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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Odds against England
By John Sinnott

World Cup trophy
When will England finally hold aloft the World Cup trophy?

If you are still getting over England's abject World Cup campaign, brace yourself for some more bad news.

And it has nothing to do with former national boss Sven-Goran Eriksson's conservative management style or striker Wayne Rooney's combustible temper.

The bad news is that the odds remain heavily stacked against England winning a major tournament any time soon.

That is because endemic fault lines run from top to bottom of England's football pyramid.

Dutchman Johnny Metgod played for Nottingham Forest and Tottenham during the 1980s and remembers then the question being posed as to why England always fell short in comparison to their continental neighbours.

"In England you are still talking about it," Feyenoord assistant manager Metgod told BBC Sport. "That says it all for me."

Eriksson's team - dubbed England's golden generation - travelled to Germany with great things expected of the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rooney.

Yet the England side never quite gelled, with those three players in particular enduring a frustrating tournament.

It is like a musician, it doesn't matter whether he is English or French, the one who works more, becomes better

Spurs sporting director Damien Comolli

And former England manager Graham Taylor believes there will be no fix to the national team's problems.

In fact, he is so pessimistic he thinks England may struggle like Scotland have done in recent years.

Taylor attributes England's international malaise to the self-interest of the Premiership clubs.

"Do our clubs come first? Of course they do," Taylor told BBC Five Live Sport.

"Every two years we play an international tournament in the heat of the summer and we expect the team to come out and win.

"We never really properly prepare for international tournament football.

"When I look at our under-21 team and the clubs the players come from I wonder what will happen to our national team in 10 years."

It is not only at the game's apex that there are problems.

At youth level, England is breathlessly playing catch-up with the rest of Europe.

"For me, the difference is the quantity of training in England and France," Spurs sporting director Damien Comolli told BBC Sport.

"Over four years between the ages of 12 and 16 a French boy would receive 2,304 hours of training. That is twice as much as England - where you would be given 1,152 hours.

"Those four years are crucial - they are the most important years in youth football - both physically and technically. It is difficult to catch up when you are 17 or 18.

"It is like a musician, it doesn't matter whether he is English or French, the one who works more becomes better."

STREET FOOTBALL

Comolli believes the best youth systems in Europe are in France, Spain, Holland and Portugal.

France reached the World Cup final, Portugal the semis, while Spain and Holland conducted stylish campaigns and were considered unfortunate to go out at the last-16 stage.

"The work of the academies in those four countries is based purely on technique between the ages of 12 and 16," added Comolli.

"Competition comes on Saturday but for the rest of the week they just play with the ball.

Tottenham are one of the few Premiership clubs - Manchester United are another - who have taken the step of employing a dedicated skills trainer.

Dutchman Ricardo Moniz, who joined Spurs from PSV Eindhoven last season, uses technical drills devised by the Dutch coach, Wiel Coerver.

Coerver's method is aimed at improving the technical rather than tactical ability.

Gerard Houllier
Houllier helped set up an academy system in France

"Moniz does a great job," said Comolli. "You can see the improvement in the kids in just a short time."

Comolli paid tribute to the work of former Liverpool boss and current Lyon coach Gerard Houllier, who helped set up France's academy system.

Houllier wanted to recreate street football within a more organised structure - a philosophy Dutch clubs have also implemented.

"In youth football we are trying to get back to basics," said Metgod.

"When I was a youngster I was playing in a street - it forms your character in a natural way - but you can't do that because it is too dangerous.

"In Holland we are in position where we need the youngsters. We need them to do well for the club and if they move on their transfer fee can help keep the club going.

"If I want to be very blunt I would say the best coach at the club should be involved with the youth teams. That is the future of the club.

"You need to start going with the best coaches with the boys from seven. That is when they learn the fastest.

"At Feyenoord we try and bring back former first-team players to let them work with youth players and also help them develop as coaches.

"There are not a lot of clubs in the world that can say we don't need a youth development programme but it is also something you have to devote a lot of money to."

CONTROL

Former Everton and Scotland midfielder John Collins, who also played for French Ligue 1 club Monaco, goes further than Comolli in arguing that the French academies develop a different type of player than their English counterparts.

"The emphasis is not just on producing young footballers, it is about producing rounded young people," said Collins.

It is all about the little things. But the little things matter

Former Monaco player John Collins

"There is a lot of emphasis on education because the players live at the academies.

"They come in at the age of 14 and it's train, school class, train, school class.

"They are under complete surveillance all the time. They have to work at their grades and are assessed each month.

Zinedine Zidane
Zidane was developed by French club Cannes

"At Monaco there were 14 classrooms within the club's stadium.

"I always thought the youngsters were more rounded, had better manners and better discipline.

"They are not allowed to swear and they have to eat properly.

"It is all about the little things - but the little things matter. That 2% improvement is what makes the difference.

"Monaco is a club that has produced David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Emmanuel Petit. It's not a big club with a lot of money, it's a producing club."

Just down the road from Monaco on the French Riviera is Cannes, a club that is not even in Ligue 1 but its academy produced France internationals Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira.



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