Greg Dyke’s damning assessment of the crisis facing English football raised numerous issues last week.
Targets were made and passionate pleas heard. The problem, we were told, is “very serious” and the tanker that is English football needed turning.
So where do the real problems lie? And what are we doing on a local level to ensure a bright future for football?
Enthusiasm for the game is obvious in Eastbourne. With three prominent senior teams in a relatively small town,it is indicative of England’s passion for the beloved national sport.
It is, however, plain to see that as a country, we have fallen behind our rivals, something highlighted by a long list of poor performances at international competition and scathing indictments of our players lack of technical ability.
Dyke cited the ever-increasing foreign influence in the Premier League as the main reason for this, but is it really that simple? Perhaps the problem runs a little deeper.
After all, while the number of foreign players plying their trade in the Premier League might be at an all-time-high, it is not a new thing and if you look back to the 1970’s and 80’s, when top-flight teams consisted of mainly home-grown players, the England side was in a far worse state than it is now.
It is inconceivable to think that England wouldn’t qualify for two World Cups in a row, which is exactly what happened in 1974 and 1978, when top-flight teams were filled with English players.
So what if we look a little closer to home?
In fact, it might not be all doom and gloom. Positive measures are in place right on our doorstep.
The Eastbourne Borough academy, funded by the government, was set up in the summer, providing young footballers with the chance to concentrate on football while continuing their education.
They focus firmly on increasing technique and bleeding youth into the first-team and even at it’s infant stage, the academy has started to bear fruit with three of it’s members, Ryan Worrell, Dan Hutchins and Tom Underwood all appearing on the bench for the first-team.
What is perhaps more alarming is the obstacles that coaches face.
In order for our younger players to improve they need access to qualified coaches and given the amount of money it costs for somebody to became qualified there is a real lack, not only in Sussex, but in England as a whole, something echoed by Eastbourne Borough Academy manager Jay Lovett.
“People simply can’t afford it. Some have to travel abroad where it is almost half the price to do their coaching badges.
“There are a lot of guys that haven’t played football at a high level, who can’t afford to pay for it or take time off work that often get overlooked when, actually, they are better coaches than the guys who can afford it.”
That aside, Lovett is encouraged by an evident change in the coaching mentality.
English football has long been plagued with a culture that puts emphasis on size and physique, over technical ability but he believes this is changing rapidly.
“In the past coaching has been stuck with the old mentality of English football but it’s changing.
“Obviously it is going to take time to see the benefits but I can definitely see a change.”
That change in emphasis provides encouragement but if it is to be realised then more people need to be given the opportunity to become qualified coaches.
There is a clear desire there but the last official report outlining the number of qualified coaches shows that there is only 2,769 English coaches hold the Uefa B, A or pro-licence.
Compare that with 23,995 in Spain, 34,970 in Germany and 29,420 in Italy and you might conclude that there lies the real problem.
GReg Dyke: FA does not control player development
FA chairman Greg Dyke seems to be on a collision course with the Premier League.
In what looked like an attack on Premier League club’s policy of recruiting foreign players, he said, “In future it’s possible we won’t have enough players qualified to play for England who are regularly playing at the highest level in this country.
In the 1990’s the FA run Lilleshall academy, previously tasked with developing young English talent, was closed and responsibility delegated to clubs.
Dyke said, “There’s been a huge investment but as yet nobody can say the game is seeing a strong return on that. The FA doesn’t control player development, the clubs do.”
The money being pumped into academies such as Eastbourne’s seems to be a step in the right direction and he acknowledged that a change in playing style was needed and admitted that players need access to the best coaches, pointing towards the recently opened St Georges Park as a positive.
“We have to get our development teams playing the right way.
“We need to ensure that our clubs feel their young players are going away to learn and develop from the best coaches when they are part of the England set up. In St Georges Park we have the most fantastic of facilities.”
Costly UEFA LICENCES:
The UEFA licences are the most comprehensive and recognised coaching qualifications in the game.
The first step is the B licence which takes around 16 days and costs £905.00. The A licence can be taken after that at a cost of £5,750, after which the next level is the pro-licence. This enables a coach to operate at the highest level , the course lasts 18 months and will cost a staggering £8,500.
So maybe this is why we aren’t producing coaches?A hefty financial outlay, the time taken off work and no guarantee of employment afterwards would be enough to put off any aspiring coach.
UEFA stats reveal England have just one coach for every 812 registered players. And there is a clear relationship between the number of coaches and success. France, Spain, Germany and Italy, who are responsible for a the majority of qualified coaches in world football have produced eight of the last 12 finalists in all World Cups and European Championships since 1998 .
VIEWS ON Youth coaching:
EASTBOURNE BOROUGH ACADEMY BOSS Jay LOvett - EMPHASIS IS ON KEEPING THE BALL AND MOVING IT
“I think youth football is in better shape now.
We have some very good players here and I think it’s taken more seriously. Lots of teams now have an academy and compared to last year there are 15 more teams in the National Conference Youth Alliance League.”
“We have very good coaches in this country but the problem is it costs a lot of money to get qualified when it’s cheaper abroad.
“I’ve travelled in Sweden, Denmark and coached in Vietnam and there are differences in how they do things. They speak fewer words and work on the technical side more. The emphasis is on keeping the ball and moving it quickly.”
EASTBOURNE UNITED BOSS - SiMON ROWLAND
“There is a real lack of consistency in coaching throughout grass roots football. The FA need to restructure so you have the best young players playing with each other. Technically we’re so far behind in comparison with other countries. In Spain they take all the best young players and put them in a competitive league. In the UK it’s very much football for fun. There’s nothing wrong with that but when people start asking why we’re not achieving you have to address it.
“It costs a ridiculous amount to become a coach and there needs to be a process in place where people can become coaches, at the moment, it‘s not channelled properly.”
FIRST TOUCH ACADEMY BOSS - TOBI HUTCHINSON
“The standard of coaching is getting better and things are slowly improving - and it had to. The wheels are in motion but it will take time. I certainly don’t think we will be winning World Cups anytime soon.
“One of the key things for me is quality coaching for the youngsters and where they go to get this. To take all the badges is expensive and there is no career path at the end of it.
“Coaching has to be looked at as a viable career. There simply are not enough qualified coaches and the ones that are have to juggle earning a living and time coaching.
“Each town, such as Eastbourne, should have a centre where there are qualified coaches. They should be paid full-time coaches and they should work with the local schools and clubs to pass on their expertise.
“The coaches can then be in a position to coach the coaches and the teachers to make sure they are passing on the right messages to the kids.”
EASTBOURNE BOROUGH BOSS TOMMY WIDDRINGTON
The answer to addressing the problem is so vast it’s impossible to sum it up in a simple sentence.
“So much needs to done but I guess you could start with the very basics. Nowadays when you go to the park, you just don’t see the same amount of kids kicking a ball about. There are millions of other distractions for kids these days and football is just one of a number of things they could be doing.
“What I feel is important is that when kids are introduced to the game, they have to play for the enjoyment and to develop their skills. There’s no point putting six, seven or eight year olds in leagues and say you must win.
“That competitive edge will develop as they progress and if they want to play at a decent level then of course you need that. The number of coaches is an issue and it’s very expensive. But it’s what you do as a coach once you have the badges and how you work with the players.”
FIND A LOCAL FOOTBALL CLUB
Eastbourne Borough FC:
Ages: under-6 - under-18
Eastbourne Town Youth
Ages: under-6 to under-18
Eastbourne United FC
Ages: under-8 to under-13
Contact: 01323 726989
Ratton Rangers FC:
Ages: under-8 to under-16n
Sovereign Saints FC
Ages: under-7 to under-17
Contact: 01323 461040
Black Hawks FC
Ages: under-8 to under-16
Contact: 01323 504207
Polegate Grasshoppers FC
Ages: under-7 to under-16
Contact: 01323 832223
Pevensey & Westham FC
Ages: under-6 to under-18