After winning nothing at international level for 45 years, surely now the FA is realising the problem is with the lack of talent being produced from a young age. The only way to do that is by investing heavily into grassroots football. There’s a huge expectation on England to perform at international tournaments, but how can they be expected to win anything when born out of a hugely underfunded youth development system?
Jose Luis Astiazaran, president of La Liga emphasised this point during the World Cup last year, stating that where 77.1% of La Liga players are Spanish, just 40% of all Premier League players are English. As Spain are the current World and European champions, it’s hard to argue that the lack of native players in our top division is a cause of the lack of trophies. Yes, we may argue that by forcing clubs to use more English players would be detrimental to the quality of the league, but with significant investment into grassroots football, the quality of English players coming through would be greatly improved. Yes it may never reach the heights of quality of the past 20 years, but it would inevitably improve the quality of the national team.
Investment should be going into coaching children properly from a young age as the major footballing nations do. We need to increase the number of FA qualified coaches and utilise them to their full potential by getting them into schools on a regular basis. We need to get more soccer schools around the country, offering quality coaching to kids of all ages. The amount of quality football facilities around the country, offering a space for kids to play anytime for free also needs to be dramatically increased.
Is this really going to happen though? There have been a huge array of new things that have taken precedence over youth development; from bidding to host world and European tournaments, to rebuilding Wembley (which in fairness needed doing). If the continues to put off seriously investing in youth development, that 40% figure will continue to diminish even further and the wait for an international trophy with England’s name on it will be continually extended. Now needs to be the time that we focus on the matter at hand and build for the future. If we don’t, who knows what state English football will be in 20 years from now?