If you could do one thing to improve the next generation of British footballers?

Kids in action at a Football Football sessionThe subject of youth development has been right at the forefront of the grassroots football agenda over recent weeks.

How best to develop young talent has been up for discussion throughout the game, from here on Club Website right through to the national broadcast media, including BBC 5 Live’s flagship Sport on Five programme earlier this week.

There have been some fantastic ideas thrown around and it feels like there’s a willingness from across the game to get the problem sorted now, so that the next generation of British footballers are playing on a more level playing field with their European counterparts.

So we want to know what one thing you would do to improve the next generation of British footballers. It can focus on anything you like, from the way in which five year olds are taught football to the structure of academies at professional teams in the UK.

So have your say in the comments section at the foot of this article. Any suggestion you might have, we’d like to know… anything goes!

If you need a bit of help to get those creative juices flowing, here are a few suggestions from other football people from right across the game:

Jed Roddy (Head of Youth at the Premier League): “We have some outstanding academies and some great technicians and coaches in the system. The one thing I would want to do is unlock 20 hours a week of access time for our young players so that they can work with those coaches and then you’d see the sort of successes that we all dream and aspire to.”

Mike Powell (Hampstead FC): “We cannot change the weather. What we can do is to change the youth football season to run from March to October. Let them play on good surfaces, let coaches have the chance to teach skills, let them play flowing football, not watch in horror as the ball sticks in the mud.” (read Mike’s letter here)

Henry McLeish (from his ‘Review of Scottish Football’): “The winter break/summer football idea, now being rolled out for the women’s game should be extended to the youth game”  (Recommendation #1 from McLeish’s review)

Ollie Read (Club Website member): “The ridiculous spectacle of under 11s playing 11-a-side on full size pitches. That coupled with poor coaching leads to hoofball football. Kids should play 5 v 5 then 7 v 7, graduating to 9 v 9 on smaller pitches at under 11s. They should not play 11 a side til at least age 14 when they are properly developed physically and technically.”

Nigel Hargreaves (former Head of Strategic Development at the FA): “We’re finding a number of common threads from the professional game right down to the grassroots. What I’d love to be able to do is put those into practice quickly. If we’re getting a concensus – whether it’s getting more five-a-side football being played or looking at the appropriate time to put leagues into place – a bit of confidence, a bit of leadership and I think these things can be put into place very quickly. That’s probably the big challenge over the next six to 12 months.”

Lee Addison (Club Website member): “Basically it all comes back down to the money pinching of the government. If they want home grown footballers, who work their way through grassroots football then they would develop the areas that need it.”

Darren Caskey (former England under 18 international): “Five, six, seven, eight year olds – it needs to change there. The technique, the touch, stuff like that. We need to do more with the ball. That’s something we’ve identified and something we definitely do need to change.”

Barry McGonigal (Club Website member): “We need to get kids out playing the game a lot more. I live in the north of Ireland and I’ve noticed a dramatic drop in the numbers of kids out playing with friends around their estates. I play myself in local amateur football and even the decline in standards there is bad.”

Right… so now it’s time to have YOUR say!!

Dan Pope on LinkedinDan Pope on Twitter
Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

Take the hassle out of organising your sports team with Teamer. Organise, communicate and take payments.


  1. Sam Francis on July 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Make premier league teams play young british players. Its the secret to having a good national side for years to come.

  2. Lomond Rock AFC on July 26, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Stop them wearing shin guards…. socks round the ankles and play with a adidas tango.

    Have them in 8-5 every day no fancy hotels before games etc…. i guess what i am trying to say is stop pampering them.

  3. Luke Broughton on July 26, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Introduce more futsal and let kids learn the creativity which serves the countries such as Brazil, Spain, etc.

    More 4v4 is always a positive way to encourage good development as this allows for more touches, passes, shots, etc, however just let our kids play and learn for themselves instead of coaching the creativity out of them.

  4. Glenn Roach on July 27, 2010 at 11:22 am

    All teams should be limited to 1 foreign player to every 7 English players.

    Choose a England team from the lower leagues, they would play their arses off. The premiership players are ALL prima donna’s, with nothing to prove.

  5. Elijah on July 27, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I think we should emulate the Spanish Academy. 7 players of the Spain team came from one team because of the ‘B’ team system. It works because it has been tried and tested in Spain and look how well they’ve been doing over the past few years

  6. Davy Mac Duloch FC on July 28, 2010 at 12:21 am

    We need to get rid of the idiot Coaches who are out to win at all costs, they are playing their so called best players every week , and the weaker players dont get the proper game time to progress . They bark their orders at their young players some as young as 8 year old,from start to finish. we need to monitor all Coaches in the youth system,even closer than we do now. let the young kids enjoy their game and become better players. please note not all youth coaches are poor i have met many great guys who are in it for the kids and not their own ego !

  7. Shahz Ahmed on July 28, 2010 at 9:05 am

    The only way we are going to have better footballers is if we adapt some sort of system that monitors our grassroot football better than the one in place, if there is one,
    There are too many talented youngsters giving up football because the pro youth system has too many faults, i have myslef witnessed several young lads that should have been playing at pro youth level being left out due the coaches perogitive, these lads then end up leaving football completely.
    We have over 50 million people in this country its time we started winning things, but its not going to happen if some coaches are picking young lads on there own personal opinions rather than potential 🙁

  8. Sam Hesketh on July 28, 2010 at 11:15 am

    We need to start giving every kid/player a football!

    When i did my coaching courses i thought this is rubbish! its all about line drills where one person has the ball and the rest line up waiting! and there was too much running with out the ball!

    when i went and worked in america coaching they have taken a more german/spainish/dutch approch to coaching youth! by it sounds silly to the english ears i no but giving every player a ball and doing the whole session with a ball, getting the younger players use to having a ball finding out what they can do with a ball, so when it comes to playing games they aint scared of the ball they want the ball in tight areas! cause they are fine with having the ball at there feet!

    we need to be more like the americans and steal ideas off over countrys not there 1st team manager but there youth coaches or at least there ways of coaching! and play small sided games up untill they are 12/13 +.

  9. karl neville on July 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    a lot of the problems with english football starts at grass roots, coachs not allowing kids to develop the game as the kids would like to play it ,there confidence is knocked threw over vocal coachs and parents ,they start playing matchs to early before most of them can even kick the ball , should practice tecnique control and skill until this is good then start them playing matchs this will mean the standard of players will be higher

  10. carlo aldom on July 28, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    show uni and col games on tv like they do in america and put promotion behind it that way more young talent can beseen an enjoyed across the country while put money in to the schooling system with tv rights

  11. Andrew Slade on July 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Base training and games in early years upon keeping sharing and building possession, understanding transition and working as a team as early as possible. Smaller groups -more touches.
    Too many helpful parents who are involved give up good time but do not possess the right ethos for proper development and progession of a team or individuals within a team.
    Give those parents/managers a pool of accredited coaches and encourage buddying up in groups to aid mentoring of the basics up and down the country.

  12. Andrew on July 28, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    I don’t think you can just specify one thing that needs to change. The first thing I would address is the state of the surfaces that kids have to play on. Some are sloped, uneven and generally poorly maintained. A poor surface gives a child no confidence in what they want to do with the ball, hence the British culture of hitting channels etc

    Secondly the coaching system needs to be addressed, to be FA level qualified level, 1 I have just checked a county FA website and you can pass that in two weeks, surely that isn’t good enough if we wish to produce quality players of the future.

    Most importantly everyone has to enjoy playing the game.

  13. john murphy on July 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    what iad do is dont let them celebrate,once a player scores,this is how the oposeing team gets back in it .when they score, to be 4 goals ahead let them celebrate this way we keep our shape and this is how we destroy teams in the first half provideing we score first,and iam a great believer in dummying a thru ball where the deliverer directs the foot one way and slices the ball the other way,the strikerdrts one way and changers direction like a fly,look after my little buddy brad the goally thank you bye

  14. KENNY MITCHELL on July 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Stop professional clubs from taking youngsters as early as 9 years old. Academies for kids that young are not working. Lets go back to the tried and tested of enjoying playing for your school and local boys/girls club. If you are good enough by 14 or 15 then invite a higher level to have a look. Too many parents boast about their youngsters playing youth football attached to a professional club only to see them go down a different path of life later when its too late. Let the kids enjoy playing with their mates and local teams AND STOP PARENTS PUTTING PRESSURE ON THEM TO LIVE THE LIVES THEY WOULD LIKE.

  15. GED bruynseels on July 30, 2010 at 12:38 am

    I don’t think Scottish football is poor because of one thing,there is a few major problems,I think wee have a lot of dedicated coaches who mean well,but they don’t know enough about developing young players. I feel they also don’t know about players positions on a football field. I know people who have coaching papers but they never played or were interested in football years ago,this shows when you have a 13 year old kid who says ,I’m playing right wing, but the kid is standing at at right back. This is no way to develop a kid of this age,there is no way he will be able to cover both positions.

    We have a great new system, of roll on and off subs, but they don’t always use it why not?I think someone from the governing body should come to help coaches with these basics. I also think we should help young players,to get a chance at the big teams. Our kids know it’s Very tough to make it as a footballer,that’s because the big clubs buy the foreign players,I also think the game is fitness mad,there are some coaches who have the young kids running for hours,but the kids aren’t good with the ball,this shows when the kids can’t make simple passes. I also think parents get to involved because they want to see their kid doing well.

  16. Ged on July 30, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I don’t think the coaches do enough ball work with the younger kids,this shows up in the pro game, at Europe games when British players can’t control the ball, and panic when an opponent player gets a bit close. But when they get the ball, these players in all positions are great with the ball.

    Our players run 60 yards with the ball and have to beat 3 or 4 players,these players can simply pass the ball 60 yards without breaking a sweat. Our young kids are running in and out of cones at training,but when it comes to a game,our kids can’t make a simple pass. I think this is one of the big problems in brittish football.

    The game has gone fitness mad,we have players who are very fit but are poor against other players in Europe. The game is called football, you kick the ball with your feet, you don’t have to be an Olympic sprinter to pass the ball and enjoy the game.

  17. Martin McNeill on July 30, 2010 at 10:08 pm


    In Mini-soccer why can’t there be a line 6 yards from the bye-line when the keeper has the ball 2 defenders drop into the zone the keeper has to roll the ball to either player the opposing forward is not allowed in the zone till the ball is played out this will improve technique and also 1st touch but more importantly stop the goalkeeper from kicking it long

  18. david on July 31, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    firstly kids are introduced far too early in age to pro youth set ups Coaching at such an early age can coach the natural balance and ability out of a kid secondly if someone hasen”t reilised that kids mature re football at different ages they need to take a closer look at how kids develop a kid can be bril/useless at 10 and very average/ bril at 16 pro youth coaches should go out to the local youth clubs and give their wisdom to all the boys that way they may catch the late developer lastly the days of playing in the streets with 20 players each side are gone and so has the reason that britain had some of the best ball players in the world the modern game is about possesion and passing ok brits can do that but they can”t do it going forward quickly its always across the park what must be taught to up and coming pros is for them to know what their going to do with the ball before they get it and what their then going to do when they pass it on there is no forward thinking in the british game except for the punt up park the spanish not only know what their going to do with the ball when they get it they know where their going to be to continue the move simple as that there is always at least one player within 5 yds of them

  19. Rob Brooker on July 31, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Making sure that the youths are taught the basics so that as a result they can consistently carry them out correctly!! I.e. playing with both feet, passing, tackling, movement, discipline… the list goes on… however, if they master the basics then that will improve their chances of becoming much better than any opposition in the future!! none of this marlacy about how skill is the most important thing as the better than can carry out the basics, the skill is natural!!!

  20. john stubbs on August 1, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I have had 18 years involvement with youth football spanning with three teams during this time period. The problem in this country is due to the professional clubs, youngsters on trial for 6 weeks then cast aside, seen the nerves this creates, the ploy of staying in set zones, not allowed to make a mistake, simply allowed no expression. Has been coaches whom think they know it all stinks, they may have been good footballers though good footballers don’t allways good coaches and managers as most have an ego and cannot relate or man manage, all they seem to install is fear. Some of the pitches youth teams are allowed to play on are a disgrace, how can play a pass and move game on an uneven dangerous pitch. At 11 years play on a full size pitch and goals practically where’s the sense in that, it dosen’t happen in Italy or Holland and there they are taught from an early age to be in control with the ball and at one with the ball and encouraged to use both feet, technically superior and the aggression comes into there game at a later stage of their development. Crux of it is that professional clubs are looking for the finished article to early they must take a step back and work with the potential in a friendly calm, construstive, supportive environment that brings out confidence and a willingness to try that something different that may turn a game, losing is part of the game, it is how you lose, how one responds and importingly the management on their preparation of the team they were playing and their responce to the defeat, not to make an issue out of it, work at what went wrong and fundamentially team spirit and togetherness.

  21. david ferry on August 1, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    firstly its fun. then. its more fun with friends. then is gets funnier when you have fun and win. we have got to teach our kids not just how to be good losers , but be brilliant winners. why train kids to do things with a football then tell them its okay if they dont put all the training into practice. in this political correct society which we live in making our children winners is not incorrect. we set out challenges for ourselfs in life to do the best we can. so why tell kids any different

  22. Doug Gill on August 2, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Just let the kids play football and enjoy themselves without putting pressure on to learn ‘tactics’.When they are in primary school they have enought to woryy about with acedemic things,play and enjoy,learn the skills the way the older generation did by playing with their mates ! When they get to about 14/15 they can learn ‘tactics’ !

  23. andrew moir on August 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    it is very hard for young children to get access to good quality training,many of those who have gained the fa level 1 badge don”t really have any ability to coach,there has to be a higher standard of coaching from 7 years upwards with each club having to have at least a level 2 coach

  24. Ryan on August 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I have always been a big fan of football but wasnt good enough to play in the school team, I have since developed through playing regularly whilst at University. I would suggest that all kids that want to play football at school level get to play. I cant help but think how many late developers could have went on to be decent players, not to mention the fact that so many kids will feel upset not to get to play football at school with their friends.

    On this issue I would also note that my primary school had a sloped concrete football pitch with the wrong markings. Whilst my secondary school had a new astroturf pitch that was nicely located outside of the scool “playground” meaning we couldnt get to play on it at lunch times etc and this resulted in the older kids using the only decent bit of ground at the school to play football and stopped any of the younger kids from playing.

    Kids should be encouraged to just play football at every possible oppertunity! More time playing football to develop their ability, more kids that are going to be generally healthier and also more competition for the early developers who seem to get labelled “elite” far too early nowadays.

  25. paul bilecki on August 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I believe we need a new strategy with a financial commitment and long term vision to once again make us a force in world football.

    My strategy and vision would be as follows:

    Primary School children
    1. Appoint and send appropriately qualified FA Coaches into Primary Schools to develop the technique and the skills for all 5 – 11 year old’s.
    Minimum of 10 hours a week over the full school year.

    Secondary School children
    2. Provide a residential National Football Academy for our most talented coaches and
    11 – 18 year old English players, along with the necessary educational and medical support services required.
    I would suggest a maximum intake of 30 – 40 players within each age group with a minimum of 20 hours coaching time per week, over a 40 week Academy year.

    The ‘in-house’ Junior School Coaching and the Football Academy to be funded by the following;
    The Government, The FA, The Premier League, Football League along with any Business partners/sponsors.

    I appreciate it will require the desire and commitment from a number of parties but if we are serious about protecting the National game for future generations then we need to do something sooner rather than later!

  26. Jeff Lewis on August 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Swap the budget for the management of the national team with the budget for training of youth coaches.

    The possibility to achieve the same as Spain which has more professional level coaches than England has lip service Level 1 ‘s (like me) is there, all it requires is the will to divert resources to where the priority needs to be.

  27. Gary Taylor on August 24, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Protect and nurture Charter / Community Standard Clubs and put in place a rigorous checking routine to ensure that any New Club that breaks away from one of the above is held accountable for their reasons and motives for breaking away in the first place – hopefully this will prevent know-it-all level 1 coaches and parents from breaking away from a CS club because they think they are better than the club or because they want to win-at-all-costs.
    At the moment there is nothing in place to do this as I well know from bitter experience – maybe all New Clubs should have at least 1 level 2 coach which should mean that at least one person has a deeper knowledge of the game and the 4-corner development of young players – I believe most of the problems emanate from the Level 1 which is basically a coaching introduction to football but has no control over the coaches afterwards – it is easy to pay lip service to something for the course but then coach to a completely different agenda after passing it.

  28. msb on September 2, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I find elements in most of the above i agree with. The facilities available to junior clubs are poor at best. There are many parents who have become coaches because if they don’t there will be nobody to run the team, we take the FA 1 course which you pass by turning up and then you are left on your own. To go to level 2 takes time and not everyone has the free time to do it. The local and National FA’s do nothing to help local football. The whole system has become so full of red tape volunteers to run clubs are leaving because of the time it takes to tick all the boxes, The professional clubs pinch all the good youngsters in the teams at an early age, train all the individual talent out of them and let them play 5-10 minutes in a game once a fortnight. The kids need to have a ball at their feet, on good grounds, no pressure to perform at an early age, good coaches to teach the technical skills but not erase the individual flair. Let the kids enjoy their football with their friends whilst they are young and when they reach early teens put them in quality academies or clubs and teach them the tactics etc to move on higher up the ladder then

Join the discussion