Football

Southgate calls for fresh approach

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FA head of elite development Gareth Southgate has called for sweeping changes at grass-roots level if England are to keep pace with the best teams in the world.

Last year's World Cup demonstrated the gulf in class between England and the likes of eventual winners Spain, with similar failings evident in this summer's European Under-21 Championship, while Manchester United were taught a footballing lesson by Barcelona in the Champions League final in May.

Southgate told the Daily Express: "We must be careful not to become Barcelona-obsessed but if I was a small kid in England, I would look at them and think, 'Do you know what? Small guys can make it'."

Southgate stepped into his role, which focuses on developing English players for the future, in February and feels a sea change is needed.

His plans include limiting games to seven-a-side and nine-a-side on reduced-size pitches at all age groups up to under-12, and also restructuring the season for junior leagues.

The 40-year-old former Middlesbrough defender and manager said: "How often do you see little Jonny getting the ball, trying to take someone on or play a pass out of defence and he loses it and the opponents score? His team-mates point the finger and parents go mad on the touchline.

"So the next time he has the ball he hoofs it down the field out of play and gets a round of applause - daft, isn't it?

"At the moment there is one long league season but we want to split the season into three. Start with friendlies, then a league and a third part where teams of similar strength play each other instead of getting hammered by ones at the top.

"That's not easy for some parents and junior teams, especially those who like winning all the time, (but) everyone has to get on board with it and parents, too, have to realise why it's right."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Topics:
European News
Football
Championship
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Manchester United
Gareth Southgate
Middlesbrough

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