Sunday, January 16

FA deserves its share of applause for England’s successes at Euro 2020 | The FA

TThe Football Association, a national benchmark since 1863, endures energetic blows when it is mired in its periodic crises, so it is only fair that it be given credit at a time like now, when its good work is materializing brilliantly.

The success of Gareth Southgate’s England team, and the coach himself, in reaching the final of the European Championship on Sunday is not a miraculous accident, but the realization of steady progress, planning and building solid foundations. The England team is seen somewhat separate from the FA’s perceptions, but the governing body runs the entire setup and this pinnacle has been reached after 25, often grueling years, reshaping their entire approach and philosophy.

While the nation was obsessed with England’s men playing their first final since 1966, the FA issued a report on Friday more strongly emphasizing the importance of grassroots football and its clubs. It featured a quote from Southgate that barely related to the England team, rather than emphasizing the base, where all players start. “The key is the enjoyment, exercise and participation of children of any origin, in any part of the country and in whatever facilities may be available,” said the England manager.

A map showed where all the players on the Southgate team grew up and the base club they played for before enrolling in the professional club academies: Jordan Pickford for Washington Envelopes in Durham; John Stones, Penistone Church in Sheffield; Raheem Sterling, Alpha & Omega in London.

In January, even as the FA was contemplating its own £ 300 million human and financial cost from the Covid-19 disaster, the organization nonetheless, launched a new strategy for the years up to 2024 called, sincerely, Time to change, with a vision: “Unite the game, inspire the nation.” Led by CEO Mark Bullingham, the goals range from the England team to children’s soccer, including winning a major tournament, increasing the number of quality grassroots football pitches nationwide from 3,349 to 5,000, and aiming for “a discrimination free play “.

Gareth Southgate's development is itself the result of dedicated planning far beyond the previous FA record.
Gareth Southgate’s development is itself the result of dedicated planning far beyond the previous FA record. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

The strategy read: “Everyone should feel welcome in our fields and in our stands”, and features a picture of England players kneeling. That shows how solidly established and supported the players’ anti-racist stance is, in the face of boos from some fans and divisive and misinformed criticism from Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Lucy Pearson, FA director of training – now renamed, significantly, FA education – explains that Southgate’s surprising sighting that the players, through their activism, have been “freed to be themselves” conveys the organization’s approach.

“Coaching is not just technical”, Pearson, former director and England international cricket, He says. “It’s also about creating a culture and environment that allow players to be their best. Being free, empowered, helps them express themselves on the field. That is the same for boys at the grassroots level and England players, and it is important for coaches to understand their own values, as does Gareth. That is why he speaks so eloquently and with such authenticity.

“Knowledge and understanding are evolving all the time, and although we have elite programs, which include ‘Player to Coach’ for former elite players [including Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney, Carlton Cole and Michael Dawson], our focus on young players is to help them fall in love with the game by having a good experience that includes more time on the ball and scoring goals. “

San Jorge Park
St George’s Park, the permanent base of English football, which finally opened in 2012. Photograph: David Goddard / Getty Images

The entire FA strategy for the game, including improving the base experience: “Survive, revive, prosper” – has been renamed “England Football”, to explicitly emphasize common principles at all levels. Small-field soccer took years to get on the ground, but is now recognized as providing the best early-age experience: five-a-side soccer for under 7s and under 8s; seven per side in U9 and U10; nine per side in U11 and U12, passing only football 11 in the U13 category.

It is difficult to summarize the extent to which all this modern thinking represents a revolution from the stagnant FA of relatively recent memory. Even having some kind of strategy was long a dashed hope among his more enlightened staff. The realization that the elite can thrive only from strong roots, while obvious, took many years for the FA hierarchy to absorb it.

The strategy recognizes that there is a long way to go, and the FA is still burdened with archaic council as its normative body and battered by events. But current developments build on years in which the FA gradually cemented a focus on its core purpose, and eventually enough of the great wealth of English football was applied to it.

St George’s Park, the permanent base, with superb facilities, for Southgate, Pearson and their 124 FA education staff, all England teams and all national coach education courses, was a stop-start project that broke the ground. budget that the FA insisted it needed against opposition in the 2000s of the presidents of the Premier League and the Football League.

Jordan Pickford, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling
From right: Jordan Pickford, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling participate in a recovery session at St George’s Park. Photograph: Eddie Keogh / The FA / Getty Images

Sir Trevor Brooking, England’s playmaker who became the FA’s director of football development between 2004 and 2014, argued that England needed to have that foundation and learn in all areas of the attractive progress European countries had made, led by France and Spain. The complex, with 14 open-air courts, including a replica of the Wembley court surface, training areas, sports science and rehabilitation, finally opened in 2012, and people at the FA now say they can barely remember how they managed without a foundation.

Southgate’s own development is itself the result of dedicated planning far beyond the FA’s previous record. He was appointed in 2011 to a new position as head of elite development, with the aim of improving England’s technique and ultimately their ability to perform better in international football than during his time as a player. Southgate wanted more immediate involvement with the players and left the position in July 2012, but was recruited as an under-21 coach in 2013, graduating as England manager in 2016.

Dan Ashworth, who succeeded him as the FA’s elite director of development, is widely recognized within the organization for establishing the principles that have helped produce the constant improvement sought when the position was created after England’s failure at the 2010 World Cup.

Ashworth developed the “England DNA” program in 2014, a further fulfillment of Brooking’s vision of consistent approaches to playing style, coaching, player development, and scientific and analytical support of the sport across all age groups, from men and women under the age of 15 years to men under 21 and women under. -23s.

Even Wembley itself can be seen as a monument to the FA’s long-term planning; a project that suffered years of delays and criticism, but that ultimately produced an incredible modern stadium that has now delivered the home advantage advantage. Some soccer folks believe the FA should have gotten on the nerves and sold the stadium to Shahid Khan in exchange for £ 400 million that could have been invested in grassroots soccer – a 2018 proposition that seems more attractive from across the board. pandemic.

Regardless, when Southgate and his players are cheered by the crowd at Wembley on Sunday, it must be recognized that the cheers are also for the FA, the historic governing body of English football, and their determined work to reach these heights.

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