The smooth transition from youth to senior level is one of the most difficult things world football has encountered. Ask Africa. The question, now, lies on England.
In a game which is said to be invented by the English, the impact of the Anglo-Saxons remained behind closed doors since the beginning of modern day football. England, with all their resources and big names, failed to establish a supremacy throughout history, barring their World Cup-winning campaign in 1966. Although English football had since produced the likes of several greats of the game in Alan Shearer, Paul Scholes, Gary Lineker and David Beckham, uncertainty continued.
However, in what could be defined as a massive change of events, England have recently won two back to back junior World Cups this year, and the all the right clocks started ticking. Here are some pointers to help you understand how English football overhauled their reputation on the world stage.
Over the past few years, English clubs have been busy turning their training facilities into what could be described in two words, WORLD CLASS. Premier League clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur have gone an extra mile by constructing a new stadium for their team. The London based club have also undergone extreme changes in the past few years, appointing a new manager in Mauricio Pochettino, who played a part into appointing a new backroom staff, including John McDermott and Paul Mitchell into the fold.
Finally, after all those digging, four youngsters from the London based club was featured in the English side that travelled to South Korea and India, winning the FIFA U-20 and FIFA U-17 World Cups in turn. The modified facilities of the English clubs have conspicuously provided a grander and richer training experience to the English youth, that caught the eyes of several millions of viewers across the world in the two junior World Cups this year.
DUMPING THE TRADITIONAL ENGLISH GAMEPLAY
One thing that caught the eyes of many spectators during both England’s World Cup campaigns this year was an unexpected gameplay. The English had been relevant to the long ball and counter-attacks since long. However, in both the World Cups this year, the players displayed a much-developed strategy.
The England squad which won the FIFA U-17 World Cup this year, played with a holding midfielder (George McEachran) who distributed passes and created triangles in the centre of the park, creating at least two possible destinations for the ball. The gameplay the English kids showed, was somehow similar to Pep Guardiola’s time with FC Barcelona and the English head coach, Steve Cooper also admitted that his tactics are inspired by the Spanish approach of the game.
The strategies that were displayed by the English weren’t used on an experimental note, and are currently being used in the age group leagues in England.
England played somewhat similarly to this FC Barcelona gameplay in terms of positioning
Youth sides of two Manchester giants, London based outfit Chelsea, Derby County as well as Merseysiders Everton have all used a similar kind of tactic in their games this year. The England U-17 head Coach Steve Cooper was asked about the change of tactic in Kolkata before the final match of the tournament, to which he answered, “We have a working plan back home. The clubs in England are playing with different approaches and let’s see how it works out with them.”
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PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE
The Football Association, commonly known as the FA, had decided to replace three league systems for junior age groups with a developmental league. The governing body of football in England, started the Professional Development League back in 2012, with three different age groups. This helped younger talents to get a much superior nurturing as well as it helped the scouts to discover talents from a centralized pool.
Since the inception of the developmental league, clubs such as Manchester United, Everton, Chelsea, Charlton Athletic and Huddersfield Town have been constant performers in the categories. This resulted in the England national junior sides to gain the best and brightest of these clubs, such as eight Chelsea youngsters and six Everton prospects making their way into the U-20 and U-17 sides in this year’s FIFA tournaments.
NEW COACHING SYSTEMS WITH NEW FACES
With the right kind of attention and money being pumped in, English football has been attracting some of the top managers in the world. The Premier League top five is currently being managed by arguably the five best managers of this decade. In the grassroots level, the junior sides are also being managed by some of the brightest coaches around.
Some brilliant goals and fluent football from AFC Bournemouth under Eddie Howe
Simon Davies of Tottenham-Manchester City, Ricky Sbragia of Manchester United and Joe Edwards from Chelsea have all helped extensively with their newer strategies and approach towards the game, which have been portrayed on the English players in both of the junior World Cups recently. Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche, Steve Bruce and Neil Warnock are also revolutionising the game at the higher tiers.