It may seem Orwellian in its premise, and I am not altogether certain as to the legality or practicality of it, but I believe I have thought up the system that would eventually lead to England becoming perennial world beaters in football.
It is a simple system, which would be funded by the FA in its infancy, but would eventually be funded by the very people who are currently destroying the England national team, the Premier League clubs.
For the benefit of this piece, I will use an example whereby the system would be in full swing for the start of the 2015-16 season, and it would work thusly.
From September 2014 until May 2015, trials would be held nationwide, in order to discover the 22 best or most promising 10-11 year old footballers in the country. Those 22 would be made up of two goalkeepers and 20 outfield players, who would then begin their schooling at “FA College” in September 2015.
“FA College” would in theory follow the same pattern as all secondary schools around the country, and the aim would be to educate the chosen 22 in football but also academically and philosophically from the age of 11 through to 18. That way, if they are ultimately unsuccessful in their football careers, they would still have an education to fall back on.
To begin with, there would only be the original 22 who would form the “first year”. The following year however, the whole system would start again with nationwide trials for 10-11 year-olds, and the original 22 would become the “second year” students, and the second group of 22 would become the “first year” and so on and so forth.
Eventually, the original 22 would be 18 year-olds in the Upper Sixth, and there will be six further age groups, each containing 22 students (two goalkeepers and 20 outfield players) beneath them.
Whilst at FA College, from the age of 11 to 16, the students will have to study nine subjects, and will be taught by fully qualified, top rate teachers. End of year exams will be taken. From the ages of 16-18 the number of subjects studied would drop to three subjects and the focus on football would increase.
The students would have to study the following subjects; English (so as to express themselves eloquently and coherently in future), Maths/Economics (prepare them to handle their finances in future), (football) History (an understanding of legacies that have gone before them).
Then there would be Sports Psychology (understand the psyche and mental fortitude of champions in all sports), Philosophy & Ethics (teach them correct behaviour), Art (to encourage creativity and imagination), Music (to develop rhythm and movement), and finally a choice of two languages from Spanish, French, Italian or German (to prepare them for potential moves abroad, but also instil the discipline required to learn another language).
The rest of the time would be spent on the usual football drills, with a focus on technique and ball retention above everything else, and throughout the year, friendly matches would be played against the youth teams of professional clubs or countries where possible.
From the age of 11 to 16, the outfield players would be played in as many different positions as possible so as to get an appreciation for what is required to play in different positions prior to specialising in a position of their own.
They would study the different tactics and formations employed by teams and players of today but also from the past, instilling in them a tactical awareness and understanding that is so lacking in many players in England.
Eventually, the aim would be for the 22 players to represent England at the relevant UEFA and FIFA age group tournaments without the interference of club sides and agents.
After representing England at u19 level, the students will be offered for purchase to club sides. The fee in it’s entirety would go to FA College in order to fund the college system and ensure that every year a group of 22 players comes through.
If the system was successful, and enough money was available, then further colleges could be created and the nation could be split into North, South, East and West regions, each containing their own group of 22, from which a final 22 would be chosen to represent England at the age group tournaments.
The way forward?
This system would teach the players a football philosophy and style that they would take with them throughout their entire professional careers. It would ensure that they receive a decent education, wherein they are taught about the history of the game and its players, and the psychology of champions.
This in turn would create individuals who would understand what it takes to be a champion and a role model. They would be kept away from the trappings of fame and fortune that come too quickly and too readily into the lives of young professional players these days.
It would also keep them away from agents and club sides who would seek to exploit them as quickly as possible for their own gain.