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The standard of English football has dropped severely in the last twenty years,

and this once-great footballing nation has no chance of breaking their 47-year-wait for a trophy anytime soon.

The future’s bright, the future’s foreign“English teams can only play hoof-ball and they need to get with the times if they are to compete against the rest of the world”.

That seems to be the view of the mass media. But with the introduction of the football foundation, and the influx of young coaches, how far away are we from joining the elite?

In countries such as Germany and Spain, the emphasis of playing our beautiful game is not on winning, but on playing the game the right way. Passing into feet and not being afraid of the ball. They are taught to cherish possession and keep it for as long as they need to, and if this brand causes the occasional defeat, then so be it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Over time, this philosophy has produced some of the world’s best. Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Lionel Messi were all nominated for the 2010 Ballon d’Or, and were all produced from Barcelona’s world famous La Masia. They must be doing something right.

But as this seasons Champions League suggests, there is currently a shift in European super-power, and it is coming from 100 miles north-east of Madrid, in Germany. The Nationalmannschaft completely revamped their football hypothesis after they saw the success of other grass-roots ideologies coming out of Argentina and Brazil. And with this new ‘keep ball’ style, they are beginning to reap in the rewards. A World Cup semi-final in 2010, a European Championship semi-final in 2012, and now a first ever all-German Champions League final. Die Mannschaft are tipped to set the world alight in 2014, when their squad, now reaching its prime, touches down in Brazil.

All of these success stories have come from implementing a certain way of playing the game. These ideologies go down to grass roots level, with football associations putting their faith in young coaches who have been taught how to get the best out of their players. If this is the case, then England has a lot of catching up to do.

According to UEFA, England has 2,769 coaches holding top qualifications. Doesn’t sound so bad? Put these figures next to the rest of Europe and it makes much tougher reading. Spain has produced 23,995 coaches with the same qualifications. Italy has 29,420, with Germany leading the way with 34,970.

What makes it worse is the ratio between UEFA coaches and active players. In Spain, there is one coach for every 17 players, in Germany; there is a coach for every 150 players. England produces only one coach for every 812 players.

A freezing cold Sunday morning covered in mud down your local park is a far cry from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League. But these are the conditions that coaches have had to work with over the past 20 years.

So is it any wonder that, with the distinct lack of home-grown talent, the Premier League has taken on a very foreign feel in the last decade? Football in England is traditionally about pace and power, rather than your technical ability on the ball. Poor playing surfaces up and down this country means that the famous ‘continental’ brand of football is almost impossible for the coaches to implement, and most definitely impossible for the young players to put into practice. This has meant a very ‘old fashioned’ style of football being showcased on fields and greens from Cardiff to Carlisle, and everywhere in-between. But what about these new state-of-the-art 3G pitches that are being funded in local areas? Will these help coaches produce more quality players in the long run?

Liam Hodson is the manager of the Lutterworth Soccer Centre in Leicestershire, and he thinks these new facilities will help inspire the younger generation to get involved in sports coaching, and football in particular.

“I think it’ll be beneficial in the long run. In my experience, players, especially the younger ones, get much more out of training sessions when it’s on an all-weather pitch. They seem to respond to things quicker and just seem a whole lot more relaxed”.

The 30-year-old, who has coached in America and Japan, feels that these developing footballing nations are more advanced in their coaching methods than back home.

“There is much more of a blueprint working in these other countries on how they want their kids to play football. It’s almost like a syllabus you’d find in schools, especially in America. They insist that the kids play football on the floor, pass and move, pass and move, and as a coach, it is a refreshing change to hear that sort of thing coming from the hierarchy you’re working for”.

Despite all the criticism aimed at British coaching, the national team currently sit sixth in the FIFA world rankings, so is it a myth that England aren’t producing world class players?

“I wouldn’t say the problem really lies on the type of football we play, but there’s definitely too much emphasis on winning. Other countries I’ve worked in don’t mind losing, as long as the kids play the right way. I suppose that’s the correct way of doing things, but that approach squeezes out the competitive edge that you find with English kids. You need to find the right balance, as a coach, between making sure your kids play the way you want, but also installing that competitiveness”.

There have also been calls for only FA qualified coaches to take charge of sides at kids’ level.

“I’ve come across some grown men coaching their teams, who have become far too obsessed with winning. They clearly don’t know anything about football, so I have to question why they’re coaching in the first place. Winning through sheer competitiveness isn’t going to mould the future of English football, there needs to be a method behind the madness”.

Thankfully for small organisations, there are people dedicated to grass-roots sport. The Football Foundation is the UK’s largest sports’ charity. It is funded by the largest bodies in English football, including the Premier League, the Football Association and the Government. The Foundation gives £30m a year to low-level sport. The foundation is seen as a saviour for small centres such as the one at Lutterworth.

“If it wasn’t for companies such as the Football foundation and Sport England then grass-roots football would be on its knees”.

The lovely English weather dictates that grass pitches can be out-of-order for up to three months in a year due to snow and ice, and these all-weather facilities give kids the opportunity to play all-year-round.

“With the continued help of the Football foundation and other organisations, I can only see the standard of English football improving”.

The Football Foundation is helping in more ways than the untrained eye may think.

“These charities also give opportunities for young coaches to get their qualifications. Thanks to Sport England, I was able to push through 13 coaches between the ages of 17-21 to do their FA level 2 qualifications. Not only will that allow them to earn a free qualification, but it also puts 13 more FA qualified coaches on to the map for schools and centre’s such as this one to take advantage of. Because of Sport England, I can run this scheme for at least the next five years. Meaning there will be at least 65 more coaches in circulation, and if this scheme is offered nationwide, the standard of coaching, and in turn, the standard of English football is bound to improve”.

So according to those at grass-roots level, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to the state of English football. The football foundation and other bodies are doing all they can. But we’re not as far away as some sections of the media may suggest. Does this mean that we will go to Rio de Janeiro next year and win the World Cup with a load of top English wonder kids? Don’t hold your breath; The 47 year drought doesn’t look set to produce any rain.

Not yet at least.

Post written by Asa McCoy
Blog: thatcouldbethegoal, Twitter: @AsaMcCoy

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

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