Overloading Through the Field

By John Cartwright

Throughout football here we accept ‘fight’ situations in all areas of the field either because of the use of systems of play that cancel each other out or because of poor game understanding; games are played with scant awareness or appreciation of overloading in attacking/defending situations.

Our game stands on a pre-set playing structure in which movement beyond their normal area of involvement by players is not used enough. Yes, there is movement down flank areas by ‘wing-backs’ but little else of note beyond an occasional individual offering.

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Systems of play are generally formed with the ability of the players in mind. Lack of playing quality deems it a problem to devise systems that require more accomplished tactical movement; this is evident with the 1v1 ‘fights’ in mid-field that reflects our physical qualities but demonstrates our lack of craft and appreciation of the creative aspects of the game.

Creating extra players in defensive situations is an expected tactical occurrence but in the majority of games defenders remain in a ‘waiting mode’ in readiness to deal with attackers and offer little support to attacking play when their own team has possession of the ball. The spaces on the way to goal are becoming congested as teams pull more players back to cover the pathways to goal and so it is becoming more important for attacking teams to breach any available space with speed, tactical variations and extra supporting players. Through the whole field of play players must see the gaps for penetration that occur and all players should be prepared to create overload situations with or without the ball to breach those gaps.

The overuse of passing the ball sideways and backwards must not be seen as outstanding play, it merely satisfies statisticians but does little to enforce an attacking threat to opponents. The ability to produce quality service to forward players is essential if success is to be achieved. Overloading from the back and mid-field provides the opportunity to supply effective service of ball and extra players into front areas for goal-scoring chances to be made. By shortening deliveries of the ball into forward players makes deliveries more likely to succeed and by supporting quickly with additional players makes defending against this type of playing style much more difficult .


Overloading must not be seen simply as a flank/wide tactic, movement through central areas can be equally beneficial if used with timing and purpose. These overload situations must become an accepted part of playing the game and all playing positions should allow for overloading movement to support play. The main reason for the lack of game variation here is poor playing ability; support forward to overload requires support backwards to cover and in both cases our players are uncomfortable outside of their normal ‘job descriptions’ and attacking and defensive spaces do not get filled by players with the necessary ‘tools for the job’.

From a young age we must be resolute in producing ‘all-round footballers’ and not ‘positionalized planks of wood’. Movement throughout the field of play must become part and parcel of the game we play. The physical qualities of players must not be overlooked for the game throughout the world is becoming more demanding and we must be prepared to produce excellence in skills-tactics-game understanding in combination with speed-strength- athleticism and physical size. All players in a team do not have to be ‘giants’, but it is important that taller players are in a majority and that all players, tall or short, must have high endurance levels.

As I have mentioned in last month’s ‘blog’ we must not forget the ‘space available in the sky’ and be able to compete in the air in all parts of the field. The game is changing and although ball possession will continue to form a playing basis we must be aware of all aspects of the game and prepare our players accordingly.

Overloading must fill the game from start to finish in order to produce tactical situations that delete the excessive 1v1 ‘fights’- ‘scrimmages’ and negative attacking play from our game. Unless we seek to become true masters of playing quality we will fall further behind those nations who continually seek higher levels in their playing standards.

37 thoughts on “Overloading Through the Field

  1. Hi all. i watched England’s u/17 win the Euro title in Malta. Cogratualations on a determined an efficient performace that reflects highly on both players and the staff associated with them. I must say however, that we must not look at teams at junior levels on team performance alone;…. where’s the oustanding individuals? For decades we have produced teams that are hard to beat but who lack those extra bits of individual ‘sparkle’ that later becomes a world ‘star’. I didn’t see that ‘sparkle ‘ in Malta.

  2. Too many coaches instruct players to win their ‘personal battles’. The match becomes a series of 1 v. 1 confrontations, usually decided by physical qualities and stamina. Usually, this instruction is given to midfield players, to win that vital middle third area. Instead, overload situations should be created there, with back players coming forward with the ball, as their midfield colleagues move away to create space for them and ask questions of the opposition.
    Similarly, too often we set up a tactical formation to ‘mirror’ that of the opponents, rather than exploit the weak areas within it by tactical tweaks and subtleties of our own.
    When these details are taken into account then football becomes a battle of wit, skill and intelligence, which is what it should be.

  3. Super blog John!

    It amazes me how so few teams (coaches) don’t have any variety. Like you said Steve so many many teams/formations/styles mirror each other and it’s all rather bland, unimaginative and evidence of a lack of craft and x amount of coaches who either have no:
    – courage to try something new due to pressure of results
    – or simply don’t have the thinking capacity or creativity to invent!

    Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Barca always dominated the midfield area due to overloads. The television graphic may have always shown a 1-4-3-3 formation with Busquests, Xavi and Iniesta in the middle supported by Alves and Abidal on the flanks but Leo Messi would often drop in and Gerard Pique would often run in from the back creating 5-7 in the midfield.

    We don’t have enough defenders in the world of football who can
    – bring the ball out (Lucio, Luiz, Pique, Agger)
    – run with the ball into the midfield
    – dribble
    – execute an effective trick to create room to run in
    – just simply move forward to create an extra body

    Moving forward without the ball firstly is so simple, it just requires a player to run into a position! But players running without the ball, moving without the ball is all again rather limited and bland. Children are often criticized for just ball watching, we must not forget that sofa viewers and many coaches watch either only the ball or static pictures! Football is a game that involves players to move, run, jog, sprint without the ball – are we using movement intelligently?

    Goal keepers should also be taught to overload! why not? If a GK overloads against a team not pressing too high then why not push a a skilled centre back into midfield early and allow a technically efficient GK to join in the build up phase or tidy up phase from a different position and thus gain extra yards!

    Back players can easily be taught from the age of 5 to be over loaders! When children are playing small sided games with a GK, that GK should be encouraged and taught to position themselves in advanced positions. Subliminally that child is being prepared to be a forward thinking back player from the age of 5!

    We should aim to evolve the Holland/Ajax TOTAL FOOTBALL style to a new level whereby every player can not only rotate and fill in but whereby every player has a high level of skill in every skill attribute. So every player is able to perform a trick, or dribble, or pass with kicking variations or receive in creative ways and every player is comfortable with the ball in ANY PART OF THE FIELD IN ALL SITUATIONS and ABLE TO MOVE INTELLIGENTLY WITHOUT THE BALL!


  4. Hi John….
    Yes, i agree that we still produce teams in international youth football which often reach the latter stages of the tournaments and quite often win it. But so often, as you say, a major contributory factor is the “hard to beat” qualities of the England teams. The young players in these teams so often fail to make it at the highest levels and I can only conclude that the lack of a real football education, in the coaching process, is responsible for this.
    I was looking at the squad that represented England in the previous Under 17 success, in 2010. There were 3 players in it who played in the Premier League last season – Barklay, Berahino, and Wickham. Of those, Barklay has developed to the highest degree and could make an impression in a few weeks time at the World Cup. Berahino, from what i have seen, has talent but it is a little dificult to say what his future prospects are at West Brom. Wickham’s career seemed to come to a dead end after the 2010 tournment, but in the latter stages of last season he scored vital goals which kept Sunderland in the Premier League and it seemed that he responded well to Gus Poyet’s management. There were others in the squad, like McEachran, Rodwell and Chalobah of whom big things were expected but they have so far not developed at the rate that they were expected to.
    Of the present group who were successful in Malta, the fulham winger, Patrick Roberts, looked the most talented to me. He runs well with the ball and cuts across the front of defenders, attacking the space to the side of them in the same manner as Messi. Whether he has been coached to do this at Fulham, or he has developed the ability himself in his own game play, i do not know, but he looks an exciting talent. Hopefully, because he is with a relatively small club like Fulham, he will be given sufficient first team opportunities to develop and Felix Magath had a reputation in Germany of giving talented young players a chance. Centre forward, Solanki, looked promising and leads the line well, but what first team opportunites is likely to get at Chelsea? It is interesting that central defender, Moore, is with Lens in France. Is he getting superior coaching there and will he get more first team opportunities in the French League?
    But overall, I agree that the extra sparkle that can distinguish a great player from a good one, is missing, except possibly in the case of Roberts, because he has that quality of individualism. Our game style is too simplistic and our coacvhing fails to fully develop the qualities of individualism which must be brought out in the earliest years.

  5. Hi John….
    Some further thoughts on England’s UEFA Under 17s success in Malta. From a tactical and organisation viewpoint, I think that the England coaching staff did a good job. In the first half of the Final, especially, they prevented Holland from playing out from the back and dominating possession by pressing high up the pitch. When they were unable to get sufficient players forward to press effectively in those advanced positions, then they reteated to the half way line and pressed from there. England put a lot into those first 40 minutes and were unlucky not to go in at half time in the lead. Their efforts in the first half obviously took a lot out of them because it wasn’t quite so effective in the second half, but they hung in well and just about deserved their penalty shoot out victory.
    So in terms of defensive tactics aimed at disrupting the rhythm and effectiveness of the opposition, our young players are well prepared by their international coaches. Holland had already beaten England convincingly in an earlier group match which was a ‘dead rubber’, with both teams giving games to players who had previously been sitting on the bench. Also, in the semi final, Holland hammered Scotland 5-0. So the England coaching staff had closely observed the Dutch in match play and did a good job in reducing their effectiveness. The players adopted the game plan effectively and with enthusiasm, especially the high pressing which very much disrupted the Dutch game style.
    Both England’s full backs attacked well, with pace and verve. But I did not think that the central defenders came out into midfield with the ball as often as they should have. Gomes is a strong defender and good tackler, dominant in the air. Good physical qualities, but when he did occasionally bring the ball forward he semed unsure how far to go and where he should pass the ball. He gave the ball away or passed it hurridly, betraying his unfamiliarity in advanced areas of the field. Perhaps the England coaches had encouraged him to get forward but if he does not receive work on that aspect at his club, then he is bound to have difficulties when asked to change his game for the national team. There seemed to be a lack of movement in the midfield areas to create space for Gomes and his defensive partner, Moore, to advance into and so clearly this is an area of work that requires much attention in the academies of our League clubs.
    Past experince has shown that although England deservedly won the trophy, it is the Dutch players who are likely to develop into superior players in the years ahead. Superior coaching in the long term, and more senior first team opportunites in their weaker domestic league, contribute to this situation and so, despite this welcome success, we still have a long way to go before we attain long term improvement.

  6. Hi Steve. You are correct about England’s closing-down on Holland’s back players thus affecting the Dutch side from developing their game-style from the back. I was somewhat surprised however that they had no further overloading method(s) to counter England. The use of ALL players to contribute to overloading needs must be generated if teams’ are not to be offensively curtailed by opponents. If one method is blocked another should be available in order that opposing teams cannot dictate and destroy a game-style. As Fld. Marshal Montgomery stated, ” don’t dance to the enemy’s tune”.

  7. I thought that Atletico’s defensive organisation was extremely good in the Champions’ League Final against Real Madrid. They pressed from around the half way line but not so much high up the pitch. Playing Diego Costa was a gamble that failed and Atletico paid the price because it effectively cost them a substitute when they needed one in extra time and a few of their players could hardly walk.
    i am surprised how poor organisation when defending against corner kicks costs teams so dear, when the rest of the defensive organisation is so good. For Atletico’s goal, Modric left his post following the corner and the ball had only been half cleared. When the ball was returned, even though Casillas made his misjudgement, had Modric remained on the post then he would have been on hand to clear the ball following Godin’s header. At one time, players covering the posts were instructed not to leave them until the ball had been properly cleared. I know that nowadays everyone rushes out to try and catch opponents offside, but this puts a lot of responsibility on the keeper and when he makes a misjudgement, like last Saturday, there is no insurance of a defender still on the post.
    Similarly, for Real’s stoppage time equaliser, had an Atletico defender been stationed on the back post for the corner, then he would easily have cleared Ramos’s header and Atletico would now be European Club Champions.
    In my opinion, the scoreline flattered Real. They can score freely against a team committed to attack, like Bayern Muncih in the semi final, with their counter attacking. But a team like Atletico, dropping into its own half and getting numbers around the ball when not in possession, gave them far greater problems and they did not really have the answers. The injury to Costa was a big blow and, had he been fully fit, then I think that Atletico would have won quite comfortably.

  8. Hi Steve. I’m afraid that the loss of Diego Costa, was a problem for Athletico. However, the high pressure game they tend to play does burn up energy and once the equalizer was scored by Real there was little left in Athletico’s ‘tank’.
    Barcelona were able to play a pressure-type game but could recover through their possession game-style.

  9. Hi all
    Totally agree about the Diego Costa situation. Steve I have said for some while now that Real Madrid’s so called world class or great players (overused praise) are only able to score freely or be effective in attack with counter attacks – when space just needs to be exploited and not created. This for me is a weakness in their coaching. Maybe with the pace they have it makes sense to create style around the tools available but playing variations must be implemented as we have all agreed. The score line lied and unfortunately the Real’s coach will be heaped with praise for equaling Bob Paisely’s record and likes of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo will be heaped praise of GREATNESS for scoring in the final even though their performance was so so so disappointing because they both struggle to create space which is what great players traditionally have always done.

    Athletico’s long season with a small squad and intense playing style in the end resulted in them conceding too much territory in the last 20 minutes combined with the psychological state of “let’s just hang on to what we have” mentality which was cemented with the Costa situation.

    But the real disappointment for me wasn’t the Costa situation, or the ridiculous Bale Ronaldo hype, but more so Ancelotti. In all 3 of his CL victories he has done little to affect the game and been quite fortunate. In the 2003 all Italian affair, both MIlan Juve were too cautious, but Ancelotti with the more creative players at his disposal kept his foot on the breaks and won on penalties. In 2007, a revenge match against Liverpool, Milan spent the first half on the back foot, anxious but still had the more skilled attacking players. Milan were on the brink of going into half time with a lot to think about and anxious, but a deflected free kick switched the psychological momentum without any coaching needed, lucky! Then in 2014, Bale, Ronaldo, Modric, Ramos, Marcelo, Benzema, Moratta, Isco all at is disposal, his plan B was to constantly whip crosses in. In many quarters it has been said Athletico shut the central route therefore forcing Real wide – but Real don’t use the central route even though they have the players to combine in those areas. In Italy where the media focus more on tactics and the general analysis is more tactical, Ancelotti was often criticized for his plan b tactics, as it was always to bring on Serginho and just whip crosses in. In 2005 CL once Benitez had pegged the game back 3-3 after changing the shape to 1-3-6-1, Ancelotti brought on, yes you guessed it, Serginho, Benitez fully aware of this switched Gerrard to right back.

    In the end a set piece got Real into position to win the CL. Nothing wrong with scoring from a corner, but essentially a corner whipped in is a form of percentage play and something all teams logically would have to do in the 93 of any game. But with Real’s millions, Real’s players and Ancelotti’s reputation it is all clear to see that this is a team man managed very well but how well coached? how well prepared tactically? should Real have to equalize late on by throwing a ball in to the box, should Real with their millions and stars be creating more in 95 minutes even if the opposition are very well organised? but the vast majority of the football world will remember this as the game that Real won with a large scoreline and where Bale and Ronaldo scored therefore qualifying them as greats! Football can lie

  10. Hi all….
    Yes, “possession game style” was the key with Barcelona and without it a team will run out of stamina as Atletico did last Saturday. To play a high pressure game for 90 minutes, plus another 30 as Atletico had to last Saturday, is bound to take its toll. The problem in England is that the fans demand a high speed spectacle from first minute until the last. But in the 1970s and 1980s Liverpool educated their crowd to accept a slower paced game in European Cup matches and their fans recognised the wisdom in this when they achieved their succession of European trophies. It will be interesting to see how well Liverpool adjust to a slower paced game next season with their return to the Champions’ League competition.
    Similarly, in the World Cup England will have to adjust to hot, humid conditions by varying the pace and slowing the game down when necessary. In 1970, when England went into the Mexico World Cup as World Champions, they actually adjusted to the heat and altitude dificulties quite well and the players at that time did not have to play at a constant high speed to be effective.
    Many commentators/critics called time on tiki taka (possession game style) too early after Ancelotti’s Real Madrid thrashed Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in last season’s semi final.As you point out, Dav, Ancelotti got lucky with the circumstances which prevailed for those matches and with the late equaliser last Saturday, which suited his counter attacking approach. It seems likely that the Atletico team wll now break up as players move on to wealthier clubs, but should this not happen and Simone remains coach, then the challenge for him would be to coach his team to retain the ball by a possession playing style once they have the lead. They did this well in the second half of their semi final at Chelsea when they played well and constructively in possession and , in fact, this was the best that I have seen them play.

  11. Hi all

    I think we can see that the concept of ‘governing the ball’ is not high on the agenda for both Simeone and Mourinho, and both have had success with a ‘reactive’ type of game. In Mourinho’s case it is believed that quite often he is happy ‘turning possession’ over to his opponents; and with these two the maxim is ‘defend and counter quickly’. Real did exactly that against Bayern – and if I was to be critical of Bayern perhaps their set up didn’t cator enough/or work for what Real would do through the pace-merchants Ronaldo and Bale on the break.

    Steve has a point about Athletico playing well in possession against Chelsea; but in hindsight was it not easier against Mourinho’s Chelsea? I wonder though if Simeone sees it this way. He is entitled to play his pressing game and sacrifice possession. On another day it would have worked; however, just on the most important it ultimately failed – but it was very much touch and go.

    One must day that a marrying-up of his type of pressing – with a flat and very compressed horizontal midfield is another concept to look at and inculcate – maybe? A variation on the Barcelona “Hurricane’ press.

    To develop a constructive possession game aligned to their defending mentality may require ‘overloading’ – to get back to this blog topic – and while they bring players across the pitch, ‘vertical’ overloading might be a bridge to far.


  12. Hi Brazil94…
    Coaches like Mourinho and Simone do not stay at a club for the long haul. Though clearly very good coaches, in both the technical and motivational sense, they do not take their work to a conclusion. It is the same with Pochettino, leaving Southampton for an allegedly ‘bigger’ club like Tottenham. What Southampton have is an excellent youth academy, producing many fine young players. Many of these now seem likely to leave. The youth development will continue with a different manager, but it seems that Southampton are destined to always be a selling club. If Pochettino had stayed and really worked on the development of the young players he has promoted to the first team, then there would be the opportunity to create something exceptional.
    Last night there was an exceptional performance by the Dutch Under 21s, thrashing Scotland 6-1 on their opponents’ ground, in a UEFA U21 Championship qualifying tie. In several respects, we have seen this many times before. Holland displayed excellent technical skill and good movement. They built everything from the back through the keeper, centre halves, and full backs who were constantly released into high positions. Surprisingly, Scotland did little to prevent the Dutch from working the ball out from the back. Their centre forward was frequently left isolated, and adopting a direct approach was just playing into Dutch hands. When the ball was hit from the back in his direction, Scotland rarely got support round him even to look for knock downs.
    Ironically, when Scotland did make progress into the final third they showed some good play and invention. They did not blindly hit hopeful crosses into the Holland box, but tried to work the ball along the ground constructively, and did have a number of half chances. But the real contrast was how Holland got their back players, including the keeper, on the ball so much and so were able to play round the Scots almost at will.

  13. A further thought on the performance of Holland’s Under 21 team on Wednesday: a week before this match England beat the Dutch Under 17s to win the UEFA Championship at that age group. England’s victory was deserved and their performance, though not outstanding, was good. It is a sobering thought, however, that in the age gap of 3 – 4 years from their under 17s to under 21s, Holland are working extremely hard so as to produce the kind of performance that they did against Scotland on Wednesday night.
    This is the challenge that faces the coaches in charge of the victorious Under 17s. Are these youngsters going to receive the kind of work which will now see them develop at the same rate as their Dutch counterparts by the time they are 21? This is the 64,000 dollar question and it is the area where we have failed for so many years now.
    Only by closely vetting the coaching which those players are receiving at their clubs, can the England coaches who were in charge during the Under 17 tournament in Malta, gauge the development of those players over the next few years. The responsibility is therefore very much with the clubs. I just wonder if the Dutch FA have some sort of vetting procedure to gauge the development of their Under 17 players over the next few years. There is an Under 19 UEFA Championship as well, of course, but if we wait two years before discovering that no progress has been made, then it is clearly too late. There must be an ongoing observation of those players, closely monitoring their progress.
    It would be interesting to learn how the Dutch tackle this issue because, judging by the performance of their Under 21s on Wednesday, they are clearly on top of the problem far better than we are.

  14. Hi Dav….
    With regard to your comments on the recent Champions’ League Final and the criticism of Anchelotti’s coaching. Most Italian coaches set their teams up to play on the counter attack and have done for many years. That is why Arrigo Sacchi introduced ideas into his coaching and team preparation which have had a far reaching effect, although from what I see, the Italian way is still to play a cagey, defensive game style and wait for the opponents to make mistakes, in order to counter atack and create goal scoring opportunites. Sacchi introduced a different approach nearly 30 years ago now, aimed at seizing the initiative with an aggressive pressing style, overloading in forward areas, and this was most vividly seen with his AC Milan side. The fact that his ideas were only partially adopted in Serie A was shown in the 1994 World Cup when Italy, under his management, reached the Final. Many of the players in the team who had not been coached by him at Milan had difficulty adjusting to his approach and although they finished runners-up it was not really a ‘Sacchi team’. Ironically, it was more of a ‘Sacchi team’, in terms of an enterprising game style, at Euro 96 when Italy were eliminated early and Sacchi subsequently lost his hs job.
    It is also ironic that we make these criticisms of Anchelotti, who was a player in Sacchi’s Milan team of the eighties and then became his coaching assistant with the National Team at the 1994 World Cup.

  15. Sturridge’s goal against Peru last Friday perhaps gave an indication that we have a number of young players in this country, who are throwing off the shackles of predictability and one-dimensional play, which has held us back in the international arena for so many years.
    Coming shortly after the topic which Neil Banfield coached at a recent Masterclass for the London Football Coaches Association, ‘Turning the Play Forward’, on receiving the ball from a throw in, instead of giving the ball straight back to the thrower, as you so often see in this country, Sturridge worked the space for himself, cut inside, and got into the box to score with a firece shot.
    By engineering the possibility to turn, admittedly helped by some rather loose Peruvian marking, Sturridge showed that, given encouragement and coaching, English players can produce the imaginative and unpredictable play which usually we only see from their foreign counterparts.

    • A throw in is the most occurring set piece in football. I agree that the ball shouldn’t simply go back to the thrower, to create a rather predictable triangle, between thrower, receiver, and third attacker.
      However, at international level, this situation also makes it easier for a defence to compress the space, meaning that it shouldn’t be up to sturridge to create his own space, rather it should be created for him, by others, using various rehearsed routines, according to to the position of the throw and the players involved.
      At youth level, the use of small sided games, in compressed areas should lay the foundations of understanding of these situations.

  16. I like your thinking. one of my biggest issues tends to be a lack of lateral movment to produce these overloads. Many young players do understand the need to create space by either moving away fro the ball before coming short or more commonly coming short to create space behind.

    By doing the same across the field, defending players are forced, more, into making a decision. Whether to move out of “their area” or risk the attacking player gaining possession unmarked.

    This is why it is important to practice is small sided games, emphasizing the ability to pull defensive players in all directions, and allow players to switch between attacking responsibilities, and defensive duties, according to the position of the ball, and the associated danger. Whether that be from attacking players or the teams own attack breaking down.

    In short, all players must be all rounders, and must be have the ability to react to situations accordingly.


  17. I thought that there was an interesting comment in the press from Rickie Lambert, Liverpool’s recent signing from Southampton, He said that the higher up in football he progresses, the easier he finds it to play. After originally being discarded by Liverpool as a schoolboy, Lambert made his way up the divisions through a succession of lower league clubs. Now, at the age of 32, he is preparing for a World Cup tournament and has joined a club who have just qualified for next season’s Champions’ League.
    You can imagine his route up the leagues, perhaps often the spearhead of a long ball, battering ram approach. Maybe after falling into the hands of a coach who recognised other qualities which Lambert possessed, he learnt how to develop his game in terms of movement, using and creating space, and therefore improved considerably. It is good to think that lessons well learnt have opened up doors for him to develop into a far better player than even he himself ever thought possible.

  18. I have been interested to read that Teddy Sheringham has recently been made attack coach at West Ham. Sheringham was, without doubt,a very fine player but has not, to my knowledge, any previous experience of coaching. Bearing in mind that it has been shown on many occasions that a great player does not automatically become a great coach, I wonder if West Ham have properly thought through their appointment of the former England striker. However, perhaps West ham plan to use Sheringham in a demonstration role, whereby he is put into certain scenarios by the existing coaching staff and he displays the ways and means to exploit and solve certain situations from the technical skill and intelligence which he still possesses.
    I recall Geoff Hurst being used in this capacity when Ron Greenwood was Manager of England and he was used for demonstration purposes in the training sessons.

  19. The 2014 World Cup has come too early for English players of promise, like Barkley, Lallana, Sterling, Sturridge and Shaw. The group matches should be used as much needed experience for them to display their promise. Euro 2016, but more liklely the World Cup in Russia in 2018, are more realistic targets for England to achieve some better than usual results.
    But , as usual, the media is building up possibilities of England progressing in this year’s competition, ignoring the proven abilities and experience of Italy and Uruguay. I see no point in attempting to scrape low scoring draws against these two countries and then expecting to comfortably beat Costa Rica, who may prove more difficult than most people think. It would be better to let the pomising young players express themselves fully and really show what they can do, than adopt the negative, dour approach that contributed to the humiliation in South Africa. If we can really ask serious questions of the Italians and Uruguayans, and then build on this during the next two years of Euro qualification matches, then there is a chance that, at some time in the near future, England could at last have a decent international team.

  20. Messi’s goal yesterday against Bosnia was another example, as John has highlighted for some time , of how he runs to the side of an opponent, attacking the space, to either move the defender, creating space to the other side of him, or breaking through the space which is already there.
    Recognising the space which already exists, or creating space by great movement, are the keys to the game, and should be priorities in our coaching and development of young players.

    • Hi Steve. I wouldn’t hold your breath regarding Messi’s runs with the ball across defenders; we did it as kids in the street because of the cramped space available back in the 40’s and 50’s. When i entered the Pro. game i was told by FA qualified ‘coaches’ that i should go at defenders not across them….result failure! From being able to beat defenders with the ball and dictating to them, i was being shown the path dictated by the defender.
      You cannot change realistic learning situations for classroom theory.
      I congratulate the coaches invoved with Messi for not interfering with his natural playing skills and in so doing ALLOWING HIM TO BECOME GREAT!

  21. With further reference to Messi’s goal against Bosnia: too many coaches and commntators on the game talk about “running at” opponents with the ball. The crucial element is to “run at the side” where there is space and the sooner this phrase becomes part of football vocabulary the better for the undertanding and appreciation of the game. We shall then have a better chance of conveying ideas to young players and improve their development, as well as giving a better understanding to the spectators, who also have an important role to play.

  22. We are so lucky to have Lionel Messi. His ability to consistently beat defenders, show the awareness while running/dribbling to make decisions to link up with soft precise passes and end the hardest move in football with a caressed finish is just world class!

    You’re right John and Steve, we must teach children to attack the space and be careful of the terminology or key words used when teaching kids from 5 years old. There is always one child who through physical attributes, practising at home and an unmatched courage plays the game where they want to do everything themselves and skip past defenders for fun. This should never be interrupted and purely tweaked as they grow older. Messi has said that La Masia never stopped him from playing the game the way the way he did as a child but they did teach him the clever combinations. His passing skills are often overlooked!

    When Messi picked the ball up against Bosnia, there were 9 players behind the ball including the GK. Messi skipped past one, then combined with Higuain which negated the left sided defence and then he dribbled past 2 more and passed the ball home. Since Diego Maradona’s goals against England and Belgium in the 1986 World Cup, the only individual goal we had was Roberto Baggio’s at Italia 90. For me Lionel Messi’s goal against Bosnia was the best goal at World Cup in terms of individual play since the 1986 Semi vs Belgium purely because Baggio had more space and the less players behind the ball.

    These details of how much space there is at the start of a an action or move or how set the defenders or how compact they are are gives an indication of how great a goal is in terms of its creation. This is overlooked by TV analysis. We must develop kids in tight spaces like the old street football – resulting in players who don’t rely on transition when space simply needs to be exposed.

  23. During the World Cup, as a promotional film on Brazilian TV, they are showing çlips of film of Brazilian kids enacting great moments from World Cup matches down the years. I have seen a re-enactment done of Pele’s famous goal in the 1958 Final when, as a 17 year old, he lifted the ball over a defender’s head, stepped round him and volleyed it into the net. Then there is the 1970 thunderbolt from Carlos Alberto, after he had surged forward from right back and after the ball had been worked across the pitch, Pele laid a perfectly weighted pass into Alberto’s path for the right back to apply the finish.
    The significant point is that these examples of inspiration are not being performed on the immaculate pristine pitches which you would find the young talented players of Premier League clubs playing and training on. They are playing in the tight, narrow confines which they have in the favellas Until we put our young players into these tight areas which force them to play under pressure, then a real improvement in playing standards among young English players just will not happen. The Brazilian youngster is still developed from a young age in that environment and so the sale of footballers around the world continues to be among their most profitable exports.

  24. Anyone who saw Chile in their Wembley friendly against England last season will not have been surprised by the quality of threir football in the first two matches which they have played in the World Cup. This is the standard which England should be aiming for. Movement into space and turning away from congestion and pressure, must become the key features which we teach/coach from the early stages. When you see the comparatively laboured efforts from England in their matches, then it is clear that the necessary technical qualities and game intelligence are absent from our play.
    The recent success of the England U17s in the UEFA Tournment in Malta has been commented on in this blogg, and the players who achieved that success must be monitored carefully during the next few years, as their progress through the age groups should result in them ultimately making it into the senior England team. The previous England team which achieved UEFA U17 success a few years ago, when they beat Spain in the Final, does not appear to be developing as they should be. I understand that Robert Hall, a very promising player at West Ham, has now dropped into the lower leagues, and Connor Wickham, a prolific scorer in the U17s, fell off the radar until he showed goalscoring form for Sunderland in the closing weeks of last season.
    I know that the players belong to their individual clubs but, as I have mentioned before, I feel that the FA should take responsibility for some monitoring or policing of young players when they have represented England at various age levels. If they fail to make the progress that should be expected of them, then the FA should investigate the situation. Now that Trevor Brooking is retiring from his position at the head of England’s young player development, then whoever takes his place should take on this duty.
    The big Premier League clubs, under foreign ownership, do not care a jot for England’s constant failure in the international arena, and so it is the duty of the FA to rectify the situation.

  25. England’s predictable play against Costa Rica stems from the lack of technical and overloading skills of the defenders. There is no imagination or invention in this department. Central midfield players drop too deep and into space that the central defenders could exploit by moving forward with the ball. Costa Rica are a defensive team and they knew that a point would be enough to take top spot in the group. Imagination is needed to break down this kind of team and overloading by defenders moving forward into spaces, with and without the ball,is vital in breaking them down,

    • Hi all. The age-old problem keeps cropping up when we meet teams’ on a higher playing status —- we aren’t good enough. The problems stem from historically failed development methods and ‘hype’ not honesty regarding playing standards. Be prepared for the ‘carpet to be rolled up’ for all the rubbish to be quietly swept under it……… nothing changes.

  26. Hi John….
    The ¨carpet will be rolled up¨when the build up begins to the 2014/15 Premier League season. We shall get the usual hype about the ¨greatest league in the world¨and England’s development problems and continual international failures will be pushed to one side.
    We must start getting it right at the earliest stages of youth coaching. What has been the success or otherwise of the FA’s Tresco Skills Coaches programme? Getting coaches out into the primary schools was a good idea but what type of work has been undertaken? Has it had the essential Premier Skills methodology of getting kids to recognise space, how to use it,and how to create it? I do not see these elements in much of the work produced by the FA and so are our young players being starved of it?
    In Brazil, you see tight little football pitches all over the country and so clearly, from a young age, their children develop the ability to play under pessure. We still do not recognise this as a vital requirement in a player’s development. At a recent FA Tesco Coaches demonstration, the coaches developed the practice by adding further features rather than decreasing the area size, in order to increase the need to perform under pressure with less space.
    From what I see, the understanding that space is the most important thing in football, is still being ignored in this country.

  27. No European country has ever won the World Cup when it has been played in South America.This year’s tournament is the most open for many years,and even now that the matches have entered the knockout stages,it is still difficult to choose a clear favourite.
    Having home advantage always has enormous advantages,but such is the weight of expecation on the Brazilian team that I fear they too often ‘play the occasion’ rather than the match, Unless Brazil improve considerably on their previous performances then i don’t see them beating Colombia in the quarter finals.
    Colombia are an interesting team.They have always played with great technical skill and South American flair,but in this tournamen they have harnessed these traditional qualities with longer passes in behind the opposition defence, together with an altogether more athletic style. Their strength in the air enables them to display their exceptional heading ability,both for direct strikes on goal and also for setting up chances for others in the danger area with the ball headed down or across goal into space.
    So I find that many of John’s comments in his above article have a significance with Colombia’s performances in this World Cup.

  28. Hi all. Watching the World Cup i find that my comments and opinions over many years have been totally justified. Aspects of the game and the disasterous development and playing issues that have been introduced into the game here that i have consistently condemned have eventually brought this football nation to its knees. Greed-hype-lies-disorganisation on a grand scale have gradually taken its toll……..our worse World |Cup ever. Don’t blame Roy Hodgson, the ship was ‘sinking’ long before he became ‘captain’ of the floundering vessel —– English Football !

    Still don;t get too downhearted, domestic football restarts in just over a month’s time—- there will be the usual ‘raising of the carpet’ and all will be forgotten as the truth about our our continued football demise gets brushed under it and

  29. e must build a new young side from the young players who have been introduced in recent matches, like Sterling, Lallana, Barkley and Shaw, and integrate these into a nucleus of the Under 17 side which won the UEFA Championship recently. The squad must be coached by the best coaches available with the vision and end product firmly in mind, as John Cartwright has constantly stressed as being of crucial importance right from the outset. We shoul d be looking at either the European Championship of 2020 or World Cup of 2022 as realistic targets for some success.Tournaments between now and then should be used for experience and gaugung progress. This is how Brazil 2014 should have been used, but of course the FA did not want to face the howls of public protest which would have been caused if they had approached the tournament in this way.
    But surely, no-one is now under any illusions about how far we have fallen behind in the international arena. The most important work, however, must be done in the primary schools where at present the FA has placed coaches under a sponsership deal with Tescos. We need the best coaches of young players in these positions, and if the FA want to attract the best coaches of children into these positions, then they must pay them a wage competitive with the best Premier League clubs academies.

  30. I have heard that the man in charge of the Southampton Academy, and therefore responsible for the production of potentially high quality young players at the club in recent years, has just resigned his position because the FA want him at St George’s Park in order to share his expertise with them.
    This is all very well, but this FA appointment, together with the departure of 1st Team Coach, Pocchettino, who gave a number of young players a 1st team chance last season, I think there is a real danger that the excellent production line of young talent at the club will now come to a halt, and this should have been at the forefront of the FA’s mind before they took the Southampton Youth Supremo on board. They should have seen that the priority is for the Southampton production line to continue. This must be in severe jeopardy now that they have removed the key man from his position. If his job at the FA is primarily to advise on Youth Development, could he not have done this whilst still in his job at Southampton.
    In 1961 Ron Greenwood inherited what was the best group of young players in the country at the time, when he became Manager of West Ham. Five years later, three of those players were vital members of the England team which won the World Cup, without whom they would not have won the trophy. I am sure that without Ron Greenwood’s coaching, Moore, Hurst and Peters would not have attained the levels of performance which made them so instrumental in England’s World Cup victory. If Ron Greenwood had gone to the FA at that time into some kind of advisory job then he could have advised the nation’s coaches for 24 hours a day, but without his coaching then Moore, Hurst and Peters would not have become the players they did in 1966.
    Advisory positions can come later. At the present time, we need the best coaches we have working with young players now and I don’t see the sense in the FA making this appointment.

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