Football’s Parents

By John Cartwright

“John!” the loud cry would come from either my mother or father; it’s time for bed and school’s tomorrow. Thousands of hours were taken up in the street, school playground and wartime debris, for these places were the learning grounds of the footballers of the past. These ‘mini Wembley’s’ provided competitive, small-sided games of football with realistic football decision-making — a football ‘apprenticeship’— that taught the game without the pressure or intrusion of parents, or later, would-be coaches. The loss of this informal but positive way of learning has meant an enormous change from the ‘natural’ development of young players to a more ‘pressured’ format. The ‘structured’ take-over of development has been unable to recreate a satisfactory coaching methodology that can recover the loss of practice time, nor the practical realism to learning suitable for all ages. Equally destructive has been the ever growing emphasis on winning and not learning — now inadequate practice is followed by a win-win culture that has resulted in the disastrous acceptance of mediocrity being accepted as greatness!

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The couple of evenings a week and a game at the weekend is the sum total of ‘practice whilst playing’ that most of our youngsters now receive. In many cases parents have become both a ‘taxi service’ and ‘escort’ for their children at evening training sessions and weekend matches. This inclusion of the parent(s) at coaching sessions and matches has not been dealt with as astutely by football in general as it should have been; often there is animosity between parents and coaching staff that escalates to situations where a parent and his/her child are excluded from further involvement with a club. Strained relations between parents, staff and clubs should not be a feature throughout the development years and more thought must be given to the matter.

I have seen attempts by clubs to limit the involvement of parents from the actual sessions in which their children are working. In some instances the parents are placed well beyond the actual working area and so miss the information that is being given to their sons/daughters. I have also seen parents restricted form entering a training area and left to stand outside throughout a session. This attempt to reduce the parents’ influence on their children regarding playing matters is, in my opinion, a lost opportunity to increase the understanding of the game to parents. The parent is with a child for much longer than the coach or teacher and should therefore, be in a position to offer good advice or even join in with ‘football homework’ with him/her. Our game is in crisis. We are not producing players through the present development methods in both numbers and high playing standards. Parents need to be closely associated with development issues and be instructed along with their children. Even the occasional ‘football know-all’ must be given the chance to see the game beyond his/her personal, limited vision of it. The understanding of the game and the advice given to young players by both parents and coaches must correspond equally or distortions can affect the learning progress of the child.

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When I was Academy Director at clubs I made it feature at each evening coaching session with our young schoolboys to bring all the parents together and, whilst sessions at different age levels were ongoing, I would either discuss with the parents what was being coached or I would delegate a staff member. At games it was important that the parents understood what their youngsters were trying to do and be able to discuss the game — the pluses and minuses with staff members. It was vitally important that parents were made aware that the junior games were not just to be won, but that the work being delivered during weekly coaching sessions was understood and being produced both individually and in team play during games by their children.

Coaching isn’t easy and every opportunity to find ways to assist in creating better teaching and learning opportunities for our young coaches and players must not be overlooked. The ‘home-bred’ player must become an integral part of our game. The continual flow of talent, young and old from abroad must not be allowed to continue as at present. We must take our ‘heads from out of the sand’ and begin to see the game and the way we teach it in a different light. Most certainly, the involvement and education of parents on the teaching and playing of the game must be given a much higher level of importance by all those involved in our game’s future.

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34 thoughts on “Football’s Parents

  1. I think that Premier Skills is the only coaching scheme to highlight the parent situation in junior football as not being a problem but as potentially a great opportunity. It is vital that a child’s parent,/older sibling,/guardian, or whoever brings the child to training and matches, is fully aquainted with the coach’s philosophy on the game and what the various coaching work is designed to improve and introduce. By introducing the ‘Parent As First Coach’ initiative into the club/team then the coach has the vital extra benefit of his/her players receiving extra coaching on the other days in the week when they are not under the coach’s wing. The coach cannot hope to sufficiently improve a player’s development in grassroots football with just one to two hours coaching during the week and one to two hours game play on Sunday mornings.
    By setting the ‘Football Homework’, as outlined in Level 1 of Premier Skills, both on the Course and on the DVD, the coach can fully involve the parents and his young players’ improvement can be considerably accelerated.
    We have to face up to the fact that street football of the past will never return so every avenue to develop young talent must be explored. But I don’t think that this is just a British problem. When i visited the academies of two clubs in Holland at the end of last season, AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord, the coaches there said that parents were a problem and were kept as much as possible at arm’s length with no attempt to involve or educate them. So this this is one area where in England we could take the initiative and lead the way.

  2. Hi Steve. Properly informed on the development situation of his/her child, a parent can assist in providing some of lost ‘practice/playing’ time that was so important in the past. The parent can be ‘an opponent” – ‘a server of the ball’ or merely an ‘enthusiastic follower’.
    With the help and careful information from club coaches parents can create the extra practice time that is now needed more than ever. The more touches of the ball that can be made with as near to realistic decision-making that can be ‘devised’ in tight areas will be of great benefit to young players through their development years.

  3. Hi all. The lost practice hours of football development are never going to be completely replaced by present coaching/ development methods. Time has moved on and things have changed — not always for the best. The reason I wrote this ‘blog’ was because of the importance in making young parents and their children understand that limited practice time means less playing ability.
    I have attempted to show how some of the lost time can be eradicated by involving parents — as long as they are prepared to follow the practice stages provided by coaches and teachers to their children. But this is not enough; there needs to be more ideas to create time for practical learning and basic game theory throughout the junior development years.
    I have mentioned more connection between coaches and parents and I also believe after-school time could be used more extensively. I also believe that TV could be an important learning ‘tool’ for they could produce basic programs for youngsters on football as well as other sports.
    We must provide more thought to the practice-time factor in sport. Do you have any suggestions that would help to alleviate the loss of time and provide our young players with better opportunities to learn and play the game of football to a higher standard?
    I produced Premier Skills Coaching ; this ‘practice/playing’ method is an attempt to conjoin aspects of the street with the modern game. Suitable, progressive levels of work for juniors to seniors provided a ‘pathway’ towards a pre-set, but adaptable playing vision. These programs provide a way forward and provide a better use of practice time, but more needs to be done.
    How can we defeat the impact lost time has had on the development of our players. I look forward to reading your replies on this serious matter, for our game is in crisis!

  4. Hi all. Some time ago i visited Norway, As i moved from district to district i saw small play areas enclosed by walls about 10 feet high. These areas were about 12×12 metres.There was no roof and at night it was lit by a single light. The floor was concrete and the walls had painted goals, and basketball hoops were fixed at the appropriate height. These areas were used by youngsters for small-sided games, or the walls were used as individual rebound surfaces.

    I was told by my Norwegian friend that these areas were consrtructed by local councils on sites that were of no use for building projects. Because of there simple design there was very little maintenance necessary —- all the year play/practice areas!
    Why can’t we find similar small areas that are suitable for sports’ practices? No parental or ‘coach’ intrusions, just play, learn and enjoy the time whether in a competive small game with friends or playing rebounds alone against a wall.
    The cost of producing these types of areas on unwanted sites would be minimal. ‘Scruffy’ local sites could be improved and youngsters could have a safe place to play near their homes. All new building sites or older sites could be designed to incorporate a practice/play area; an area that is close to home and safe to use.
    What do you think?

  5. Hi John….There are small,caged play areas in Croydon and children play football happily in these facitlities. There is no reason why such amenities could not be placed in all crowded urban areas. Young children would then develop the habit of playing in tight areas of limited space from a young age and in the long term we would benefit.
    Whenever I read autobiographies by prominent players, invariably when they were growing up they played in teams against players a number of years older than them. This seems to have become a rare event now because with the understandable need for safeguarding children, players cannot play more than a year above their age limit. But all the outstanding players down the years played with and against players physically bigger and stronger and benefitted accordingly. An experienced, understanding coach would know when to introduce and when to withdraw a player in such an environment. It is something which I think should have been looked at in the FA Youth Award modules. I was at a club for many years where the Manager knew he had two young players who he confidently expected to become professionals from a very young age. He gave them their first games against a mens’ team at the age of 10. They were Richie Bowman and Mark Penfold who became professionals at Charlton.

  6. Hi Steve. The point you make about playing against older players is important. I believe that by introducing the areas mentioned players of all ages would congregate as they used to in the past and play in a mixed age range. I believe that areas such as described could be a big answer towards our development problems —-modern versions of yesterday’s streets–small, with a multitude of realistic football decisions in a ‘look after yourself’, physical setting. Magnificent !!!!!
    Once again, positive thinking about the game and how to overcome the problems involving development are being discussed outside of our football HQ — the FA. When are they going to look beyond their own ‘backgarden’ and start to consider the experience and creativity of those who have real concern with the downward spiral our game has been in for a very long time. We’re all waiting for the call; for a turnaround in playing quality is needed and can be/must be given priority status in future discussions on development.
    The Govt. expected the involvement in Sports’ to increase after the Olympics; it hasn’t happened. More close to home. basic amenities are the answer. I believe we have the talent in football but that talent spends insufficient time with a football. More thought should be given to small but numerous playing areas than spending millions on spaces that are limited in number, costly to build and expensive to maintain, plus highly-priced for users.———- Let’s get down to basics and produce areas that do the job required — practice/playing for lots and lots of hours.

  7. Hi all. Sorry if I seem to be ‘hogging’ the replies but I am extremely interested on the subject of junior development as you are all probably well aware of by now.
    I watched the TV this morning and saw the huge ‘ hullabaloo’ with Sky Sports on the 2015/2016 Premier League season. There was a program to launch the coming season at the Premier League’s new multi-million pound centre at Southfields in South London. A great looking facility but will it get young players there in large numbers and will they get there for long periods of time throughout their development years — and equally important, will they be allowed to learn the game without being ‘chalnelled’ down the ‘sameness’ coaching route we see so often.
    Once again, as with St, George’s at Burton, our football hierarchy have failed to use vast sums of money on facilities that are fit for purpose. Kids need close, immediate and free playing areas to make regular contact with a ball and to play the game in small groups so that touches and realistic decisions are made continuously.

  8. Hi John…Yes, imagination and creativity are required to get our young player development back on track. The kind of imagination which i have read is being used in a number of countries, notably Argentina. As with all urban developments, they have suffered from a lack of space at ground level to build the necessary facilities. So they have put small football pitches on the top of high rise blocks of flats and other tall buildings. The development of talent through playing football in tight , space-restricted areas therefore continues, even when the space for pitches is ever decreasing, by using a little imaginative thought.
    The cost of these pitches, together with the caged areas on housing estates etc, is miniscule compared to the millions splashed out on St. George’s Park. There are, admittedly, more and more all-weather, all-purpose 3G pitches being laid in many parts of the country. This is good but, from what I have seen, there is a lack of ‘tightness’ in the area size of these synthetic pitches, compared to what you get in the cages, which we badly need to get our young players adept at playing in tight, congested areas.

  9. Hi all.The ever-increasing amount of foreign players into our game weakens it year by year. Spaces that should be taken by ‘home-bred’ players are becoming less and less available.
    The Premier League, have little interest or concern for English football, their eyes are fixed on revenue. There is no doubt that the PL is a financial success, but within this success lies football disaster for the English game. Why, with their executive power over our game, can’t they find better ways of developing and introducing ‘home-bred’ players into our game. Why can’t our senior teams have ‘nurseries’ with their young players playing for lower league clubs that they have bought. This would give our young players the chance to play regular first-team football under the control of their parent club and not under the present loan scheme.
    Ideas – there must be many football lovers out there who have ideas on how to overcome our development problems. Let’s read them, for our game is in dire need of honest and constructive thought and discussion,

  10. In my area of Croydon we do have these small caged areas on estates and in a few parks and the local professional clubs community department has used football as a means of social inclusion for the many problems the community has had. Where there have been gang and youth offending problems football has been used as a tool to diffuse tensions. my son and daughter have both benefited from this initiative with playing lots of uninterrupted football from 1 to 3 nights a week in their early years. Over these last 8 years i have watched as the kids have appeared with their various academy training gear advertising the professional clubs which they were at and at one point would get to watch wilfred Zaha on friday nights playing in these incredible games they would make up. A lot of the games would encourage extreme individualism and the ability to beat multiple opponents and some of the skill i witnessed you would not see in professional games on a saturday in england. i would watch boys emulate their idols ronaldinho, henry, messi, ronaldo, neymar and suarez you could hear them shout out there names as their moment of flair leaves someone nutmegged or bamboozled playing with freedom and no fear of failure, disapproval or reprimanding. These rough diamonds need to be made to shine not made ordinary and i remember standing next to an academy coach watching Zaha on a friday night in the local park being disapproving of his individualism. Lots of what i saw and see would be discouraged in academies but this ability is out there. Street football tournaments played in these cages could be a way of offering a different type of football development than most are used to much like they do in Holland and in fact Crystal palace community department do put on regular tounaments with small sided games on astro turf or 3G.
    my daughter has learnt to play football from these community sessions and practices her individualism with her mates there and tones it right down when she goes to her centre of excellance coached training sessions. but these street football sessions are where she has developed her skill not in the centre of excellance organised coached sessions!!!

  11. Hi Rabbiewizz. Thanks for your reply. What you have said should go on all over this country. The individualism is there as you say but it is curtailed by both coaching and involvement in over-competition in leagues etc. where winning becomes more important than learning.
    Parents should be better informed about junior development and not just be merely ‘lookers on’. Local councillors and MP’s should be contacted for much more discussion followed by action in providing hundreds of all-year-round, small, free sites as mentioned in the ‘blog’ for children to use.
    It’s up to our football authorities to then provide better coaching methods for those youngsters who progress up the ‘football ladder’— but that’s another problem still to be thought through !

  12. When West Ham started their pre-season matches with the early rounds of the Europa League qualifying matches at the beginning of July, they used players drawn largely from the youth team and development squad. Many of the senior players had only recently started training due to international commitments and extended holidays etc and new signings had only just been made and not yet in training.
    As the month went by and West Ham progressed through three rounds of the competition more senior players gradually made their way into the team and less was seen of the young players, several of whom had aquitted themselves well. West Ham also entered the transfer market and signed a number of players from abroad. So we get another instance of avenues for young players to make progress into the first team being blocked. Oxford and Burke were two young players who got into the first team towards the end of last season and played well. They continued to show promise in the early pre-season matches but now they could well find themselves back in the development sides because of the influx of new foreign signings.
    This blockage of avenues into the first team must be addressed urgently and the only way is for the Head Coach/Manager to be given a minimum 5 year contract when he is appointed which must be honoured. They must be put into a position where proper development work in the club is being performed and they must be given sufficient time for those young players to establish themselves in the first team.
    When Ron Greenwood became West Ham’s manager in 1961 he inherited an exceptionally talented batch of young players in the youth team. He knew that they were West Ham’s future and that they had the ability to achieve great things, so he was clear where he was heading from day one. With just one or two exceptional signings, like Johnny Byrne and Jim Standen, he gradually promoted a large percentage of those young players into the first team so that four years later West Ham had their finest hour with their European Cup Winners’ Cup success at Wembley. Most of the team had been youth team players at Upton Park when Ron Greenwood first arrived.

  13. Hi Steve. The real reason our young players are not being given more first team experience is that the vast majority are not good enough. Any club would prefer to use a player from their own Academy — it’s cheaper and players would have a long-term association with the club’ and should several players make the grade there is an immediate team bonding.
    We are not producing players who have ability, attitude and desire. There is a famous saying that applies to any sport or occupation; it is ‘ Poverty produces players’. The desire to improve is not as obvious in our young players as in the past. In combination with this is the poor development work and playing infrastructure that our youngsters experience.
    The FA have lost control over the running of the game, this control now stands with the Premier League who’s main concern is increasing the power and wealth of the Premier League.
    I believe our national sport is in crisis; money, greed, selfishness etc. are all negative influences on the game. TV, the Press and all areas of the Media fail to provide satisfactory reporting on the game—mediocrity is now too often called great and the importance of viewing figures stands above the importance of playing quality.

    • watching the transfer window has left me very worried !!!
      I can only see a greater influx of foreign talent as more money pours into the premier league our game is in a sorry state that will impact detrimentally on English players. So unless the boys in academies are lucky enough to be at a club that has all the boxes ticked in player development then as you say they aren’t and wont be good enough through very little fault of there own. I have observed training sessions at 3 premier league academies where the coaching content is excellent and continental methods of player development have been embraced and put to good intelligent use good players are being produced and we will see some of these boys playing. But I’ve also seen coaching at a lower league club with cat 2 status and there is insufficient technical detail being embedded in the players and these boys will be only equipped to play lower levels of football even though they have ability that could be developed to a high level if given the write development programme.
      I have friends who are coaches who truly love the game and are students of it dedicated to making themselves better studying all they can and they are treated abysmally volunteering for up to two years for only minimal expenses and for me they are taken advantage of because of their love and desire to get into the game. While at the top incredible amounts of money are sloshing around.

  14. Hi John….. I agree there are not many young English players who are good enough to claim a place in their clubs’ first team in the Premier League at this present time. Maybe I over-rated the young West Ham players, Oxford and Burke, who I previously suggested were in danger of finding their pathways to the first team blocked by more foreign signings. But Chelsea have been very prominent in youth football competitions during the last few years and they have a number of English boys in their youth squads. Solanki and Loftus-Cheek have been given brief opportunities in the first team but I understand that they have now been sent off to the Dutch club,Vitesse, to gain playing experience in a senior league less intense than the Premier League. In theory this is a good idea, but it seems that many young English players who are put through this scheme are never heard of again and disappear off the radar.
    Abramovic has been saying for some time now that he wants to see home-grown players coming through into the first team. Therefore he has to give Mourinho the time to build a team with that kind of image and Mourinho has to agree to approach the job now with the emphasis on development. I have said before that scrapping the old style reserve teams, where promising youngsters played alongside experienced senior players who helped them through the game, was a big mistake. In Chelsea’s case I would have thought that John Terry, who must be coming towards the end of his first team days at the club, would be good at performing a player-coach role in the reserves, combining encouragement with instruction during the game.
    Hi Robbiewizz……I am interested to read your observations of the coaching you observed in Premier League academies and those in a lower category. It should make no difference to the technical content of the coaching whether the work is being done at Chelsea and Man Utd or at Hartlepool and Torquay. The coaching should follow the same lines and approach with the best technical content. I get the impression that clubs are being left to their own wishes and preferences in terms of the coaching they provide. There must be a consistency in the type of coaching and the methodology. This is why it would be of so much benefit if the Premier Skills approach was adopted throughout the country and used as the methodology at all levels.

  15. Hi all. I read that Chelsea’s owner is somewhat concerned with the lack of Academy talent reaching first-team football. Even highly talented youngsters from abroad who have joined their Academy have failed to make an impact. So much money has been spent on development with very little success being achieved……I wonder why? It couldn’t be that development methods in this country are not good enough and eyes are starting to open as to the poor number of players that it has produced? It’s about time that the scale of the development problem is starting to be recognised…….we’ve tried to focus attention on the problem of poor player development over and over again in numerous ‘blogs’ ….. Perhaps we’ve made a positive impact and there might be changes made…….but don’t hold your breathe !!

  16. Last night I attended an FA CPD coaching event in Kent. The senior coach from the FA worked exclusively on work from Levels 1 and 2 of Premier Skills. So perhaps the FA have finally seen the enormous value of the methodology?
    Unfortunately there were some rather important errors in the coaching presentation. Insufficient attention was paid to the importance of the work being performed in as tight an area as possible as the players progressed in order develop tight turns and the appreciation of turning away from congestion into space. There was no mention of ‘talking’ the work, which I think is of great benefit to very young players who, in my experience, are quite happy to do it and it definitely embeds the work in their minds.
    Anyway, at last the FA are taking a serious view of the Practice/Play Scheme and we must wait and see if this is now included in their official work plan.

    • Hi Steve. It’ a strange old world — the world of football. The FA use ones ideas but ‘eyebrows are raised’ when ones name is suggested as an educator for them.
      I have ALL the the work programs of Practice/Playing — from junior to senior levels. The inclusion of bits and pieces of the methodology in the FA’s coaching system shows their lack of understanding with regards to progressive continuity in coaching and development and how the work must be presented through the different levels.
      My cricticism of our national development methods over the years I believe are fully justified with the history of failure at all age levels this country has had. I created Premier Skills Coahing Methodology from my experience as a player and coach, first. establishing a playing vision to which I could assemble a progressive practical coaching structure.
      A major fault in the FA’s approach is their lack of a suitable playing infrastructure.— you can’t practice something and play something different ! The combination of ‘practice with playing’ from the earliest years is a vital part of the learning process and Premier Skills incorporates this progressive playing structure through each level.

  17. Hi John.

    I agree with your blog. As a football parent clubs should be looking to educate me to help my children. Instead, they see us parents as an inconvenience they have to put up with.
    I know of some professional academies where some training sessions and matches parents are excluded from.
    The argument for this is that parents are seen as a distraction and a hindrance to children expressing themselves. I wouldn’t mind but some of these pro clubs should be looking at their own coaching methods first, rather than ‘lets blame the parents’ attitude some seem to have.

    As for children learning to play out of tight places. I know of one top 4 PL club a few years ago that would always play their academy games on the largest pitches they could. With their stronger and athletic players it gave them the best chance of winning games. As I said, it was a few years ago and it might not be the case now.

    Oh and as West Ham fan it was fantastic to see Reece Oxford make such an assured debut against Arsenal at just 16 years old.

  18. Hi Tony….
    I agree entirely with what you say about the way clubs, at all levels, treat parents. They are vital in the development process because, as the Premier Skills ethos says, “parents are the first coach.” They obviously have far greater access to the players whilst the coach comes into contact for merely 1 – 2 hours of training with their child each week plus 1 – 2 hours game time at the weekend. It is vital that they are aware of what the coach is working on at training so that they can speak positively and constructively with their child regarding how he/she has performed in a match. The parent also needs some insight to assist when the coach sets ‘football homework’, so that the parent is then in a position to correct flaws and weaknesses in technique away from the club environment.
    In the last few years I have watched John Cartwright put on invitational sessions at the academies of Crystal Palace and Birmingham City and each time the first thing he did was to get all the parents, relations, guardians etc up close to the training area so that they could all clearly see and hear the work that was being performed. It was clear from the responses i overhead that this was not an innovation either set of parents were used to.
    I share your enthusiasm for the performance of young Reece Oxford for West Ham against Arsenal on Sunday. This was a brave decision by Slavan Bilic to put the youngster in against a top team like the Gunners and he was rewarded for his bravery with both the performance and the result. Let’s hope that this is a road that the new Hammers manager will continue to go down.

  19. Just to add to the observations which I made a few days ago concerning the FA CPD event earlier this week in Kent, which was taken from Premier Skills Levels 1 and 2 work.
    It was good to see this work being rolled out to grassroots coaches through the CPD channel, but I felt that certain key messages did not come through. The gates in the initial practice on Level 1 were not used properly. The players were allowed to go through them with the ball, regardless of whether another player was already there. The key, of course, is that you can only go through a gate when it is open with no other player present. If it is already occupied then the player must turn away into space, stay on the ball and look for another gate which is open. This then leads to coaching the players to play with their eyes up, as they move about the area with their ball. Omitting this factor does not cure the common English fault of forcing the ball and non-recognition of space, which the Premier Skills methodology addresses from day one.

  20. A VERY BRIEF OPEN LETTER TO THE FA

    When John says ‘ The FA use ones ideas but ‘eyebrows are raised’ when ones name is suggested as an educator for them,’ do you not remember when he prominantly coached \with the illuminaries Ron Greenwood, Bobby Robson, Terry Venables, Dave Sexton,Don Howe et al… on your ’Soccer Tactics and Skills‘

  21. Hi Brazil94….
    The coaches you list, together with others such as John Cartwright, were from an era when a coach was a teacher and strove to improve and teach his players. It seems that in many cases now the coach is a tactician, first and foremost, and fits his players together like a jigsaw until he hits on the right combination. He thinks only of the next match and getting points on the board and so the policy is one of short termism. So we have the case of a Manager/Coach who seems to be creating turbulence in his club so that the owner will be provoked into providing the vast funds required to get in the players who he, the coach, thinks are necessary to plug the weaknesses. Does this coach not consider that it is his job to educate/coach the existing group in order to solve the present problems?

  22. Hi all. It seems to me that present day coaches and managers are devoid of the ability to see alternative potential in players to convert them from their normal roles to an alternative position and role. I have seen many players who I believe get ‘fixed’ to a playing position but have the ability to do much better converting into a different one. The transfer of players between clubs to fill gaps is endless, but by moving certain players into alternative playing positions would reduce the cost of transfer fees and possibly improve the team at the same time.

  23. Hi John….I seem to remember that in the late sixties, when Man City went on their great run of success, domestically and in Europe, under the Mercer/Allison tandem, a number of their players were switched positionally to great effect. Mike Summerbee was a central striker but was moved out to the right wing, from where he frequently beat full backs on the outside to either deliver dangerous crosses or ‘pull backs’ from the byline and also cut inside to exploit his pace and goalscoring ability. Francis Lee had been a winger in his earlier career at Bolton but more often was given a central role at City. Glyn Pardoe was a classy left back but had been switched there from either a midfield or forward role. Also, I recall Colin Bell, some years later, being switched from his attacking midfield role to sweeper when urgent action was required to stop the leaking of goals.
    Also in that era, a young left winger at Leeds, Terry Cooper, had no chance in getting the number 11 shirt off the brilliant Eddie Gray. But when he was switched to left back he was one of the most dangerous attacking full backs in the country and won many England caps.
    One of the best switches in position that I can recall was that of Arsenal’s Ray Kennedy. When the Gunners won the League and Cup double in 1970/71 he played up front with John Radford. Shortly afterwards, Liverpool took him north after a transfer and immediately played him in left midfield. He continued to be a regular scorer, but also set up even more goals for his team mates. He played in that position for Liverpool for many years and also for England.

    • Hi Steve. It seems to me that young players get ‘tarred by the same poitional brush’ and remain ‘fixed’ to a position and role. There does not seem to be much experimenting within all levels of our game.

  24. Hi all. I see on ‘Twitter’ from New Zealand that they believe ‘kids should be allowed to be kids when involved with sports’. God, how long as it taken them to realise this? The clever edge to coaching and development is …….. allowing kids to learn without ‘bad habits’ becoming attached.
    Premier Skills, is all about realistic, practical learning in which players can ‘find’ suitable answers to the questions the game asks. Good decision-making is vital throughout life –likewise throughout the learning and playing of sports.
    The big problem in both life and in sport is——a lack of good teaching whether it be in the home, class-room or play area.

  25. I notice that many coaches these days always have a stop watch with them when they take training. All activities which they put on are meticulously timed. But how can you time an exercise in terms of the players’ understanding? Some players may grasp the idea in 10 minutes; with others it may take 2 hours. Or the quality required may be there in 10 minutes, or it may take 2 hours. Perhaps the stop watches are primarily used for sprint sessions, but I have had the impression that some coaches time all their coaching work as well and everything must fit into a time slot.
    Down the years, all the good coaches who I have come into contact with, have made it clear to the players that a certain standard is demanded, in training as well as match play, and training will continue until that standard is reached. You can’t put a time frame on that and so I am a little concerned about the increasing use of stop watches in all forms of training and preparation.

  26. Hi Steve. i agree with your questioning the use of a time-piece by coaches.Perhaps they have so little to say they need to ‘time themselves out’! From the lack of football detail observable from our young and senior players it seems inadequate time has been spent on the grass learning their trade. As you mention, the clock is probably for fitness sessions —- our players can run all day — but where’s the playing quality and game understanding? Fitness has become a ‘camouflage’ for playing mediocrity — all fight and no football is generally the result.

  27. Pele turns 75 in September and to celebrate the event there is to be an exhibition of art inspired by the Brazilian at a gallery in London.
    The great man has been speaking in simple and yet profound words which are worth noting –
    “I always say the biggest family in the world is the family of football. You don’t need to speak any language – in Africa, Asia and Europe, we all understand it. Football has changed a lot since I was playing – the money in the game, the publicity – but the capacity for good players hasn’t changed. If you are good now, you would have been good then. Today the youngsters are much more prepared for it because they have the information and the agents, so it’s easier for them. Before, we didn’t have this facility or support, but it’s the same as any good musician or singer. If he’s good, he’ll always be good. Frank Sinatra was fantastic, and if he sang now he would still be fantastic.”
    These words were recorded in the Daily Telegraph by an arts critic who interviewed Pele as a preview to the exhibition. Football seems to be divided into two sections – those who believe it to be an art and those who consider it to be a science. I think that it is both, but the coaches and tacticians in the game must always remember that the game’s worldwide popularity grew from the fact that in the earliest days it was always an art.
    At the present time there are many coaches who work in minute detail in preparing a team’s tactics. But are there as many coaches, even worldwide, who are working as hard at teaching the young player how to actually play the game, with the social and structural developments in so many countries providing that natural learning environment to a ever decreasing degree?
    As Pele says….”if he’s good, he’ll always be good.”

    • Hi Steve. In reply to your last senrtence; perhaps abroad there are some countries who spend time teaching the game, but here the general football target is not teaching or learning —- it’s winning! Football detail goes out of the window and a rush of ‘cold air’ — results — fills the space.
      The thousands of hours of practice in the past have not been replaced and since then this loss of football detail throughout the development years has seen a gradual reduction in home-bred players of quality.

  28. “The thousands of hours of practice in the past have not been replaced and since then this loss of football detail throughout the development years has seen a gradual reduction in home-bred players of quality.”

    Britsh kids don’t play enough in the primary years and it shows by the teens when overseas players appear in academies. This is a cultural issue as sports participation isn’t important in the uk psyche.

  29. Hi Dirk….
    When I was a child the only games we played were football and cricket. If I remember correctly, girls played rounders’ and netball. Today there is a far wider choice of sports available to children and young people of both sexes because, in addition to the two traditional ones, there is rugby, hockey, tennis, basketball, cycle racing, golf, all types of athletics, water sports, motor sports, and many more.
    As John Cartwright has emphasised on countless occasions, the key was the hours and hours of unsupervised play that children spent playing the national game of football on streets and waste ground without the necessity for any adult involvement or organisation. Due to environmental social change, that type of ‘free play’ is now rarely seen. The FA has failed to address the problem correctly because their coach education for the hundreds of volunteer coaches/managers in junior football does not fill the gap left by the disappearance of street football. This serious dilemma is now being tackled by the Premier Skills coaching scheme, Practice/Play, but it is difficult to project this to the widest possible audience because of the weight attached to the importance of the FA Coaching qualifications.
    The government only treats sports participation as an important cultural issue when they are canvassing for votes at a General Election. The rest of the time they are unconcerned at the number of sports grounds which are dug up and put in the hands of property developers. The 2012 Olympics was supposed to be a turning point for sports participation in this country, but I understand that the amount of people who now play sport has actually decreased since we staged those Games.
    We are now a country of sports watchers rather than sport participants. The government should investigate this situation because it is abnormal. For many generations, a child played with his friends in the street and developed a love for kicking a ball around. Then he would be taken as a small child to the local football ground by his father or older family member, to see his first match. He would be fascinated and inspired by what he saw and would seek to copy the skills he had seen in his own football games. This added to the enormous value of street football games.
    If the transference is not there from the highest levels of the game to that played by children in their own games then, In these totally different social conditions, the focus must be on the improvement in the type of, and quality of, the coaching which is being given.
    Everyone who goes on a Premier Skills course is being given the tools to affect an improvement. We must get the message out there and influence as many people as possible, but, most importantly, bring back the joy of playing the game to the countless numbers of children who love to kick a ball.

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