A radical plan to reform youth football in England was announced last month in order to improve the quality of our national team and give youngsters the best possible chance of making it in the beautiful game.
The current system was deemed not strong enough according to the Director of Football Development at the FA, Sir Trevor Brooking in his FA youth development review taken place earlier this year. This coincided with the arrival of Gareth Southgate as the head of elite development and he had an input in the development revue alongside Sir Trevor.
In the old system children from the age of 10 and above were being thrown onto full size pitches and had to learn to adapt to them, whereas the new review will ensure no youth player will play on an 11-a side pitch until they are 13. The winning mentality was also pressured onto children at a young age; and that will be tough to shy away from; but that is going to be withdrawn, with games having smaller, or no goals, to focus on skill and first touch rather than getting the ball in the goal.
The current 11 a side leagues at ages of 13 and below will slowly come to an end and 9-a side leagues will be introduced to improve touch and skill to add to the smaller goals which will improve accuracy and finesse.
Another criticism is that competitive football was introduced to early which is unhealthy for young children as it can dent their confidence and change the style of football that they play. The age of competitive football will be raised to ensure that leagues and cups are no longer available until the age of nine when the 7-a side game is introduced.
The extra hours and facilities that have been insisted in the plan; that all 20 Premier League clubs agreed to this year; will give youngsters aged nine to 16 up to 20 hours of coaching a week, a huge rise from the current five hours a week that is on average spent with the youth teams in Premier League clubs. The rise will give the chance for more coaches to get involved as well as the coaches getting to see the real strengths and weaknesses of a player in depth.
Some have said that the amount foreign players coming to English game has affected the level of home-grown talent, but there were 222 English-qualified players who played first-team football in the Premier League last season, surely that is enough to find 11 to perform in international competition. Time will tell if Mr Capello can select a squad good enough to have a chance at the Euro’s next year but this tournament will just be the start of what the FA hopes will be a long term success of their scheme.