My my My my

After another World Cup debacle we are still asking the same question we asked in 1974 when England failed to qualify - why can't we master a football and produce enough skillful players in our country? The future for the England team is frightening, because we have never confronted the decline in standards. There is no short-term fix, this requires a long-term strategy. I run an academy in Spain for young footballers who are released by their clubs and who, in my opinion, deserve a second chance. It is a rewarding job for me, but one that also reveals many of the faults in the English game. Here are my observations. There are skilful English footballers in the system, but why are they getting lost? We need to start at the beginning, with the development of schoolboys.
We need to start with a much lower age group and work with them on ball appreciation. A high percentage of the players released by their clubs who come for a trial at my academy are small; they are talented, they have the technique, they can pass the ball, but too often clubs desire athletes - tall, fast, strong footballers. 'He's a big lad, 6ft 2in and he can run... OK, we will keep him.'

They are obviously required attributes for a professional footballer, but big and strong comes next for me. My academy team played Real Madrid and one of our lads stood out because he had instant touch, but those players are two a penny in Spain and Holland, because they are taught to master the ball from a young age
The biggest weakness in the players being developed in England is that they do not play with their heads up. From a young age, on big pitches, they are used to getting their head down and dribbling past four, five, six players.

When I was 15, my dad took me to play in a men's league because I was taking liberties in games and running too far and dribbling with the ball. I tried it in the adult league game once and wriggled past four players. One of the men came up to me and said: 'If you ever do that again son, we'll break your legs.'
It taught me to release the ball early! When a young player used to dribbling makes the step-up, he realizes he can't dribble round half a team and the skill becomes ineffective. By then, they are too used to playing with their heads down.

When I look at a young player, I ask: 'Can he play with his head up?' and then: 'Can he use the ball?' This should be taught to children aged eight, nine, 10, 11. Maybe even younger.
Watch Xavi at Barcelona. He's small, but when he gets the ball, he is looking for the pass, creating pictures in his mind. We are not teaching children this. It is neglected. 

We have a lad, aged 19, who has been at a professional club in their academy system, but he has never been told to focus on playing with his head up. We have worked on drills where the players have to keep control of the ball - using both feet - but at the same time they have to know where I am, know where the coaches are, know where the grounds man is and look at us.
In other words, retain control of the ball without looking at it; learn to trust your touch. In order to do this, young players need to work on dealing with the spin of the ball. We don't coach this enough, either. It's a part of becoming a good technical player - don't let the ball get away from you. The South Americans are far better at that. Too often our players do not look comfortable with a ball.

As a boy, if my dad wasn't around, I'd take a ball and find a wall. If you hit a perfect pass to a wall, it will give you a perfect pass back. I'd stand for hours, right foot and left, driving a ball at a wall. I reintroduced it at Chelsea and I use it now as a development tool. Stand in front of a ball and pass the ball, with your head up. Feel the weight of a pass, get used to the touch of the ball on your feet. Repeat and repeat again.

The junior pitches are too big. I would advocate young footballers playing on pitches relevant to their age and development, even up to the age of 16. 

Asking children to play on full-sized pitches is the equivalent of asking professionals to play three-v-three on a full-sized pitch; the game becomes about stamina, not technique and skill.
If you go to any Premier League club and watch their training, you will be surprised how little takes place on a full-sized pitch. Yes, if they want to work on patterns of play, they will use the full pitch, but not for general training exercises. Most practice drills take place on pitches 60 x 40 metres or 30 x 50; it's tight. But this is what should be happening at junior football in England.

Asking juniors to play on full sized pitches with full-sized goals creates a kick-and-rush style of play and an inflated sense of what the bigger boys can achieve. A long ball over the top and the quick lad scores. But what good does that do when it comes to senior football?
Speed is canceled out by speed. It's a problem that Theo Walcott has found and one he needs to overcome. I think he will, don't write him off. He is talented. Smaller pitches would lead to more touches of the ball and more touches of the ball lead to greater familiarity and control.

In the Premier League, this is a major concern: there are too many foreign players, not enough opportunities for development. They are here because of the money.
Obviously, the best foreign players have had a huge impact; Gullit, Cantona, Bergkamp, Zola. But that's not true of all of them. 

Where does a player like Jack Wilshere get his Champions League game time? Yes, he went to Bolton on loan, but when will he get the chance to play in a competition that is the stepping stone to the international game?
The same can be asked of Jack Rodwell of Everton. The players must be good enough to deserve promotion, but they also need to see a clear path to the top.
Only 38 per cent of players in the Premier League are English; that is a damning statistic. Soon, the England manager will have to go scouting for players in the Championship - and when I say 'soon' I mean the next four or five years, perhaps even for the next World Cup.
There are not enough opportunities in the Premier League for young English players and I can't see that changing. For more than 10 years, ever since I was England manager, I have been calling for changes in the Football League. With the number of foreign players in the top flight, many of the developing players will need to go to the Championship for some game time. It is a difficult league to play in for a youngster, but it requires surgery. They play 46 league games every season plus cup matches on inferior pitches with not enough development time.

How can you practice when you play Saturday-Tuesday- Saturday nearly every week? Two new 18-team leagues would allow for time to develop players. Clubs would play fewer games, but their loss of revenue would be compensated by an injection of money from the Premier League. This would, of course, require the Premier League, the Football League and the FA working together for the greater cause...

The finances over here are thrown at the top end, but we are forgetting the junior coaches; there is no financial incentive for them. We are making the same mistakes generation after generation. I believe there is talent out there but the FA can't do this on their own. They need the support of the Premier League and the Football League. Everyone needs to pull together to find and then nurture talent. There's not enough money being spent on development coaches. It would help if there were more football people involved - I mean people with playing experience at the top - who could bridge the gap.

It is frightening to see where we are going as an international force. Please God we will continue to find individuals like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand, but that's not enough. You can't have only one or two top-class players in your team.

A brilliant technical player is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. I wonder what would happen if you took a player like Lionel Messi and put him into League Two, you would be surprised how few touches he would get.
The game would pass him by, because the ball would spend a lot of time in the air. Get it to his feet and he would still slip past defenders, but who would get it to him in the first place?
My point is that you need quality players to get the best out of a supremely gifted player. We cannot keep developing the odd player here and there. It's not enough and it's not good enough.
Yesterday the FA confirmed that Fabio Capello will keep his job. But it doesn't matter who is manager, he will be selecting.