Sunday, 20 November 2016

Week 45 - Arthritis time, EPPP and the EFL Trophy

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! 
Monday
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?
Tuesday
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.
Wednesday
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'.
Friday
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
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!

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