By John Cartwright
For past three years I have been asked to coach a group of new intakes at a London College of Education prior to their involvement in inter-college competitions. In the last two years I have used my ‘3 DAY MAKEOVER PROGRAMME’ as a method of (a) quickly establishing the pluses and minuses in their game and (b) to introduce them to levels of playing quality that I believe they should have achieved by 17/18 years of age.
Since working with these boys, some have been released from pro. Academies whilst others have been playing in senior youth football, i have been surprised at the level of skill and physical qualities these boys have displayed; what has been missing, quite markedly, has been their lack of game understanding. Coaching methods have not provided them with a playing ‘template’ on which skill and athleticism could ‘germinate and grow’. Speed and competitive spirit, the seemingly natural ingredients of the British game-style was in abundance, but there was a lack of individualism and creativity; these important facets of the game were visible but they were limited in use or incorrectly introduced into the game.
I have said for a very long time that the recognised ‘British Bulldog’ game-style has reduced the opportunities for skilful play to occur. We have always had players with high skill levels here but too many talented players over the years have become mere ‘scrimmagers’ in a simplistic, aggressive, playing style. Once introduced and encouraged to follow a more diverse way of playing that contains the best of British football combined with the skillful ingredients we are more accustomed to see used by our foreign opponents, the young players in my charge produced exciting and positive playing qualities. These qualities have lain dormant waiting to be exposed but have been neglected during their development years.
Greg Dyke, has made it his intention to hold enquiries into the reasons for the lack of quality players evolving through development here and has stated that he will form an advisory group to this effect. I hope, like so many before him, he is not just playing ‘football politics’ and genuinely intends to uncover the truth about poor development here… how and why it has become such a total mess and what is needed to put things on the right track. His selection of the members of the advisory panel will be the first opportunity to see whether he is prepared to be open-minded. The usual ‘pundits’; many who have remained suspiciously quiet about the on-going problems with player development and of the poor quality of the game here, must be overlooked at this time and positions on the advisory panel must be taken by those who have significant experience in development matters and who have questioned/criticised player production here over many years.
We have heard a multitude of reasons for our football failures from a multitude of people from a multitude of positions inside and outside of the game; now the time has come to forsake all the negativity and to provide positive answers and put things right! Unless there is total transparency and honesty about the long-term failure of development here followed by a carefully considered plan to resolve the problems we will continue to waste thousands and thousands of young players… boys/girls… to other sports’ or social disorders. I am convinced that with a designated vision and a plan of action to achieve it we could quickly eliminate the development ‘dross’ that has been allowed to occur here.
For God’s sake, let’s stop wasting time and talent and produce a better, more productive and exciting football pathway for our young players of the future.