Fear ye not – salvation is nigh

As Manchester City look to acquire top quality players in the now open summer transfer window, there’s a distinct focus on the need for homegrown talent to meet both Premier League and Champions League quotas & regulations.

In a departure from Read But Never Red’s normal 100% remit to write about MCFC, we have worked in tandem with a respected, but often controversial, football manager and head of youth development, to explore why there aren’t more youngsters coming to the fore in the professional game in England.

The man in question wishes to remain anonymous at this stage, but he shared his thoughts with RBNR and this is the result.

Nervous, edgy, tense, anxious, excitable – footballers, their coaches and managers will tell you there’s nothing wrong with one, or all, of these emotions, as kick-off approaches – it’s called being human.

England expects - the Football Association has invested tens of millions of pounds in St George's Park - but will it help the development of the country's finest footballers?

England expects – the Football Association has invested tens of millions of pounds in St George’s Park – but will it help the development of the country’s finest footballers?

Dryness of the mouth, sweaty palms even a disproportionate number of visits to the ‘Gents’ as the final minutes tick down to the match – everything’s fine, provided such feelings and physical symptoms don’t tip over into a state of fright and inhibition.

If that happens, the game’s up before it’s even begun.

Fear has no place in football and yet it’s been omnipresent in the English game for far too long.

It suffocates the life out of players, numbs their instincts, preventing them from expressing their skills and doing what should come naturally out on the pitch.

At a time when youth development in English football is once again under the microscope, there has to be fundamental change in the mindset of those supposedly leading the way for a brave new England.

England’s snore draw friendly with the Republic of Ireland last Sunday could easily be explained away as a one-off, nothing more than a fitness refresher for more pressing Euro 2016 qualifiers this weekend.

Homegrown talent - Raheem Sterling is an exciting young player and a £30m transfer target for Manchester City this summer.

Homegrown talent – Raheem Sterling is an exciting young player and a £30m transfer target for Manchester City this summer.

The sad reality is it’s a reflection of institutionalised coaching in this country, one that breeds conformity, restrictive rules and a ‘one size fits all’ rhetoric. It’s an approach that has kept England in the doldrums for five decades.

It HAS to change – change that must come from the top – but, perhaps surprisingly, change which is already underway in some of the lower reaches of the English game.

In fairness, the mandarins at the Football Association should be commended for finally delivering England’s new shiny, all singing, all dancing St George’s Park National Football Centre, but it’s so much more than just about facilities.

National focus - St George's Park is the new centre of football excellence for England.

National focus – St George’s Park is the new centre of football excellence for England.

The FA could learn – and learn a lot – from unheralded ‘minions’ such as Ashton United, FC United of Manchester and AFC Fylde.

And before anyone starts scoffing at what might seem an outrageous assertion, here’s why it holds merit.

These non-league entities may lack the glamour, the resources and riches of their professional counterparts, but they also lack a critical impediment…the fear factor.

What they don’t lack is courage – the bravery to encourage and cultivate talent away from the constraints of robotic coaching, where ‘cloning’ from youth to the First XI is the norm, and a ‘Stepford Wives’ conveyor belt approach reigns supreme.

It’s far from rocket science – you’ll find it filed under ‘C’ for commonsense.

Youth development is a pathway of learning – learning how to harness and optimise natural ability, instil tactical awareness and game management skills.

Simply the best - Manchester City's £200m City Football Academy is second to none when it comes to facilities in the football world.

Simply the best – Manchester City’s £200m City Football Academy is second to none when it comes to facilities in the football world.

Inevitably mistakes will be made and setbacks will occur, it’s fundamental to the learning process, but it must be allowed to happen in an environment free from the fear of failure.

The professional game in England is awash with unbridled riches, huge sums of money from lucrative deals with the likes of Sky & BT. The stakes are so high – too high – and failure is not an option.

A fear of failure crushes everything, including youth development, so maybe – just maybe – the powers that be might consider engaging with some non-league academies and accelerating the non-conformist teachings from a ‘bottom up’ direction.

It’s a cheeky pronouncement but surely there’s sweet FA to lose?


Ghostwritten by David Walker


Special Offer…MCFC T-SHIRT & ARTWORK for FATHER’S DAY – June 21st

In collaboration with our friends at Art of Football http://art-of-football.com/collections/all/man-city all Read But Never Red readers can benefit from a 10% discount on MCFC t-shirts and prints.

City win the title - Sergio is mobbed by his team mates on May 13th, 2012.

City win the title – Aguerooooo 93:20 on May 13th, 2012.

City win the title - Sergio is mobbed by his team mates on May 13th, 2012.

Shirt off – Sergio is mobbed by his team mates on May 13th, 2012.

The City collection includes the ‘Agueroooooo, the ‘Last Minute’ that followed the 93:20 goal and the always memorable ‘Why Always Me’ Mario Balotelli moment, as City set about stuffing United 6-1 – ALL ICONIC IMAGES in City’s glorious recent past.

Why Always Me? - Mad Mario's famous 6-1 celebration.

Why Always Me? – Mad Mario’s famous 6-1 celebration.

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By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu




  1. June 13, 2015  4:50 pm by Mark Shaw Reply

    One of the reasons that there are very few youngsters breaking into the first teams of most Premier League teams is mainly down to the FA and Premier League scrapping Reserve League football. They caved when the likes of Reading and Fulham complained that they couldn't afford to run reserve teams anymore and that was the biggest mistake in regard to youth development. Young players now get into the Under 21's and instead of being able to play against seasoned professionals and other top youth players in reserve team football to see if they can cut it and move up to the first team they don't have that option and clubs are very reluctant to give them a shot. The very best thing the FA and Premier League can do for youth development is bring back reserve team football (And with the new TV deal, the cost is not a valid excuse anymore)

    • June 13, 2015  7:45 pm by David Walker Reply

      Good points very well made. Even MCFC, with our wonderful new CFA, find the youngsters lacking when it comes to essential elements like game management and being able to handle the more physical rough and tumble elements. The Under 18s did very well to reach the FA Youth Cup Final, but Chelsea basically 'bullied' them out of contention. Silky skills are one thing, but they have to be combined with the ability to look after yourself. I'd welcome the Return of the Reserves...now showing at a cinema near you ;-)

  2. June 13, 2015  5:29 pm by Mark Reply

    Not going off topic, but what England need, is something similar to what's happened with the cricket team. It's time we changed this " must not lose mentality " with a, let's get at them. And personally I feel the only way to achieve this, is to get better technical coaches in, at every level. Whilst watching England's ladies against France, it amazed me how negative they were. And for me that's the fundamental problem with our game at international level. Hope that makes sense

    • June 13, 2015  7:47 pm by David Walker Reply

      Makes perfect sense Mark but...shock horror...Woys Boys actually entertaining us? I think you need to increase your medication ;-) Watching England is like watching paint dry, apart from there being more gloss and silky finishes from Crown & Dulux.

  3. June 13, 2015  5:41 pm by Paul Reply

    Hi David, agree 100% with your article. On the subject of changing the way coaching of young players is improved, it would mean a change in the way that coach's implement the methods that they use. I have a 20yr old daughter that has just completed her FA level 2 coaching badge ( which is pretty much grass roots in my book )

    • June 13, 2015  7:41 pm by David Walker Reply

      The chap who made the article possible may well want to elaborate on his views in the future, perhaps breaking cover, and doing his own blog. In the meantime we have another article in the pipeline very soon, one whith a great anecdote about goalkeepers and the demands and restrictions placed upon them, irrespective of their natural ability.

  4. June 13, 2015  6:19 pm by Gary Derbyshire Reply

    My 9 year old son plays in the Stockport metro league and when they move to under 11's in a few months we have been told that there will be no league system in place, which there used to be. God knows why, there seems to be every effort taken to remove the competitive edge from our grass roots football. Does Sir Trevor Brooking expect the future to be bright with a bunch of "namby pamby" youngsters who are afraid to be fully committed because they've been brought up on the mantra that "it's the taking part that counts" bollocks? Even school sports days don't have winners now! And even beyond grass roots, look how other countries use the under 21 tournaments to bring a team together, Germany had no less than 8 of their World Cup winning team who played together at these youth tournaments, Spain similar also, and if you've read our Sergios book, look at the pride and fondness he speaks of his time with Under 20's Argentina team. There's no doubt that we haveone of the finest facilities at St George's, so let's put it to bloody use!!

    • June 13, 2015  7:38 pm by David Walker Reply

      And so say all of us...well some of us. The fella in question was making the point that the 'by the book' approach just doesn't do it anymore, if it ever did. A lot of the coaching, rather than improving players, sees them have their natural skills and instincts drummed out of them. How many false dawns have we had in England?

  5. June 13, 2015  11:14 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    How I used to enjoy watching the Reserve League you gotta mixture of seasoned pros & up & coming youngsters great times for me. That's the answer bring them back David. Excellent piece my friend.

    • June 14, 2015  11:44 am by David Walker Reply

      Cheers Doug - made a change to work collaboratively with the un-named manager! Yes, the Reserve League would be a welcome addition.

  6. June 14, 2015  7:25 am by richard cooper Reply

    Willl have to be brief
    Agree with the comments above regarding reserve teams.
    We have watched the Eds teams about 4 times and there are some good players - Barker Glendon etc etc but these guys need to gain the experiences at a higher level which they can get by being loaned - Trippier is now plying his trade in the Prem but the top teams of which City are now one will in the constant chase for trophies buy the instant success. Blackett and McNair at Manu could well get forgotten in the LVG pursuuit of glory.
    it can be done - Southampton are a good example of this.
    On the negative side of things a lot of young English players make the headlines for wrong reasons - lifestyle - and however good Sterling is he seems to love himself beyond his yet proven capablities.

    • June 14, 2015  11:45 am by David Walker Reply

      As ever RC I find myself in agreement with your sentiments.

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