England striker Peter Crouch says small-sided football is the way forward to develop the next generation of international players.
Speaking at the launch of the FA’s Future Game – Grassroots document at Wembley Stadium yesterday, the Tottenham Hotspur striker said: “If you play nine or 10 year olds on a pitch the size of Wembley, you’re not going to get much out of it.
“At the end of the day it’s about developing players. A small sided game, lots of touches of the ball – that’s the way you improve technically.”
At a towering six feet seven inches tall, Crouch’s height gives him a distinct advantage over most defenders, but his stature does not define him as a player.
In fact, the phrase “good touch for a big man” has been used to describe him so often that he could be forgiven for thinking it was his middle name.
The striker, who has 22 international goals to his name, is grateful for an introduction to the game that saw him spend a lot of time with the ball at his feet.
“I was very lucky. When I was a kid, we had a ball each. It was all about technical ability. It wasn’t about winning football matches or formations. It was about enjoying football and having the ball at your feet, getting comfortable with it.
“As you get older that stands you in good stead, because you become more tactically aware and aware that you have to win matches as well. But if you have that grounding of the ability on the ball, I think that helps you.”
Appearing at the conference alongside England manager Fabio Capello, Crouch praised an old junior coach for giving him the confidence to make it to the very top of the game.
“When I was growing up I had a fantastic coach. His name was Andy Campbell and he was my Sunday League manager when I was 10, 11, 12 years old.
“He gave me that enthusiasm for the game. I went out and played with a smile on my face and it made me want to keep coming back.”
Crouch commended the work of grassroots coaches across the country – 600 of whom were in attendance at the Future Game conference – describing as “massive” the contribution that they make at grassroots level.
“For us international players, everyone’s come through from grassroots level, starting out with coaches like those we have here today.
“That’s why it’s so important that we have so many people here who want to be a part of coaching, to try and bring on the next group of England prospects.
“It’s the most important time at a very young age. That’s when you get the confidence. If someone’s shouting at you from the touchline, then you might not want to play the next week. That’s not what we want.
“We want encouragement so that kids look forward look playing to next week. Enjoyment is the most important part of the game at that age. Obviously winning and tactics come later on but I think enjoyment is the most important thing.”
Dan Pope, Club Website editor