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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
FA combats English lack of skill
By Alistair Magowan

Trevor Brooking
Normally we have our least experienced coaches working with this age group

Sir Trevor Brooking
FA director of development Sir Trevor Brooking thinks the launch of 66 specialist skills coaches is the key to improving England teams of the future.

Brooking earmarked England's recent defeat to Holland at the European under-21 Championships as an example where technical ability cost the team.

"We gave the ball away too much and then we had to work so hard to get it back," he told BBC Sport.

"We need to give players the technical tools so we don't rely on effort."

He added: "We were three minutes away from beating the hosts so we're still going close, but we'll actually go on and win something if we can improve that individual technique."

The FA skills programme, launched at Wembley on Thursday by Brooking and England midfielder Frank Lampard, aims to raise technical standards amongst 5-11 year olds - the key age at which skills are ingrained.

The 66 qualified coaches will visit schools and summer clubs across the country with the intention of giving one million children access to skills coaching by the summer of 2010.

The initiative was brought in after Brooking recognised the best coaches were automatically working with teenage and older players.

"Normally we have our least experienced coaches working with this age group," he said.

"I think that too many youngsters panic once they get to 13 years old and play 11 v 11.

"Unless you've got that technical skill to pass it and get it back or dribble around somebody, we just see the ball launched from one end to the other and there is no development of flair.

Frank Lampard and Gianfranco Zola
Gianfranco Zola had probably the best technique I've seen in a footballer I've played with and he was so willing to help others

Frank Lampard

"A better quality coach will give us a better individual skill base and then hopefully the elite end will also improve in the long term."

Even Chelsea's Frank Lampard, who is backing the programme, recognises the difference in technique at international level when he has come up against the likes of Brazil.

The 29-year-old was fortunate in that he was coached mainly by his dad (Frank Lampard Snr) as a child but his experience at school exposes the problem at grassroots level which has been prevalent for many years.

"My situation is probably a bit different because I had one-on-one coaching from my dad so he told me not to listen to anyone else anyway!" Lampard said.

"The people teaching me football at school, and no disrespect to them, were a maths teacher and a geography teacher who had an interest in football and tried their hardest.

"It wasn't giving me a great base to try and play for West Ham, Chelsea and England.

"The way to improve is not when you're in your 20s or even at 15 years old but at the grass roots when you're very young."

Although Lampard had his dad to guide him during his younger years, he was also inspired to improve even further by an unexpected skills coach when he joined Chelsea.

"Gianfranco Zola had probably the best technique I've seen in a footballer I've played with and he was so willing to help others," he said.

"You could only learn by watching him train and play. He made an impact on me when I came to Chelsea at 22 years of age. People who have that kind of influence can change the way you play the game.

"So I know first hand that dealing with someone with a great technical ability can help you."

Holland U21 1-1 Eng U21 (aet)
20 Jun 07 |  Internationals
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