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Greg Dyke’s appointment as the chairman of the Football Association came with an explosive message – English football needs to be fixed. Whilst few in the country would dispute this opinion due to the constant disappointments of our national team- was his solution the right one?
Dyke spoke passionately of the lack of quality in our national team and made reference to the hundreds of millions spent on foreigners. This is exactly the problem; not the foreign players, but our attitude towards them. The fact we’d rather blame clubs buying better players from other countries because we choose not to face the harsh truth; English players today just aren’t very good.
Obviously that’s not strictly true, it’s more of a generalisation; that the standard of English players just do not compare to that coming through from Germany and Spain. The strength in depth of the German and Spanish international teams run so far deep that their squads packed with fabulous footballers quite frankly, puts England’s to shame.
Whilst Dyke brought up the issues that matter, he seemed more intent on scoring points than offering solutions. The number of English players in the premier league at the moment lingers around 32%, a very low figure for a country aiming to compete at the highest international level. So here’s the conundrum, is English football’s biggest strength also it’s biggest weakness? Is the Premier League stifling our national side?
According to Dyke, the answer would be yes. Our beloved league is inundated with foreign players taking up positions that worse British players could be filling and there’s too many foreign owners and managers too. All this, without properly mentioning the real problem that plagues English football.
The single most important sentence uttered in the speech simply touched on the most import problem with the English game: “We simply haven’t got enough coaches trained to a high enough level.”
This should have not only formed the basis of Dyke’s speech but been built on even further, football needs to be fixed from the bottom. Not enough money is spent on children’s grass roots football, on providing our nations youngsters with quality coaching and on ensuring the clubs in communities across the country get the funding they need.
Instead of setting foolish, media-friendly aims for England winning in 2022, Dyke should be leading the charge on changing the face of English football. Coaches of youngsters should be prioritised because if the standard of coaching improves then the standard of players improves. Moulding the future generations is key and by emphasising important factors in player development the way other countries do so well, will leave English football so much stronger in the long run.
Dyke to his credit did give shed some light on the differences between England, Spain and Germany in terms of coaching numbers: “The figures here are interesting. England has 1,161 coaches at UEFA ‘A’ level compared with 12,720 in Spain and 5,500 in Germany. At Pro Licence level England has 203 coaches, Spain has 2,140 and Germany has more than a thousand.”
Whilst these numbers are disputed, the base statistics alone are troubling and show a startling difference in the importance that the other two nations put on youth coaches compared to England and this is surely where the problem lies.
Yes, there are too many foreign players in the Premier League. Yes, there are not enough English players playing regularly in the Premier League. Perhaps Dyke may be right in that clubs do not give English players enough opportunities, but there’s much more to it than that. Premier League clubs buy foreign players not to ruin our national team, but because they’re better than what they’ve got at the club. If England produced more young players of a high calibre, trained and conditioned from a young age then there would be no need to shop abroad.
In recent weeks I’ve heard stories of England talking to Liverpool’s Illori and Manchester United’s Januzaj in the hope they could pledge their allegiance to the three lions, and never has English football filled me with more embarrassment. Januzaj in particular would be ineligible to play for England until at least 2015 which more than anything shows the pathetic state of affairs we now find ourselves in.
The so called “golden generation” is almost over, as the remaining flag bearers such as Gerrard, Lampard and Cole have only one shot to turn around their failures. We must move on and ahead if our national team is to ever achieve top honours, whilst the likes of Wilshire and Sturridge must step up to be leading lights in the years to come.
Ultimately however, it is up to the F.A to sort out the mess that we now find ourselves in. Money must be poured into the bottom of chain, before the top can ever succeed.