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Thursday 20 September 2012

Youth team coaches can inspire a generation, says Hodgson

England manager says more hours with players "can only be advantageous" to youth development

  • Ged Roddy, with Terry Westley and Roy Hodgson

  • Joan Vila Bosch instils the Barcelona methodology on the young players

  • Southampton's Martin Hunter gives instructions

  • The players enjoyed using the FA's superb St George's Park facilities

  • Nottingham Forest's youth players are put through their paces at St George's Park

England manager Roy Hodgson believes that youth team coaches "can be a force for good" for future generations of Barclays Premier League players under the new guidelines of the Elite Player Performance Plan.

Hodgson was speaking on Tuesday at the Premier League's third Leadership Journey Event, a coaching conference dedicated to the Professional Development Phase of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and the importance of vision and philosophy within football clubs.

Also holding court were representatives from the football academies of Barcelona and Southampton, who gave engaging presentations on the good work they are doing to produce home-grown players.

"I can't see it being anything other than advantageous to have players earlier and for longer"
Roy Hodgson

Hosted by the Premier League's director of youth Ged Roddy and Lead Club Support Manager Terry Westley, the conference, held at The Football Association's soon-to-be-opened National Football Centre at St George's Park, Burton-on-Trent, was attended by numerous academy directors and youth development coaches who specialise in the final phase of the EPPP's performance pathway: developing under-17 to under-21 players.

Hodgson spoke positively about the implementation of the EPPP, and reflected that clubs being able to take on boys as young as 14 years of age on a full-time basis clubs can now exert a greater influence on development.

"I can't see it being anything other than advantageous to have players earlier and for longer," said Hodgson. "It can only be good for the player, the team and for the club. In the end it comes down to what the clubs are actually doing with the players, of course, but in people like [Arsenal manager] Arsene Wenger, [Manchester United manager] Alex Ferguson and [former Barcelona manager] Johan Cruyff, for example, there are individuals, who by dint of their personalities have made a big, big difference at their clubs and helped youngsters come through."

According to the England manager the improved access for clubs to players at an earlier age can aid their development in three key areas.

"I think the increased time should be spent in improving a player's technical ability, improving his understanding of the game and, if you get hold of players that young, you also have a great chance to affect the mental side of the game - coaches can act as a great force for good."

"Coaches can act as a great force for good"
Roy Hodgson

"A lot of 14-year-olds in football come from very underprivileged backgrounds," continued the 65-year-old, "but a coach can have probably a greater influence on that person than his teacher and even his parents in some cases."

"It's a huge responsibility but there's great work to be done make certain these players get some sort of order and discipline in their lives, that they get something to believe in, something to work towards, something to dream about."

Ambitious Barclays Premier League clubs are working towards emulating the success of Barcelona, whose youth academy system is the envy of the world. The Spanish club's Director of Methodology, Joan Vila Bosch gave a detailed insight into the philosophy, methodology and culture behind the club that has become the yardstick by which many clubs worldwide measure themselves. Only last weekend the Blaugrana fielded ten home-grown players in their starting XI.

Southampton are a club with a similar commitment to their youth system. Earlier in the day, Academy Manager Matt Crocker gave a presentation on the philosophy of the newly promoted club, whose youth system has produced the likes of Arsenal's Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur. The south-coast club intends to reach a point where 50% of their first-team will be academy graduates.

In the afternoon Southampton academy coach Martin Hunter held a coaching demonstration in the vast indoor training complex at St George's Park, with players from Nottingham Forest's youth team, while Hodgson, England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce and Everton academy director Alan Irvine looked on.

"It's clear both of the clubs that presented have got a very clear idea about how they are going to move forward in the future"
Alan Irvine

Vila, who boasts Andre Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas among his former pupils, then followed suit with some practical drills of his own, explaining to Forest’s players the importance of movement and awareness before and after receiving a pass. The end of both sessions was greeted with applause by the coaches, who had clearly gleaned a great deal from the day.

"The day has been terrific," said Everton's academy director Alan Irvine. "It was really well-organised. What have I learned? Probably far too much to say in a short interview but I think their presentations were excellent. It's clear that both of the clubs that presented have got a very clear idea about how they are going to move forward in the future."

Hodgson is also hopeful about the future of the English game  and cited the emergence last season of Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand and this campaign of Liverpool's Raheem Sterling as examples of youngsters who, when given the chance, can make the step up to the Barclays Premier League and even the national set-up.

"When players like Bertrand come to work with us [at England] you can see they've got ability. They are by no means out of place than they're more famous or experienced counterparts. Raheem Sterling has not only got into the Liverpool team but he is doing well in the Liverpool team. One can only hope that many more of those players will now emerge."

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Key Points

  • England manager Roy Hodgson gives Q&A to youth team coaches at St George's Park
  • Southampton and Barcelona also give presentations on the philosophy and vision behind their youth academies
  • Hodgson welcomes improvements incorporated in EPPP and described youth-team coaches as 'a force for good'