Sir Trevor Brooking is not the only person hoping for a classic Champions League final at Wembley Stadium this Saturday.
Football fans the world over will hope that Manchester United and FC Barcelona produce a final to remember full of attacking flair but, while most neutrals yearn for an edge-of-your seat thriller just to liven up their Saturday night, the FA’s Director of Football Development takes a wider view.
“We hope it will be a classic game because, from a grassroots point of view, we’re trying to put the emphasis on playing out from the back, encouraging youngsters to pass the ball, keep possession and not be frightened of making mistakes,” he told Club Website.
“We’re hoping that on Saturday night these two sides will show what it can be like at the very top level.”
Both finalists have a rich tradition of attacking football. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have just secured United’s 19th league title having outscored all of their Premier League rivals but, whilst they set the standard on these shores, their opponents have raised the bar of attacking play for the rest of the football world.
In the last three years, Pep Guardiola’s men have won a hat-trick of Spanish league titles by playing football that has often taken the breath away and has led to many pundits debating their position in the ranks of all-time-great club sides.
Among their admirers is Brooking, whose Football Development team at the FA are currently consulting on proposed changes to youth football in England that they hope will increase children’s enjoyment of the game, thus leading to a lower dropout rate and, in the longer term, raising the skill base throughout the grassroots game.
“To be honest, if you look at Spain and Barcelona and the success they’ve had in the big competitions in recent years, that is almost where you’ve got to try and set your aspirations for.”
“Five years ago in this country all of the clubs at elite level were looking for six foot athletic youngsters, then Spain and Barcelona started producing these players who are about five foot nine and have this great habit of not giving the ball to the opposition and suddenly they’re all now thinking we’ve got to develop the skill base.”
It’s a drum that Brooking has been banging since he took up his post in January 2004 but, with radical proposals for the grassroots game now drawn up, his vision for youth football in England grows ever closer.
And it’s a vision where English players in all positions are as comfortable on the ball as their Spanish counterparts.
“I’m not a great one for statistics but, whoever Barcelona play, they are always about 65 or 70 percent possession. It’s a great message to say that when the opposition give the ball away, they have to wait a long time to get it back.
“That is the greatest lesson as to why we need to develop the skill base, first touch and the ability to keep the ball. They epitomise it. If you have that much possession, it’s no great surprise that you are going to create more chances than the opposition and probably win more matches than the rest.”
“That’s what we want to get out the changes we’re trying to incorporate.”
Dan Pope, Club Website editor
Sir Trevor Brooking was talking to Club Website at the Your Kids Your Say roadshow in Dartford yesterday. We’ll be bringing you more of his thoughts on the proposals for youth football, along with a progress report from the roadshow, in May’s edition of The Clubhouse, out next Tuesday.
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