Interview with former Chelsea and Spurs youth coach, Daryl Willard

Few would disagree with you if you were to mention that young English footballers, on the whole, aren’t as good as their European counterparts.

The common consensus is that English footballers aren’t as technically gifted or tactically astute as footballers from countries such as Spain or Germany but according to former Spurs and Chelsea academy coach Daryl Willard, this is not necessarily the case.

Plenty of reasons have been put forward as to why so few English youngsters break through into the first team squads of elite clubs, but few are in as good a position to comment as Daryl Willard who has travelled the world in order to train and coach the next generation of young footballers.

Willard is certain that the problem is not the lack of talent.

“English young players are as good as anywhere in the world. The difference is exposure to top level football in the 17 to 23 age range,” he says.

“In countries such as Germany and Spain, if you are good enough you play first team and Champions League football but in England you go out on loan, to a lower division team.

“Young English players have shown that when given the opportunity, they are good enough – [Harry] Kane, [Dele] Alli, Trent [Alexander] Arnold, [Eric] Dier, [Marcus] Rashford.

“Ruben Loftus-Cheek is one example of a player who if he played at Tottenham or Liverpool, he would have played three complete seasons and be in the England squad.”

Willard feels that this problem has arisen due to a number of reasons, one being the globilisation of the English Premier League.

“It is the Premier League and the money which is a problem. Clubs in other countries – with a few obvious exceptions – do not have the kind of finances that English Premier League clubs have so they have to play players from within their own country, where as in England we can buy players and bring them in.

“When you have money it’s easier to buy-in players than give a chance to youth.”

However, Willard does believe that some young English footballers are too good to leave out and that it is up to the managers to trust young English youth.

He says: “I hope because of the quality of player coming through more managers will use young English players.

“Most young players will rise to the challenge of given the chance.

“The fact that Tottenham are challenging for the league with the youngest starting XI in the Premiership for the third season going proves this.

“I think it’s up to the manager’s belief and philosophy. Jose [Mourinho] doesn’t have the best record in believing in young players. But Rashford is too good to be held back by any manager.”

Another much discussed problem which Willard acknowledges is the lack of English first team managers.

“Hopefully one day clubs will also be giving young English coaches the opportunity,” says Willard.

“I think English coaches need to get out there and broaden their knowledge. Get out of England and learn from other cultures.

“There is still an ex pro mentality. There are so many good coaches who don’t get the opportunity at certain positions because of ex pros who go ahead of them.

“There is a belief that if you haven’t played professionally there is only so far you can go in the coaching world, which is evidently not true.

“English coaches go abroad because of the lack of opportunity here.”

Willard, unfortunately tells of a less optimistic future for young English footballers and coaches, he says.

“I don’t see much change sadly until the money slows down. Hopefully I am wrong. We have the players though.

“Alex Ferguson was the most successful manager in England ever by playing mainly young players from the academy during the 90s. It’s about a philosophy and belief.”

In other football related news, English professional FIFA 17 gamers are being signed up by Premier League clubs to represent them in esports tournaments – you can find more esports news, tournament schedules and betting odds – click here for details.

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