Sam Allardyce claims English football is suffering because children are not playing enough sport at school.

West Ham's former Bolton and Blackburn manager believes the professional game has been "undermined" by decisions made during the Margaret Thatcher-led Conservative government.

Allardyce said in The Sun: "Since Margaret Thatcher stopped teachers being paid extra money for coaching sports after school, all sporting activities have diminished on a competitive basis."

He added: "Thatcher killed football, no doubt about it."

The consequence, according to Allardyce, is "a lesser quality of players" and "unhealthy" youngsters, with clubs spurred to sign up children at increasingly young ages to ensure they have opportunities to participate in sport.

"This was a working class game but it's only at private schools where the children get the sports opportunities I had - and even then a lot of them don't play football, it's mainly rugby," Allardyce said.

"Despite putting in place all sorts of advanced academy systems at clubs we are only producing half the players the school system used to.

"Our [West Ham] youth trainer, Tony Carr, is fighting to find the next Ferdinands and Lampards with one hand tied behind his back."

Allardyce suggests the Football Association's head of elite development, Gareth Southgate, is doing the right thing by encouraging small-scale games for children rather than have them play on full-size pitches.

"But until we wake up and realise how important school sport is to our kids we will never repair the damage," Allardyce said.

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