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Everything in English football is wrong
13 Oct 2013 12:36:27
In light of recent discussions regarding how to bring the best out of young English talent, I thought I'd give my views. Everything in English football is wrong.
1. The age kids are moved onto full sized pitches/goals. 11 years old usually. Not only does this promote the stronger and faster players, it also promotes the taller keepers/defenders as the goals are so massive. Things like positioning, handling and kicking go out the window, just so long as there's a 6ft 12 year old in the net. The amount of times I saw at youth level a goalkeeper who couldn't even clear his 18 yard box from a goal kick was unbelievable. Back onto the strong and fast thing though, attackers and midfielders only got anywhere by being strong or fast. All through my youth I was about half a foot shorter than everyone. It made it difficult for reasons I'll expand on later (refs). Thankfully I was fast as well as quite good technically, so I got by alright. I still had to quit for a few years at 15/16 due to growth spurt related muscular injuries. But I never stood a chance of bring scouted because I was 5ft2 and 'too weak'. Fully grown I'm now 5ft10, but scouts don't seem to consider that some players are still growing at 16. I, like so many others would never have made it anyway. I was never particularly exceptional, but other players of similar size and style to me who could've made it, no doubt didn't. Technical ability does not matter on a massive pitch at those ages. Its not until you get to adult football when you can see how much it matters. The huge goals and relatively tiny keepers make it too easy for strikers as well. Youth matches regularly end in double figures. The pitch quality is bad too. Slopes, bogs, holes etc. It makes passing football a bit of a no go. So pitches are problem 1.
2. Refs are a major factor. They are much more lenient with things like shirt pulling, obstruction, pushing, and just general fouling. This instantly puts smaller players at a major disadvantage. The way players are allowed to use their body in youth football is unfair. They are soon found out when they find their way into higher levels though because all of a sudden refs are more strict and fouling and cards are re-introduced. Smaller players are bullied off the pitch at grass roots though.
3. The worst in my eyes, coaches. Pretty much every youth team (grass roots level) plays 4-4-2. Its unbelievably out dated in modern football. It's the training they do though. It is heavily dependant on physical aspects of the game, and aerial ability. There is rarely any technical training. Most clubs do a game to kill the last half hour as well. It often sees the team divided fairly in terms of ability and positions players play in. If there has to be a game, surely you want your two first choice strikers together to build up a chemistry? Not on either team to make it fair? Coaching is poor in this country at grass roots.
4. Moving up to more professional side of things, the amount of money in the English game has reduced clubs faith in youngsters. As well as this, media pressure is ridiculous. I care more for the grass roots than this, but its still a major issue. Perhaps a B team in lower divisions would be a good idea as it allows youngsters first team football but out of the spotlight. We would need to see an extra division though as I suspect as you'd be looking at at least another 30 B teams going into the football league in this country. I will refrain from getting involved in this side of the discussion to too much extent, but until we solve grass roots football, it really doesn't matter what we do at higher levels. We need 1) to stick to 7 a side pitches until age 16 2) better trained referee's 3) better trained coaches. Then we can fix problems at the top end.
18 November 2013
This is absolutely spot on. I played at academy level in goal our tactics were kick it to the big kid in central midfield, who played it off to the winger, who put in a cross for either the striker or large centre mid who'd made a run into the box. More often than not these kids were black given their stronger gene pool in speed and strength. The smaller kids would be better at the technical side, finding space, working the triangles etc, but they'd be cut cus they couldn't win an aerial contest as a 5'2 player vs a 5'8 player and get outmuscled. As the academies ages got older, suddenly the physical gifts of the big centre and winger were matched.but it was almost too late too teach these kids any kind of football, as they were determined their size and speed would get them by.
Look at gabby, lennon, walcott etc as prime examples of fast kids who can't hit a bloody barn door with a 20 year ball.
15 October 2013
A good read Adam, as always. I think the point you make about the pitches is one of the most poignant. Playing on smaller pitches would get young players used to having opposition players around them, especially in the midfield areas where we regularly see (for instance) Spain dominating.
Too often we see English players passing backwards and sideways to keep possession, whereas some of our counterparts on the continent tend to wriggle out of challenges and mount attacks from a cheeky bit of skill or an intelligent turn.
By promoting smaller pitches we would surely be priming our young players to handle the situation of being surrounded by the opposition in the midfield 'battle' area of the pitch, and in turn the youngsters would build confidence and postional sense. This would also raise the players awareness, as they would constantly be watching over their shoulder when the ball is played to them knowing a challenge is imminent.
Keep the blogs coming my man,
13 October 2013
Agree with lots of this. I had a decent level of skill but was the smallest in my class at the age of sixteen. By 18 I was the tallest and by 22 strong physically
I'm not suggesting I was good enough. But I'm certain other decent players fell by the wayside due to casting aside skillful players who could be physically pushed aside at that age
13 October 2013
You learn nothing from training drills. They are just a waste of time. All the good skillful footballers have the skill because they have been practicing day and night in their garden or with their friends at the park or at school.
This is where I think football is going wrong in England. The main purpose of coaching should be to teach tactical awareness etc to players who already have ability. This ability will only come if players are practicing without coaches watching them and telling them what to do, and this also improves their individual flair.
When I was a kid I was from an area where kids just played football all day. We didnt care if it was grass or concrete. Almost all the players that I played with had a high level of technical ability and also knew a lot of tricks to help them go past defenders. This is why it annoys me when people say that England doesn't have these type of players. We do, they just aren't ever spotted by scouts because the scouts look for other things.
What we should change in this country is the age at which kids stop playing on the streets and start playing properly in teams. Also coaches at youth level should not care about the results of matches and should care more about how much the players are improving.