Here we are again another World Cup exit, another dismal display, and another four year to wait until this process is repeated. For England fans of this generation we know no different. Every tournament comes along and we are fulfilled with hope and joy but it always seems to end prematurely. Then the aftermath occurs.
Fans give their two cents about how we should play, I’ve heard everything from “Lets follow the Germans”, to “We need to take a leaf out of Spain’s book.” From this tournament so far we can see the Germans are efficient as ever but the reigning champions got Spain knocked out just like us.
Does this mean ‘Tiki-Taka’ is dead? No, it just highlights that a diversity of tactics and cultures can win football competitions. When we mention certain nations a style comes to mind, like Brazil. However, when we mention England our minds draw a blank, we do not have a style, we do not have an identity. Hodgson is trying to change that with his 4-2-3-1 formation and pacey wingers, which is why I believe sticking with him is the correct decision for the foreseeable future.
The main sticking point where I disagree with the consensus is that the overused statement “It needs to change at grassroots level” is the only thing said. No one seems to know how to change it at grassroots level. Some stated we need more coaches at grassroots which is all well and good but where does the money come from?
Right now the F.A are charging £300 for an adult to take the Level 2 coaching course and nearly £1000 for the UEFA ‘B’ coaching course whereas, the German FA only charge people approximately £345 for a UEFA ‘B’ coaching course. The FA definitely needs to look into reviewing these prices and helping young coaches find work. Furthermore, the number of qualified coaches in England is significantly less than in Germany and Spain. In my opinion more coaches do need to be taught but more full time positions for coaches need to be made available, as many coaches cannot earn an adequate salary for the work they do. The average academy coach will earn £19,000 P/A compared to a college/university coach in America earn upwards of $40,000 P/A.
98% of the 16-18 year olds who sign scholarships are either released or drop out the game by the age of 21 and 96% of the players who reach 18-21 and have signed a professional contract are either released or drop out by the age of 25. This is the sobering statistic that makes me want to change the development of youth football in this country. Young teenagers are meant to make some of the biggest decisions of their lives far too early. A 16 year-old-boy can be asked to give up his dreams of being a footballer because he wants a better education or vice versa. I ponder the question, why can’t he do both?
Many mock the ever-present Americans because of their over-zealous fans and their ‘never say die’ attitude but why don’t we follow suit off the field by offering children of the future in England to be able to play football at a high standard and gain an education. Just recently Stanford graduate Richard Sherman won the Super Bowl to demonstrate that education and sport can go hand in hand.
My idea is for professional clubs in England to link up with local universities where the young players will develop their talents under the guidance of qualified coaches while gaining a vital education so that if they don’t make the grade or a serious injury was to happen then they could profit from this education and hopefully get a full time job in their chosen field. Currently young players earn too much money too young. Just recently 18-year-old England left back Luke Shaw has signed for a reported £30 million on a five year deal worth a reported £100,00-per-week. Shaw is a great upcoming English footballer but at 18 year's old earning that amount of money is idiotic. I also feel motivation can be lost and his development could be hindered by earning too much too young.
These universities already have highly advanced facilities and they would play in a organized league which the F.A could oversee. Many people believe this system to have flaws. One argument is would the players be paid? The simple answer is yes. They would get a basic apprentice wage while the club pays for their fees at the university. This way every player in that age bracket would earn the same and that financial power cannot be used to lure players.
Another question I have been asked is can players play for the first team? Yes, they can play for the first team but the main idea for this plan is that players can develop mentally, physically, technically and tactically while not being rushed. A huge advantage of this system is seeing players develop later rather than earlier. Many academies would rather a sign a bigger more developed 13-year-old than a undeveloped 13-year-old because he is not as quick or as strong as the other player. This system would allow for the development of all aspects of a players game.
Finally, I believe this can be very cost effective and benefit English football and the English economy. With no high wages for these players clubs will save money, it would also teach the individual to strive to be better.
A number of occasions a young player may earn a slightly large contract at a young age and then never progress. Also, many of these players will leave university with a degree that could help them if they don’t go on to play professionally or after they have finished playing the game. A footballers career can be very short so have a plan for what you would like to do after benefits everyone. There may still be a few kinks to iron out but this system has been tried and tested in a country where they produce phenomenal athletes and some of the brightest people in the world.
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