From the Press box

Nicole Carroll: A one woman mission to make a name in football

Archive for June 2010

Chelsea (possible) transfer rumblings…?

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How sure can I be on this one? Not very. Now that England are home from their World Cup misery however, the transfer news has started to pick up again, and the latest tidbit I’ve heard is about Chelsea.

According to a rumour I have heard, there will be one Yossi Benayoun joining Chelsea, whilst Mr Chelsea himself, Frank Lampard, and Ashley Cole depart the blues for pastures new.

Will Cole and Lampard be joining Mourinho at a new look Real Madrid? Will I ever get any sort of speculation correct?

How true is this? Hmm, its fairly debateable. Stranger things have happened in football though.


Written by Nicole Carroll

June 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Is youth coaching really flawed?- An interview with a coach

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Something which seems to be repeatedly appearing since Englands loss to Germany is the issue of youth coaching. Some are pointing to coaching as being part of Englands problem when it comes to major tournaments, and people are worried that the coaching of the youth today isn’t good enough for England in the future.

In light of this, I’ve got in contact with my twitter contact Andy who is a coach in his local area, and I quizzed him about youth coaching and the future for England. Andy has his own (very good blog)

Firstly a little introduction of yourself. I know you managed last season and are taking on a new team for the new season – but how did you get into coaching initially? 

Hi, i’m Andy Smith and i’m an FA Level 2 qualified coach.  I played Sunday League all my life but was forced to give it up about 7 years ago as the opposition suddenly became much younger, stronger and fitter and I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t keep up with the younger players anymore. 

I’ve been coaching for 3 years as part of the Hessle Sporting Club in Hull, one of the largest Football Development Centres in East Yorkshire, with over 250 players aged from 4 -10.  I fell into coaching as there weren’t enough qualified coaches at the club to cope with demand and have enjoyed every second of it since. 

I currently coach the Hessle Sporting Vulcans who will be playing at under 10’s in the Hull Boys Sunday Football League next season. 
What sort of training/coaching courses have you been through yourself to become a youth coach? 

Under the FA Charter Standard rules, every team must have a Level 1 qualified coach as a minimum.  There is a formal pathway for qualifications that coaches can take to develop their coaching skills: 

Your browser may not support display of this image.  

I have completed both the FA Level 1 and Level 2 courses. 

The FA Level 1 is an introductory course to give coaches a basic understanding of the “Four Corners” of player development (physical, psychological, technical & social) and how to prepare and run an effective training session.  It also includes First Aid and Safeguarding Children.

Level 2 is a lot more in-depth and covers areas such as coaching the basic skills and techniques, developing an appreciation of the coaching process, the needs of the player and related issues in sports science and how to plan, conduct and evaluate a series of sessions in a systematic and progressive manner.

Essentially, Level 1 is how to put together a training session for shooting, for example.  Level 2 is how to assess and improve players techniques. 
What sort of philosophies about football do you try to impart on your players? Do your sides play a pass and move game, or do they have the tendancy to knock the ball long down the field?

My philosophy is very simple:  I don’t care if we win or lose as long as we try our best, have fun and play football as it should be played.

Being a Hull City fan all my life, I have seen enough long ball tactics to last me a lifetime.  This has helped me to ensure that my players are taught that this not an acceptable form of football.  It is certainly not a natural aspect of any young players game.

Young players have their heroes who they try to emulate, such as Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka and Beckham.  7, 8 and 9 year olds are naturally selfish and their natural instinct is to hold onto the ball as long as possible and use various skills to take on 4 or 5 players.  I have never met a player yet whose natural instinct is to hoof the ball up front to a waiting striker.

It is very important then that, as a coach, I work with their natural playing style and try to add passing and movement to their style.  There is no greater sight than a move of 5 or 6 passes being played which results in a shot at goal.

I must point out that I am not alone in coaching this passing, keep ball style.  I would say that 99% of teams that we have played are also developing their players in this way.  Yes there are those coaches that send their players out to punt it long at every opportunity but you do find that their turnover of players is quite high.

What do you think is the most important aspect of coaching youngsters today?

Quite simply, Football has got to be fun for the kids. 

I have seen coaches and parents screaming at kids from the sidelines and criticising their every move.  All this does is create hostility towards the game and stifles the player.  The most important thing you can give to a young player is praise and a feeling of worth. 

My players are encouraged to take risks.  I want them to try a Ronaldinho flic-flac or to have a go at Ronaldo stepovers, because the feeling that they get when they pull it off in a game will live with them for a very long time and will encourage them.  And if a trick doesn’t quite work, so what?  It will next time.  I even post videos on the team website of other skills that they might like to try. 
Quite obviously since the England loss on Sunday, people have been trying to place the blame on various aspects, and youth coaching has been attacked by some fans. Has there been anything you’ve read that you entirely disagree with (and why)?

Unfortunately its not just the fans that are questioning ‘grassroots’ football.  Henry Winter, Oliver Kay, Mile Parry and Ray Parlour (to name a few) have all commented that there is an issue with grassroots.  I can only conclude that they do not see what is actually being done.

In my opinion its way too early to be making these kind of accusations.  The FA planted a ‘grassroots’ seed a few years ago and I think we will start seeing the benefits of what they are doing in the next 5-10 years.

The FA are working very hard to develop young players with initiatives like Tesco Skills Schools and their backing of Futsal.  In my home town of Hull there are free Tesco Skills Schools every week and there are a number of Futsal leagues that are available to teams.

Whilst i don’t think the FA are to blame, I do feel that Professional clubs need to re-assess their methods of selecting, coaching and developing players.  A colleague of mine’s son was invited to train with Nottingham Forest at age 9.  He went along for 3 weeks and told his dad he didn’t want to go anymore as “all they do is shout at everyone”.  What a shame that a talented young player has been affected by poor management.

It is also clear from looking at the young players that some local clubs are signing (aged 8, 9 and 10) that their overriding requirement is pace.  Not passing, tackling or movement but pace.  I like to think that Theo Walcott is proof that pace is useless if you have no other aspect to your game.  Look at Beckham, never blessed with lightning speed but had so much more to offer.

Of course youth football could do with more investment but money isn’t the be all and end all.  The County FA’s could maybe do more in terms of offering support to youth coaches and maybe a yearly assessment of their coaching would help to eradicate the minority that is rogue coaches. 
If England coaching isn’t to blame for the constant failure in international tournaments, then what do you believe to be the ‘English disease’?

In my opinion the answer is simple, form.

The last England manager to pick players based purely on form was Sir Bobby Robson.  Too often over the last 15 years have we seen players being picked for the team on reputation.

The most prolific striker in an England shirt over the past few years is Peter Crouch, yet he hardly got a look-in at the World Cup.  People will argue that he only scores against lesser teams – perfect for USA, Algeria and Slovenia then.  Or so you would think.

Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard (particularly against Algeria) were clearly out of form.  I like to think that Sir Bobby would have recognised this and, instead of blindly hoping that all would come good, would have made changes to the team.

Everyone has their opinions and there probably isn’t a perfect answer.  Rest assured i’m looking forward to seeing the talent that will come through in the next 10 years. 

Written by Nicole Carroll

June 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Coaching and youth – The way forward for the England setup

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“No pride” “No passion” “Overpaid primadonnas”.

…and that’s just some of the comments that popped up in my news stream after England’s heavy defeat to Germany.

Overreaction was always going to happen when England crashed out of the World Cup, but the fall out from this will be monumental. I already feel the rumblings of a Capello out campaign and a witch hunt of the players. Expect desecrations of each of the group matches, before a blow by blow account of why it all went wrong against Germany.

Except, a lot of these comments are out of order. Who says the players didn’t play with pride? Who says they didn’t play with passion? Losing doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t try. It’s just the simple fact that we were not good enough against a the German side. A German side which has some fantastic individuals, but can play as a team. In contrast to England who have some fantastic individuals, but can’t play as a team.

Don’t expect things to change anytime soon. The problems England face are much deeper than dressing room rows or simply of player selection during tournaments. The English problem is the fact we truly lack a pool of players to pick from to play for England, and now this Golden generation have proved themselves as gold plated in this World Cup, we will now be looking through a threadbare cupboard for the ingredients for the European Championship qualifiers.

In the short term, England need to rebuild. That is simply the only option. We will need to brush ourselves down and take a long hard look at the squad. There are many people in that squad who are simply too old to turn out at another World Cup, and will be pushing it to feature in the 2012 tournament.

Capello needs to be strong enough to wield the axe. The time for this squad is now over, and we need to spend the next year sourcing the best we’ve got and start nurturing them into England players.

Stop using friendlies as a way of making our form look better. Why beat some unknown country 4-0 with the team we have now, when we could use international friendlies to bed in players who’ve never featured fully in the England squad. Take your Joe Hart and let him build up his England caps. We need a new centre back to replace John Terry who has lost a yard of pace, if not bringing in a raft of young defenders to attempt to take that England shirt. Why not Cahill of Bolton or Johnson at Birmingham? Use Dawson as a future of the defense rather than a benchwarmer and allow him to be surrounded by senior defenders who can only up his game, perhaps in the shape of Ashley Cole who will know all about handling pressure on the big stage.

We need to find and nurture the next generation of midfielders to take England forward. Gerrard and Lampard aren’t getting any younger, now is the time to start resting them for England friendlies and calling up young blood to fill the future roles.

Let’s play these supposed “next best” players in football. Ipswich’s Connor Wickham. If he’s that great, play him in the next England friendly. Lets test how he plays in a good squad, and if he’s good enough, then why not give him a go.

In the short term, we just need to start a squad from scratch which is entirely youth centred, perhaps combined with the smattering of talent we do have. Let them use friendlies and qualifiers to build up a squad slowly, a squad who can learn to compete with other teams with increasingly young squads.

That’s only a short term plan. Tomorrow the FA need to start looking forward to the long term future of English football.

The lack of decent English players needs to be addressed in quite a serious way. Why aren’t our coaching systems producing young players who can compete in the English set up? What can we learn from European coaching schemes, and how can we implement it within our own country.

The short term plan for England is simply a sticking plan which can perhaps take us to the next World Cup. The long term plan could take a decade or so to kick in. We’ll continue into the future lacking success if we fail to address the deeper problems within English football. Tomorrow is the first day for the future of football in this country – FA, please sort it out.

Written by Nicole Carroll

June 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm

We still believe

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I’m unbelieveably nervous about todays game, and even more gutted that I’m at work and will be listening through the medium of radio.

I don’t want to write some huge patriotic speech and somehow jinx it. I think this is appropriate for today though. Come on England.

Written by Nicole Carroll

June 27, 2010 at 6:51 am

The final 16: Who goes through? The From the Press box prediction

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After a long group stage which seemed it would never end, we’ve reached the final 16, and this is where the competition really hots up.

The problem with the initial group stages is the fact that everyone is so cagey in their first matches, and the lack of action in these opening games really put a dampener on my World Cup experience, and it’s only the final matches which have proved interesting for me.

We’ve had some good matches and at the same time we’ve really had some mediocre matches where a lot of the top players have failed to perform. We’ve had our shocks, in the shape of France and Italy going home, but now the final 16 have been decided, and the next round of matches shall be concluded in fairly quick succession.

This is where it gets exciting. We’ve cut the teams by exactly half now, and we now have a slightly clearer insight on who could be the potential winners, and the paths the various teams would need to take to get to the final.

I’ve spent the last week thinking that it would probably be Argentina that wins the World Cup now, but I think the final 16 shall spur the teams on now and we should hopefully see a greater quality in matches and teams should finally start playing to their full potential.

Here are my predictions for the final 16 results, remember this is me betting, so I will probably be very very wrong!:

Uruguay vs. South Korea
USA vs. Ghana
Germany vs. England
Argentina vs. Mexico
Netherlands vs. Slovakia
Brazil vs. Chile
Paraguay vs. Japan
Spain vs. Portugal

Written by Nicole Carroll

June 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm

When did the St. Georges cross become the symbol of choice for England fans?

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My Dad has never been a travelling fan of England, but one of my earliest memories is of a huge Union Flag he kept in my parents bedroom. This flag must have been 15 ft length ways by 10ft high, with Birmingham written across the middle. A mate borrowed it and it never returned to my house.

Union flags at England games seem to have had the same sort of fate. Look back to the videos of England playing in the 80’s, or even Italia 90, and you will see England fans adorned in the red, white and blue of the Union flag, with just a spattering of the St. Georges flag. Now, the St. Georges flag dominates the football stadiums which England play in, and they are used on all the merchandise which is sold prior to any tournament.

Has the Union Flag been relegated to decorating novelty items to sell in London souvenir shops, or in a rush of nostalgia, will England fans bring our their old and dusty flags which are buried in the loft and remember the England support of old?

The Union flag is a literal representation of the unification of England and Scotland, and it also represents Wales although there is a physical symbol for Wales on the flag. It was created using the popular symbol today – the St. Georges cross, overlaid onto the Scottish flag, known as the St. Andrews, to create the flag we know of today. The flag hasn’t been adopted by law as the flag for the UK, however it has become the flag to represent the UK through its usage.

In contrast to the flag which represents a number of countries, the St. George’s cross or flag is representative of England alone, although the patron St. George is the patron saint of many countries. Up until 1959, the Cross represented both England and Wales, but since Wales got their own flag, it has been associated solely with England.

It’s hard to explain the recent resurgence in popularity for the Cross in fans, as there doesn’t seem to be much information as to why they’ve dropped the Jacks and picked up the Crosses. Some will argue that with Scotland and Wales attempting to separate themselves from English parliament, then perhaps football fans are also reflecting how all the nations now feel separated from one another, and now use separate flags to represent this.

It seems that the usage of the St. Georges flag is both political and for footballing reasons. The politics of devolution could be attributed to football fans adopting a flag which is symbolic simply of England, and represents a social need for England fans to feel separate from the other nations and adopt something which is representative of England alone.

The St. George’s cross has also become a huge marketing tool. The simple red on a background of white has become a part of “Brand England”, and the selling of car flags and various adornments for the body and house in the simple flag all contributes into buying into the “Team England” brand. As stated before, the Union flag seems to be printed across anything for tourists to buy, whereas the Cross is used for the general public to be able to buy into being an England flag – a simple symbol which makes the bold statement of “I am an England fan”.

Perhaps with English fans seeking to adopt purely English symbols when supporting their national team, then this could potentially call for a rousing English anthem, rather than God Save the Queen, who is the figurehead for the United Kingdom? It’s about 20 years ago since we last saw Union Flag’s present at a World Cup tournament, perhaps in 20 years time we will be hearing an entirely different anthem to spur the England side onwards in future tournaments.

Written by Nicole Carroll

June 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

Is the tide turning for former World Cup winners?

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With Italy’s 3-2 loss to Slovakia, the World Cup bids arrivederci to the 2006 winners. Just earlier this week we saw France leave the competition in embarrassing fashion, despite being the 1998 winners and finalists back in 2006.

Is there a sense of entitlement for these teams which leads them to their own downfall, or is it living on past glories with squad players who are past their best that is now holding back these once great nations.

With only 9 players from the 2006 tournament, Italy arguably had a new squad which combined experience as well as talented youngsters. However, they’ve failed to crack a group which featured World Cup debutants Slovakia, who have ended up second in the group and now will progress in the competition whilst the Italians board the plane home, wondering how they could have changed their world cup fate.

If anything, Italy and France’s performance almost puts England group stage faring in a different light. England now see themselves in the final 16 unbeaten in South Africa, whilst fairly recent World Cup holders France had a nightmare in the group stages, and last tournament winners Italy struggled against a team who’d never appeared on the World Cup stage.

Do we still have some shocks to come in the group stages?

With only 7 former World Cup winners, could it now be the time for a new team to emerge as the future for this competition? Could this be the year for Spain or Portugal to finally realise their potential and take that World Cup crown, or will it be the usual candidates slogging it out to the final? The World Cup just got a lot more interesting.

Written by Nicole Carroll

June 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm