Saturday, 18 December 2010

England oh England

Reminds me of my mate in England around 30 years ago.

Sean Parker . On completing my Business Management degree Sean said, "I was going to go University and do a degree, but my mate /Steve Atkins, Akkers, didn't pick up the form."

Now the same dynamic attitude could keep English football in the "thump long and get it right up at" era.

Unfortunately, the £30 price tag may put a lot of people off buying The Future Game,

You can hear the hordes of Northern tight-arses, "Thirty quid, I ain't buying that - I'd rather me lads thumped it."

And they will!

English football revolution

Anyay here's the latest on the Grassroots "thou is too bloody expensive" Revolution in England.

English football looked to the future at Wembley Stadium last week and, after a year to forget for the national team and FIFA's decision on the 2018 World Cup still hurting, the timing could not have been better.

After two crushing World Cup defeats in just six months, in Bloemfontein and Zurich, English football needs something positive to focus on and, with the launch of The Future Game - Grassroots, Sir Trevor Brooking and his Football Development team hope they have provided just that.

Over 600 grassroots coaches from across the country gathered at Wembley for the launch of the FA's new blueprint on the future of football coaching and the FA showed they meant business by rolling out the big guns: England managers Fabio Capello, Hope Powell, Stuart Pearce, John Peacock (manager of the winning 2010 European Under 17 Championships) and Sir Trevor himself.

The message from the FA, and that underlined in the three-part technical document - which covers a playing and coaching philosophy, theory advice and over 200-age appropriate coaching drills - is clear: if lasting improvements are to be made to the fortunes of the national side, we have to start developing better players from the age of five upwards and, to do this, the involvement of the grassroots game is crucial.

The World Cup this summer put into sharp focus the technical superiority of countries such as Spain and Holland, who treat the ball like a treasured possession rather than a hot potato. But if English teams - or Welsh, Scottish or Irish for that matter - are to develop a national team that is comfortable on the ball, kids need to be encouraged to keep the ball rather than "get rid" at the first sign of pressure.
Sir Trevor Brooking
To be fair to Sir Trevor, it's a drum he's been banging for some time - when I met him in June 2008 the message was very much the same - so it must be of relief to him to see his philosophy on the game finally manifesting itself in physical form and being rolled out right across the game.

"We're being clear that we need a long term investment in developing better players," Brooking told Club Website.

"That's why The Future Game is so important. Everyone will touch the grassroots at some stage, so we have to be working much closer together, particularly at the five to 16 age group."

Age-appropriate coaching is central to the FA's blueprint and is a method that they hope will produce a generation of players who are happy building from the back and "playing through the thirds".

This was the buzz phrase of the day and is the most succinct way of describing the playing philosophy laid out the first part of the Future Game document.

Whilst the 'English way' of playing has traditionally been associated with pace, power and commitment, Brooking hopes that future generations of England internationals will be more associated with their comfort on the ball than their honest endeavour.

"We believe, longer term, in the international game you're going to have to play through the thirds and have 10 proficient players. We'd like everyone to work towards that, particularly in the grassroots."

A superb demonstration on how to do just that was given by John Peacock, using highlights from his European Champion Under 17 team, so it shows that English people can play football the right way, provided the players have the ability and are coached in the right manner.

The FA want this coaching to start from the very bottom with the thousands of volunteer grassroots coaches in England and they hope the Future Game document can help them achieve that.

But might part time coaches be put off by a coaching manual that is the size of a telephone directory? Brooking hopes that this is not the case.
Sir Trevor Brooking

"The FA often gets battered for being prescriptive, but our document is there for people to come and have a look. You take out bits that you think are really good."

Coaches can choose from over 200 detailed coaching drills - broken down by age-group and each focusing on a particular element of the game, with colour diagrams and easy to follow coaching points - or can read advice on creating the right environment for kids to play or the relationship between winning and development.

The document is certainly an impressive piece of work and, whilst it would be impossible to absorb all of the information in a short space of time, it should prove a fantastic reference for the 600 coaches at Wembley that day, along with anyone else who wishes to purchase one from the FA Learning website.

Unfortunately, the £30 price tag may put a lot of people off buying The Future Game, particularly in the current economic climate. This is a shame, particularly when you consider that half of Mr Capello's annual salary could provide a copy of The Future Game to 100,000 coaches across the country. Unfortunately, the economic climate surrounding the FA is not great either.

But this is no time to be negative. The Future Game is about being positive and moving forward and there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic at Wembley last week.

You don't need to sell coaching manuals to sell a philosophy on the game and it is how this philosophy is bought into that is important. The FA have nailed their developmental colours to the mast and it is now up to rest of the English football family to get behind them.

If the enthusiasm of the 600 coaches at Wembley last week is anything to go by, then the FA may just be onto something. I was particularly pleased to see a lot of young coaches there and to hear them talking - as Djamel Kareche did (see below) - of having to "let the kids learn from their mistakes" and saying that kids' football has "got to be fun."

It is this generation of coaches, and those that follow it, that will determine whether or not Sir Trevor Brooking's vision of football in England comes to fruition.

England may not be hosting the 2018 World Cup but, if Brooking's new English philosophy is bought into from the grassroots up, then English football can look to the future with hope.

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