see some good football, played primarily along the ground, with a change in style that would represent better value for their hard-earned money, which they regularly handed over at the turnstile. They weren’t looking for anything better, or different, in terms of quality, just better results, and if poor quality football got the results with the ‘up and at em’ attitude which apparently had been missing, then they were quite prepared to accept that.
    The fans attending matches and paying TV subscriptions, as much as anybody, can influence the direction in which English football is heading. But they must make it clear that although only a handful of teams can pick up the cups and medals at the end of the season, everyone can be in line for prizes, if there were any, handed out for attempts to play good football at all times.
    Many of the managers and coaches of childrens teams on Sunday mornings are loyal fans of League clubs on Saturday afternoons. The real problems arise when their devotion for the results-only professional game permeates into the games and preparation/coaching which they give to their kids. It is a problem which filters down from the highest echelons and infects the all-important junior game.
    Forty to fifty years ago, when Manager of West Ham United, Ron Greenwood, made it clear that although he wanted to win as much as anybody, his first priority was to give the paying public of the time what he believed they really wanted – good quality football at all times, with the belief that ultimately the right results would eventually follow. It is true that his West Ham team never achieved the success which it deserved , but, away from home, apart from Manchester United, they drew the biggest crowds, and Upton Park was regularly packed to capacity. West Ham, in those days, were always financially in the black, long before the days of TV hand-outs.

    • Hi Steve, totally agree with you about children football coaches, from what I’ve seen it’s just win at all costs at any age. I recently completed my youth module 2 and most of the coaches on the course were desperate to find out if they had won Saturdays match or not. These were under 10s.
      I see football coaching from a totally different angle to these coaches, take your ego out of the coaching and put the child’s needs first and they will improve. I’m currently reading Hurst Weins coaching manual, great read and puts children first.

  5. HI Steve. I have just returned home from watching an u/21 game. This is supposed to be the future of our game and i have watched several games at this level this season. If this is our future then God help us!
    There is plenty of fight and chase with ball gained only to be given away and then re-fought for. The players have no understanding of the game’s artistic subtlties and changes in playing tempo. From first to last whistle there is an ‘up and at em — fixed bayonets’ approach to football matches that begins at junior level and is transferred up into senior football.
    Our game is worse now than it has ever been in my opinion. Many of you will disagree with me but
    i am convinced we are going backwards in terms of player development and not forward.

  6. Hi John, although you are spot on in regards to our top youngsters coming through, nothing is changing and from what I see I doubt if it is in 10 years either. Where there is improvement though is at grassroot level. More coaches are aware of setting a nicer environment, the message about children being allowed to play is getting out there and for the vast majority of kids that is all they really care about. So in some ways kids footy is getting better, unfortunately the standard of play is not one of those ways.

  7. Hi Dubs…
    I think that in this country we have a natural inbuilt, competitive edge which makes winning important. This does not really affect the lack of quality in our football. We can keep a fiercely competitive attitude but ally this to a demand for quality. The Wolves supporters interviewed on Sky Sports showed only an interest in winning, and a desire for winning by playing good football, was never mentioned. It was this that was depressing.
    In the days of street football, games were played with a firece competitive spirit. There is no harm done if that firece competitiveness continues in the Sunday morning kids leagues, as long as this goes hand-in-hand with the pursuit and development of excellence.
    John Cartwright has quoted Danny Blanchflower previously on this blogg – “Winning is not iomportant, but winning with style is.”

  8. I was a good youth player in the Birmingham Boys league. When I got to a pro club in the 80s their coaching methods confused me and I went backwards from age 15. Then, after an apprenticepship went sour, I fell out of love with the game altogether. My interest in football increased again through the 1990s because I couldn’t leave the game behind – the TV images of WC78 are still the most seductive thing I have ever seen (my wife excepted, of course).

    The modern appetite for fame and money first with litlle or no consideration for any talent that might underpin that ambition is appalling. Since WC2010 I have been thinking about all that is good and bad in football. This year – and especially today with the FA congratulating themselves for what exactly? – it is time to start righting the wrongs of the past, but unless there is a mass movement towards this with some co-ordinated action people will continue to be blind to the truth.

    Gill Scott Heron was wrong – the revolution has been televised and it is called ‘The Premier League!’

  9. Hi Steve. I think the whole teaching and playing infrastructure used in this country will not produce the standards of (a) Coaches and (b) Players (c) suitable game style. All development model(s) have lacked direction and continuity from day one —where are we going/how do we get there — has never been assessed and dealt with on a national scale.

  10. Most of the comments show how little we know about football and football coaching, every one has a comment an opinion we main problem is nobody actually uses their brains or can listen to what any one else has to say. All you ever get is money ruins the game win at as costs etc etc etc I coach a grass roots club with over 50 coaches only 20 or so have bothered to do their level 1 only 2 have level 2. Theses badges don’t make you a good coach but I think it shows a great deal about the effort we as a nation put into football

  11. Hi Bob. I’m a little confused with what you are trying to say. You are at a club that seems to prefer to have inexperienced coaches working with youngsters. I am a severe critic of the FA’s coaching sheme(s) as i do not believe they supply the type of work necessary for progressive improvement. However, coaching is not easy and unless those working with players have sufficient coaching knowledge they will have a detrimental effect on player progress at a time when youngsters absorb information like a sponge.
    I suggest you and your coaches give Premier Skills a ring and enquire about their coaching and development ideas — i think you will be pleasantly surprised.

  12. Hi John

    Thanks for replying

    My comment is born out of frustration. To be perfectly honest I stumbled across the blog read a few of the comments and thought same old, same old. Prompted by your reply I v taken the time to look through your site. What you say is spot on and choosing to coach coaches is clearly the way forward. I don’t think 99% of grass-roots coaches really have a philosophy most start with no experience or help, coaching u6s u7s. Like most amateurs I coach my sons team and have from u6 –u10 I had no experience, no help, no support, this is true of all the local teams.
    The standard of coaching is woeful despite the respect campaign the managers and parents behaviour during the matches is awful. What is utterly frustrating is that it isn’t rocket science, and there are people that will help you if you search them out. I had formed a good relationship with the head of excellence at Wycombe before the youth system was abandoned. After observing the coaching, I followed it as a model. Very one ball one player, small matches no pressure etc.. nothing was based on setting up drills everything focuses on individual technique. The results of this type of coaching have been staggering compared to the clubs we play. The results aren’t published but the teams are screened into divisions based on results we are the only team in the top division who have a girl, we have the smallest players, we include players through the whole age range and a couple who are playing a year up. We do win most of the matches but it’s a result of quality of the play not desire, work rate.
    90% is a result of following a philosophy and coaching based on the staff at Wycombe.
    Wycombe invited all the coaches from our league ( 32 clubs) to a free coaching afternoon at their training ground approximately 400 coaches. Less than 10 % attended. The weather was wet, half of the coaches sloped off when the session moved outside. Surely if you aren’t interested in the professional advice at your local club your chances of inspiring the young players you encounter is zero
    I know you are well aware of the set ups in Holland around Barcelona how will we ever get good grass roots coaches to pass on good players to better coaches who pass on the exceptional players to the exceptional coaches. Our lack of technical ability is our reward for the effort that starts right at the bottom. I don’t think the problem is lack of funding or lack of ambition amongst the kids. We have to coach the right things to the coaches so they can pass them on.

    I think the challenge is to motivate the coaches to learn the basic technics most grass roots coaches have never been taught. I never was, I picked football up 50% good 50% bad. Patiently coaching an 8 year old how to take a good first touch isn’t that interesting to most coaches.
    We don’t need drills, computer programs, formations, we need more thousands more good coaches, hundreds more great coaches to inspire, and few exceptional coaches to take the exceptional talent that is out there and do justice to that talent.

    Great idea to try your coaching I am committed to doing an FA level 2 course but will be in contact. Our club were organising 2 coever coaches who were working at Reading to run a morning coaching the coaches session at our facilities. It got cancelled because most of the coaches wanted to coach their team that Saturday because they had matches on the Sunday. I would love to think that this is type of short sightedness is usual. Depressingly I don’t.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment and apologies for my ramble. If you can help me inspire the coaches at our club and the others to improve their coaching I am all ears everything I try seams to fall on deaf ears.If I can learn to be a reasonable football coach anyone can.

  13. Hi Kicboy and Bob…..
    A lot of frustration is expressed and a lot of good points made as well. I can only reiterate what John has said and recommend as many coaches as possible, at whatever level they may work, have a look at the Premier Skills courses. There is now a Premier Skills Level 1 DVD, so if a course is not possible at the present time, then go to the Premier Skills web-site and order a copy. It is great value for money.
    As has been said before, I feel that the strength of Premier Skills courses is the way that they all link together. Individualism is placed at the core of the work and as you move through each level then you keep coming back to what was there in Level 1. To my mind, this is what makes it all fit together. The FA courses have many good features and work, but it does not fit together, and link from one level to the next, as it does with Premier Skills.
    Whilst reading “Pep Guardiola: A Different Way of Winning” by Guillem Balague, I have detected a similarity between Premier Skills and Barcelona’s coaching approach. In the book, it is stated that Guardiola does not allow coaches to come to observe their training on just odd days or for even a week or two. Guardiola says that this is because to understand how they work you would have to watch their training continuously over a number of months. He says that their coaching exercises and practices are little diferent from anything that you would see anywhere else. It is the way that it all fits together that is important, and therein lies their ‘secret’.
    So it is with Premier Skills; much of the technical detail is contained in the FA courses, (although not to the same degree in their corresponding Level 1), but the linkage that you get in the Premier Skills work is missing.

  14. Why England should study not ridicule Andre Santos
    The English FA turned 150 years old this year and plan on letting the world know it on February 6th 2013 in a glamour friendly against South American powerhouse Brazil. It always befuddles me when people and countries and in this case organization celebrates absolute failure with the hope of somehow changing such fortunes with balloons and a loud pronouncements. England have become a 3rd rate football nation a team no better than the likes of Poland, Ukraine, USA, Japan etc teams that have no hope of ever really competing in an international tournament and a technical and tactical level 10 years behind the rest. The English FA deem it fit to celebrate the fact that since 1966 England footballers are unable to pass a ball, dribble, shoot and display the sort of flair required to be a dominant side and live up to their football centric culture and billion dollar league.

    This is where Arsenal left back the incredibly below average Andre Santos comes in, a player that looks and walks the part of football joke. His performances have been hugely and accurately criticized for what they are, pathetic. Yet the bigger issue is why a player of Santos’ caliber is in the English League when his performances are not adequate? It is due to his fundamental technique which is way above the head of many of England’s best players. Read that again Andre Santos an absolutely horrific player is technically better than many of England best players, and that is a fact. His ball control, dribbling and all around composure on the ball makes mockery of England’s current low standards hence a player like that will always find a job in a top league while many English players have to suck salt in lower leagues. Santos comes from Brazil, a country that many will argue is in a bad cycle in terms of producing talents yet no matter how bad the overall level, therein lies a fundamental skill level that all their players possess which is far greater than the English player.

    Depending on the week a range of 31-38% of English players play in their league, a trend that has held steady since 2001. A trend which the FA refuses to do anything about, tell me one industry in all of England that would have the majority of workers not be English born? How is this a time to celebrate? The English FA will talk about the new facilities that are being built and the millions being pumped into grass root football which is admirable but wont amount to much. Countries with ¼ the budget of the English FA are vastly ahead of the curve in terms of football ideology development at all levels with the English FA refusing to follow the path that has been successful.

    Next week when England take the field with their new ensemble decked out in 150 years crest, remember that when James Milner is running around the field like a wild child without a purpose and slow technique, Glen Johnson being a bird brain trying skills he is unable to perform putting himself and team under pressure, Theo Walcott unable to beat a man even if he is blessed with 100mph speed, Wayne Rooney fumbling around unable to find a player able to keep up with his technique, a midfield that lacks the critical thinking when to play fast, when to play slow and a team filled with players that treat the ball like it is infected with a virus and keep giving it away remember this is a celebration.

  15. Hi David.
    You rightly draw attention to the ludicrous nature of the Football Association’s ‘celebrations’ on its 150 years since inception.
    We are all aware that England gave football to the world in its organised form. We did not need ‘celebrations’ to remind us of this. But as with most things run by big-time football in this country, and especially when the Football Association is behind it, then the prime motive is money. The ‘new’ Wembley still needs paying for and now there are the bills to cover for the St George’s coaching centre.
    Football is a game immersed in money, especially at the highest levels and most of it goes into the pockets of the wrong people. Money will not cure the ills of the English game. We need a complete restructuring of the youth coaching and development programme. We desperately need better coaches and we need to consign to the dustbin the tired old ideas and drills which are still used as the base for teaching the game.
    “Coaching ain’t easy”. Roger Wilkinson headed up an article on this blog with this title some time ago, and the coaching hierarchy at our National Association should have these words inscribed in block capitals on the syllabus of every course which they run. Not to put people off coaching, far from it, but to remind everyone of the onerous nature of the work, which brave people take on in their coaching role, regardless of the level at which they operate.
    We must get away from ‘quick fixes’ in coaching, which are aimed at junior level coaches from all directions, whether it’s from some new module introduced by the FA, or some internet or print coaching drill available for ‘a fee’.
    When we start making some progress in these directions, then we can start thinking about having some ‘celebrations’.

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