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How will English football develop?

By Matt Slater

Sir Trevor Brooking
Brooking says the FA should take the lead in player development
Sir Trevor Brooking says English football has been "hugely negligent" in the way it develops young talent.

He told BBC Sport that relief at Fabio Capello's arrival as coach must not be allowed to mask England's problems.

"Unless we take the initiative now, missing Euro 2008 would be even more of a sacrilege," said the Football Association's development director.

"We must not let the debate on coaching and player development drop. We must invest and transform what we do."

Brooking, who has been at the FA since 2003, made it clear who he believes should guide that transformation.

"In other countries there is no doubt that the governing body takes the lead," stated the former England and West Ham midfielder.

Number of English-qualified academy graduates from current PL clubs who have gone on to make at least five league starts since start of 2002-03 season
Nine: Middlesbrough
Eight: Manchester City
Five: Aston Villa, West Ham
Four: Derby
Three: Arsenal, Everton, Fulham, Newcastle, Sunderland
Two: Liverpool
One: Birmingham, Blackburn, Manchester United, Spurs, Wigan*
None: Bolton, Chelsea, Portsmouth**, Reading

* No academy
** Academy status since July

"The governing body has to look long-term. We are the only ones looking that far forward and that is why I believe we should co-ordinate it."

Brooking's comments come after BBC Sport research has revealed just how few English-qualified players the country's leading clubs are producing.

Since the start of the 2002-03 season, only 53 English players have made Premier League debuts and subsequently started four more top-flight games. That averages out as one genuine first-teamer per academy every two years or just 10 new English-qualified players a season across the league.

A recent Professional Footballers' Association report, ominously titled Meltdown, said the number of overseas players making Premier League debuts each season is running at three times that of English players from the academies.

Brooking first voiced his concerns about the threat to English football posed by the Premier League's appetite for overseas talent to BBC Sport in September.

And since England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, the trickle of support for his views has become a torrent. But the 59-year-old is no knee-jerk "Little Englander". His solution is to raise the bar, not the drawbridge.

"When you have to decide to sign on somebody at 16, the overwhelming feedback from the clubs is that the English youngsters fall down on the technical side," revealed Brooking.

We also want to make sure the framework Trevor is building up has good, strong investment and we are giving people chances to become better coaches

FA chief executive Brian Barwick

"The coaches like their mentality, their hunger, their desire, but that doesn't compensate for not being on a par technically with overseas youngsters.

"That is a clear sign we've got to get a long-term philosophy in place for our English kids at five to 11 and then 11 to 16, so that when they to get to 16-plus it is tough for our clubs to say 'sorry, you're not good enough'. At the moment, they're telling me it's too easy."

At the news conference to officially appoint Capello as England's new manager, FA chief executive Brian Barwick said a "strategic review" of the governing body's approach to coaching would be announced in March.

Barwick added: "We have talked about 'root and branch' and there has been some scepticism about whether we will see that through and whether it was just a smokescreen to recruit a senior coach. It wasn't.

"The FA's strategic review will take us through the next five years of our life at the Football Association. A direct part of it will be to work out how we take the England situation forward in a positive way.

Chris Eagles
Eagles is Man Utd's only English academy success since 2002

"One of the ways is to make sure Fabio's skills are 'sucked out' of him in terms of getting us not just to pick winning teams but to make sure we use his great skill across our whole coaching framework.

"We also want to make sure the framework Trevor is building up has good, strong investment and we are giving people chances to become better coaches."

That investment could be significant, as the governing body's finances have never been healthier.

Barwick confirmed that the FA's revenues could exceed 1bn in the next four and a half years - a remarkable turnaround for an organisation that appeared to be on its uppers during the depths of the Wembley saga.

While much has been made of Capello's cut of these riches, Brooking said the FA's investment in coaching and player development would dwarf the outlay on the senior side's coaching team.

"We've got significant money coming in next year from the new broadcasting deal but we need to know what people want from us," said Brooking.

"A designated coaching unit to support all the clubs? More regional coaches? Do we ring-fence some money for five to 11 skills coaches for every club?

"We have the ability to support the clubs so much better than has happened. But in order to do that we have to have the capability, like every other governing body in the world, to go out and do it."

I think a lot of older players in the system are damaged goods because technically they're not able to cope with the demands

Sir Trevor Brooking

The FA's ability to act, however, remains a major bone of contention and Brooking feels he has been prevented from doing his job properly by the professional clubs' refusal to work with him.

"I certainly haven't got the power or responsibility to implement change, unlike, for example, Gerard Houllier in France," Brooking said of the France Football Federation's technical director.

"He has the power to change everything and anything, I haven't got that."

The clubs, however, feel the FA should stick to coaching badges and grass roots schemes, as the professional game knows better.

The governing body's technical team is desperate to revamp the existing coaching and player development structure set up by former FA technical director Howard Wilkinson's Charter for Quality in 1997.

It was that document that put paid to the FA's own academy at Lilleshall and brought in the current system of academies - of which there are now 41 - and their less expensive relatives, the centres of excellence.

Brooking, Wilkinson and almost every coach in the game will tell you the original plan needs updating. Who takes the lead in that process and who oversees its implementation is another matter entirely.

England training session
The options available to England managers has been dwindling

In 2005, the clubs - unhappy with the FA's perceived meddling - asked Richard Lewis, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, to conduct a review of the academy system. That review was published in July of this year but further action has been conspicuous by its absence.

Brooking, who admitted he did not see the need for the review at the time but welcomed its findings, said he was now eager for it to be implemented.

A source close to the Lewis Review negotiations told BBC Sport that there was "85% agreement" on what should happen next but the main sticking point was on the "corporate governance issue" - namely, who should run player development in this country.


An announcement on the result of these negotiations is expected early in 2008 and a number of "quick wins" can be expected.

Those are believed to be a harmonisation of standards across the leagues, more emphasis on improving coaching, more age-specific work, a relaxing of the rules concerning matches and a loosening of the loan system to give youngsters more first-team chances further down the pyramid.

For Brooking, these changes are long overdue. And regardless of how the system is regulated in the future, the footballing knight is worried it will all come too late for a lost generation of English players.

"I think a lot of older players in the system are damaged goods because technically they're not able to cope with the demands," he conceded.

"If you can't play it from the back, or in tight areas, it doesn't matter how good the coach is, you're not going to make it."

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