Exclusive: Hoddle: Independent academies can nurture kids better than clubs

Former England boss tells Josh Richards his academy blueprint

FORMER England manager Glenn Hoddle has told new Football Association chairman Greg Dyke that a radical overhaul of professional clubs’ academies can be the solution he is seeking to the shortage of homegrown talent breaking into the top flight.

Hoddle is today expected to be added to Dyke’s commission charged with tackling the subject and safeguarding the future of the national team.

And the 55-year-old feels creating independent academies for players under the age of 16 can lead to a resurgence in English talent flooding back into the Premier League.

“We need to go back to making English elite academy schools from 12-16,” he told City A.M.

“I think parents would prefer that in some cases rather than sign for Manchester City, Tottenham or Chelsea, because a lot of players are getting their hearts broken at 12 or 14. They’ve been there for years and suddenly they’re not good enough.

“Whereas if this is a neutral academy, if they’re coached, are good enough, have the hours under their belt and the desire then at 16 they will be signed.

“We’ve got to make them as good as the young Spanish, French, Dutch and African players – that is the task. But I truly believe unless we go down that road we won’t be able to catch up or overtake them technically.

“It hasn’t been our No1 criteria for 30 years. But they really need to focus with every coach the main criteria should be how do we get players at a young age to master that football. For it to be a part of their body, not let the ball control them.

“Certain people, when they’re in possession, the ball is part of their body. When other people are in possession it’s not, it almost looks not even round, it looks square.”

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Hoddle has launched Zapstarz, a competition inviting children aged eight to 16 to showcase their talent by sending videos to the former Spurs star and his team to be judged, with the best getting the chance to play in front of professional scouts.

Hoddle started a similar initiative in Spain for 18 to 21 year-olds who had been released by professional clubs, but that he felt had enough potential to get back into the game. His big success story has been Ikechi Anya.

Released by Halesowen Town of the Northern Premier League Division One South, Anya spent nine months working with Hoddle and former Chelsea goalkeeper Dave Beasant and now plies his trade at Watford and scored on his first start for Scotland last month.

And while Hoddle’s dream would be to watch another player follow the same path as Anya, he hopes the new initiative can improve the standard of those who play in their local parks and gardens.

“It’s about improving a generation of kids, from grassroots,” said Hoddle, who won the Uefa Cup and two FA Cups with Spurs.

“I think a generation of players have missed out on playing against a wall. It’s all I ever did.

“I’ve got a bug bear about the lack of two-footed players, that’s something we can do with six, seven, eight-year-olds. They can go into their garden and what we’re doing could change them.

“There’s a lot of opportunities.”

For information on how to enter the Zapstarz competition visit www.zapsportz.com