The 2 Year Re-Justification Model

By John Cartwright

After dismal performances over the last two summer’s by our international squads at all levels and genders, it’s about time one took a close look at the 10 year period that Sir Trevor Brooking has been at the FA.

In December 2003 the Football Association appointed Sir Trevor, as their Head of Football Development. To many of us it revived the hope that, at last, here was a person with a football background to make significant changes to our Coach Education and Player Development programs. However, since his appointment 10 years ago, it must be said, there has been no ‘fireworks’ just ‘damp squibs’ from the Coaching and Education dept. Oh yes, we have seen numerous initiatives, ‘tinkerings’ and questionable  coaching appointments during this time, but nothing of ‘ground-breaking’ substance to create the necessary and long-awaited improvements our game needs so badly.


Inertia complemented by excuses about the obstructive,  competing factions involved in the running and organization of our game, have been the dominant features of the Brooking period. When he was appointed he fully understood the selfish attitude of those rival groups against whom he was expected to vigorously respond. It was hoped by many that he would be the ‘convincer with a professional pedigree’ who would have a plan of action to overcome the problems besetting our game and offer fierce determination to enforce it; what we got was someone who has failed to rise to the challenge – another feeble ‘Football Politician’ instead of a powerful and visionary ‘Football Practioner’.  

Since taking up his present position, at approximately two yearly intervals, Sir Trevor, has issued a ‘comment’ rather than a ‘command’ regarding   development situations here. It seems these timely references are made more to justify his position as Head of Football Development and his department’s ‘raison-d’etre’ rather than offering a clear plan forward…………..  The first of these ‘revelations’ was; “we’re not skilful enough”. Well, Sir Trevor, this was hardly surprising as we had been saying exactly that for the previous sixty years – remember the Hungarians with Puskas and co?  What did Sir Trevor provide us with? — a sponsored skills ‘jamboree’ that has had minimal – if any – impact on skill appreciation and playing quality here. ……….  After another timely interval the next piece of ‘revelatory re-justification’ emerged from Sir Trevor’s domain, this time it was; “junior football is too competitive”. Well, no surprise to us Sir Trevor, we’ve also known that for the last sixty years! What he and his ‘blinkered’ subordinates don’t seem to understand is that – it’s not competition that’s the problem, it’s how we introduce competition to young players that’s the problem! Generally, under the direction of inexperienced parents or ‘coaches’,  our young players are introduced to a work and playing atmosphere that is totally unsuitable during this important stage of football learning and creates on-going problems in skills and tactical ability.

A recent revelation from his Dept. is; “we must introduce 9 v 9 games for youngsters before introducing 11v11 games”. Well, Sir Trevor, the introduction of small-sided games, from the very beginning of the development period right into senior levels, should be as carefully considered as any other area of practice.  At each stage of development the correct introduction of player numbers along with the associated teaching and learning requirements (realistic, practical content) is vital. If this is not done the introduction and playing of 9v9 or any other number ‘pulled out of a hat’, will make little difference to the learning and playing qualities of those involved.

Then it was promoting the importance of defenders being able to come forward with the ball to create overload situations;  a bit late in recognizing the importance of quality back players, I have been saying and coaching this for the past 40 years!!


The next attempt to bring some quality into our game is called the Elite Player Performance Program. This new piece of ‘hopeful expectation’ is designed by the Premier league and endorsed by The FA in an attempt to produce a large quantity of talented players for our game….. I thought the Academy scheme was supposed to do that over the last 20 years! Will this new innovation from the top be just another 5-10 year ‘breathing space’ for its ‘ academic initiators’ that will, like so many of their ‘initiatives’ in the past, fail to provide what it promises?  At present a mountain of paper bureaucracy seems to be the main ingredient of the scheme and there is little to suggest EPPP will provide the practical answers to the ever increasing demise in development standards here.

The latest expensive gamble to put things right with our development is the FA centre at St George’s…..this ‘roof without the foundations’ we’re told will be producing ‘top-notch’ players in ten years time!!

When are we going to realize that it’s a national playing vision that is required in combination with systematic planning and restructuring of our whole coaching framework.  We don’t need spaced-out, self-justifying comments from Mr Brooking and co. we need determined and inspirational leadership with foresight!   

Ignore all the ‘hype’, our game is in decline. It may be possible to fool some of the people for some of the time, but it isn’t possible to fool all of the people all of the time. Our game  needs honest,  professional discussion to re-route it from disaster not periodic comments or publicity ‘stunts’ that have neither relevance nor impact on the coaching and development and playing crisis we have in this country. In an interview with Gary Lineker, some time ago, Brooking, admitted that he had not been able to make the changes in development he saw necessary for its improvement.  Sir Trevor, occupies the ‘hot seat’, it’s time he replaced the Blazer for the Track-suit and began to exert a more positive and professional influence over the direction of development here instead of allowing the continuance of ‘ amateur, academic theorists’ to rule the roost and continue to increase the mess they have brought to our national game.

Sir Trevor, what we have seen so far is not good enough… a distance!

56 thoughts on “The 2 Year Re-Justification Model

  1. Never a truer word spoken, as always an excellent blog! But whats the answer? Who is the answer? How do they(whoever they are or will be?) put it right??

    Like lots of things in life, do we continue to “moan” about things & put up with them until were too old or fed up of moaning about things to worry about it anymore???

    • Hi Rich. The answer is simple…. those in charge should have the guts to admit failure and openly seek advice. That advice should come from here not just from abroad. We must establish an English game style that contains the best qualities from here along with foreign additions. This game-style must be both attractive and a winning style capable of satisfying all who coach, play and watch the game here.

  2. I would love to see an advisory group set up with john Cartwright,Terry Venables,Roy Hogson,Eric Harrison ,Dan Ashworth and a couple of innovative academy directors to recommend the way forward.With one simple initiative we could make a massive leap forward.

    • Hi Roger. The problems with our coaching methods have not just occured they are deep-seated that go back to the demise of ‘street football’ here.There is no single, simple initiative to offset the decades of misdirection in our coaching and development methods. This group must be given ‘carte-blanche’ in order to remodel the teaching and learning process of the game here.

  3. Good article John, however I do think that Dan Ashworth is changing a lot and does intend to make a difference. I also feel that you could help enormously by speaking with Dan and offering to get involved in whatever way you can agree to. Its time to effect change with all parties pulling together.

    • Hi Mark. I would readily accept an invitation to discuss changes to the mess we have at present. However, it’s not likely as too many who have created the problems are still involved. If i was asked, they can find me in ‘Coventry’ where i was dispatched to decades ago for questioning our development methods.

  4. In my opinion, if the game is not presented and taught correctly at the earliest ages then coaches are playing ‘catch up’ with those players for the rest of their playing lives. I believe that the FA made a huge mistake when it introduced fun games to the exclusion of technical detail into the Level 1 course. Of course there must be a fun element when teaching young children but the techncial detail must be there. This is where the Premier Skills approach is so much superior to the FA approach. The awareness of space, how to recognise it and exploit it and use it is vital. John Cartwright used the term “papering over the cracks” once when referring to coaching older players, who had not received the correct coaching at the earliest ages, and I see this happening so often.
    Regretably, the FA Youth Award Modules have not addressed this situation in my opinion.

    • Hi Steve. As a kid i always played football because i enjoyed it in the street, playgrounds and park pitches. Playing is the fun part of the game this is what coaching has failed to understand. They have introduced boring, class-room methods into coaching. Street football was ‘practice whilst playing’, Premier Skills coaching methods are designed to recreate exactly the same situation.

  5. We still have a situation where our youngest players are being coached by the most inexperienced parents / coaches. These coaches, on the whole, are left to their own devices after doing a level 1 course, which, let’s face it, is not fit for purpose. Clubs do not monitor these people. There are hardly any mentoring schemes and most parent/coaches do not invest enough time into developing themselves. They could be coaching the next potential Messi.

    We need to be ensuring that all young players are receiving the best technical coaching to develop good habits and skills – obviously delivered in a fun environment, but with the emphasis on developing their confidence with ball manipulation. Instead, we still have coaches focussed on winning and pigeon-holing players into positions. “Stick the fast left footed player out on the left wing”, “Stick the big kid at the back in defence”. It is still going on…. There is little emphasis on developing “all-round” footballers who are comfortable with the ball at their feet. And this is in spite of trying to take the competition out of it. They keep their own results / write their own match reports praising little Jonny for his 6 goals when they “thrashed” Bogend Utd in a “friendly”. You see it in the papers every week – all that is missing is the final result….

    There is an enormous amount of money in the top level of the football pyramid – just look at the Range Rovers in the players’ spaces at your local League 2 club. This needs to filter down to grassroots level – ages 5/6/7. There should be a responsibility on league clubs to provide good coaches that deliver quality session via local grassroots clubs. I’m not talking holiday play schemes, or a coach that turns up once a month and charges the kids £1 extra each for their wonderful one off session. I am talking a proper curriculum of coaching delivered to all kids regardless of which club they attend.

  6. Trevor Brooking came to Bescot Stadium a while back to present to some people from local junior clubs and people from the local junior leagues. All he did was spout buzzwords and talk about how we needed to spend money on quality pitches. He didn’t have an answer when it was put to him that pitches weren’t the issue, if that was the case then Brazil would be in our position too and the compere soon moved things on to Gareth Southgate talking about how he helps his sons local team from time to time.

  7. Is it possible that Trevor Brooking is powerless to make all the changes required? I do not know how the FA works, what does it take to make the changes you need? What I do know is the people in the coaching department are not quite on the same wave length as most of the guys here. I say quite as the guys I have met are fans of playing the game and recommend practices that are variable, ie close to the real game.

    There is a national game style which I found on St. Georges Park website. There is not a coaching programme in place to coach it, which means they are leaving it up to the coaches to come up with designing there own interpretation. Sure fire way to successfully fail.

  8. Hi Dave. Your last paragraph sums up the total mess in which our game wallows. There is no guidance … just greed and apathy. The fight between the FA and The Premier League must be resolved and quickly or our domestic game overall will continue to decline taking our international game down with it. This is what Brooking should have been fightting ‘tooth and nail’ over since his appointment 10 years ago.

    • Hi Dave. Brookin’s area of responsibility is Development. This is where our failure to produce top quality players stems from. The coaching programmes have not provided the correct teaching methods and this is where Brooking should have made a far bigger impact in makiing radical and essential changes.

  9. Dave -Trevor Brooking has had the opportunity to change things but chose to be a politician and not a leader. This information comes from within the FA !!!.
    Their Gamestyle was a “cover all the bases” whitewash.Then when it came to the practical application the practices were less than adequate.The other disappointing aspect of his reign is that there were some good coaches in place who with the right leadership could have really taken the game forward Dick Bate,Brian Eastick,John Peacock,Stuart Pearce to name a few.If John Cartwright had got in with that lot we would have had a much brighter future

    • Hi Roger, I watched Dick Bate at the Herts Uni a few years ago, his coaching was nothing like a Practice Play session. Drill based, had no idea what it was meant to achieve and felt disappointed with what I saw. The other guys you mention I have never seen. Even before I had heard of premier skills, I felt it was right to play the game and was doing so with small sided games.

      It seems that the science in football has a major influence with coaching development. The mechanics of how the body works, develops, or developing the agility, balance, coordination and speed take up more of a coaches time than any style of play. I actually do not believe there are many coaches working in academies who could put together a style of play and a coaching programme to teach it, such as Practice Play methodology…

      • Hi Dave I felt the same when I saw Dick at Lilleshall 9 or 10 years ago but he was a great deliverer and open minded. If he had been mentored JC he had the potential to push it on as with the other coaches I mentioned..I saw Brian Eastick work at Birmingham City in early 2000 and was really impressed with his detail ,same with Peacock and Pearce but they were stunted by the culture inbedded in the FA.

  10. Hi Roger. I hope you’re all well ‘Down-under’. Too many ‘coaches’ have become immersed in statistics….. important–yes, but not a priority. The most important aspect of coaching is producing practical reality to sessions. To many ‘coaches’ the computer and Power-point have become their ‘god’ and and work on the grass has become an uncomfortable, secondary matter.

  11. Hi John. I have noticed during the last few years, that many coaching presentations put on by the FA have become increasingly classroom based. Coaches at whatever level they work or whatever their level of experience, need to see work done on the grass. I fear that too much instruction is becoming similar to the type of computer/technology based approach which has been prevalent in American sport for many years. From what i have seen of that, the coach sits down with a player and pulls sheets of paper off a computer and quotes endless statistics to make his point.
    I don’t want to knock Sport Science because, to be honest, I haven’t a clue what it is, but is it a good idea for it to be a necessary string in the bow for prospective Academy Coaches?
    Having heard most of an interview given by the new FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, on BBC radio earlier today, I can’t see much improvement likely to stem from that quarter. Like everyone else at the FA, he wants to talk to relevant people to gauge views on what the problems appear to be, as if we don’t know already. So still no-one prepared to grasp the nettle to drive through the vitally needed reforms.

    • Hi Steve, sports science certainly has a place and a very important part of our industry. Without it we would still have players suffering with cramp at the end of the FA cup final, eating red meat and having a beer after a game, remember those days? How important is it when you have a player for 60-90 minutes a week as a grassroots coach, compared to an academy coach who may have players 3-4 times a week? I feel for amateur coaches that hour would be better spent on practical football coaching, where as a academy coach can afford to spend some time working solely on ABCs. I do not think it is wasted time to do some agility, speed work here and there, however they spend a lot of time doing it and we end up with players who can not make great decisions. Below are examples from todays game.

      All the following players are fit, but look at the basic errors we keep seeing at pro level.
      Leicester v Leeds was on sky today.
      Dom Poleon runs into the box with the ball on the foot, the same side as the defender, wastes a chance to shoot as the defender won the ball easily.
      Peltier takes the ball on his first touch away from space and ends up in trouble and missing a great chance to set up a run for a team mate.
      Green made a few passes to a players foot, rather than in front which meant Leeds lost momentum.

      Back to the original post and I wonder who would replace Trevor Brooking, with the balls to really make a difference? A FA tutor once told us the FA is run by Lawyers and accountants, says it all.

      • Hi Dave. So many coaches complain about the lack of time they have with players. However, the time they do get is too often wasted.

  12. I just wanted to add some additional context to the ‘PowerPoint argument’.

    Some of the courses the FA delivers through its tutors are part of the National Qualifications Framework. As such, those qualifications have to provide evidence of some theory based and assessed work for each task for each of the candidates so that, assuming they each pass the course, there is evidence of formal learning having been achieved. This is relevant specifically because the work of the candidate can be audited after the event.

    In addition, whilst it is true that some trainee coaches just want to be out on the grass, there are also those who sincerely wish to understand underpinning theory as to why they are doing the things they are being shown. They are genuinely interested in hearing about and discussing characteristics of 10 year olds or wish to understand how to recognise and have some appreciation of what to do for players suffering stress related injuries, to name just two examples.

    So, delivering information using a combination of some formal presentation, discussion based learning within the group, from experience and knowledge of those attending the course, as well as practical exercises on the grass help to provide an environment where, hopefully, all participants can gain something from the experience.

    I perfectly understand the approach by Premier Skills and the preference to do almost all the work practically on grass and to answer questions as they arise. But there is always more than one way to do something. The tutors who deliver FA courses are also, of course, coaches in their own right and qualified to at least UEFA B licence status and have all got practical experience as coaches of teams and players, across a variety of ages and ability levels.

    In business and educational arenas, learning takes place in a variety of environments and formats. Both of those areas also commonly use a similar variety of delivery methods as mentioned above.

    That doesn’t mean that it must always be in that format to deliver course materials and content but
    there are reasons why they are delivered in the format they are.

    • Hi Steve, you make some valid points and like you I used to write on forums and engage with others and that really helped me have a better understanding of coaching children, using different ideas that I had read about. However nothing really makes up for actually doing it.
      We have sat and listened to JC together, I found that interesting and beneficial and having a discussion on coaching is very useful as it gives us a chance to raise queries and inform us. There is in my opinion too much time wasted on FA courses in classrooms with pointless exercises. I must have done the same exercise at least 4 times on different courses. There is always a big piece of paper per table and usually it is down to 1 person to draw a coach and emphasise the perfect coach, ie give him big ears to say he must be a good listener. Classroom work can be very useful, if used more intelligently.

    • Hi Steve. The use of theory in learning is fine as long as the practical elements of the job extend well beyond classrom time. The Goverment are now providing more money to industries to increase apprenticeship schemes. In the past working at the ‘shop floor’ and getting ones ‘hands dirty’ was fundamental to skill learning. Street football was football’s apprenticeship in the past and
      nothing the FA has concocted has replaced the realistic, fun of the street game. They’ve

  13. Hi David, you’re right, things can always be done better, but hopefully some of the stuff I outlined provides an alternative view.

    I absolutely agree that John is very knowledgeable and a good teacher. I was fortunate to have a one to one conversation with him once and it was very useful for me. The methodology and approach of Premier Skills is excellent, in my opinion and hence I have recommended it to many others (I must give you a ring by the way). It’s a different way from the FA and I think it is vitally important that coaches see different approaches, methodologies, philosophies and practices as all that helps you to form your own ideas and preferences.

    Both John and Roger are excellent at what they do (though Rog could maybe use a new gag writer occasionally !) and I can’t wait for the next PP3 to be delivered.

  14. Hi Steve. Eveyone keeps saying that the kids should have fun whilst learning the game…… Absolutely correct. But fun in football is the playing of the game! Because of this i developed the PREMIER SKILLS programmes so that all the practises were as realisic to actual game situations as possible. Remember…. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY AND PLAY WHAT’S BEEN PRACTICED.

    • Hi John, I agree entirely. Kids play the game because it is fun and a ball is possibly the best toy invented. That’s why I like the Practice Play approach as it involves challenges with the ball. The FA is encouraging coaches away from “line drills” and educating them as to different types of practice practices a why game related practices are better for players to learn the game.

  15. Hi Steve. I always think that the acedemics try to complicate learning in order to make themselves look clever and overly important. Practises should contain the playing ingredients for the age and playing levels of those involved. Those practises should contain the decision making that is essential from foundation to pinnacle levels of the game. Without repetition and gradual increase in difficulty of realistic playing situations players will never obtain the necessary qualities for top level performance. The FA have made an enormous mistake over the years with their development methods and we will have great difficulty in overcoming the huge problems that have resulted

  16. Hi all. The older i get the more concerned i become when i see the huge gap in playing beliefs between here and our foreign rivals. There is a massive difference in development structure and playing qualities that has been widening for decades. Our game has been ‘invaded by theory’ whilst essential ‘practical realism’ has been neglected. Rinus Michels, the architect of Dutch football, would never have considered remodelling Dutch football in the shambolic way that has occured here.

  17. Whilst in France last week I saw a number of Youth/Academy team matches at Auxerre FC. The most noticeable feature was the way in which the goalkeepers played the sweeper game. We have talked about this a lot in England, but i see few examples of keepers who are really proficient with their feet and who are used by their colleagues as an extra outfield player when necessary. We have toyed with the idea without really making it work.
    In France, or certanly at Auxerre, they have really taken the idea on board. The keepers played a large part of matches outside their box and were fully involved in the play rounds which involved their back line. They were the ‘deeper sweeper’ in every sense and another example of how we, in comparison, are slow to really embrace these new ideas compared to the more advanced countries in the football world.
    It is many years since we were leaders of the game and now we struggle to even keep sight of our rivals.

    • Matthew Whitehouse and his book is The Way Forward – Solutions to England’s Football Failings. I bought it and it’s a very good read. I agree with a lot of what he has written and he refers to John’s book Football for the Brave (which I recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it) and there are some interesting proposals for addressing the improvement in our football.
      It makes the reader reflect, question and appraise what you see and believe.
      Good book and I recommend it.

  18. Most of the fans at Wembley seemed to enjoy the England-Scotland international last night, and I think that this was because it was riddled with defensive errors which led to five goals, a host of other chances and goalmouth action.
    Some people have said that it was an old fashioned game because of these factors, together with the pace and commitment provided by players all born on these shores. But it was a game of little technical skill and to say that it was “old fashioned”, would be to ignore the quality that players of the past, such as Moore, Greaves, Matthews, Baxter, Johnstone and Dalglish brought to these encounters of the past.
    Those players were technically excellent due to their background and environment. Last night was a further example of failure to replace the football education they received in a different era, with another one developed through a well constructed and progressive learning programme which has so far not been provided by National Associations in the British Isles.

  19. I think last night perfectly summed up British football and displayed it for all it is. It was fast and physical with little or no technical displays (minus one or two from Wilshere). Tactics were very simple and the game provided good entertainment for the fans who just want to see frenetic action without intelligence. It would be easy to point out the many shortcomings on both sides, but I actually thought it represented football at the “highest level” in the UK right now which is both depressing and telling.

    • Hi California Waiting. It is quite noticeable that teams’ who play against England at any level and do not close down quickly on our back players thus allowing them to pass the ball into forward situations with ease, giving our poor quality players more time and space to perform. Recently, even Scotland started aggressively and were successful, but failed to push enough players forward in both halves of the game and allowed us back into it. Lesson learned…. don’t let .poor quality the space and time to look better than they are|1
      Lesson learnes……..

      • Hi California Waiting. Sorry about the typing errors at the end……. having a problem with either my computer or the web site’s reply section is playing up.
        Best regards… John

  20. Funny how everyone else on the radio, tv thought it was a good game. The inability to keep possession was shocking, if you think these players play for some of the richest clubs in the world.

  21. Hi Dave. It would be good-bye to the pundits lucrative contracts with TV if they offered negative remarks about games… this one in particular as it is a money-spinner !

  22. I did not see the game, but figures have been released showing that in Guardiola’s Bundesliga debut match for Bayern Munich against Moenchengladbach last weekend, his team played the third highest number of long passes, 80, than all the other teams in the League. Only Augsberg with 93 and Werder Bremen with 86 played a higher number. Most of Bayern’s long passes came from their two centre backs, Boateng and Dante, and their holding midfielder, Schweinsteiger, who made over 50% of those passes from back to front. I think that this would indicate the situation at Barcelona in Guardiola’s latter days, when John Cartwright mentioned that he would have to give attention to the situations that were arising when more and more teams were setting up their formations to prevent Barcelona playing out from the back.
    Presumably, Guardiola had anticipated that coaches in the Bundesliga were preparing to negate a ‘Barcelona approach’ at Bayern and so he is seeking to stay one step ahead.
    I also think that perhaps Guardiola had anticipated that German and northern European players would be more flexible in adapting the short passing, possession game style to one involving longer passes. Another figure released from the match was that centre forward Mandzukic had a 60% success rate in winning aerial balls.

  23. Hi Steve. And it’s all set out in the Premier Skills programmes created over 10 years ago. From chlid to senior professional level the way forward has been thought out and set out well in advance of present day requirements. Strange that nobody at the FA had the insight to seek more info. about us …..i was only languishing in ‘Coventry’ where i was despatched to for being a critic of their incompetence.

  24. Read all the posts above and probably agree with nealy all of them. In my opinion the UK will never produce a top level national team again. When it comes to football, money talks in this country due to the inception of the premier league. It’s not the premier leagues fault, as at the end of the day it’s a business, and every successful business needs to make money. And the premier league makes lots and lots of money!!

    It’s the fault of the F.A. In no other country in the world would a national association let a corporation call the shots in how it’s national sport should be run.

    There’s no turning back for the F.A. now, the damage is done, just as it was many years ago when they decided direct football was the way forward, even though English clubs dominated European football playing the game how it should be played under the likes of clough, shankley, Allison, greenwood and Robson.

    The premier league has absolutely no interest in building a strong national team. And why should they. This is the job of the F.A., but as they have given all of the power to the premier league it’s never going to work.

    There are some conference, league 1 & 2, teams that are beginning to pump more cash into their youth academies in order to bring home grown payers into the first teams, and this should be applauded, however the main reason for this is cash. Home grown players cost nothing, and if you have the right coaches developing youngsters into first team players, you can sell them on for a profit.

    The F.A. Made terrible decisions in the past (step forward mr Hughes) and they have no idea how to rectify this, or more likely are scared to admit there mistakes. We do have some excellent football brains in this country but until the F.A. Can swallow its pride and ask for help nothing will change.

    And then of course it’s going to take at least 10years to turn things around and the media and dinosaur football fans don’t have the patience for that……

  25. Hi all. It was interesting watching Barcelona’s opening game of the season under new Management. Their game-style included much quicker one touch in the front third than i have seen before from them. In their second game there was more crossing in the final third than usual that eventually brought about an equalizing goal at the back post for Neymar.

  26. Just to remind everyone……….. the added variations used by Barcelona were ALL in Premier Skills Development Programmes that have been in use for the past 12 years.!!

  27. I think that a number of coaches around the world have studied Barcelona’s playing methods. Some have sought to combat them by ‘parking the bus’. Others, like the new Barcelona coach, Martino, have looked to add new ideas of their own, by getting the ball forward more quickly, especially into the final third, and delivering good quality crosses which, as John has said in the past, are passes anyway. Pep Guardiola, himself, has shown in his first few games as Bayern coach, that he is working at getting the ball into forward areas quicker.
    I think that another team worth keeping an eye on at the moment is PSV Eindhoven. I thought that they were very impressive in their 1st leg Champions’ League Play Off tie against AC Milan earlier this week and deserved more than a 1-1 draw. Their pressing was very good and their attacks were quick and incisive, but only after preparing the route with short passing movements to open up a space in the opponents’ defence.Their coach is Cocu, a Dutch international player of recent years and who played for several years at Barcelona. His PSV team is extremely young, with the players having graduated from a very high quality youth development system.
    There is no club in England producing young players in such numbers and of such quality but Dutch clubs like PSV, Ajax etc. have been doing this for years.

    • There are English academy clubs doing some very good work however in my experience the clubs are not joined up from top to bottom and something goes wrong from 16 upwards.

  28. Hi Mark…..
    I have only ever been involved in coaching in ‘grassroots’ football and so cannot speak from any personal experience of the professional game. In that respect, i have always been ‘on the outside looking in’.
    However, when you say “something goes wrong from 16 upwards” then ,clearly, this is is a critical situation and one that that the new supremo at the FA, Dan Ashworth, must address as a matter of urgency.
    I understand that when Roger Wilkinson was coaching at West Bromwich Albion FC, his Premier Skills methods were admired and welcomed by the coaches of the younger age groups of their academy and he instructed and mentored their coaches accordingly.Apparently, the coaches of the older youth teams, who were closer to the professional arm of the club, were not so impressed and so took little real interest in the Premier Skills methodology.
    Similarly, about a year ago I went to a Premier Skills coaching seminar at Birmingham City FC given by John Cartwright. I was impressed by the ability and aptitude of the young Birmingham academy players, about 10 to 12 years, and I was told that all the coaches of the younger age groups of the Birmingham academy teams went through the Level 1 and Level 2 Premier Skills courses. This was evident in the good performance of the young Birmingham players.
    However it was a simialr situation to West Brom where the influence had not taken root in the older age groups.
    So clearly, we will never reach the youth development level of countries like Holland if there is not a consistent standard of coaching and methodology. through all the ages. Many years ago, long before the days of the present FA Coaching structure, when you just had FA Prelim and FA Full Badge qualifications, it was commonly accepted that you just went on the FA courses to get the ‘piece of paper’ which enabled you to obtain coaching work in a youth centre, evening Institute, School or Pro Club, depending on your station in life. Having obtaind the ‘piece of paper’ you got your job and then ‘did your own thing’.
    It doesn’t seem as though things have changed very much.

    • Exactly however getting that piece if paper was difficult. When I got my full badge it took me 8 years from prelim to level 4 and there is no substitute for experience. It meant something massive to me and helped no end. The premier skills work is alive and kicking in academies but gets lost somewhere later on when results take over .

      • Hi Mark. Great to see you the other day. With regards to your comments, it is a clear example of the complete dysfunctional approach from development into the senior senior game How can we ever expect to produce top-line players when the system through which they develop is a complete, uncordinated mess.

      • I agree, Mark, that the FA qualifications are tough to get, certainly from Level 3, which is my highest qualification, upwards. It took me the full two years to pass Level 3 (UEFA ‘B’), following three assessment attempts and I guested on extra courses in Kent and Surrey, as well as London, to view as many sessions as possible to familiarise myself with what was required.
        So i am not suggesting that the FA’s ‘piece of paper’ is a ‘gimme’ – anything but. However, when I started doing the Premier Skills courses I found that these fitted together much better, with superior technical detail and a closer relevance and connection to the game.
        As you have been pointing out in your posts, something seems to be going wrong when our players reach 16 and, perhaps, as you suggest, this is due to a results-driven mindset arising. But from what I have seen of young Dutch players, such as those playing for PSV the other night, they want to win just as badly as we do when they are playing in youth leagues and tournaments. Perhaps the technical skill and game intelligence work they do at 16 and above is superior to that whcih is given to our players.

  29. gareth southgate is the new under 21 manager do the FA ever learn its stuart pearce all over again a manager with no experience in youth development

  30. Hi John,

    Just a quick thought/question. Do you have any plans to get onto the new FA coaching app and put up PS sessions so other coaches can download them? I was just thinking it’d be a great way for coaches who haven’t had the chance to see a practice play in person to still be able to benefit from your work. I personally would love to see them as well. There aren’t as many courses on these days which is a shame so I’m left going to the BCFC academy any chance I get to watch the PS coaches there. Any thoughts?


  31. Hi California Waiting. Your best bet to see more of PS work would be possible if you contacted Sam Wilkinson at BCFC, he would be able to give you more info. on sessions at the club. Best regards……. JOHN

    • Hi John,

      That’s exactly what I do is contact Sam and he is always welcoming. I was just hopeful for a few more actual practice play coach training days was all or a DVD or something. I appreciate PS and will be taking it with me to California when I move there permanently in a week. I’m thinking my fellow countrymen will be a lot more appreciative of your work and I hope I’m right.



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