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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu