I really am bloody useless when it comes to this blogging thing, granted – I’ve never proclaimed myself to be a budding journalist, but I really should be averaging more than 3 blog posts a year.
I had the idea to write this – believe it or not – about 2/3 months ago, I even spent a night covering a 1m high whiteboard in information and points I wanted to make, I just never had the time! At least now this will give me something to shamelessly plug over the festive period above and beyond my @sundaynightslot podcast ramblings.
Anyway: This post is reflecting on Greg Dyke’s speech, and the things I would do if I was in his position.
As most of us know, Greg Dyke has been tasked with saving England’s footballing future, with ensuring tournament success and with re-structuring the English game to make that possible. So far, he’s set up a commission of ex-players, coaches, and other notable figures, as-well-as asking fans to get in touch with various ideas/theories they think may help.
So….what would I change? A ten step plan…
1) “That wall was NEVER 10 yards!”
If you were to plot a graph, on a Y axis have ‘How Annoying It Is’, and on the X axis have ‘How Easy It Is To Stop’ then this has got to be high on the priority list…. Encroaching walls at free-kicks. The ref marks out his 10 paces and your opponents start wiggling forward. Drives me insane.
Well, there IS a solution – been used in South America for 10 years – vanishing spray.
Vanishing spray also doubles up as a good way to ruin needlessly flashy boots.
For those of you who don’t know what this foam is, or what it does; the referee carries the spray in a small 120 gram aerosol can, when he awards a free kick he steps 10 yards and sprays a white line on the pitch to mark the correct position of the wall, the line evaporates within a minute or so.
The idea behind the spray is to give officials a visual aid, and to make attempts at bending the rules more apparent.
2) “It costs too much to go to football!”
“Against Modern Football”, “Enough is Enough” – The spotlight was on Arsenal last season when Manchester City fans were charged £60 for their Emirates Stadium experience. Since that, many clubs have come under scrutiny to lower the costs to fans. The reaction has been mixed, Stoke City went first, and provided free coach travel to their away-dayers, others have entered agreements with other clubs: a mutual £10 a ticket, from Swansea/Newcastle/West Brom for away fans is an example, whilst the big boys have been a little more shy in helping out. The ever-present argument of “paying more to watch the good sides” becomes obsolete when you’re not prepared to lower the prices in subsequent times of lesser success.
My solution is simple, and it can be imposed by the FA; I charge your fans – what you charged mine.
This gives the power back to the supporters, Arsenal don’t care if they piss off Norwich fans – but they’ll quickly care if Gooners are complaining at being charged £62 for the return fixture at Carrow Road.
3) “How on earth has he given that?!”
In an ideal world, I love the idea of the referees being connected to microphones – with their voices being boomed across the stadium like in the NFL. Explaining their decisions to the spectators inside the ground…
…. But that’s too big-a step from the silence we’re subjected to now.
I’m proposing we meet in the middle, and referees have the gagging order lifted and they can take themselves out of the line of abuse post-match.
14th September 2013. Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace. Referee: Jon Moss.
Ashley Young is moving toward goal, Kagisho Dikgacoi is contesting the ball when he goes to ground in a desperate attempt to dispossess the United winger. Jon Moss is 15 metres behind and awards a foul, his assistant is unsighted, the Manchester United players are claiming for a penalty kick, and Eagles players are debating if it was even a foul. Jon Moss puts his hand to his microphone/earpiece in communication with his assistant.
The incident in question.
Television replays show the incident to be around 3-4 yards outside the box, keen lip-readers begin to analyse the conversation between the officials: “I can’t help you, I really can’t help you with that” are the words from the assistant.
Jon Moss was labelled: “cheat”, “bias”, “pro-Man Utd”, “gutless”, “elitist”, “not-fit-for-purpose”, and once I was finished… others called him names too. In reality – it was an honest mistake, taken with an unsighted view.
My expectation isn’t for referees to come out after every game, or even for referees to come out when asked. I want the control to be with the referees, so that in instances like the aforementioned; Jon Moss can come out and say:
“Yeah, I got that one wrong, I knew it was a foul but the angle that Ashley fell at I mistook it for a penalty – I spoke with the assistant but the incident wasn’t clear with him, I went with my gut decision” completely to the referees discretion.
All I want is accountability, or a chance to explain themselves.
So – that was the first three….. They were the EASY ones. They can be changed overnight. What are you waiting for, FA?
The next ones require a little more thought, a little more consideration, and would take a little more time:
4) “Did you know, from 2007-2012 Chelsea spent more money on compensating sacked managers, than Arsenal did on buying players?”
The list is endless. ENDLESS. How many managers have been brought in as the ‘next big step in the history of a club’ only to be sacked 3 months later, and the club having paid £2,000,000 in compensation? The manager’s left with a damaged reputation, and the club are back to square one.
The current tenures of Premier League managers. 17/12/2013.
It doesn’t help anyone. Particularly when, like with Di Canio’s Sunderland, you have 10+ newly signed players who won’t be departing with the man who signed them.
My suggestion: All new managers – regardless at what level – begin their tenure with a 1 year deal, no-more no-less.
The only way young managers will develop is if they’re given a chance, 1 year is the minimum length of time to impose a style and philosophy on your club. If after a year it’s not right, you part company, easy. This may not work in the Premier League due to the financial rewards of safety, but the introduction at lower league could see a better class of coach develop. Compensation is killing clubs who are entering deals without thought. It’s in the interest of both parties to begin relations conservatively.
Final note, I do understand that sometimes it just doesn’t work. So I would leave the mutual consent option in there.
5) “I want to be a coach, but it costs way too much”
We can’t begin to develop top level footballers if we don’t have the quality in place to do so, and it’s no-coincidence that nations like Germany and Spain are able to field two-or-three XI’s with the ability to beat England. These numbers are slightly disputed, but England has 1,161 coaches at Uefa ‘A’ level compared with 12,720 in Spain and 5,500 in Germany. At pro licence level, England has 203 coaches, Spain 2,140 and Germany more than 1,000.
THAT’S A HUGE DIFFERENCE…..
(Yes, please read that in a loud, shouting, Scottish accent, it helps for dramatic effect).
(Did you go down the Alan Hansen route? or the Shrek route? Either way… I’m not impressed)
…..Coaching badges vary in price: Levels 1 and 2 are do-able, £100 and £300 respectively.
UEFA B will cost you £695 if you are a registered coach and £905 if you are not.
UEFA A (Part one) will cost you £2,590 if you are licensed as a coach and £3,370 if you’re not.
UEFA A (Part two) will cost you £1,970 if you are licensed, and £2,560 if not.
And finally, for UEFA Pro Licenses – That’s the elite – you need to be invited, usually ex-players or existing coaches. No point in focusing there at this stage, but that’s the pinnacle.
So, the cost to get Mr X, the generic football lover on the street, from coaching his local side to a UEFA ‘A’ level could cost over £7k………… Go back to bed.
I’m not suggesting that we cheapen the courses, lessen their quality or even create an express version – but more funding has to be made available to get coaches through to that next level, to lessen the strain on the individual and develop the quality of coaching at levels below the Premier divisions.
League’s 1 and 2 should be a development ground for young British managers – I hate seeing clubs appoint a foreign import under the fictional pretence of “a better football culture”, if more funding for coaches can be made available in the UK – particularly at the lower levels of the Football League – then the quality will come up through the leagues, like players do. It needs a 5 year plan, structured investment, and an attainable goal to shoot for.
The evidence is there at some clubs already, Crewe have a stellar academy in place now, and Southampton are a shining example of the rewards it can all bring. All through coaching the coaches.
6) “The club don’t care about us!”
This point could easily derail into a spiral on how beautiful the German football model is because they respect and love the fans so so so so so so much…. But why add to what’s already the most drawn-out blog topic of the past decade? We know already… We get it.
*Enter generic photo of the Westfalenstadion Southern Terrace* – Every blog post in 2013 needs one, right?
The essence of the German fan:club relationship comes from the fan ownership, the sense of belonging to the club you support and pay money to watch. 50+1 is an idealists view, it was achievable in Germany as the league was in a poor financial position – they were re-forming their game top to bottom, and they had the foresight to sacrifice European and International successes while the sport developed. England, for various reasons, won’t accept that.
So, as 50% fan ownerships aren’t always feasible in the UK – how about 20%?
Benefits far outweigh the draw-backs for a larger fan-ownership; involved fans find it harder to boo when things don’t go the right way, they can’t call for a managers head when they had a hand in employing him. Fans can also select a representative to the board on a season-by-season basis, giving fair representation without saturating an existing board-room environment.
It also would see a dramatic increase in attendances, your loyalty to a club, and passion toward them is only heightened if you have the feeling of involvement – You OWN your club…. Regardless how little the share may be.
The only issue that remains is who will be the first to go… Once one does, they all will, spread the financial burden (and risk) on investors and have the club living within their means. Lower level clubs will kick it off, but for me, the first ‘bigger club’ to fully embrace Fan-Ownership will be Wigan Athletic. Dave Whelan, an aging businessman, “Mr. Wigan”, plus – he’d love the ability to say: “I was the first person to involve fans in my club”, Sky Sports would have a field day as well.
Did you know Dave Whelan broke his leg once? No-one ever seems to mention that.
You’ve played Sunday/Saturday league football, you’ve watched it, one of the things you’ll hear managers say is: “Let’s get the ball down, pass it, we’re better than they are technically…. Now let’s go boys…” to a brief, 5 min, exchange of short balls and 85mins of:
HOOOOOOF……. HOOOOOOF……. HOOOOOOF.
Grassroots has embraced the targetman/poacher partnership for too long; football has progressed since, and the game is now calling for space finders, the people who can thread a pass, staying on their feet and moving off the ball.
Our grassroots game is dominated by the physical attributes of the players, not the skill, only because the pitch dimensions suit it, the 3 most feared players you’ll face? The physical striker, the quick winger with an inconsistent end product, and the deep lying distributor with an accurate-ish long ball – English professional sides are littered with those players too, it’s systemic from grassroots culture. Good technical footballers get lost amidst the long-ball game, the huge pitches, and an overly physical match-up.
Zidane famously grew up playing on the concrete courts in the backstreets of Marseille, Nasri followed him. The Brazilian dribbling ability derives from their un-even, sandy filled, hard pitches – improving close control. The link between a nation’s grassroots and the culture at the highest level is incontrovertible. (love that word).
We have the weather for grass in the UK, we’re lucky in that, what we now need to do is make 11 a side pitches smaller nationwide. Remove the temptation to hit it long and improve close-play. From there, coaches will be able to see the players who are technically superior and fitness can be developed separately. Spatial positioning, vision, and awareness are attributes you’re born with, our issue isn’t that we don’t have the talent, it’s that the football culture in this country doesn’t allow us to unearth it.
8) “The referee has rushed into it, and got it wrong.”
I’m actually fully supportive of a total over-haul in refereeing practises (https://t12thman.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/blatters-ignorance-to-a-plea-of-help-the-referees-paradox/) but to do all that is another matter. I’ll keep it at base level:
Referees should have the ability to ask the fourth official to review a major decision. Not up to the managers, captains, anyone… Just the referee. Why are we forcing referees to make million-pound decisions in real-time when there’s a TV camera that can show him it in slow-motion in under 10 seconds lapse? It’s staggering how football has been kept in the dark ages while other sports embrace the technological enhancements in the world.
The cynics will argue that it takes control away from the referees; but I feel it empowers them to officiate in a fair and proper manner. Referees will still be able to put their personalities onto a match; the leniency of Howard Webb, the pro-penalty-giving nature of Mike Dean. But the integrity of the sport will remain, and the ‘buck’ will ultimately stop with the referee, as it should.
4th officials are wasted breaking up petty spats, let them help referees.
9) “The agent is turning his head”
There’s not many things more soul destroying than seeing players like Jack Rodwell, Wilfred Zaha, Scott Sinclair, Danny Wilson et al, ditch weekly first team football – and go for that big-money move to the star club, only to sit on the bench and let their talents rot.
Who’s to blame? For me… It has to be agents. Agents are a fundamental problem in football. I could write a Jerry Maguire style memo about the culture of agents but we all know what they are.
The main problem, for me: Is agents are paid as part of the signing process – the agent’s fee is wrapped into the transfer of a player, it’s usually a % of the fee and its purpose is to say: “Thanks for getting him to join us and not them”
Agents get a pay-day when a player moves clubs, so are they really neutral enough to advise a young star?
There’s two options:
A) The FA establish, and enforce, a neutral advisory body – for all players in England under the age of 21. This body decides the most logical step for the player’s development, be it – let the big club buy him, and loan him back (the transfer fee can be spread over multiple payments/earn-outs etc), approve the transfer outright, or the panel can advise against it.
The player can over-rule the panel, but must wait until the subsequent transfer window to do so.
This would allow, theoretically, the player to properly assess his options, before diving into a big money move (keeping in mind that this would only happen in the rare occasions the panel decided against it).
B) Agents are no longer exclusively paid as part of the signing process, but part of the contract completion process.
This would require clubs to enter a pact, essentially, but where the British game is so unique is that we – historically – don’t export that many players, the desire is to stay in the country, it could work well.
Agents are paid when the contract is complete, or when the player/club reach a mutual agreement to sell. The theory behind this is that it stops scumbag agents from turning a players head just so he can get a few more quid….. Also, we’re all getting seriously bored of the Wayne Rooney to Chelsea story.
Either way, the benefit of this would be that young talents have a better chance to see their potential, to complete their development at the club where it was established.
10) Co-mission impossible.
With these posts, by the time you get to number 10 the writer is usually so finger-numb that they begin to divulge into irrelevant bullshit, ramblings or an anecdote about their experiences of other writers. Not for me…. No way… I’m more switched on.
………….So finally, as Greg Dyke takes the role of Nick Fury, and here’s his avengers:
- Former England boss, Glenn Hoddle
- Former Leeds manager and FA technical director, Howard Wilkinson
- Ex-England defender, Danny Mills
- Football League chairman, Greg Clarke
- New PFA chairman and Chesterfield player, Ritchie Humphreys
- Crewe director of football, Dario Gradi
- FA chairman, Greg Dyke
- FA vice-chairman, Roger Burden
- Roy Hodgson (late appointment)
- Manchester United player, Rio Ferdinand (late appointment)
90% of them are actually a good choice, Dario Gradi is the stand out for a savvy inclusion – taking someone from an environment which required developing, and not buying.
Glenn Hoddle is on there as being an ex-England manager, but with Hodgson’s inclusion – he’s now a needless extra mouth to feed, particularly when he’s desperate for a return to the White Hart Lane hot-seat so would have a severe conflict of interests.
You could look at including Liam Brady, having run the Arsenal academy since 1996, and retiring in 2014 – the Irishman, who resides in London, could be the ideal consultant when discussing matters of player development. Stars from Wilshere to Henry have built or developed talents (starting at different ages) from the Arsenal set up.
Additionally, as well as looking to Germany for ideas in developing talent, the self-imposed restrictions of Athletic Club Bilbao stand out as another source of efficiency in coaching. The club is known for its policy of bringing Basque players through the youth set up, and only signing players who have been trained or born in the Basque regions, yet remain consistently competitive.
For England to win the 2022 World Cup, and for the other nations of the UK to achieve their goals of Qualification, it will take a synergy of all things football. The commission is a good start, but it must now embrace different ideals and cultures – before deciding on a plan and implementing it.
Dyke caught on camera giving his reaction to England’s World Cup draw. WHOOPS.
If you made it this far, I salute you.
Feedback is always welcome, you’ll get me on my twitter – also, if you have any specific questions you want to ask, send them to @SundayNightSlot, and I’ll read them out on the podcast and try and give a verbal answer.
See you in another 5 months….
Over and out.