Wasted years

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.

60 thoughts on “Wasted years

  1. Hi John will you be holding any seminars this season? As a full time coach I have found the practice play courses and seminars very useful. I know others who are motivated by the courses to change there football playing vision (or lack of vision) and spread the word also.

    • Hi WV. I have just accepted the position as Chairman of the London Football Coaches Assn. so i expect i will be doing some sessions there.

    • Hi Steve. In reply to your question— i simply don’t know. I would certainly like to have an input but i have no idea who is making the selections….is it Greg Dyke or has he appointed somebody to seek members for the panel?

      • Hi John, Why not see if you can contact Greg Dyke direct and just offer your services? You have all the attributes, a clear vision and a lifetime of experience. This is one of those situations where you know you can make a contribution so please don’t wait to be asked – make the first step.

        The question is “Mr Dyke, if I could show you a Vision of the game and well defined playing style with specific steps on how to achieve it, would you be interested?” The answer is ‘Yes’ to which the point is “Well, I’m available, please let me help you help the game I love…”

        You know you want to.. go on

  2. The lack of game understanding, coupled with low levels of individualism and creativity, is the result of poor coaching in the early stages of development and therefore Levels 1 and 2 of the FA Coaching Scheme must be replaced by the programme outlined in the Premier Skills methodology. Right from the start, individualism must be emphasised and encouraged, and all candidates on the early Levels of the Coaching Scheme must be left in no doubt as to their responsibility in bringing out the individualism in their young players. Coaching practices in tight areas must be introduced from the earliest ages, or ,at least, it must be emphasised that to challenge players as they develop and improve, then the area size must be steadily decreased so that players become more adept at playing under pressure.
    What i think has been a big mistake in our young player development, has been that as youngsters have got stronger physically and competitive in their nature, then they have been introduced to drill work, allegedly to make them better team players. But they have not been challenged into playing increasingly in tight areas. This is where we have been found wanting against the best of the foreigners for many years. For some time, our physicality, competitiveness, spirit and organisation carried us through. But now most foreign teams, at club and international level in all age groups, have those qualities also and so we have really fallen behind.
    The problem, of course, is that on Greg Dyke’s panel will be representatives from the FA Coaching Scheme and so wholesale changes to their syllabus is unlikely to be on their agenda. Here I would add that much of the methodology has been improved in recent years and some very good work is being produced. However, from what I see, hear and experience at first hand in the grass-roots game, the message of how to develop and encourage individualism and creativity is not getting through. I don’t believe that the FA Youth Modules in their present form,have been a success. Until we can change this mindset then we shall continue to fail our young players.

  3. There are ALWAYS two issues:

    1) Most folks just ain’t very bright
    2) When you’re doing it RIGHT, it simply points out that the others are doing it WRONG

    Therefore they can’t even begin to tell their way is stupid, and when they see 2) they just get upset, because of issue 1).

  4. I think that Steve The Seagull is spot on in his recommendation of John Cartwright onto Greg Dyke’s committtee to investigate the problems facing English football – most specifically in the area of young player development.
    However, I think that perhaps Premier Skills would also benefit from a little outside help. Although it would not normally be my position on such issues, I wonder if the bringing in of someone with a high profile would aid what Premier Skills is trying to achieve.
    I have mentioned before that Matthew Whitehouse’s book, “The Way Forward”, is a good read and very interesting. However, there are one or two strange things about that book which don’t really add up. He refers to some of the points which John Cartwright raises in “Football For The Brave” but, strangely, the book is not listed in the bibliography at the back. Secondly, although Matthew Whitehouse gives examples of John’s criticisms of English coaching’s mistakes over the years, as projected by the FA Coaching Scheme, he never mentions the alternative methodology as put forward by Premier Skills’ Practice/Play approach. He must surely know about the existence of Premier Skills but never mentions it.
    I have been wondering, therefore, if Premier Skills has ever considered making an approach to Glenn Hoddle to come aboard the Premier Skills organsition in some capacity. He has never, to my knowledge, been particularly embedded into the FA’s structure, apart from his tenure as England manager. He has often been critical of English coaching methods and run his own independant football shools. His main football education seems to me to have come during his years as a player at Monaco.
    I may be wrong, but if Hoddle were at least a figurehead for Premier Skills then the English football community at large would have its attention drawn towards it more.
    I hope that I’m wrong, but I feel pretty sure that Greg Dyke’s committee will comprise the usual suspects. So Premier Skills will have to plough on as a lone voice in the wilderness.

    • Hi Steve. I would like to thank both you and Steve the ‘seagull’ for your support with regards to Greg Dyke’s advisory panel. All involved at Premier Skills over the years have faced the problem of competing with our national assn. with regards to development issues. We will have to see if if Mr. Dyke has the courage of his convictions and looks deeper into the problems than those before him.

  5. Hi all. So many of the u/21 games i have watched fail to display the skills and game understanding one would expect at this level. However it is believed that players’ who have not achieved a standard for inclusion into first team squads by this age, will gain the ability by playing in such below par games amazes me. Are these games about producing excellence or merely to produce second-raters for lower league football?

  6. Hi John…
    I notice that so many players who have been through the Academies at Premier League clubs do not make the grade and do not progress into the first team. Having failed to obtain a professional contract at the club they have been at since the age of about 9, they so often drift into League 1, League 2 or Conference clubs or even lower.
    Of course, it always was a small percentage of players who joined professional clubs as youngsters who actually ‘made it’, but it seems to be even more the case now. I just wonder if we are doing enough for late developers. I understand that in many countries, when players have gone past the 18 years mark without making it into the professional ranks, they are monitored closely. Is it a case of our coaching being not up to scratch again? If a young players in his late teens or early twenties, joins a lower league club from a Premier League club and faces the prospect of this level of football for the rest of his playing career, then if the coaching is of a poor standard then maybe we are losing the possibility of his late-developing potential being realised. Hence the need for high coaching standards and practices at all levels of the game.
    I understand that if a non-league player plays part-time in either the Conference, Rymans etc. and also has a full time job, then he can be much better off financially than if he had continued as a full time professional player in the Football League. But if the coaching he now receives is not of a good quality, then he will not improve as he should and the English game loses out again from unfulfilled talent.
    Forty years ago, West Ham plucked Alan Devonshire from non-league football and he went on to win England caps. I think that Devonshire had been at a professional club as a youngster but failed to make the grade. Drifting into non-league he was rescued by West Ham. He was lucky, but perhaps there would be more Alan Devonshires if clubs kept proper tabs on players who, in the first place, failed to make the grade.

  7. Hi Steve. I believe the lack of quality foundation work is drammatically uncovered with players of this age. The lack of individual skill and game understanding are ‘brutaly’ exposed in the extra competitive atmosphere of games at senior levels. We must find better ways to continue the development of players when they reach senior playing levels.

  8. Hi all. It was interesting to see that Rayo Vallecano out-possessed Barcelona in a recent La liga fixture. The score however was Rayo 0- Barca 4. I watched the game and Barca are at last looking for more penetrative passes to players breaking in behind opposing defences.Possession is not as overwhelming as before, but attempts on goal and variations to their playing style will make them even more difficult to play against. Perhaps they have been reading our ‘blog site recently !!

  9. Hi John….
    Yes, Barcelona are looking to play longer passes in behind opposng defences and this has been evident in almost all their matches this season so far. So their new coach, the Argentinian, Martino, has recognised the problems which became evident last seaon and is attempting to marry the two styles of direct play when the situation calls for it, without neglecting the tiki taka approach when it is appropriate. In their match on Tuesday night against Real Sociedad, the most memorable moment was when Iniesta combined with others on the edge of the Sociedad area with some some superb one-touch play which opened up their defence.
    So it is a question of combining styles. I think, from what I have seen, that Guardiola is also trying to blend styles at Bayern Munich. But from what I hear, Martino is attracting some criticism for his methods, both from press and public. His critics, however, must understand a team can only be successful with a certain style for so long before the opposition discover ways to counteract it. When this happens then the coach must find a new way, and he then has to show how good he really is.

  10. Hi all. Watched two games yesterday; an u/18 game in the morning and a championship game in the afternoon………… the long ball forward was the dominating feature of both games.

  11. Hi all. Seems things do stay the same when it comes to the playing style used so extensively here. We can’t break the ‘Direct Play’ methodology because we still produce players with limited ability in rear defensive positions… the long ball is their easy option!

    • I believe the FA’s attempt to encourage back players to play using the “retreat rule” has failed, it used to be a case of goalkeepers aimlessly lashing the ball forward now instead it is the back players who are doing this as soon as they gain possession from the goalkeeper. Instead of continuously tinkering with the rules I believe the FA need to target coaches and ensure they are educated properly.

      • Hi Wayne, the new season is only 3-4 weeks in so I think we have to give the retreat line idea more of a chance to bed in.
        A friend of mine tried this at a couple of games the season before last in consultation with the other teams’ coaches. Aside from the parents being quite “anti” he reported that the idea worked well and the kids soon picked it up. Of course we would hope that coaches would teach the game so that players have individual capability (a point which I strongly agree with John that is the foundation of the game) so that they learn to play out from the back with skill anyway. But any idea to help the coaches, as well as the players, is worth a go. What we have done for the last 50 years hasn’t been working…

      • I’m a grassroots coach in France (resulting from the usual economic pressures of keeping a job in the UK). I have always told my kids to roll the ball out from the keeper because that’s how I think you should play. Last year we started out losing our first U7’s game 21-0. Painful! But, over the course of the year, my kids learned how to deal with the situation. They learned because the opposing teams put as much pressure as possible on us every time we rolled the ball out. I’ve heard that a ‘retreat’ rule was being considered but didn’t realise the FA had brought it in already. I think that the idea of wanting teams to roll it out is brilliant, but the result of a retreat rule will not give players a chance to learn how to deal with ball retention under pressure in a game-like situation. There has been a development this year in the 8-a-side formats in France whereby volley and half-volley clearances by the goalkeepers is banned resulting in a 20M free-kick for the opposition for an infringement. The result is that every U11 boys and U13s girls team in France is rolling the ball out or passing the ball from the ground from the goalkeeper. Players are learning to deal with this situation in an opposed situation under pressure. I also know that a similar rule is in force in Switzerland as well. So what are England doing? Worrying about the score? Let them deal with the pressure! How else are you going to get creative solutions if you don’t have any problem to solve?

  12. I think that it is a great pity that the example that Brendan Rodgers set when he took Swansea up into the Premier League has not been followed. He reasoned that if Swansea played the long ball, percentage game to try and preserve their top division status, then they would be burnt out by Christmas. Hitting long balls constantly would mean so much chasing to close down after giving up possession, that they would never survive if they went down that path.
    Rodgers looked at the best foreign teams and reasoned that if his team could keep the ball with similar short passing movements, then they would have shorter distances to run in order to press to regain possession when the opposition did regain the ball.
    But as John says, the long ball is still in the DNA of our game. It’s such a pity that so few coaches followed Swansea’s example.At all levels of the game, we still have the belief that effort and heart, which we have in abundance, are the answers to everything.We should not ever lose those qualities, but when a coach like Rodgers shows how to bring other game style features into play, then he should be applauded and followed.
    The fact that the two matches which John saw yesterday were an Under-18 game and a Championship fixture, when the foreign influence was probably less pronounced than in the Premier League, shows how our National Association has continued to neglect the introduction of a national game style.

  13. I have just returned from an under 11s match we had a squad of 13 to include all the most talented kids in our group, we played the other “Good” team in our area. Every Player in their 10 player squad was a Physically strong and effective player . The game Finished 3-4 our team but together passing moves individual goals, played out from the back etc. etc..So what if we lost to a technical inferior team who scored 1 good goal well created and finished 2 goals resulting from our defenders caught in possession whilst playing out from the back 1 goal lumped forward and bundled into the net by a player charging forward. I am extremely happy with the way the team played and lost. Next week we will be playing the same way. I am extremely happy with the way the team played and lost. Next week we will be playing the same way. I sometimes wonder if the standard of kids football would actually improve if clubs were banned from playing each other??

  14. Hi Bob. I admire your determination to let young players develop in a purposeful way. However, in the present atmosphere of ‘winning is everything’ you will have problems to surmount. What must happen is that our young players must be ‘baby-fed’ the competitive game.Why must goals be the deciding factor in games at the junior end of the development process. We must think outside the square and provide advanced adult thinking to the serious matter of football teaching and learning in order to break the monopoly of force over finesse in our game.

  15. The only problem would be the adults. Who would want to see a game that resembles there favoured professional adult team .. Kids in the park make up all manner of games … One of the favourite games my teams like to play is the practice play level 1 seven gates game.. They often ask to play it..
    I believe because it allows them to dribble, pass and combine to score.
    A range of competitive games that emphasize the development of the required areas of the game to develop , creative, technical , intelligent footballers should make up the development period. Have the season split in to varying competitive elements where you play different types of competive games… Different pitch sizes, player numbers , ball sizes .
    Surely that’s not to hard to do
    Cruyff had to educate the barcelona fans in the philosophy he wanted to take their style of play

  16. Hi Robb. Yes, what you are suggesting is correct. However, don’t forget the gradual change in ‘targets’ as players develop. The lure of the ‘three white posts ‘ must not be a distraction from the work in progress at the time and the’end product of the game must not infringe on the preparatory work before it is fully installed in young players. Premier Skills students will understand what i’m saying as this is a vital part in our early development methods.
    Remember; practice what you play and play what you practice!

  17. Hi Robb….
    I like the Premier Skills Level 1 “7 Gates Game” as well, because it is immediately helping the young players to look for and use space.Everything follows on from that. This is the kind of ‘linked-together’ approach, where the road to the summit leads from that initial work, from one level to the other, that make the Practice/Play methodology so superior to anything that has previously been put forward by our National Association.

  18. Hi Steve.
    great to see you the other night, I hope we can take things forward over the coming months,. I mentioned about continuity to the assembled members but I’m not sure they quite understood what I was alluding to .

  19. Hi John…
    I do not think that continuity has been focused sufficiently in the FA Coaching Scheme, even though there have been many changes and enhancements over the years. Consequently, the members at the London Football Coaches Association the other night did not properly appreciate the point you were making in this direction. I think that as time goes on, the inherent principles and methodology of Premier Skills will become clear to everyone.
    Regarding suggestions for topics to be covered at future meetings: obviously an outline of the work in terms of a run through of the Level 1 course would be extremely beneficial. However, I wonder if a demonstration of the ‘3 Day Makeover’, produced both on this blog and the LFCA magazine, would perhaps be a good session to start with. I know that many members run local amateur teams, as well as teams for junior age groups, and when working with largely uncoached adult/older players it is often difficult to decide a starting point to introduce a philosophy (i.e. vision). Your article on the ‘3 Day Makeover’, I know, has created a lot of interest because here, in a nutshell, is the vision layed before the players, many of varying abilities. I think that if it were possible to produce a run through of the work, and the points covered, on the training pitch, then this would be extremely beneficial and subsequent sessions could then home in on the details as produced in Level 1 etc.

    • Hi Steve. As usual, you have made some interesting and valid remarks. The point you make regarding the ‘3 day Makeover’ would be almost impossible to convert into a one hour session that would produce a clear understanding of the contents and continuiuty of the work. Each section follows on from the preceding section along with the skills and tactical aspects required. Lack of time would would not allow important aspects to be covered sufficently.

      mean a glimpse of the work involved and too much of the essential aspects would not be recognized would have

      • Hi Steve. Sorry about the piece at the end……. my computer is not providing the necessary space for my replies at the moment.

      • One of the issues with having courses that follow a game style, is when you have coaches who have teams of 15 yr olds plus. It is hard for a grassroots coach to see the benefits to his team with a level 1 course that is really for primary school children. Although the coaching points are relevant to all ages, the set up is hard to sell to older lads who have been used to playing on larger pitches.The make over offers another alternative and in my eyes this should be an additional course that we could offer.
        I for one would be willing to pay for a course like this John and I think as well as making a few quid out of it, It would help us coaches who are trying to promote the work, to see in more detail the later stages of the practice play methodology.

        Food for thought I hope….

  20. Hi Dave and John….
    I think that it is a very good idea to make the “3 Day Makeover” into a seperate course on the Premier Skills programme. I agree that it is difficult using the actual methodology of Levels 1, 2 and 3 when working with adult or older youth players, when they have missed so much real coaching in their earlier development years, but the ‘Makeover’ seems to be a good way to draw more mature players back on to the right path after years of coaching neglect.
    By providng them with a vision and playing style which we wish to promote through the ‘Makeover’ procedure, I think that we can eventually change the whle playing culture in England. Whenver I have seen local amateur football on the continent, it has always been apparent that although the players are clearly amateurs, they nevertheless have a different inbred playing philosophy than our own, that is apparent at even the lowest levels. In contrast, we have a fighting mentality which, though vital for our natural characteristics, needs to be combined with greater subtlety and imagination. As John always says:”British beef and foreign fantasy”.

  21. Hi all. the ‘Makeover’ method can be adjusted to cover all age groups not just senior youth and upwards. Whatever the age group, a relevent ‘Makeover’ programme can be provided that incorporates work up to any specific age and playing level to establish the playing ability –pluses and minus’ of the players– at any particular time for the coach to assess and act on.

    • I am not quite sure what you mean John. Why would you do a makeover with a group of 8 yr olds and not the Level 1?
      We are talking about the older lads who have missed those early years.

      • Hi Dave. Should you take over a group of young players of the age you mention, it is possible to devise a simplified ‘Makeover’ that is constructed from PS level 1. work but will provide the coach with a quick opportunity of seeing what has been done and at what needs to be done….What do they know about running with the ball …passing….positioning to receive and ball control at 8 years of age. Our foreign opponents would be more competent at these playing aspects by this age.

  22. I think that the linkage of coaching/planning and schemes of work is such an important area of which i think the practice play coach education methodology is vastly superior in its construction and thinking is vitally important.. the random gathering of sessions from a website approach can be to hit and miss….
    My friends who are teachers study for a year full time while completing a PGCE and teach while training and still it is only when they are teaching on the job having gained QTS status do they say they are beginning to acquire competence in programming and planning.. Coaching courses can only touch the surface of programming education if at all properly due to lack of time…
    I would love to have a mentor to help in my learning and development…
    To help with schemes of work in 10 or twelve week blocks, season long planning etc
    I would gladly pay for and attend any such courses put on by prem skills educated coaches or John Cartwright because I believe the methodology is right . I’ve only done fa youth modules 1 and 2, yes they are much much better . They deal with how kids learn at long last , all the factors we should be aware of… But not enough time is spent on the training ground with a national style of play embedded in the coach education. The Dutch have it, the brazilians and Spanish have it, the Germans now have updated theirs.. We have courses but no defined game style ……and have not written coaching programmes to teach the pre-designed game style for youth and adults that has been decided upon by our top football experts to in compass ball mastery, skill, technique, tactical education … Game understanding That defines us
    When i Watch England mens, girls and boys teams play I can’t see what we are trying to do and when I can its very poor..basic skill and tactics… Surely we should see a national identity that now has sophistication not simplicity. I can’t tell what we are trying to do apart from not get beat… Awful..
    Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Japan’s womens team very clear what they are trying do
    … Very sophisticated game styles

    Other sports I have trained in all systems of self defence : wu shu Kwan Kung fu, Kyokushinkai karate, thai boxing in England and in Thailand , All have a methodology to train their fight / game style but they are all combat sports … its written from white belt to black belt the skills, technique, co-ordination and then the test sparring unopposed and opposed practices you have to acquire to advance … It makes total sense … Our national game must hold those in charge accountable our failure so far… If deemed failed sacked and replaced… If I am incompetent in my job I get the sack…
    Gareth Southgate, Dan Ashworth underwhelming appointments .. Maybe nice people !!!
    Doesn’t leave me much hope
    sorry about the rant

    • Hi Robbie in regards to a course, there is a LEVEL 1 course on the 26th October 1pm – 5pm, King George V Fields, Beehive Lane, Welwyn Garden City, Herts. AL74BP

  23. Just to try and lift the gloom a little, I feel that there are one or two young English players who have shown what they can do so far this season and from what i have seen they seeem to display qualities which are the result of enlightened coaching.
    Barclay, at Everton, shows an ability to find space and make intelligent runs. I thought that he displayed these qualities when he played the last 30 minutes for England against Moldova. Townsend, of Tottenham, has pace and trickery, but i also think that he has greater awareness than some other ‘boy-wonder’ wingers, in that he is more aware of what’s happeneing around him and so sees a pass. A completerly new name to me has been Duane Holmes of Huddersfield, 18 years old, who came on for the last 30 minutes of a televised league match recently. He was a real little dynamo, and constantly got himself into space between the midfield and the strikers, showing ability to run with the ball and awareness to release at just the right moment. That was how he layed on Huddersfield’s equaliser in that match against Blackpool. Finally, on Friday night there was the performance of Wakefield, an ‘out to in’ winger, playing for England U16 against Wales, in the Victory Shield. I believe that he is with Chelsea.
    These players seem to show the evidence of coaching which develops both their technical skill and their game intelligence, i.e. the hallmarks of Premier Skills methodology. Perhaps Greg Dykes’ aim of a 2022 World Cup success can be a reality?

  24. It has been reported in the press that Rene Meulenstein was not even given an interview by the FA when he applied for the vacant position of Manager/Coach for the England Under-21 team. The job, of course went to Gareth Southgate, well known to the FA for his work there in recent years, a period when no discernable improvement has been visible in our young player development, and who would hardly have needed to be given an interview. Meulenstein, though i have never seen him deliver a coaching demonstration or clinic, is held in high esteem,and has done considerable work at Manchester United over a number of years, in both their productive youth section and the senior professional squad, until the recent management change.
    Meanwhile, I read that the FA have recently taken John Beck onto their staff of coach educators at St. George’s Park. In the early nineties, whilst in charge at Cambridge, Beck was a fierce advocate of direct, long ball football which he introduced into the playing style at that club, not to mention the adoption of certain other questionable tactics.
    Admittedly, anyone can can have a philosophy change and make the decision to go down a different path if that is, in fact, the case with Beck. Nevertheless, the FA’s decisions and its appointments do not fill one with confidence that we are likely to see a new, enlightened approach to the question of young player development.

    • Hi all. Question. Where were all these ‘newly enlightend’ coaches in the past as the development system continually went in the wrong direction? Answer. Nowhere to be SEEN or HEARD !

    • Hi Fletch. Hope you are feeling well. I must come over to watch Parmiters one day; perhaps you could send me some fixtures and venues. ……. John

  25. Hi all. Here we go again. We have just beaten a team from a country with a popoulation the size of Bristol who were without 5 of their best players and we celebrate our ‘victory’ as if we had won the World Cup. Steady up, there’s a mighty difference between Montenegro and the Spanish-Germans-Holland etc.

  26. Hi John….
    We are desperate for success on the international sporting scene, especially football, that every victory is treated as a monumental event. It was ever thus.
    If England now beat Poland and book their place in Brazil, (or even through the play-offs), then the findings of Greg Dyke’s panel will be released before the World Cup next June/July and if there is the usual optimism before a big tournament, then this could affect the much-needed rational thought required to solve our young player development problems.
    Looking through the list of names on the commission, too many have a vested interest in their own sphere of activity. Wholesale reforms could have a retrograde effect on their own personal standing. That is why someone from an outside, neutral position, such as John himself, would be the only way in which to drive through a total and radical rethink.
    Already, since last Friday night’s victory, i have read quotes from players, coaches etc to the effect that we have some outstanding playing talent and the future is bright. We kid ourselves at the slightest opportunity. We also allow ourselves to be fooled by lavish praise from abroad. I notice that in yesterday’s press, the Ukraine coach described England as a “great team” and sure to qualify at the expense of his team. Simple kidology to lull us into a false feeling of superiority, which could be punctured at Wembley tonight. It’s happened so many times before.

  27. Hi John,

    You have inspired me a lot and your book football for the brave I have passed onto many! Please check out my skill school ‘flow in football’ on youtube. It reloves around ‘smaller ball smaller spaces’. and all oppossed practice something I grew up with in the 90s playing street football. The opposition I get from parents is frightening regarding results! I would like to take a session with you and get you involved in my channel. yourself Along with Dan Micciche now at the FA and formerly of MK DONS should be part of this panel otherwise we are literally going nowhere.

    Be great to get your opinions- thanks John


  28. Hi all. I think that in the last two games v Montenegro and Poland i have seen a ‘glimmer’ of change in the way we have played. There is a definate improvement in forward areas of the field where we have shown individual, skilful qualities. THE GAME-STYLE has changed allowing a more skilful interpretation of the game. This is what we have been saying should happen for the last 40 years. But let’s not forget, Montenegro and Poland are inferior opponents than those we will meet in Brazil !

  29. Whether by accident or design, England have a real ‘find’ in Andros Townsend as an ‘inverted’ winger, i.e a winger playing on the ‘wrong’ side. In his case a left footed player on the right wing, in the way that Bayern Munich utilise both their wingers, Robben and Ribery. England are fortunate that Townsend’s club, Tottenham, have had the perception to employ him in this role, just as QPR did, where he was loaned last season. Since Townsend has been loaned out to numerous clubs, it is difficult to say which one first put him into this role, but whoever it was has done England, and Roy Hodgson, a big favour.
    Of course, like many things in football, there is nothing new in this, just new terminology. I remember more than forty years ago, Malcolm Allison criticising Alf Ramsey for playing Francis Lee wide on the right. He said that if he had to play Lee on the wing then play him on the left so that when he cut inside the ball was on his right foot, where he packed a fearsome shot and could also pick out defence splitting passes.

  30. Hi Steve. I have said for a very long time that we do not ‘experiment’ with players in different positions enough. Throughout the development years there is a fixation with team positioning and too often coaches fail to reconize the potential of players in alternative positions and roles.
    This over-emphasis on early positioning of players must be erradicated from development and more ‘explorative’ positioning become a regular occurence throughout the ‘golden years of learning’

  31. I dont think anyone is really optimistic about Englands chances in Brazil. If Spain are capable of beating Italy in the manner they did in the Euro final, then we are a long long way off. As an England fan though, really happy to see our last two improved performances and on our day we may beat any team, but over a tournament I doubt if we have the players to raise the standard high enough.

  32. It was predictable that there were howls of protest when Sir Alex Ferguson was quoted as saying in his new autobiograhy that Steven Gerrard is not, in his opinion, “a top, top player”.
    I consider Gerrard to be a good player who has been loyal to both Liverpool and England throughout his career. But his effectiveness is largely through his physical attributes and fierce determination, typical, though important , qualities of the British player.
    He cannot be compared to midfield players in the highest bracket, like Xavi and Iniesta, and no British player has risen to that level for many years. Our young player development process can produce a Gerrard from time to time but we regularly fall short of producing players of the very highest quality.

  33. Isn’t the Dykes Commission a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT?

    What can be done about it?

    Can an alternative group be set up that ( would generate Press Interest ) to make recommendations and pre-empt Dyke !?

    How about: Terry Venables, John Cartwright, Tony Carr, Johan Cruyff, Eric Harrison for starters…

    Surely for British football this is a top-top issue??

  34. hi Brazil94….
    We can juggle names for a Commission for as long as we like, but in the end, for it to be worthwhile, it must be made up of people who are not afraid to speak their minds and who can come up with original, innovative ideas. Of course, we know that John Cartwright would fill that bill, because we can see the evidence with the work produced for the Premier Skills coaching courses. But since Greg Dyke sits at the head of the FA and has individuals on his Commission who have helped to shape the National Coaching Scheme over the years, then it seems very unlikely that Premier Skills will get the projection that it deserves.
    Of the present Commission, perhaps Glenn Hoddle, because he went abroad and learnt about how the game should be played and coached, and maybe even Rio Ferdinand, with a younger, perhaps more open mind; it’s possible that they could make a positive and imaginative contribution. Only time will tell.
    Of your list of names, these are interesting, but would Johann Cruyff really want to put himself out to assist English football? He would probably say that you should look at the evidence of his effect at Ajax and Barcelona and model the English game along those lines.

    • Unless you ask you won’t know. Cruyff may well be flattered. And it is I think important to discuss names and as I stated if the FA as per usual get it wrong, set up a different group and pre-empt them.

      Doing nothing will do exactly that. But maybe English football deserves what it gets!

  35. Hi Brazil94…..
    John Cartwright said, in an earlier posted comment, that in England’s two recent internationals against Montenegro and Poland, “the GAME STYLE has changed allowing a more skilful interpretation of the game”.
    John pointed out that it was just a “glimmer” of change and Montenegro and Poland are hardly in the top bracket of international football. However, the question of game style is the vitally important element. At last night’s session of the London Football Coaches Association, the Tottenham Academy Director, John McDermott, put on a very good demonstation of coaching technical skill development and applying it to game situations. Some of his Tottenham Academy players took part in the session and afterwards, on being questioned by John on their opinion of the game style in which they were being developed , one of the boys said he doubted that neither his enjoyment of playing or development as a player, would be as fruitful if he were, say, in the Academy at Stoke City, basing his impression on what he had seen of Stoke City’s 1st team game style of the last few years.
    Current players and recent ex-players can play a big part in influencing Greg Dyke’s Commission towards adopting a game style which will help England to improve both performances and results in international competition. So i hope that Glenn Hoddle, Danny Mills and Rio Ferdinand can make the case very strongly because I believe that all three have a ‘vision’ of how the game should be played and how England has fallen so short of that for so long. Since it is the players who have to go out on the field to perform, then it is they who are really in the strongest position to effect a change and demand a game style in line with their continental opponents, without comprising our natural qualities of heart , mental strength and hard running.

  36. Hi Steve

    You seem to have readjusted your opinion slightly from earlier posts – everyone is entitled to do that.

    I am saying that ‘technicians’ must be making suggestions; and then it has to be the ‘right’ type. The UEFA technical document is called ‘TECHNICIAN” for good reason.

    Of course Hoddle seems to be a good appointment and Mills was coached by John, but where are John, Venables, Harrison, Carr etc. Why a reluctance to ask a foreigner like Cruyff or even actually think in the first place of asking someone like him?

    Anyway who advised Dyke on who to appoint? Surely the FA have missed a ‘beat’ here?

    That is WHY an alternative Group of the BIG HITTERS that I have suggested could meet and put out recommendations that WOULD garner Press coverage prior to, and PRE-EMPT the FA’s panel.

  37. Looking at Barcelona’s match against Celta Vigo this week, it seems that they are having some problems adjusting to a new style. In the first half Barca produced little coherent football and Celta, only just above the relegation area, produced the better passing movements which you would normally have associated with the Spanish giants.
    In the second half Barcelona achieved a better balance and finally deserved their 3-0 success. They became more compact in order to produce the short, triangular passing to dictate possession, and then hit longer passes into the space behind the Celta defence when it was on for Messi, Sanchis and Pedro to run onto.
    Although Barcelona are leading La Liga as usual, some of their football this season lacks the quality of the last five years. Even with the brilliant players that they possess, adapting to a more varied game style presents problems. So in England we are coming in from an opposite angle; we habitually play the ball into the space behind a defence without the probing and preparation necessary to create the opening. Both game styles have to be combined and variations in play produced. As one of the Spanish experts said on the Sky Sports broadcast of Celta Vigo-Barcelona, just because you go on to Plan B doesn’t mean that you should forget Plan A.

  38. As the 2014 World Cup in Brazil gets closer, speculation will hot up in the press about just how far in the competition England are likely to progress. Most critics at the moment think that reaching the quarter finals will be the realistic limit England are likely to achieve. This is probably about right, although I think the last 16 knock out phase is more likely.
    Unfortunately, at which point England are eliminated is likely to be the yardstick on which Roy Hodgson is judged and taken into account when the time comes to either renew or cancel his contract. In my opinion, if Greg Dyke really wants to establish himself as an FA Chairman of foresight and courage he should nail his colours to the mast right now and make it clear that for the foreseeable future Hodgson, or anyone else who occupies the England ‘hot seat’, will be judged solely on the playing quality of the England team, regardless of its progress, or lack of, in international tournaments. John Cartwright has drawn attention to the improvement in attacking areas of individual skill and attacking quality in the most recent qualifiers, albeit against very moderate opposition. This improvement must be carried forward and gradually improved upon, regardless of results, whether good, bad or indifferent.
    When England achieved their best World Cup performance for a great many years at Italia90, when they reached the semi finals, the nation celebrated to a degree not seen since the actual victory itself in 1966. But it did not not take a very detailed analysis to reveal that England’s performances in the tournament had been, at best, very average, and the quarter final win against Cameroon achieved with the biggest slices of luck.
    The dismal record of the England team since that tournament illustrate our almost total lack of quality Every time a World Cup or Euro Championship comes round we kid ourselves nto thinking that we can challenge the best. It’s now long overdue that performance improvement and quality is the only thing that matters. Even if we do not progress from the initial group, if England can display some quality of game intelligence and attacking variation, as displayed recently, then this can be taken as some progress and built upon. Scratching our way to the quarter finals with scrappy, unintelligent football would be meaningless and represent no progress whatsoever.
    It is time for the FA, from the very top, to lay these priorities firmly on the line, get everybody working towards the same ends without trying to kid anyone.

  39. Hi all. Sorry i have not replied recently but my phone line (internet) has been out of service since the storm.
    I have just sent Sam. a new ‘blog’ that i hope he will put up in the next few days.

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