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Comment: Southgate set to fail?

Gareth Southgate was recently appointed as the man in charge of the future of the game of football at youth level. Coincidently, in Egypt we have a people’s revolution and its clear why that is. The people of Egypt want better governance and just as importantly they want a choice of government based on freedom and the right to choose their way of life.  Now!

We could also do with a football revolution here in Britain. Gareth has absolutely no chance of sorting anything out at youth level and in clubs below the Championship as things stand in my opinion simply because most of the officials at many of the clubs in charge of coaching regimes do not support the first ball game that is reliant on skillful play, but, the second ball game that is reliant on battling type attributes and therefore on a player selection process that is based on battling attributes.
The truth is simple.  We do live in a democracy and it is time that the parents of children demanded the right to choose how the game of football in this country at all levels of the game should be played. Why should they do that?  Let me tell you a story that highlights what is normal in many clubs today. 

I know of one young man who worked on his skills for a long time and was born in Blackburn asked for a trial at one of the local professional football clubs - The manager looked at the skills of this player and said – "I can’t take you because you have too fast feet for us."

The attitude to skills in this country by many a manager in the lower divisions in particular is the reason why many of the clubs stay where they are for years. The simple truth is that if the manager is a supporter of the second ball game (based on battling attributes) then he picks for strength and if you happen to be a skillful player you have no chance of getting into this man's team.

Where is the choice then in the majority of football clubs below the Championship level of how the game should be played?  Nowhere!  I believe that parents whose children play football should have a choice of whether they want their children to be coached to play football to the pass and move style, that requires skillful play (therefore a different approach to player development) or the choice to be coached to play the second ball game that is in fact based on a lack of football skills.
I believe that the correct choice is to opt out to play the skillful game of football. Why? We live at a time when the top clubs only take in the best players from around the world and as such the reality is top clubs in Europe source their players through places like Portugal and Portugal in turn get their players from places like Brazil, Argentina and Nigeria.

Therefore the top drawer players come from the ‘fast feet regime’ and therefore from a skillful approach to the game of football.  The choice for everyone in involved with the game of football is now clear.  If we want our players to compete with the best players in the world, we must support the first ball game and its implications from a playing and coaching point of view.

I wish Mr Southgate a lot of luck because given the implications of the second ball game in many of the clubs today, he will most certainly need it. Change though must come if the children are to have the chance to play football to the first ball game reality that holds the key to the prospects of young players and therefore the future of the game everywhere.

Martin Bidzinski is the author of football coaching books The Soccer Coaching Handbook, Smart First Touches and Soccer Training: Developing the 360° Player.  For more information click on Martin's books click here.

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