The Three Lions: Cavemen of World Football

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The failures of English football have prompted much discussion on how to solve the unsolvable, Tom Gregory looks to Brazillian Soccer Schools for an answer.

As the eyes of English football turn once again away from the travesty of the national team and refocus once again upon the excitement of the new domestic season, the roar of Premier League stadia cannot drown out the resounding cries for reform in English football.

England yet again produced a pitiful performance at this summers showpiece event, Euro 2012. In spite of the usual mindless jingoism, with its archaic focalisation on ‘courage’ and ‘graft’ our brave boys were subject to a humbling education in football, as they yet again bowed out on penalties.

For all the talk of Andrea Pirlo’s majesty and ITV’s performing ape, Adrian Chiles’ attempts to gleam a shred of optimism through his woeful punditry, English football has been given a rude awakening to the fact that England, and more importantly, English players, are simply not good enough.

I can already hear the rumbling murmur of self gratifying Sunday League managers stirring in annoyance. So before I continue let me illustrate why England’s footballers are, at present, ill equipped to compete on the international stage.

Bar the game against Sweden, a country who do not exactly ooze footballing heritage, England failed to maintain more than 43% of possesion. Furthermore, in the tournament as a whole only the Republic of Ireland and Greece kept less possesion than England. That is the collective, so what about England’s individual players? Steven Gerrard, England’s best passer of the ball attempted 44 passes against Italy, under 40 were successful. In comparison, Andrea Barzagli, a centre half, completed nearly double the amount of passes.
This problem is nothing new. Breif analysis of any English national side over the past two decades will show that in the vast majority of matches they have been unable to succesully retain possesion.

This blemish on the make up of English national sides has developed into a cancerous cyst. In terms of ability with the football (surely the most basic of footballing principles) England have become the aged whore of the world game, violated every two years by more virile sides who expose England’s technical shortcomings.
But how is it that the English national side is currently rotting in this mire of footballing retardation?

The usual hogwash spilling from the FA claims academy graduates are not given enough of an opportunity in Premier League first teams. Whilst the media cites the gargantuan contracts offered to footballers as thrusting young men into a world where the propensity for excess is too much to resist.

The absurd amounts of money earned by these young men is of course a very real distraction from their development as players. Yet the suggestion that is regurgitated time and again by just about every FA official, that young players don’t get enough of an opportunity in the Premier League, is utter tripe and little more than a pathetic excuse by a group of overpaid bureaucrats. If these young players were good enough, they would play.

English players technical deprivation is but a symptom of a prehistoric attitude to coaching football that became extinct along time ago. Travel to any park on a Sunday morning and this pantomime of footballing slapstick is played out on grubby pitches across the country. The air is punctuated by squawks from bleeting, egocentric parents: ‘Get it out!’, ‘Get stuck in!’ and ‘Play it safe!’
A win at all costs mentality is preached to children as young as five, with the development of the individual neglected in favor of a team victory. The result of this may well be a successful youth football team but those talented enough to earn professional contracts arrive at the highest level in a state of footballing austerity, possessing a set of technical skills that falls embarrassingly short of their international contemporaries.
The national team bears the scars of this archaic attitude towards player development. Successive humiliations in major tournaments has left the national side limping through the football wilderness like a maimed badger.
But how to remedy this outdated football tradition that has soiled the chances of international success for the last two decades?

England Under 21s before they faced Belgium in February

Many cite the exploits of the current Spanish side as providing a model for English coaches to pursue. They will be crowned unequivocally the greatest side ever should they emerge victorious from the World Cup in Brazil 2014. Whilst Spain’s innovative tika takka passing style is enviable solutions are available closer to home.

The Brazilian Soccer Schools, brainchild of footballing visionary Simon Clifford has for the last 12 years coached children using Brazilian training methods.
Years of futile English footballing tradition have been stripped away with emphasis placed firmly on the development of the individual. Working on the principle of one player with one ball players gain optimum touches during a training session. Drills aimed at cultivating technique are practiced relentlessly, creating players who are at total comfort in playing with the ball.
Clifford comments: “We believe the game should first be seen as an individual pursuit and complete domination and mastery of the tool of the game, the ball, be attained before the player moves into game play.”

Whilst it may be tempting to think from BSS’ name that this a circus that merely facilitates an indulgence of trickery, players are subject to a philosophy of football that sees them train harder for longer. Typically, a player would complete 16 hours of training sessions a week whilst also being encouraged to hone their skills at home during their spare time.
The BSS mandate stipulates that as players develop physically they also undertake a rigorous exercise regime in order to mould their bodies into footballing weaponry. From their early teens players’ technical training is supplemented through a personalised exercise programme which aims to create physically capable as well as technically proficient footballers.

Clifford’s methods are a far cry from the tragicomedy’s being played out at FA coaching sessions. BSS sessions are fast and fluid with players training with a smaller sized ball that doesn’t bounce in order to perfect technique. In stark contrast, an FA organised session shares more of a semblance with a battle scene from Lord of the Rings, utter carnage. The ball rarely stays on the floor, mindlessly hoofed at the oppositions goal to the backdrop of animalistic screams from both players and parents.

Should the FA finally wake up and smell the nervous sweat dripping from Roy Hodgson’s jock strap, they would realise that Clifford and the Brazilian Soccer Schools are already offering a method of coaching that will help to right the wrongs of English football.
Were the FA to collaborate with Clifford and implement his Brazilian style coaching methods on a national scale the touch paper for footballing revolution could be ignited.
Given the level of participation in this country a rich pool of talent would soon emerge. Not only would this galvanise the national side into once again becoming an international force but also create a wealth of home grown talent who could go toe to toe with foreign imports in the Premier League.

The ball now rests firmly in the FA’s court. Will they continue to allow English football to plummet in this downward spiral, slowly drowning in the present quagmire of mediocrity?
Or, let us hope, they see the example being set by the Brazilian Soccer Schools and initiate a nationalised upheavel of coaching in this country, implementing a technique orientated coaching programme.

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