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Brooking hails youth development

The FA have been busy discussing the future of the game in recent weeks, with player development continuing to be a hot topic of discussion.

The rhetoric coming out of the FA headquarters is that training for youngsters must be age-appropriate in order to allow them to fully develop their technical potential.

There is a general feeling amongst those in the know that England treats its youth players as though they are fully blown Premier League stars, something which can harm both confidence and ultimately ability.

The roots for this school of thought arguably began five years ago, with the introduction of the FA Skills Programme, which aims to give specialist training to 5-11 year-olds.

66 coaches were initially signed up when the scheme began. Now there are around 106, and organisers hope that the scheme will reach over 4.7 million youngsters nationwide.

And there has been plenty of progress, as Sir Trevor Brooking explained at the Greenwich Soccer Dome last week.

“The five years have been great,” he said.

Making progress

“The starting point has always been when you go into the school, give everyone the chance to play it and from that you’ll get those who you can identify as having a bit of raw talent.

“You then try and get them to the after school clubs or the skill centres that we have every week, and then channel them to a good junior club or a charter standard club.

“And then of course while all that’s going on you’ll have the elite clubs with their academies looking for young talent.

“We’ve already had some that have been identified as having academy potential. That doesn’t mean they’re going to make the grade but they’ve progressed enough to get that chance, and I’m sure if we give them the really good habits at this young age, a lot of them will have a chance to play at that higher level.”

In England, the culture of winning has traditionally been an integral part of how we approach the development of young talent, but schemes such as the Skill Programme instead look to develop the technical ability of each player, whilst also enhancing their love for the game.

Fun and enjoyment

“It’s really putting that emphasis on fun and enjoyment,” Brooking said.

“Trying to get them to use the ball all the time, and try different twists and turns, little tricks to make them a bit more creative and imaginative than we’ve done in the past.”

“We’re trying to get away from the coach or the adult who goes to a match, puts pressure on the youngsters, shouts if they do something wrong, makes it too intense, puts too much emphasis on the results too early and that’s what switches off a lot of youngsters.”

England’s manager and players should be all too familiar with the pressure of getting results, but that pressure may be eased for this summer’s Euro 2012 campaign, with expectancy levels amongst England fans arguably at their lowest since the World Cup campaign in 1990.

And Sir Trevor believes that simply getting out of the group would signal a good tournament for England.

Euro expectancy

“If we can get out of the group it means we’ve done okay because I do think it’s a very tough group,” he said.

“But then after that you get a bit of momentum you can start to get results and we’ll have to play someone from the group of Spain, Italy, Croatia, Ireland, so the quarter-final won’t be easy whoever it is.

“But by then if you come out of a tough group, as I say you can get a bit of momentum and let’s hope we can surprise people.”

Surprising their own fans, who are becoming all too familiar with disappointment, would certainly be a great start.

By Tom Coleman - Follow me on Twitter @tomecoleman

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