The State Of The national Game

Posted on November 23, 2010

I had an experience of enlightenment the other day when I went to watch the local U15 football team play in what was regarded as a big Hampshire cup game. The reason I did this was because a fair few of the lads play for our cricket team and are friends with my son George, and the manager of the team helps me with the local cricket team. Consequently I know them quite well, and I also know them as talented sportsmen, some are very talented young footballers.

Mark (the manager) works really hard with them to make sure they play a style of football that allows them to be a creative passing team, and they win plenty of trophies as a reward, but in reality, he is not only quite unique in the way he sets them up to play, but he is always fighting a battle because of the consequence of poor pitches. Hatch Warren won the game 2-1 but what struck me more than anything was that too often creative play was ruined by the bobbling and sticky surface of the pitch, and you can see how easy it becomes, from a young age, to put the ball in the air through fear of making an error keeping it on the ground. Hatch Warren stuck with it, the other side lost patience and started pumping it long, and it nearly paid off which would have been a travesty.

How can kids learn to play on pitches like these

Most managers will, even at a younger age, put victory above everything else and drum out any technical ability or flair a kid may have by forcing them not to try anything different and to treat the ball like a hot potato rather than a friend or a tool essential for the job in hand. You don’t see a decorator throwing a paint brush at a wall in a bid to get the job done better do you? As the kids get older the risk of making errors because of pitch conditions gets eliminated by fear of the wrath of the manager. What I am saying is that it is easier just to wallop it up field rather than trying to beat an opposing player or holding on to the ball until the right pass becomes available. I know from experience, I had a mad Scots manager as a kid who’s vocabulary consisted of  the words release and hit it. Anywhere 30 yards from goal he would scream HIT IT………HIT IT! (it actually sounded more like HUTTIT). I couldn’t even reach the goal from that far, I was twelve for Christs sake!

I was great at things like the “Ardiles flick” and the “Cruyff turn” and I could play keepie up for hours, but none of this counted on a muddy pitch with a mad Jock breathing down your neck. In his book, any sign of creativity was being a show off or a big time Charlie, and I had totally fallen out of playing for clowns like him by my mid twenties. I am not saying I would of played for Manchester United, but it is a sorry state if people get to the point when they don’t really fancy playing because it is no fun. What is certain is that we would have all been a better players without him screaming at us every ten seconds to get the ball air bound. Again, his insecurities came from the potential disasters created by the state of the pitch, and one presumes this went on across the country.

I went on a short break in June with my friend, his son and his son’s mate, both who play for Oxford City, and the tricks they were doing were incredible. Shin keepie up, shoulder passing, catching it on the back of the neck and flipping it back an forwards to each other, it was brilliant to watch. Whenever I have seen them play for Oxford, they still shine to an extent, but not so much because they fear making mistakes because they have a nutter screaming at them. Nothing has changed in the game since I was a kid, no lessons have been learnt. That is terrible. I don’t even really blame the manager at this level, the poor bastard is under constant threat of the sack.

Everywhere else in Europe kids are taught that in early development winning is not the issue, but learning to keep the ball and being creative with it is. It is of course easier to do this with proper facilities and there is no doubt that investment is so much better abroad, often because finances mean they have to create players rather buying them like in the PL. Mark has to commended for the work he does with these boys, but once they get older there is every chance they, like so many before them will be lost to the English game because they can’t be bothered to play football when all it means is getting screamed at by a bullying has been. Once again it all comes back to the FA. Why are kids playing on such useless facilities when they pay a manager £6million a year? Why don’t they consult managers of kids teams? Why isn’t there a standard development structure at all junior levels like in Germany, where after what was perceived as a disgraceful  exit from the world cup at the quarter final stage (England didn’t qualify) in 1994 they had a major overhaul of the game. And what happenened to the “root and branch” investigation in to the game after the failure in South Africa? Nothing. 

Look at this list of Directors:

Chairman: Roger BurdenVice-Chairman: Barry Bright (Kent FA) General Secretary: Alex Horne
Dave Henson, Michael Game (Essex FA) Phil Gartside (Bolton Wanderers Chairman) David Gill (Manchester United Chief Executive) Roger Burden (Gloucestershire FA) Sir Dave Richards (Premier League Chairman) John Ward (Hampshire FA) David Sheepshanks (Ipswich Town Non-Executive Director)

What do they do? They continue to invest fortunes in foreign managers in a pathetic attempt to buy the World Cup whilst kids try to learn football in a quagmire, it is a fucking joke. The national team turned up in SA looking miserable as sin, partly because they forgot it was winter in SA, partly because despite the hype in the press they knew they were fake contenders, and partly because they weren’t allowed to play with a bit of fun. This is all the FA’s fault. They created the money bags over inflated Premier League which lavishes it’s riches on over hyped players and faceless Directors, whilst the so called future of our game (unless like Jack Wilshere they are lucky enough to get taken on by Arsene Wenger) are left neglected on a muddy council pitch covered in dog shit.

I went to a game a few years back at Reading, they had a young lad up front called Bas Savage who according to the Sunday Times treated the ball as if it was his mortal enemy and that he was obviously on the pitch to confuse the opposition with his ineptitude. Stinging crtisism for a young lad who I assume was good at some point in his development, but had his creativity taken away from him by someone who wanted to make him a “big target man” because they wanted to bypass the muddy pitch. Either that or he was a big Donkey betted suited to the long ball than a smaller better player, who knows? After that he hung around the lower leagues for a while and is now at Dagenham and Redbridge.

I didn’t watch the witless England players hoofing the ball up to the hapless Andy Carroll last week, I just couldn’t take it any longer. It was the same with Kevin Davies the game before. £6million to tell people to kick the ball as hard as they can to the big bloke, it is that what it has come to? The few English players that are left in the PL can hardly stand playing for England because they know they will be out of their kick and run league and exposed for the technical faults that they have developed, it must be a nightmare until they see their wage packets.

Just to think, everything looked so rosy in 1990, but as Trevor Brooking said in 1986;

“we’re not creative enough, we’re not positive enough………………………………….”

I hate the English FA

1 Reply to "The State Of The national Game"

  • Anonymous
    November 29, 2010 (1:59 pm)


    You told me to read this article I like it but would have liked it even more for your opinion on how to change the set up and make England a team people look up to again


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