IT was once ‘Football’s Coming Home’. Now England are coming home, with the tails of the Three Lions between their legs.
Although events of 1966 were mirrored this year (Austria winning Eurovision, Real winning the European Cup, Atletico winning La Liga, and a team coming back from 2-0 down to win the FA Cup) there was no real expectation for Roy Hodgson’s blend of experience and youth to return with the World Cup.
The least we expected, though, was to progress through the group stages, not be out of the competition with one game to spare, and now a two-year wait for the Euros to see if any lessons have been learned from Brazil.
But while some have been calling for Hodgson’s head, a change of manager is not the answer. English football needs a change of mindset, to do away with vast quantities of rules and regulations (often rules for rules’ sake) and get back to basics: coaching kids, nurturing our young talent and putting them on a pathway to professional football.
There is little chance of that happening in the current climate, and that is before we even broach the subject of Greg Dyke’s B team dream.
The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – a youth development scheme initiated by the Premier League – was accepted by the 72 member clubs of the Football League almost three years ago.
The aim was to allow clubs more coaching time with their young players, but all it seems to have encouraged is more paperwork rather than footwork.
Up to 10 different factors are considered for grading academies on a Category status of one to four (1 being the most elite), including productivity rates, training facilities, coaching, education and welfare provisions.
Burnley are preparing for the Premier League, to compete with English football’s elite. It is a nonsense that their proposed Category 3 status, already modest in comparison with the first team, should be hanging in the balance because of the dimensions of their indoor facility.
The existing former leisure centre and Centre of Excellence at Turf Moor was converted for indoor training purposes but falls marginally short of the specified 60 yards by 40 yards measurements.
Surely that is not more important than the quality of coaching on offer.
But that brings me to another dilemma.
It seems UEFA qualifications are no longer enough for coaches. FA youth modules are also taken into account – not by all clubs, but Burnley are among them and this has led to vastly experienced coaches with a track recorded of brining players through the system being overlooked for jobs.
As with the NHS and nursing, education and teaching, in football administration has gone into overdrive and detracted from what is really important. Coaching.
Take EPPP’s ‘performance clock’, for example, which notes every kick, shot, save, cough, spit and splutter from the age of under nines to U11s, with reviews every 12 weeks. For U12s to U18s assessments are every six weeks.
Why put them under such scrutiny and stop them from enjoying the beautiful game and finding their way like the class of ’66 did?
Until we get rid of the mass of red tape, and switch the emphasis from laptops and presentations back to football fields, there is no hope for progress.