We want to do something revolutionary. In every industry the price only ever goes up. But for young children who want to play football I want the price to come down to zero.
For next season we will launch a new football club on the Luton & Dunstable border's as a test. Can we do it? Can we deliver a 'higher end' brand of football. An almost professional approach with first class standards. Qualified coaches coaching with a one club ethos that is looking to develop players in a challenging, safe, fun environment where creativity and smiling is embraced not stifled. We will do this and the boldest thing is we will deliver this with no cost to parents.
New 3G pitch locked Saturday Mornings
Why would we want to do this? Is it important? Well in my view it is and i think I have enough experience to justify this. Ive coached Fiitball and Football now in over 100 schools and over 10,000 children all over England and in a wide range of communities. I have had the great pleasure of working in schools where there are children with all sorts of difficulties and challenges and there is a statement I have heard many times. On occasion you get the sense that a boy or girl is showing real talent with technique, understanding, enthusiasm and desire for sport and so I ask the question. "Do you play Football outside of school"? Many say they are with a club, that's great! Some say they are with an professional academy and I always follow that up with "How many times a week do you train"? Most say "once" on a rare occasion they say "three or four". I always say well done to both but in my own mind I'm simply gauging if they are in a next level development centre or actually an academy signed player. But there is a crucial answer that if I had heard once would be too many, but I've heard it several times. "I don't play for a team, we cant afford it". I know its hard for grass roots teams. They have to pay for kit, facilities, ref's, league fees, fines, FA admin, training, equipment etc. Nothing is free, so they try their best to gain sponsorship and the rest we all know as subs comes from the parents. To think that football has become a pay2play culture is simply outrageous and something we must address. The FA said it wanted more than 500 pitches by 2020 like that will cure grass roots football. I commend them for investment and who doesn't want better pitches? But some children simply cannot afford to play on them and some pitches remain locked in off peak times and empty with no concessions. Surely that means we might miss out on talent?
Lets look at Academy football and the investment required from parents.
If you have a child playing in 2nd tier level football, like a development centre. Then of course you will have transport cost but on top of that, some development centres actually charge for this. I know of fees ranging from £400 to £900 per year for the privilege of having your child in the 'system'. Now I've got no issue with any organisation providing a good service and someone paying for that service. That's reality. If I wanted my children to learn guitar, I would have to pay. If the product is good and my child enjoys it and their is clear signs of progression than I have no issue with paying the fee. My only point is, this certainly again prices out certain members of our society who simply would not be able to afford that fee. They cant afford to be recognised as talented and then invited to be developed.
But lets say that somehow they have leapfrogged grass roots and the host of development centres and they have been signed by an academy. Great news. Or is it? We all know the staggering statistics that are heavily stacked against the player making it all the way through to the first team so what would be the cost to the parents? Lets attempt some numbers.
Players are expected to train 3-4 times per week and then attend a game which could be at home or a long distance away. If the player is in foundation phase U9-U11 they could live an hour away from the training ground. Older children a bit further. Most people could do around 40 miles in an hour. On average fuel consumption figures I think £10 for a round trip is 'conservative'. Not taking into account a long away game drive, so that's circa £50 per week. So its reasonable and fair on that basis to assume that the financial commitment from the parents is around £200-£300 per month. That's without any loss of earnings for leaving work early and also assuming the parent has a car. I knew children that were travelling miles on public transport and in taxis. So actually, the celebration of signing full academy forms could be quickly dampened by the possibility that you may need to find over £2,000 per year to support that progress.
With this in mind I easily conclude that this wonderful game is pricing young talent out of football. Football talent cannot discriminate on any basis. We already know that the level of performance in international tournaments is not acceptable or even enjoyable. If you exclude talent based on money will we improve that in the long term? A game that has constantly thrown up world class players that have previously lived a life of poverty playing football in streets for free. Now I'm not suggesting that talented children cannot come from wealthy parents and can only exist from high rise council flats. Not for one second am I suggesting that. But what I am saying is that we are not putting them two children on the same pitch to give them equal opportunities. If we truly want the best players in world cups then we need to give everyone a chance to display there talents and widen the talent pool.
The Premier League Cash Cow
I don't believe in criticising footballers for what they earn. They have worked hard to get to where they are, well most have anyway. If somebody is willing to pay that, then fair play. I heard a lot of criticism after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been claimed in the press to be earning £367,000 a week plus a staggering £140k + goal bonus. But its difficult to criticise something we contribute to. I have got Skysports and BT Sport so I'm feeding this animal. Is it obscene? Yes of course? Do I think children's nurses and doctors wages in comparison is a disgrace. Yes! People do so many great life saving jobs for a fraction and I heard radio talk shows of people describing that, but I wanted to ask. "Have you got SkySports"? You see people worldwide are not tuning in to watch those fantastic public servants, they are paying and tuning into watch the Premier League and its superstars are now far removed from the reality we all live in. But I don't begrudge them. If someone offered me £20million a year to do something I loved, football, I wouldn't turn it down on morality and principle. I don't think any of you would either.
I'm also not one to say that these pay owe anyone. Its there money, if they give to charities and vulnerable, sick and desperate people, that's there choice. Some do, I'm sure most do and which is commendable because they don't have to and rightly so. It may also be worth considering that they also contribute to the public purse in a month what many of us would take a decades to contribute. So perhaps the cynics need a wider consideration when feeling a bit resentful.
What I will say though with passion is this. These guys are in England earning this money and the gulf between them and the grass roots game is widening with every new millionaire they make. These players will no doubt take there fortune back home eventually as circa two thirds are foreign players in the top clubs and I ask, what have they contributed to our game at the bottom? Yes we tuned into watch them and thanks for the entertainment. But you made that fortune in England and we should be taking action to insist they do because football is not a charity of choice. Its the game and the country that provided you with this huge earning spell so, I think its reasonable for a levy to be imposed to help get these young players in the window and back onto pitches at no cost. We could never make that happen though? Why not, if its in contracts from tomorrow lets say. There are few footballers contracts over five years in term so in five years I suggest they would all have the levy imposed. Now let me give you some examples and numbers.
Going on last years published figures 2016/2017
£1.38Bn Was spent on transfer fees
£174m was spent on agents fees
£1.933Bn was spent on players wages.
That's a staggering £3.487Bn spent by clubs
If the FA imposed a 1% Bottom up Grass Roots ring fenced fund and the tax office allowed this pre deductions that would create £34.8Million
Grass roots teams typically cost circa £3000 per year to run. So this fund would create a staggering £11,623 totally FREE football teams and these numbers are on the Premier League alone.
If you said to every player, the next contract you sign has got the new FA rule imposed. Of your 52 week salary, one week has to be given back to the game at grass roots. If you was a foreign player, you might begrudge this. But tough. Reality is, the club/agent will probably negotiate the extra to cover it anyway. If this was done five years ago all contract's would now include it and based on 2016-2017 £1.933Bn was spent on players wages in the premier league alone. My grass roots levy would raise £37million. That could fund over 12,000 grass roots football teams for FREE. Meaning more players can play without restrictions. Equal opportunity = more players = more realistic competition = better players in the system = better players coming through?
In the Meantime...
Between the Premier League, The FA and government its hard to know if anyone has enough minerals to tackle this and go for such a simple but challenging system of change so we have taken our own innovative steps. Our football club will be every bit professional and we will look to progress players. No parents will be the manager or coach. It will be our own people working on a syllabus and ethos we have created based on our experience of what works in terms of successful professional achievement but also what works in terms of creating an enjoyable environment for happy football memories. We have some innovative new ideas of ways we will fund this. It will require buy in from the pro clubs and we are also in talks with some key partners who want to help us achieve the impossible and provide Free extra curricular football including organised weekly competitive games.
Unfortunately mortgage companies are not great at listening to great stories of people trying to be community changers so of course the funds need to come from some-where. So if you think you can help, please get in touch and we will share the plan we have to make this happen. But one overriding position will not change. Parents will not be asked for subs.
Get on board at www.2touchfootball.co.uk and if your looking for a new team or have a child from any background who you think would like the opportunity to join please get in touch.
Already we have had a parent tell us that for reasons of course we wont share, her some has not been able to play in a team for three years. She was so happy to see our advert. He has began training with us and guess what. He was excellent! That's why we are doing this!
coaching session on the Monday under the backdrop of Wembley Stadiums iconic
arc we put together games for the boys. Some registered academy players and
some trial players. I happened to be on the phone to a well-known coach as I
struggled to get all my equipment and balls from my car to the pitch. He said I’ll
let you go but I suddenly thought, no wait actually because something has occurred
to me. I had recently hurt my back yet I had counted 15+ lads had walked past
me and not offered to help. I have a bag of balls, a kit bag an equipment bag
as I shuffled around consciously not asking to see if anyone offered. Within
yards of the pitch one lad finally offered to give me hope that some decency
and manners existed still. That was followed up by a lad showing me the
ultimate disrespect kissing his lips at me when asked to play in a position he didn’t
like. I offered him another option which was standing on the side of the pitch
and he decided to opt for the first option and play where I asked him. I later
explained to him the importance of trying different positions, examples of
professionals playing now where we had done the same in their development
lad had arrived late and we got him on the pitch. Just as I was in a bit of a
gaze despairing in my mind and frustrated at the attitude of some of the boys
that we are here trying to help, maybe they think they have cracked the code.
As I quietly & thoughtfully carried on watching I was quickly diverted. The
new lad was running and trying like I haven’t seen in a long time from any
player. He tactically wasn’t great and you could see he was ‘raw’. Immediately I
can see that he hadn’t been in any academy structure which sometimes I like.
When he got the ball his first touch was excellent and positive. He drove at
players, could beat them 1v1 and had a great shot but also awareness to pick
out opposition. Every time his team lost it, he ran and closed down like it was
the last 5 minutes of an FA cup final he was losing. I got him on the side for
a chat as I had not really spoke to him. After introductions…
great start, well done”
you” (hes looking at me smiling)
could you tell me, where have you been playing”?
play for *** ******” (of course need to protect his identity)
Me “So, how
long have you played for them”
played for them for 3 months”
Me “Oh cool,
so where did you play before that?”
just came to the country a year ago”
ok, so you played where you lived before”?
I didn’t, I never played football”
happened next took my breath away. It turns out this child is an orphan
refugee. He has foster parents in London and was rescued from a war torn country.
His parents killed in the process. He had never played in an organised football
match until September this year and at best practiced skills in the street on
his own. Hes 13. We’ve all seen the refugee crises on the TV and most have seen
and heard the resentment towards people that come here perhaps unjustified.
However, for me this was the first time I had met a real victim. A poor child
on his own in a foreign country. I have children and it quickly hit home how
lucky we are. I put him on the pitch and what he displayed the first time only
got better. It was like watching one of those X Factor episodes of a child
lighting up the stage that followed a heart-breaking story. Except this was no
stage and no audience. However he still left me thrilled and excited. I of
course had to remain professional but inside it felt both heart-breaking and heart-warming.
If this child gets signed and continues on what he showed, he will be an unbelievable
story. I feel like if he does then every cold wet night evening of ups and downs
will have been worth it, just for that. I think I might need to wear sunglasses
next week if he performs like that again.
Reward v Reports
Fiitball this week in schools got me thinking about player reports in academy
football. We really want players to learn movement off the ball and forward
runs. In Fiitball we have scoring end zones and when the first child did it I
really exaggerated the reward. I stopped it, everyone clapped. I reminded
everyone how that indicates great tactical ability. Guess what, within 5
minutes of restarting 6 further children ran into the end zone seeking out a
similar “well done”. I then thought about player reports and what if I did that
as a trial. As an alternative method just write that learning objective down on
the child’s report. Then see how translate that into a game. To me, most
children have a natural competitive instinct that can be exploited as a coach
to be able to provoke that leaning point. Just by a tweak of the rules and game
targets can help you get the learning target out instead of putting it down on
paper as a ‘negative’ that many children can take badly even putting them off
the sport. I’m not a fan of endless pointless reports and I believe it creates
something outrageous this week. A professional club development centre putting
bronze, silver and gold bands on the children. This is ten year olds. Maybe
they do it with younger ones as well. But what is your view on this? Am I alone
in thinking of so many reasons of why this is bad and I don’t know how it helps
development at any level of football. Reality is, some players are better than
others. In the end, at professional clubs, some get contracts, some don’t and
get released. In development years I see no benefit whatsoever of there being a
public display of your ‘opinion’ of who is doing better and who is struggling.
It will create an environment straight away that could create bullying behind
your back. It’s embarrassing for the child and you could completely demotivate
that child and put them off football. Also, how does it help the ‘gold’
players? They think they’ve cracked it, get over confident and now start to
coast along. The reality behind the scenes inside professional clubs is that
they indeed will have typically three groups. Those struggling, the ones in the
middle and the ones flying at the top. Ultimately if players don’t improve or
development strategies tried have failed they will get released. Recruitment
teams then replenish those players. But discussions need to be private with the
player and parents and include expected areas of improvement. To put bands on
them to me is awful. If it was my club I would tell the coaches I’m going to do
the same with them. Put them is groups of who we as a club rate as a club and
those we don’t. I wonder how that would make them feel? Or let the parents put
them into those groups. Sounds outrageous doesn’t it? That’s because it is, if you’re
a coach, stand up for what right and challenge that please. Or, help me
understand the argument for it. For example, in class the children will sit in
groups for maths. Stronger ones will be developed/challenged more. Lower performing
groups helped more. Personally, I don’t think this can work in football. Do
It goes without saying that I like 99% of others have found
the recent revelations around Barry Bennell the football coach and scout completely sickening, to think this could
happen in the industry we work in is so appalling and shocking. It has sparked
all sorts of emotions in me after watching the original dispatches video on
youtube which left me speechless and shocked. I had never seen it before. Why
was this brushed under the carpet?
When I reflect on this it leaves me with the conclusion I
have have had before. There is no doubt in my mind that people like this (men
and women) that have sexual tendencies toward children and act out their sick
fantasies are not dealt with strongly enough. The consequences resulting from
the actions of these people when they follow through their urges cuts so deep
and affects so many people around the victim to extents that somehow don't get
considered enough or people and authorities don't realise.
If a person serves time as in the case of Barry Bennell. 9
years for 25 convictions does he come out cured? If somebody goes to jail for
their actions of crime it is meant as a punishment. It might make the criminal
think twice about a further assault or a thief think twice about stealing. But
can sexual urges and instinct be controlled with the same mindset? As adults
who are attracted to other adults can we relate to that? Imagine being single
but being told it is against the law to look at or approach another adult that
you are attracted to? I think that would be virtually impossible to prevent and
I consider it impossible to prevent in proven paedophile’s whether they have
been to jail or not. To me, if you are a threat to a child you should not be
walking the streets with protected identities. It’s the children that should be
protected first. Jail for a man like this should have been whole life, or 9
years and chemical castration (if that works). That then complete with constant
monitoring and complete isolation from the public. Is that extreme? What about
his human right’s? He didn't kill anyone? Well, I will explain further my
‘extreme view’ if that's how you see it.
He's convicted of 25 crimes against 6 boys. But how many
others are there? Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, Paul Stewart, David White,
Chris Unsworth, Jason Dunford and Ian Ackley have spoken up about him and
potential other coaches. But, in the case of Barry Bennell it would be naive to
consider we have seen and heard all the cases. This is made very clear in the
heart breaking interview on Victoria Live. A lot of people are too embarrassed to come
forward, so it must be more. But the original 6 for which he was charged,
that's 6 lives affected. What if any of them ended up like my family?
We had a very difficult life of unexplained events. It
didn't include sexual assault but it certainly was a very difficult time which
my siblings and I endured. The end result was both our parents dyeing very
young. 48 & 49. Without going into detail the whole episode resulted in
elements of huge dysfunctional nature. Lets just say that we have seen problems
including alcohol, drugs, depression, break ups, detachment, violence,
emotional issues, anger and suicide attempts to name but a few. This progressed
consequently through two further generations. Only years later most have found
peace and normality stabilising their day to day lives. But these were all
victims. A knock on affect that spirals out of control. Mixed in to this we had
a mother who the kindest most giving charitable person I’ve ever known. But
something also wasn't right. Things we overheard. My father suspected something.
I even remember a ritual burning of evidence in the back garden. Maybe in that
era that was supposed to be the method for getting over something that was
torturing you. To me, none of it made sense, apart from a hunch. Working on
that ‘hunch’ I did some homework. I asked a lot of questions from people still
around. 15 years since my mother locked herself away and destroyed herself, I
only recently had it confirmed. My mother had been a victim in a paedophile
ring growing up in the Devon area. This is what left her so disturbed and
something she never got over. Something that was covered up/ignored by her own
friends and family. Im not suggesting they supported it. I actually know one
member that was desperate to expose it and was trying to save her. But the rest
turned a blind eye. Chose to pretend it didn’t happen despite her despair. In
an era where saying “underpants” was deemed rude it seems the embarrassment of
this would be too much to bear. Maybe they feel guilt, and a sense of blame for
allowing certain situations to happen or allowing people into their lives.
Better just to move on rather than face the outrage? Also, the perpetrators are
so convincing as they control the extended family, maybe there is doubt? Who
would believe us anyway? All this bears a striking resemblance to Barry
Bennell. I have names, places, events but it looks like all the people involved
are likely now dead. Or maybe they to moved on with protected identities?
At least I now have
the explanation. I take some comfort in that and also feel I owed it to my poor
tortured mother to find the truth, some people somewhere must have gasped a huge
relief when they heard she fell quiet. She was no longer at risk of exposing
them. For the record, if you’re alive and reading this, I haven't finished
looking for you…
But it also means I’ve seen first hand the damage over
generations of extended family these people inflict indirectly. They should get
life for every life they ruined in my family. At the very least my mums. They
murdered her and put her through the slowest painful death.
We see now in the excellent BBC drama The Missing the damage
and carnage heaped upon a family as a result of the evil monster who kidnapped
their daughter. Worse still is the cover up from like minded people or from
people keen to not upset the image of in this case the British army. It’s so well
written but, of course fictional. Credit to the writers. But this is something
we have seen in other major organisations like the Catholic Church, the BBC and
now, professional football. With what we now know is there anything less taboo
than protecting children?
There of course has to be responsibility of the ignorance and
lack of action from the organisations. It’s even been suggested that there was
more people involved in organised paedophile rings. Frankly, that wouldn’t surprise
me, why else would so many ‘accusations’ be dismissed out of hand? As they say,
there is no smoke without fire?
It has to be said that the FA had taken great steps in the
last decade regarding child protection and I applaud that. That follows the DBS
implementation that schools followed post Huntley’s vile crime. But what I want
to say is, who committed the crime? We have a tendency to go after everyone else
and somehow let the perpetrators off the hook. Is it more PC madness? We can’t
afford to offend someone? We have to include them? The strong hand needs to be
with those that commit the crime which for me is not enough.
I have been on numerous child welfare/protection/safeguarding
courses. It does open your eyes and also makes you think about your own actions
and protection. It certainly reminds you to never put yourself in a
questionable situation. I would also suggest they show the dispatches video
from 1997 presented by Deborah Davies which somehow got little or no coverage
and was not followed up sufficiently. Let’s not hide from the truth, this is
why we are here. Ultimately that together with DBS checks makes it more difficult
for a new Barry Bennell to utilise our game to carry out his or hers sick
perversions. However one thing crosses my mind which I think adds weight to my
argument of not dealing with perpetrators strongly enough. Ultimately, what has
the training course done for those individuals that have those sick thoughts?
Do they go, “oh, actually it’s wrong to do that”? So don't be a paedophile. A
course isn't going to cure that. However we can’t be complacent and these
awareness sessions do indeed serve to help prevent incidents.
Do we turn into hysterical paedophile hunters though? I have
been all over the country delivering our new game we created in many schools. We and our staff are well qualified, well checked,
we work within education requirements and of course we work within rules and
our own guidelines. But being a new person in a school certainly highlights
I remember once packing away my goals and equipment in the
car park. It happened to be next to the playground. I’m inside the school
gates, I’ve got identification on. I’ve coached all morning. Its lunchtime. A
few of the children said hello who I had been teaching that morning and two
girls stopped by as I was back and forward to the car with equipment. They were
asking about the game, who created it, where it is played etc. Of course as I
was back and forward loading the car I answered their questions. One of the
dinner ladies was looking over. I could feel I was being a watched. A good
thing? They are looking after the welfare of the girls. That's cool, not an
issues. I would be doing the same if it was my own children. But then the
dinner lady came over, not looking at me she said “Come away from that man
girls, we don't know who he is”. Well, I was a bit shocked with that. She made
me feel awful. I was guilty of being spoken to. Why should I feel like that?
You see, that's their fault. The likes of Bennell. In football we've all seen
it. Hysteria, a granddad takes a photo of his grandchild playing football and
were running over to him making him feel like that also! That can’t be right
can it? I think as part of the courses we should be learning how to address
this in how we communicate. For example If I have to approach a grandparent in
situations like that I always start with an apology and explain things like
identifying children that could be under the watch of the authorities and can’t
be photographed. Remember, this is just an innocent loving proud granddad,
please pay him the courtesy of an explanation and think about how hurtful and
suggestive we can be in our protective cautious behavior.
But what is also highlighted in the job I do is the
vulnerability of the children. It’s incredible. I meet some children for 40
minutes yet they are trying to hold your hand and cuddle you. There’s an
immediate trust, it’s frightening. This is what makes this so much worse. What
sort of animal can take advantage of that vulnerability? It certainly
highlights why children indeed need many ears and eyes to gauge potential risks
to them. But equally, we also need to remind ourselves that 99.9% of adults are
genuine caring people.
When I think back to my childhood which was troubled to say
the least, I found football. Trouble was, I couldn’t get there, I was picked
up, for years, by the most genuine, nicest guy in my life at that time. Plus I've
got a surprise. That's it! He picked up several players on a regular basis.
Without him I would never have got to football. But we never went to his house
or had any inappropriate behavior. He was my hero. An unpaid hero getting lads
together to play football. He gave me something to look forward to, an escape.
Ironically though, that's what Bennell did. That's what makes that twisted evil
man so bad. He's made society’s really nice people, think twice about nice.
Think twice about helping people. That makes me so mad. If it wasn't for my
football coach, god know’s where I would be today. If anywhere.
We are in a culture that brings more football children’s
parents to football so I think these situations are rarer. My own children both
played football and they were never left alone with anyone other than our
closest friends and family. I think the work of DBS checking, identity checking,
workshops and culture changes certainly make it more difficult for a Barry Bennell
to operate but it would be extremely naive to expect there to be no-ne out
there with his thoughts and tendencies. My answer would be to deal with THEM ‘effectively’
to protect children that will inevitably come into contact with THEM. The
system is too soft in its dealings with monsters like this. That man got nine
years, but let’s put that in perspective. Nine years for alleged hundreds of
rapes on children? He should never have seen daylight. I don’t think that is an
I have seen the Interview on Victoria Live from four of the
men. The deep pain in them men etched on their face and images frozen in their
eyes. As parents and as, in this case ‘football people’ we owe a huge gratitude
to them. What bravery and courage to have shared their gut wrenching stories
for the purpose to help prevent this in the future. Big strong men completely broken
up. I absolutely concur with them about their parents and extended network being
victims of this evil twisted man. The punishment needs to be greater. Studies
need to be done to uncover the true extends of carnage these people cause. It’s
never just the physical person they attacked that’s the sole victim.
This ‘Man’ Bennell and others like him operated and got away
with it because the subject was taboo and they held dreams in their hands. They
bullied the victim and manipulated the loved ones around them. I can’t think of
any example of a sadder low-life human being. We have got to oust them, lock
them up, throw away the key, offer lifetime support to the victims and then
move on so we can allow children to still form genuine appropriate
relationships with decent adults.
I did my session in London for the academy satellite centre. Driving in I recognised one of the families walking from the tube. It was a mum with her son. I made a point of asking her how far she comes to training when i seen her later on. She had a long train journey home from training as well. Its quite clear that many of these people live on or near the bread line, have difficult lives, single parents and it amazes me the lengths, strength and desire of some parents. We foolishly as well presume that they go to these extremes because its them pushing the child. But she said to me, "I just do whatever it takes to make him happy, this is what he want's so I find a way". She never mentioned money. I'm sure he does, but I hope her lad appreciates what his mum puts herself through.
There was also a lad training that didn't seem right to me. I asked him and he said he felt sick and had been off school. This started another series of questions. Too sick for school but drags himself to training? My club would not want that and I certainly don't. I explained to him that his commitment is commendable, however. I cant think of any child in all the years that succeeded or failed becasue they were sick and missed training as a result. He looked reassured, wrapped up and went home with his parents.
A long day, started on the road to head to Gloucestershire from Bedfordshire to deliver Fiitball in a primary school. The feedback from the teachers was fantastic and more importantly, the pupils who all took part and some asked if we could go back again. We were talking about movement and awareness in team games and netball came up. I asked "can you name me any sports then where you think netball skills would also be useful"?. A little girl put her hand up and replied, "yes, netball". Haha, done me there. I asked for that!
After the school day I went and had dinner with a previous colleague from QPR who now works for Swindon Town before I headed to the ground for my scouting role. They had Eastleigh in the FA Cup. Eastleigh were excellent and had a good game plan executed by some good experienced professionals. I sat with Paul Furlong to watch the game who I also worked with at QPR and we had a good catch up. It still amazes me how big the ego's are on some people in football who have never really achieved anything yet guys like Furz are so nice and humble.
Managed to get a late upgrade to the Celtic Manor resort which was a fantastic nights sleep before a short drive down to Newport where I was to deliver Fiitball to a whole school years 3-6. One thing that becomes apparent to me doing this all over the country is that there is a difference in the mannerism of the staff and children. Also a difference in resilience. I see lots of children who get upset very quickly, or hurt and rushed off to medical rooms seemingly for no reason. I didn't see that here. The children were bright, enthusiastic, bags of energy, tough and most of all funny! Its great to hear children laughing and allowed to have personality. I didn't once hear "he said, she said". Technically I could clearly see many children passing the ball to each other in the style of rugby. There is no doubt what is popular round here. One child said to me, "You smell like Ronaldo" after a conversation about the smell of the bibs. I don't know how it was intended but I certainly was taking that as compliment.
I had a long drive home to listen to radio and decided on talksport. During that drive and over the next days i heard host after host continuing the Wayne Rooney discussion. I must have heard his name 500 times. For me its a non topic and all those who criticise him as hes a role model etc need to take a look at themselves. Yes Wayne is England's captain and indeed a role model to children. However its parents that are the closest influence on their children and i'm sure 99% can tell similar stories and worse. Hypercritical warning me thinks!
Also in the car I listen to a talksport show topic title. 'Was Paul Scholes all that'? What a fantastic player. World class and now in his retirement do we really need to have such a pointless debate? Comparing him to Gerrrard and Lampard. Why? He was different. All three were great for slightly different reasons. Its typical English, we have to find whats wrong, we have to find fault. Many managers get critised for lack of decency and integrity or horrible management skills. Gareth Southgate is in the frame for the England Managers job, wait for it, hes too nice! When will we ever stop?
Wayne has been one of the most exciting English players ever and lets be straight, England's top scorer! What a great servant to club and country. Over 400 premier league games and 119 England games. Does he not deserve a bit of respect instead of hounding him like hes an evil criminal? He got drunk in a hotel lobby. So what?
Yet another school delivering Fiitball. This time in Oxford. Got a great response from the pupils and teachers again. Its so rewarding to have a group who at one end includes elite academy footballers and at the other many stated special educational needs. So to have a whole class together enjoying sport, boys and girls, all willing participating and getting something from it is very rewarding. I always like to try and leave with success in at least one development topic. I focused on triangle shape around the ball, individuals losing markers and risk v reward passes.
A teacher afterwards and said how impressed she was how I had handled a boy who is a signed academy player. Of course, I have been working with boys like him for many years so I have a way I guess that can challenge him, acknowledge his ability but equally keeping him grounded.
Myself and Kevin Gallen headed to Watford to do a couple of sessions for a grass roots club under our brand 2touchfootball. On the first group we decided to try something. "What do you want to do in training"? We asked the group of U11's. I will then try to help you within the session that you decide. After a couple of minutes of excitement, they decided. Two things came out. Shooting and Play Matches. We put it to the vote and 'Play Matches' was by far the most popular. Its interesting I feel for us as coaches to remember what it is the children want. We get frustrated when they keep saying "can we play a match now", but its proof that is what they enjoy most. So can we get topics out as a coach inside their choice to play matches? We put a 'cross' on each pitch and played 3x 5 aside matches. as we progressed we put rules and challenges inside the games that allowed us to achieve, ball manipulation, 1v1s, passing and receiving, movement and awareness and combination play. Not bad considering the lads did what they wanted. Playing games.
Saturday afternoon I went to Barnet v Crewe and it looked as though Martin Allen was attempting to keep himself away from the touchline. However, that didn't last long and he was soon down there dragging players into areas he wanted them. It was reported that he didn't need his minor heart surgery. But i'm sure and hope he keeps tabs on it. To this day its still so devastating to know that my own father lost his life at 48 to a heart attack that could have been prevented with a stent in minor surgery. Its a tough job and Martin Allen is a big strong man. Fingers crossed hes now on the mend!
Have a great week doing sports and coaching!
For many like me, this is the time when I get a stark reminder of all the operations iv'e had on my knee. I'm sure many people can relate to the pain that comes this time of year. Of course its got nothing to do with age! I had been to Northampton Town V Harrow Borough on the Saturday. Great to catch up with Mick Harford there. We spoke about Luton Town and the crop of talent there. Exciting times for Luton I feel. I have to say its really refreshing. Harrow Borough going two goals behind early on of course quickly sealed this games fate. It was cold as well, at half time around me there was a collective groan of pain as all the scouts got up for the half time coffee!
Doing our weekly training at a school in Hertfordshire where we coach a real diverse range of abilities. Something I really love about this is one of the children's granddads comes along to watch. Iv'e been in grass roots and have experienced some parents and grandparents shouting and sideline coaching. But I think we all need reminding sometimes how special it is that they come and support. We call him the Director of Football! I think we are too quick to dismiss people on over the top policies. Hes a top man!
In the evening I did a session at our level one recruitment satellite training center. I really do buy into the training methods. All geared around sessions that look like real football. Something I think the lads really enjoy more as well. Had a discussion with the local guys there about some of the great English players that have come from the areas around Brent and what attributes they demonstrated which gave them the edge to kick on. Lots of comment about desire and hunger. Funny how that always comes up?
Its ironic, the next day in school football we are having a discussion with the boys and girls about behavior and attitude. I start to think, is desire and and hunger in you? Technical/Tactical development can 100% be coached. What about desire and hunger? I certainly think we can effect enthusiasm with competitive games and sessions.
In the evening I nipped over to Stevenage V Southend to look at players. Was a bit deserted and its no secret that this EFL tournament needs review. I certainly see pros and cons.
Wembley 2009 After JPT Final
Interesting driving to Reading U23 v Yeovil in the EFL Trophy listening to talksport where the topic was EPPP. I was a bit disappointed to have to go in the game and missing it so I did catch up later. I think the guys spoke very well and have real good arguments for change. We couldn't leave things as they were and the facilities and resource now at the disposal of the big clubs is tremendous.
I split the key areas in to three that I feel still need to be reviewed. 1. Grassroots to Elite pathway and 2. EPPP environment 3. Elite Development pathway to 1st team.
1. Grassroots to Elite
- No contracts for any players under 11. Just a free registration.
- No restrictions on where they play and what sport they participate in. With a 1:200 chance at a club it's a moral crime to deny a child wider sporting memories
- Reduced controlled contact. The children are too tired
- Address the pay to play culture. Talent is lost in schools as they cant afford to travel to academies or even the subs for a grass roots team. Set up FA regional elite centers that are fully funded. Schools can then send unattached selected players for free.
- Change and enforce restrictions on scouting bonus systems. Short term bonus cannot work. If all the incentive is on new players some existing talent could get squeezed out. Also no bonus for early signing of scholars and 1st year pros.
- Clubs should have a sign and release committee.
- Zero tolerance to recruitment based on ethnic background. If a player meets the target criteria then they are given the opportunity
- Recruit balanced players of ranging attributes. Not one style (Messi)
2. EPPP Environment
- Players are turning up hungry or eating rushed meals, siblings negatively affected, parents risking work issues to meet times. Escalating fuel and travel costs, players falling asleep in class. We need to review the contact hours relevant to age.
- 20-40% loss of education contact hours on a 1:200 chance. That is career changing and morally outrageous.
- Quality of coaches reduced due to some walking away due to pressures of low income and hours required to record data on computer systems that are unreliable.
- Endless repetieve player reports on players that few consider in final decisions and sometimes serve to add huge pressure to the players. Huge amounts of subjective information that will have little effect on development and decisions.
- Changing senior academy staff and heads of coaching which affects club philosophies and whole ethos. Academy managers should be on four year contracts. If they don't want a four year contract then it maybe clear they are using the role as a pathway to something else. This is not healthy for a clubs and its young players.
I recently spoke to a '3rd year scholar' at a club who said to me. "Im so bored, its like school"
3. Elite Development pathway to 1st team.
I have to say, I do feel this is the most challenging for the guys that run our game. They have trialed the EFL Trophy and I dont think anyone really supports the outcome of that. Loaning out players still serves up the best pathway in my mind but the trouble now is that the clubs have trawler fished so much of the talented lads that they have them in stock piles and no where to go. Something that goes back to the youth development phase. Sometimes players are better left where they are to learn their trade, break into the first team. Become a professional then progress back that way. The other problem with the huge numbers in the very sanitised route is that many seem cocooned in the fantasy world in which they have operated and maybe that is why they are left shell shocked and unable to cope with the real world.
In this country we have over 100 full-time professional football clubs. That in its self is a huge unique situation that we can boast about and could surely utilise better?
Those 100+ pro clubs make up 5 national leagues.What other countries can boast this? One thing is certain to me. A footballers successful pathway is still unproven. Those that get there probably got there because fate took them on the journey that worked for them, not because one way works over an other. Players will always come via non-league, its very reasonable to suggest that its not an error that they were missed by the pro games recruitment, its more likely that's what worked for their development. Had they been in the 'system' it could be that they would have failed, like most do. Equally those within a level 1 academy and make it, well done, clearly they were on the correct pathway for them. Or thirdly being loaned down the ladder to learn the trade. In my mind, all three of these methods work at times and all three fail, at times. But we need all three. It seems however that there is growing disregard for the smaller clubs and perception that only the top eppp level 1 clubs have the formula to produce players. That is enormously incorrect based on fact and 100% dangerous to our games future in my opinion.
This is the best football country in the world, if only we could recognise the features that make it great, embrace them instead of trying to disown them as they are maybe a threat somehow to the Premier League 'Corporation'.
I went to England v Scotland which I was very excited about. Watching Stones up close started another series of questions in my mind. Mainly, is he still then classed as professional development phase? Even though this is a competitive international at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 against Scotland? I think there can be no doubt the increased level of technical ability is a huge credit to the culture of his youth upbringing. But is it now a mindset thing to get him to understand that to have a great 1st touch and 1v1 capabilities under pressure which can get you out of trouble, doesn't mean you should constantly do things to put you IN trouble to demonstrate it?
I also have to point out that I was sat near the guy that was drunk out of his mind and videos emerged in the press of his bloodied face and torn shirt. I also read that this was a brawl between Scotland and England. I walked past all the guys and not sure if anyone in Scotland speaks with a cockney accent?
Saturday morning was great. A private coaching clinic with some little guys at a great club in Hertfordshire. It feels great to share some experience although we were quick to tell them how we are always learning also. That's the nature of this coaching thing, we are all in it together.
My week was rounded off with a visit to MK Dons against Walsall. Good to say hello and I hope they keep scrapping for much needed points. I avoided all the temptation around the ground to go home hungry and have a family meal to wrap my week up...a busy one!
This blog is not for the upcoming
Euro Championship, or for the playoff games. There isn’t £200m at stake, no
press will be there and no TV. It’s for youth players. If I stopped 1000 people
in the city where it was held I would stake a large amount of money that 1,000 wouldn’t
know about it and wouldn’t care. However 999 will know about and 995 will care
about the 11th June when England play Russia.
With all the work and investment the FA have made in football
development education programs you would think the message would be getting through
to parents. I don’t know the exact statistics or even how they would measure
the success of this so I can only go on experience. On the whole there is clear
improvement to side-line behaviour, but problems still exist. This is based on
what I experience and the last week clearly shows there is still work to be
done. Personally I feel that a lot of parents and unruly coaches have simply
been ‘gagged’. So what we have done is make them feel tremendously guilty for
shouting and that ‘on the whole’ is not a bad thing. We’ve done that by means
of codes of conducts and parents courses which focus heavily on aggressive
touchline behaviour and its affects. Courses are hard to get people to attend,
that I know. But I feel maybe if someone went into a club and did a free
workshop but focus more on the football development side. Because what I have
seen and heard in the last weeks and consistently over the last 20 years is
comments from parents where they ‘know best’. That’s the problem with our great
sport and its popularity. Were all experts. So rather than just chucking guilt
at parents & volunteer unqualified coaches (and unruly qualified coaches),
we should maybe come at it more from a technical development perspective. Like
a dressed down youth module. Educate them!
For example. We do some work with a club/organisation. (I don’t want to
highlight the individuals for obvious reasons). We coach the children on a regular
basis once a week. They are U10/U11. As part of that we took them in a
tournament and recently they got knocked out of that tournament on penalties.
One lad missed. In the days that followed it was commented back to us that
parents had ‘complained’, albeit not directly to us, that it was the coaches
fault. Because? He had not practiced penalties with the lads the week before.
Now anyone that knows anything about football at any age know's this is outrageous.
In particular when it comes to children of this age. We of course feel that we
need address this but I’m sure it will be met with resistance. It takes me back
to my days when I helped out in grass roots football and constantly fighting
parents that know better and apparently know who the best players are and know
how to win football matches. They think then that because you place development
ahead of winning games that you’re a happy clapper and don’t care about
The truth is, we just don’t care about winning as much as they do. Do I
want the kids to lose? Of course not. Do I want them to win? Of course I do. I
made this clear in my previous blog http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/WinVLose.html
Schools and Academies made mistakes in removing the intrinsic natural
winning motivation from children in PE and Games. But let’s be reminded why
they did. 99.9% of the issues were on the side-lines, not on the pitch. So, I
want to win and so does my colleague Kevin Gallen (the most competitive person
I know) But, I’m not prepared to sacrifice development to win at all cost and
nor will Kevin.
Regarding the penalty situation then. Why don’t we address it. Maybe
those individuals involved will read this and perhaps have a rethink about the
complaint. I just want them to think about it.
First and foremost, it’s our view that a penalty in a competitive
situation is much more a psychological challenge than it is technical. Hence why it’s
been proven over the years to be the case that many managers of some of the top
teams in the world have not even bothered to practice penalties prior to some of
the world’s biggest knock out football matches. Why? Because it’s pointless. If
you’re an international football player, hitting an 18m²
target from 12 yards should be pretty straight forward. On the training ground
they would hit it showboating. But put 60,000 people in a stadium, do press
conferences leading up to the game with journalist asking “what happens if you
lose”? Think about what happens if you hoof it over the bar and years of
teasing and torment. Think about all the back pages and the comments from
people in the street. Now let an eye drift into the stand and see the fans waving
and sticking their fingers up at you. All these dynamics are barriers and
obstacles that you zone out from. Top players can do this. Most then that I
have spoken to that took penalties in pro football have said to me. They pick a
spot before the game and never change their mind. This includes Kevin Gallen
who of course took many penalties and said: “on occasions, as a young player, of
course, sometimes you did notice the 5000 people behind the goal distracting
you with songs, verbal abuse and even miming ways they wanted to kill you”
So, how do you practice that? The only way
possible for let’s say elite players, is to go to tournaments that are competitive
knock out formats in stadiums that prepare you mentally for such situations. My
current academy club have been excellent at this and I even remember at my
previous club a great tournament in Oostende where we went on a regular basis
with the U14/U15 youth team. One year I recall we done really well. We were in
the knockout stages and we had one of the great Moscow teams. It went to penalties.
There lad strolled up, thumped the ball on to the spot, never looked anywhere
other than the target, steamed up, head down and blasted the ball into the roof
of the net. Our lad, looked so nervous I actually from the dugout wondered if
his legs would give way on the walk to the ball. It’s in a stadium, there is
maybe a thousand people watching. There is a stadium announcer, cameras,
cheering. He’s just a kid and it’s all new. Predictably, he missed. That player
is maybe the most technically gifted player I had. In training if I held an A4
piece of paper in the goal he would hit it from 25 yards not a problem. So, was
the issue, Technical (requires practice) or Psychological? But then that
requires practice surely? So, hang on, this event, the feeling, the anxiety,
the thoughts, the disappointment. That WAS the practice? Going to the
tournament? The experience. Eureka, that was it. We all know that England, let’s
say, have a bit of an issue with penalties, so the good thing is, the academies
know this and they want the teams to experience a proper competitive knock out
I think about other sports like Darts. There are
thousands of excellent ‘pub’ dart players so what the difference? Could it be,
elevated on a stage with 5000 people in the room singing and TV cameras could
be a distraction for many?
Going back to the original ‘complaint’. The only
way to practice this would be to ask every child in the school to come out on
to the pitch and stand around shouting and screaming. To perhaps create
pressure. In fact thinking about pressure. The very fact that there is a
complaint would suggest the pressure in the first place came from the parent.
If they are that devastated about losing you can only imagine the conversation
in the car on the way. The pressure didn’t come from us. Just the experience,
experience that makes you psychologically stronger and better. Experience that
made that player in Oostende better and stronger.
To finish, of course, there are technical aspects
to taking a penalty. Striking a ball in many different ways is covered by us.
If the children apply themselves to training they will get that. But we would not and would never
queue up 20 children to practice penalties in a pointless situation sacrificing
other learning. We have one hour a week to learn. So I would ask this. In the
week leading up to the tournament we had one hour of learning. How many hours that week
did the child spend on the PlayStation, in front of the TV or on the computer?
Those house could have spent in the garden or the park with two people a ball
and a goal practicing penalties.
As a parent, a youth football coach and school sport
provider, I am fully aware of the affects and influence gaming has on our children’s
As parents we
know that we have always been concerned about the time spent on computer games.
The effects it has on a child’s social skills, communications skills, the
detrimental effects it has on our child’s education as we battle time spent on
gaming or online versus homework or revising. The biggest concern of course is
the affects on physical wellbeing due to inactivity. As parents, like many we
questioned for years the effects on motor skills and the eyes looking at
screens for hours on end. Of course much of this is hard to prove but our gut
feeling is, it can’t be good for you. One thing that is perhaps more easy to
identify is weight gain and the visual effects on our children. We can easily
identify our children’s mood by their actions and we can see when they appear to
become overweight. Sometimes we even turn a blind eye to it.
The trouble is,
this phenomenon is getting harder to control. Without any question obesity in
the UK is an ever increasing concern with the government yet again committing
its £150m a year school sports fund to try and tackle this and push increased
activity across all children. So its clear activity has to be the primary
factor. Well, along with the ‘fuel’ we put in our body. So leading brands like
McDonalds bring so much to the country in terms of employment etc. But they are
equally having such an huge impact on health. Of course, I don’t want to bash
them. We have a choice. Why don’t we bash the grotty burger van or lesser
performing fast food brands. Only because McDonalds is hugely successful we
target them for criticism. So of course to tackle that McDonalds counter this
by promoting the integrity of their produce and also by giving us a healthy
option. Whether this sells or not in large volumes I don’t know, but at least
they promote. Either way, we can’t stop our children wanting to go to the restaurant
so for us it meant we just tried to reduce the volume and limit it to become a
treat. McDonalds also invests heavily into Football by backing community football,
providing kits for grass roots and supporting coaching. They also do work in
education providing business training and food production education. So in
fact, when you delve a bit, as well as the profit they take they do at least attempt
to give something back and I of course support the football projects because it
promotes burning off the fuel.
Trouble is, I don’t see this from the gaming community. If
they do, then I stand corrected but perhaps it isn’t well marketed. In
particular we are looking at Fifa here. As this is relevant to football which
is of course the most popular sport in the world and my trade. If you look at
the marketing and think about it. It typically uses the world’s most famous
footballers and then puts them in there club kits and sit them in front of a
screen playing Fifa. The messaging is almost like “play this and you could be
like me”. It’s like it has become part of the development pathway. I’m sure
those guys will produce some research figures showing how they increase
interest in football. I don’t disagree with that but what I ask is this. You
now have such an influence on the game through young children, teenagers and
now adults due to the era, what do you give back? So, you employ a lot of
people, you pay a lot of tax I’m sure. But two things have to happen for me.
Your ‘superstars’ have to be shown to mention the importance of real activity
and real practice if you want to be a footballer of any level and certainly if
you want to be healthy. Secondly you surely have some moral responsibility
considering the massive powerful influence you have on now a massive percentage
of the population. Bearing in mind the Fifa product is promoted and deemed
suitable to children aged 3+.
As parents we know that 3 hours could absolutely fly by for
a child playing Fifa and it would be hell to play to get them off. Could the
game or console manufactures create a parent area which gives parents the
ability to create a time-limit? With today’s modern technology why don’t you
give parents that control via an app? Parents sometimes lose track of the time
they are on it so why not be responsible and give them more direct control and
information. This would enable parents to even shut down the console remotely or
set times breaks. Use a tool to control homework etc. I think as a parent I
would buy that add on. Just a suggestion. If you make a gazillion dollars
perhaps you’ll remember who gave you the idea?
As a football coach I
have seen a complete change in culture as a result of this game. I’m of course
a traditionalist. I used to go to the park with a ball under my arm. I used to
be in the street playing football. But times have changed. Also there are so
many alarming stories and disgusting crimes against children that perhaps we
have also become so protective that in fact we take comfort that our child is
inside safe and sound.
But I can’t help fighting it. I said to a child recently “You
do know that you can’t get better at football by exercising your hands and
fingers? You would be better warming up with a rubiks cube than a ball”. I
recently had a full on debate about an Arsenal center back when a young Yr6 lad
was suggesting you don’t have to be quick or fit to be a footballer. I was
saying, I’ll think you will find that player is a lot quicker and fitter than
you perhaps think. He laughed, shrugged his head. He absolutely didn’t buy into
what I was telling him. I pressed further and then he told me. On Fifa he has
only got 29 for pace. So that is his gauge of the player. What Fifa says goes.
Not the coach!
I recently ran trials for teenagers. Now these were players
serious about wanting to still become footballers. Again it’s my view that the
culture has changed. When I was a teenager (I sound like uncle albert) we would
meet up for a kick around in the parks. I remember one Christmas we all met up
and played football in the snow. Loads of us. We needed to get out and play
because all our games were off. But snow wouldn’t stop us. Now, its changed.
Teenagers meet online. They play Fifa online. In fact, If, now as a parent of
teenagers we didn’t bang on the wall at 2am in the morning I think they would
play all through the night.
So, I went around these teenagers on trial and asked them
what position they played. The replies were “CDM, CAM, LAM, RAM” etc. I thought
to myself, wow, these guys all use “Fifa language” This is how they see the
game now. During one of the games we asked why a midfielder had not tracked
back with his runner and he replied “I’m not CDM, I’m CAM”. That was when it
hit me. Times have changed. I can’t fight this on my own. The trouble is, the
kids don’t believe me anyway. But I’m not going to concede to the challenge. I
can do one of two things. I can keep fighting this challenge or I can embrace
it and somehow use it.
There is of course benefits to the game. One of those being
knowledge. Whenever I hear a player’s name I haven’t heard of before I just ask
my teenage son. Now I work in professional football but my lad has got one up
on me. He can tell me stats and history of seemingly any player in the world.
Remarkable, how does he know that? Fifa. So to try to open my mind to change I
took a bold step. Of course I played Fifa over the years, less recently as I don’t
have time. So I know the basics. But I asked my son to show me all the new
training sessions and drills. I recall doing some as you would wait for the
game to load. I was shocked. Actually, some of these drills looked fantastic. Moreover
they looked fun. They also looked like drills I would love to try myself. So I
started jotting some down. Some also looked like a real good cardio exercise. Actually,
overall, to me, if someone was exceptional at these drills in real life I
suspect they would be absolutely fantastic! So, it was decided. I’m going to
bring these drills to life.
In the last few weeks whilst coaching in schools I have now
started to ask the question.
“How many of you play Fifa at home?” Nearly always all hands
“How many of you would like to try the training drills in
Fifa, in REAL LIFE?” The response was amazing, children jumping with their
hands up, “me me me, when is it”.
So, my organisation has ran football holiday courses for
years now. It’s always been structured within a learning syllabus typical of
academy football. It’s I know, It’s what I was trained for. But I’m going to do
something new. I’m going to completely change our approach. Try something
fresh. We are going to deliver Drills that look like the Fifa training games.
Including knocking down boxes and target rings for crossing. Shooting drills
with balls launched from machines and dribbling challenges. The full works.
We will arrange a points and a prize for leading players in
age range and maybe even talk to football club to see if they would like to
invite a player in on trial as a result. Because these drills are tough!
I think I would also consider a late teens/adult competition.
Purely because I think I would like to have a go myself!
Coming soon April
& 5th April
& 7th April
Details will be at:
Twitter: @2touchfootball @FifaRealDeal
Pre register or direct communication: FifaRealDeal@2touchfootball.co.uk
Could you be the #FifaRealDeal
So, with the reported sad departure of Steve Gallen it means that
he is the last person out the door from the days of Raheem Sterling and beyond.
Key people from those days like Terry O'sullivan, Paul Bruce & Fitzroy
Lewinson plus more have all gone and were important people that took part in
Raheem's and others recruitment and development. Good coaches, good scouts, good people,
Every season we will here of managers
getting sacked. That’s part of football but when it happens we often here and see many
people in the game and in the media showing great human sympathy for a man losing
his job and so we should. However, many that do are rewarded in a way far removed from
us mere mortals with contracts paid out in full resulting in many multi-millionaire
With this in mind I was truly shocked to
see Steve Gallen seemingly ushered out of the back door at QPR after it being
reported that he was removed from all duties at the club. QPR is a club that
publicly reports its family feeling, culture and togetherness but this to me
seems to be an action in contrast to that. Steve Gallen has been employed at
QPR in a multitude of coaching roles for around 18 years. Most of which were
working in the youth centre of excellence where he later became the head of
youth and Academy manager. He was then moved out of that role to coach the
U21's and later promoted to work with the first team. Of course things happen
in the first team and people get sacked with new people coming in and with the
introduction of Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink Steve has been deemed surplus to
requirements I guess. I don’t see issues with that and I’m sure if Steve was asked, he wouldn’t
either. That happens. However since the news broke I have seen lurching opinion
on the overall value of Steve to the club and also questions of his ability and results
working in the youth structure. This is such a shock to me and its when the 'only at
QPR' term came to me again. Why can’t this gentleman be given the just reward and
appreciation he so deserves? Instead it’s debated by certain quarters as to his
success. One comment I read was.
“It is an inconvenient
truth...however...Steve Gallen has been a fundamental part of a youth system
that has grossly failed for 20 years”
Being in football more than most industries
means that you are open to criticism and I can take that. Steve certainly can I’m
sure and he wouldn’t want to respond. However having worked for this guy and
seeing first-hand the challenges I felt I want to tribute him and show the
details of what he actually achieved. Knowing that if I was a chairman I would
be currently hunting him down to come to work at my club. Criticism is ok but I
think it’s fair if people know the details facts and truth as some either
comment without the depth of knowledge or else have hidden agenda's which is unacceptable, damaging and disrespectful to someone that has given so much to his role and i'm guessing, doesn't walk away a millionaire for his family.
Looking at the comment above I read the
words 'fundamental part' as being an overall decision maker. Or a key person at least. Let’s
put that in perspective. Steve was not in charge of the youth system for the
last 20 years. He was to the best of my knowledge in charge of the youth system
for 4-5 years up to 2012. Post 2012 was the era that Tony Fernandes came in as
did Mike Rigg and Steve was almost immediately stepped aside. Since that date a
further four people have been in charge of the academy and as many placed in the
role of Head of Coaching. Steve has had no decision making responsibility
during that period. I accept that Steve Gallen bleeding hoops doesn’t mean he
is owed anything or that he is owed a job. He would never want that either. Hes a proud hard working man. So let’s
examine the second part as indeed Steve was in charge of the Academy for the
period leading to the influx of investment.
If we firstly look at the numbers. Steve was in charge of a ‘center of excellence’ under owners that seemingly didn’t focus too much on the youth.
Investment was minimal and I estimate it to be around no more than £150k per
year. At that time it had 3 full-time staff. It’s not up for debate the major
influence Steve and coaches like Fitzroy Lewinson had on Raheem’s capture,
development and majorly, keeping him at the club as long as they did as he
gained approaches from the local ‘big guns’. Sterling’s recent move to Man City
netted QPR £9m in a payment clause. I’m sure it’s clear that I’m a fan of Steve
Gallen as a great coach and a great person. But were not debating his values,
kindness and integrity here, were debating what he did for QPR. If his
responsibility lasted 5 years that would equate to a circa cost of £750k. To
ease the argument lets round it up and stick another £250k to the cost and that
still leaves a profit to QPR of £8M for his term. I think that’s worth a thank
you. Since then the investment was massive and now the academy has around 20
full-time staff and a cost of circa £2M in my estimation. Around a third of
that could be recouped from the Premier League’s EPPP system but it still
leaves the club paying out an estimated 8-10 times the investment under Steve.
The same pro rata return would see the club profit circa £12M per year.
Considering all the challenges that were faced in these years and
low budget it’s a miracle that any players of any level were produced and it’s
that remarkable equation that always left me scratching my head as to why Steve
was never given the reigns when the investment arrived. admissions were made
about the many mistakes that were made and the ‘type’ of people that came in.
But with the message and focus returning to youth as a clear strategy I feel it’s
a huge mistake again to allow Steve to be pushed out in this way. If you went
on a recruitment drive you would have to break the bank to gain the incredible
capabilities of a Steve Gallen that produced players against the odds. Tony
Fernandes has one under his nose and surely must reverse this decision if taken
out of his hands.
"Steve [Gallen] was great. He always had such confidence in me and that gave me more confidence in myself"
Its been much reported as the chairman having the wool pulled over
his eyes and as part of that maybe he was told the same stories about what I read
and what’s implied. The club hasn’t produced players over Steve’s term. Well, Let’s
investigate that further. After some quick research of the football league and
beyond it became very apparent that I would be able to put together a very
decent team and squad from current players that all came through under Steve’s
guidance and responsibility. Here it is….
These players are a mix of current QPR players, players sold and
players released. The point is, they all make a reasonable living. Some higher,
some lower but it’s a great testimony to Steve’s work. Imagine if he had been
given the opportunity to drive the improved investment bus? This was on a
shoestring compared to now.
As well as these players, most of which are still young and developing with therefore a great chance of making a higher grade, Steve led the U18's to 3 x league titles in his term and 1 x national cup. He was runner up in the U21 final in more recent years. In a New York tournament QPR beat Inter Milan and Liverpool to win an international trophy. Against all odds they had reached a quarter final of the FA youth cup beating level one class leading Southampton on the way to losing at Newcastle at St James Park. Clubs that had been investing millions in their academies for years.
For an Academy to work properly there a simple equation in my
You cannot turn a bull dog into a greyhound derby winner. You
cannot turn a shire horse into a winner at Aintree. There is a starting point
of talent and it’s the most crucial part. The trouble with a club like QPR is
its competitive. When real talent presents itself you have to compete with
clubs around you. You walk the player around the facility. In the days of Steve
this was clearly tough to sell. Then it’s the people. You prove to the parents
that you actually care and have good morals and transparency. Then you show
them the proof of the pathway making it clear they have a chance. In the past
of course this was again tough to sell.
Of course development is vital. You don’t take your new Mercedes
to a back street garage. You want it cared for by the best. No doubt the coach
has more contact with the player than anyone and could truly break a player as
well as be pivotal in developing them. That’s also mentally as well as
technically. Coaches like Fitzroy were great examples of that. He cared, you
could feel his personality and he had the knowledge to back it up. In 20 years of being in professional clubs, Steve is the best coach I have seen and Ive worked with many high profile names.
Its home. It’s the place you spend most time. As well as the
bricks and mortar it’s the holistic science that now has been introduced to the
game. The support of medical teams to keep players fit and protect them as well
as pitches and equipment that gives the player the tools as well as the feel
All of it doesn’t matter if the club doesn’t have a strategy to
bring the players through. In the past its obvious that this was not happening.
Of course the players have to be good enough, but they also need a chance.
With those four pillars ticked you will then produce players for
the first team. Mr Fernandes, you are frighteningly close to getting it right this time. But you need the right people. If you don't reconsider than I'm sure Steve will be back in work soon and everyone moves on.
Knowing Steve he wont thank me for writing this, but its got to be said. I'm sure I speak for many when I say I thank you for all you did for the people you came into contact with and I'm sure fans that understand the depth of work, dedication, professionalism and value you brought to QPR they will also join me in showing their appreciation!
Jamie Vardy non league to Premier League top scorer
So it seems that the can of worms opened at Fifa has turned
into a hidden cave of worms. So, whilst our own FA makes clear its disassociation
from the deep deceit for personal gain, I wanted to pose them questions about
TalentID. I’m certain that as they promote honesty, integrity and transparency
the key people there will welcome the concept that we should continue to review
and take care of our own house first and do what’s good for football.
They have a new Talent ID department delivering courses to
professionalise recruitment of players. Like most things delivered by the FA,
some we will agree with, some we won’t. Introducing overlapping coaching
courses like Youth Modules for example could be deemed overkill by a sceptic
but actually, having been on them I have found them to be excellent and would
highly recommend coaches of any qualifications complete them. It’s good to
always think, consider, and reconsider how you do things. I’ve now seem some of
the results of the new Talent ID filter into my inbox. Again, a lot of it is
really well structured and important. As pro clubs they are all now talking DNA
and key features or pillars that players must display in order to be ‘scouted’.
However, all the documents, PowerPoint, flipcharts aside, I think there are
bigger and much more important issues to address when it comes to ‘Talent ID’
Has England lost out on potential talent that
was released from Academies for reasons other than their football ability?
Our football culture has changed to include
great facilities in hard up areas, but a pay to play situation which rules out
heaps of children that can’t afford to take part.
The hottest player in the country today is Jamie Vardy. Yet
another player that has come back into the game via non-league. Something I
truly admire. In fact many players in the football league have come via that
route. Some could argue development is more real post 16 when games become more
realistic than the 21’s governed by the Premier League. There has been all
sorts written over the last few days about clubs interested in Vardy but I
couldn’t help tracing back his pathways. Surely Sheffield Wednesday must be kicking themselves. Surely someone in that club made a huge mistake. Had
they not made that mistake that great club could now be sitting on a winning
lottery ticket as QPR found when Sterling moved from Liverpool to Man City. So
why did a club, who spent years of investment and effort let that lottery
ticket blow out of the window? Mistakes happen, sometimes we get it wrong and I’ve
seen high profile people very humbled when proven wrong, but with no malice
either side. It was just an opinion and one that got away. That happens. But
was this the case with Vardy? I
genuinely don’t know the exact ins and outs but I was left scratching my head,
how? Really? A future England player, Premier League top scorer? Really? That
player was let go? Considering some players I see get signed, surely this lad
should have been locked tightly under contract at Sheffield Wednesday. So, as
Talent ID I really want to know, how and why was this player allowed to drift
out of the game. Yes, he’s done the unthinkable but let’s be honest, the vast
majority don’t. They are destroyed and in some cases out of the game at all
levels forever. Ok, so, most will be the right decision, but are their more
To repeat, I DONT KNOW what happened to Jamie Vardy at Sheffield Wednesday. It could be a very genuine mistake in judgment. But it's his recent rise to the top that alerted me to the problem and I think it makes it worth investigating.
Iv’e seen players signed and released from clubs for what I
believe to be the wrong reasons. This can be to hit performance targets. This
can be to achieve a perceived success in recruitment for signing quotas. To
show a success story to EPPP inspectors & club owners. But perhaps the most
alarming question asked by many people in football is. Are players getting released
and new ones signed to assist in scouts and middle management achieving bonus
commissions? Many of the recruitment team will be on individual bonus schemes
and also the middle and senior management. So there is an incentive to move
players on and bring new ones in. This may seem cynical. Many good scouts out
there and management of academies have been rewarded financially on success.
Most of this is rightly earned as they are mostly underpaid and this justifies
the miles put in. The problem is, like money does it can also bring out the
worst in people. I believe there are now people going into clubs on a short
term strategy to take as much money out as possible. Like all money grabbing
leaches they turn in into drug hungry self-centred blinkered crusaders that
will trample over everyone in their path for a pound note. If that means
getting rid of players regardless of ability so be it. That includes any staff
that might be on to them or challenge the strategy. The reality is it benefits
no one other than a short term financial gain for the scout/staff. The player
going out could be a Jamie Vardy and the player coming in might not be at that
level giving up on alternative education and career. But people move jobs
before anything is highlighted taking with them their bonus payments. This has
to stop. Actually club owners put their trust in people but they need to dig
down to look for this phenomenon and fix it. It’s costing them money.
Together with our new ‘play to pay’ culture I detailed here http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/exclusive-football.html
I fear that we can be missing out on talent who come from difficult
backgrounds. These players who can’t afford to join clubs due to travel and
subs. The FA have introduced all these wonderful new 3G pitches but in many
cases they remain locked and empty at low peak times. Primarily these have been
funded by outside organisations that promote inclusion in sport so these should
be made available to local communities in a subsidised way.
There would be many things you
could introduce as an academy manager but I think changes and influences need
to come from above that. Here is my short manifesto that I would truly believe
would produce better players, would protect football clubs better and
would protect young players better.
Non contracts and reduced hours at
I have heard of 6 year olds getting tapped up by clubs. This has got to stop.
Young children should be enjoying playing football in the park without
restriction. I think the value of school football, participation in multi
sports and grass roots football out way the benefits of too much structured
coaching under 10 years old. From the ages 8-11 I believe players should not be
contracted and restricted in other activities. If asking for non-contracts is
not achievable then we should look to change the hours of pro club contact and actively
embrace the player taking part with grass roots clubs, school football and
other sports. It was reported recently that a player has a 1 in 200 chance of
making the first team. So surely it’s a moral crime to deny them other sporting
opportunities at such a young age? Of course we can still find ways of
recruiting them and securing them for clubs which could remain more structured
from 12 years.
FREE non pro club development centres –
has become a pay to play culture. The FA committed to installing hundreds of 3G
pitches around the country as part of improving football. I welcome that. But
the problem is, none of them are free. Simply opening the gates could result in
damage but there is a solution which benefits everyone. Most of all England.
Academy football is free, or is it? Driving to training four times a week and a
long distance game on Sunday. It’s not free, so I suspect that some parents
simply cannot afford to take the child to academies. Grass roots football
receives no funding so a club has no choice to raise funds through sponsorship
and parents. Some parents cannot afford this. So the new 3G pitch is rammed in
the week in the evening where clubs can use subs to pay the bill. However, near
me the two new ones are empty at weekends in the mornings. I would suggest that
the FA book these and work with schools PE departments and grass roots managers
to identify talent. Perhaps those that don’t play for a club at all. Those
children can then come to that 3G free of charge for regular coaching and
playing. Some clubs have their own development centres but many charge
considerable amounts for that privilege. This free access would give us the
ability to identify talent from within communities that are tough and deprived.
My guess is that every year at least one player at every age group will be identified
as at academy level but has been missed. They can then be routed to appropriate
local academies as and when the time is right. I’m certain that the clubs would
want to scout this centre anyway and if the player is good enough they will ‘find
a way’ to get round financial restrictions. Maybe a bursary could be set aside
to help the individual.
Review Elite Player Performance Plan
should have recruitment and release committee members. No one person, including
the academy manager should have the autonomy to sign or release a player themselves.
If it was my club I would want to see at least six signatures on a document
from heads of departments. That includes:
head of recruitment
head of coaching
head of relevant phase
lead coach for that age
a first team coach depending on scale of club. Or 21s coach)
I would want to see a similar document on file with the six votes that agree
the player should be released. This would be the result of a ‘release meeting’
where each players attributes and potential is discussed. Then the vote and
recorded. Only then can the Academy Manager have the casting vote if required. After
all, the club has been forking out £3-4k+ a year to develop this child. We also
took him out of school. His parents have spent £100 a week driving him to
training. He’s sacrificed all his other activities he used to take part in and
is too tired to even do his homework or falling asleep in class (I heard this
happen). The least we can do is take his release seriously? Of course it’s a necessary
evil. Breaking a child’s heart is something I don’t take part in with ease.
Some players just don’t develop and actually it’s for their own good long term.
We can’t be 100% certain that we are right but let’s carefully consider everything
before it’s another investment down the drain of the club and potential loss of
essential future income. As well as a heartbroken child that didn’t need it.
would also look into hours and pressure put on the child and parents. This
should be age appropriate and if children come in during the day I would want
to huge commitment by the staff to make this valuable. Also any child behind at
school should not be able to come in on day release. Of course it’s not
relevant to level 1 academies who provide the education.
follows the education format. This includes setting out learning objectives and
outcomes. As well as this 6 week reporting and player meetings. Many parents
want more information, so in that respect it’s good. But the problem I have is
this. I don’t know a player yet that has been either recruited or released
based on what has been written on the PMA systems. There is now all this data
logged but it’s largely subjective and therefore how valuable is it? Do you
really think the first team manager is going to ask to read what the U14’s
coach thought of him before putting him in the first team? So, its work for
works sake. Actually it applies more pressure to young players who know every
mistake is logged against them and the coaches are spending hours upon hours on
laptops instead of the grass. So this needs to be reviewed. I also wonder if
all parents are entitled to full copies of this data under the Data Protection
Act which includes access to information held about you.
New Bonus/Pay rules for Scouts
term bonus for scouts and bosses can’t work for the club or the player. I’m
totally against it. Getting a bonus for a player signing at the academy should
be disbanded. Pay the scout and pay expenses, yes. Give them performance
targets, yes. But remove this bonus. Also the bonus for an academy player
signing as a a scholar or first year pro. These achievements may seem huge to
the player and parents at the time but they still have not reached the ultimate
goal. A bonus should only come into place when the player has appeared twenty
times in the first team, out on loan or sold to another club. That really
proves the player had a chance and if you’re a proper scout that cares about
players that is surely all you want to see? You will be happy to play the long
game. I would also have a contract agreement meaning if staff get moved on, the
scout will still receive the bonus. This would make individuals with the
autonomy to ‘play the game’ and manipulate the system for personal gain change their
strategy. Hopefully then we would find that the only players in the system are
ones there on merit and merit alone. Who would disagree with that?
for those recruiting lower down this seems like a long way away, 5 years plus
before you could gain recognition. Well, yes, that’s true. But it’s for the
good of the game. You get your match fee, you get your miles and we will look
at the performance levels. You will be educated about what the club needs. But I’m
not going to let you cash out early on an achievement, that actually, is not an
achievement at all and puts the club at financial risk and can be harmful to
The vast majority of people in football are good souls who
care about the game and the lives they affect. That includes within the FA.
Actually includes the current department set up. Those will be reading this
nodding their heads. Others however with be boiling. Reading through each line
to look for something liable. Maybe its fear of exposure? Maybe you have your
own hidden cave? Those will be the ones checking their shoulders. But you see,
what goes around comes around, just like we have seen at Fifa. Too many people
in this country accept the words “that’s football”. If we truly want the game
cleared up then it starts with honesty and openness. The prize for that
integrity is that we might even improve our national team through better selection
mixed with better development and pathways.
It’s fantastic to see
the growing volume of 3G pitches appearing in what the FA describe as urban
areas. This is all part of Greg Dykes England Commission where he has committed
to increasing the amount of artificial pitches by 130% to more than 500 by
This is commendable and to improve facilities can only be a
good thing for everybody, or is it?
Travelling around its delightful to see these pitches rammed
with players taking advantage of the surface that allows them to play all year
round in relative safety. But these children will mostly be those that play for
grass roots clubs for which they pay subs and others that are training with
professional football clubs development centres, paying for the privilege. I
work in many schools and listen to the children. On countless occasions I have
heard youngsters tell me that they do not play for a club because mum or dad can’t
afford it. Yet I see such great talent which makes that a heart-breaking situation.
So where do these children play and will they ever be granted on opportunity?
Schools already do tremendous work in engaging youngsters in sport as part of
the governments primary sport premium. But mostly this encourages increased participation
in many alternative activities, which is great. But it’s not football specific.
So these children’s best hope is the school team but I don’t think this is
enough for them to develop adequately and be seen.
Most great footballers have come from difficult or working
class backgrounds and actually in the UK I fear more and more people are edging
towards to the poverty line and many beneath it. So clothes, food, water and
heating are a much greater priority for their children than football. So are we
doing enough to help these children that fall into this bracket and should we?
Why should some people pay for something and others not?
Culture of Football
Limbury, Luton. No Sport
The culture of
football in England is changing. I think the reason that many play football has
changed. Where we can play football has changed. To me it seems that for many,
the reason for playing is simply to be a professional footballer and their are
far too many players that are perceived to be in an elite bracket. With that
come’s disappointment and rejection and the reality that for most it doesn’t happen.
Parents living that dream through the children add to the pressure and ultimately
the failure to cope with the rejection. Many teenagers then completely give the
game up for good and I find that so sad. We played football for the love of the
game regardless of the level it was. Where we play football has changed. I don’t
think our parks are cared for as they should be and even our local field is now
been giving up for a coronation meadow. It’s already been rotavated and now
even walking on it feels like you could sprain your ankle. The cynic in me
suspects this is more to do with economics and cut backs. A meadow will cost
much less to maintain than a sports field. Playing in the street is no longer
accepted and any local piece of green gets a ‘no ball games’ sign.
If you join a club
then no doubt you will get to train on a nice surface. But you will need to
contribute which of course is fair, kit is not free. You could go to a pro
clubs development centre which around where I live you would pay for. Or you
are lucky to sign schoolboy forms for a pro club and be coached and train for
free. But is it free? Training four times a week and clocking up miles on the
motorway? It’s not free.
New facility at 1.30pm on a Saturday recently
With this in mind it’s
great to see these wonderful new facilities. Luton has two really difficult
tough areas. Lewsey Farm and Marsh Farm. Both now boast wonderful new pitches.
There is a big sign outside saying Football Foundation and Lottery funded, so
clearly not paid for using commercial funds. Yet they are treated as commercial
enterprises by the people that operate them. Of course revenue is vital but to
me they are benefiting from the increased income but didn’t make the initial
investment. The result of this is harsh reality. Saturday, lovely October day
with sunshine. 1.30 pm, this was the pitch in Marsh Farm, Luton. Padlocked and
empty. The next day, Sunday morning I drove past the other new 3G in Lewsey
Farm at 11am. It was padlocked and empty. Of course during the week from 6pm
they are packed with paying customers from clubs and teams but weekend’s with
nobody is a criminal waste. If they simply opened the gate I’m sure the
management would fear risk of theft and vandalism. But to me that is lazy and
lacks any sort of commitment to engage empathetically with its local community.
There will be so many children looking down on that pitch from the surrounding
houses and high rise flats probably kicking a ball around the living room that
could not afford to go and play for the local club. It could also be that he or
she is the next Messi, Ronaldo, Pele, Maradona or Marta. If these organisations
have benefitted from supporting funds surely there is something they can do to
help engage these people. That ultimately benefits the community and also could
benefit the England team in the future. Is this not the master plan of Greg
Dyke? So for football to be great in this country again we must not
discriminate against someone based on class and money. It has to be all
inclusive. I think that’s a good reason to offer assistance for those not able
to afford football.
Lets ask the top 100 players ever from
England if they had to pay to participate in the game?
I would suggest that there should be partnership agreements
with the local schools. If you get funding support for a pitch it’s a crucial
must criteria. Children can register with the school for free access at times
like I have seen which clearly don’t sell anyway. This could be used as a behaviour
carrot for the school. That way they know who is on the pitch and have the
ability to deal with any issues. I guess the other objection could be
supervision based on crazy health & safety, insurance rules. Well, if that’s
the case, supervise it. There are hundreds of coaches desperate for work and
experience. Pay them. The FA is not short of funds I’m certain of that. 4 hours
a week, 2 hours on Saturday and 2 on Sunday won’t send them into liquidation.
I have also said before that I believe the FA centrally
should run their own ‘Elite Centre’s’. Independent from the professional clubs.
In the style of development centres, a stepping stone between grass roots and
professional academies where they can experience quality coaching and
experience whilst playing for their registered clubs. But it should be
selective and FREE.
I guess growing up in a council estate a stone’s throw
from one of these 3G pitches is what makes me passionate about OPPORTUNTIY. Living
in poverty or dysfunctional families doesn’t automatically mean children will
follow the same path. It doesn’t mean they will be criminals and can’t achieve great
things in their life. Football is such an important aspect of this enabling
them to give their thoughts and worries a break. I believe we should empower
them to change the cycle. Sport can do that. Let’s please let these children
have a chance to live a dream and if not, at least enjoy football.
Typically over all the years of
football, the best players have arrived on the scene having come from challenging
backgrounds. Does that create more hunger and intrinsic desire to change your
family’s life? But equally players are around that have very stable
backgrounds. So, the point is, we just don’t know from what community and what
background the next great player will be hiding. But for sure we certainly need
to ensure we look under every stone and give everybody equal opportunity. If we
create a pay to play culture this could eliminate so many people so we have to
find a way.