Football Comment: Improve coaching of kids aged nine, not 19

Trevor Steven
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ENGLAND’S uninspiring draw in Ukraine may have produced a sufficient result but the performance was further proof that this country is not producing enough quality players.

Without Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge England could only battle to a deserved point, but they rarely threatened Ukraine and a few players did little but give the ball away.

In that respect, new Football Association chairman Greg Dyke was right to highlight the problem in a speech last week, although I’m not sure his focus on the number of English players in the Premier League was right.

Players are not made at 17, 18 or 19; by then it is too late. The question is how we make the most of talent when children are seven, eight or nine. For me, that is the key area we should be trying to improve.

The ability to see things quickly and then having the technique to execute it – that’s what makes a footballer. It is not about how fast or how far you can run. I think kids aren’t being taught the right habits.

As long as we place so much emphasis on clearing the ball, not taking risks, winning at all costs – from a very young age – then we will not produce players who are comfortable on the ball.

England needs more coaches – thousands more, if you compare us to some of your European neighbours. And this is an area where the FA can really make a difference.

They should make a concerted effort to persuade as many current professionals as possible to train to be coaches while they play. A new ethos is also needed, so that we coach children the right way.

It could even increase employment among ex-pros, who don’t all retire with pots of cash, as coaches are always in demand across the world.

The FA should take the lead in this plan, as once players get to Premier League level the horse has bolted.

Trevor Steven is a former England international who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.