FA reveals England DNA plans

Published: Friday 5th December 2014 by The News Editor

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The Football Association has unveiled new proposals designed to boost England’s prospects which have been inspired by models from Germany and Belgium.

The ‘England DNA’ programme, launched on Thursday at St George’s Park, has been billed as “the start point for the creation of a world-class approach of elite player development leading to winning England teams”.

It will be unveiled to more than 1,500 coaches at the Burton-upon-Trent complex over the next few days.

The FA hopes to create a “golden thread” of joined-up thinking along the pathway taking players from under-15 to men’s under-21 or women’s under-23 level, with a view to eventual success for the seniors.

The plan focuses on five key aspects: pride in representing England in a “comprehensive and varied” schedule of games at different age levels, playing with a particular philosophy, the skills and attributes the “future England player” should have, plus the coaching and support to go with all that.

The intention is for the programme to keep evolving, and players will be given wristbands containing digital information from it to refer to when they are with their clubs.

England manager Roy Hodgson said: “I think it is very important we have a very clear idea of what principles we are going to follow and what we want the players to be doing in different situations.

“We want to improve their awareness tactically and their game management.

“All these types of thing are what I think is going to make England teams stronger going forward, and it is very much a coaching matter.

“The earlier we can get these messages across to the players and really bed them in, it should help the seniors when the players progress through the levels and arrive in that team.”

Dan Ashworth, the FA’s director of elite development, said the body early on in the conception of the plan had looked at seven top European countries and three from South America – and that two in particular had stood out.

“It’s really dangerous to copy another country, but it would be remiss of us not to look at some of the lessons other countries have had,” Ashworth said.

“Certainly two that spring to mind are Belgium and Germany, who have had strong programmes and leadership from their associations, and a clear direction.

“In that respect it’s similar – what we’re doing is not the same as those two but we do have a vision.”

There was a heavy emphasis from the FA on Thursday about the desire to boost the number and variation of games through the youth ranks so that players could enter senior level with a “cap accumulation” and overall experience more in line with other nations.

England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate – also the head of development teams – said it is important there is “no inferiority complex”, and added: “It’s not just about the number of caps – it’s the types of experiences.

“Historically our games programme was just against Europeans, and we’ve tried to extend that.

“It’s no use playing nations that don’t stretch is, as we quite often get in qualifying groups.

“We’ve got to play world opposition, and teams we might lose to.

“Then, also, the clubs view that as an experience that makes it worth their players going.”

Ashworth stressed the FA’s “connection and interaction with clubs is better than it’s ever been”, adding: “It’s not club v country.”

Southgate spoke of a mutually-beneficial club-country relationship, saying: “We can’t sit back and say it’s not fair foreign managers not picking English players.

“Our responsibility is to help the development of English players, so that they are selectable – and it is the same for coaches and their opportunities.”

Hodgson recently said he would not stand in the way of Southgate picking eligible senior players for the European Under-21 Championship next summer, although there could be issues on that front with club managers.

Ashworth said: “We haven’t spoken about the final squad yet – there is still a lot of football to be played, injuries, form.

“We will sit down, Roy, Gareth and myself, and discuss each individual player and see if it is right for them to be considered to go.”

In terms of the seniors, FA chairman Greg Dyke set a bold target last year of England winning the 2022 World Cup.

Ashworth acknowledged Dyke’s words on Thursday, but was keen to play down the idea of having such specific goals.

He said knock-out tournaments were harder to make targets for than league competitions, and added: “We want to see improvements in our performances at development level.

“It’s about winning at some stage and competing on the world stage.”

Published: Friday 5th December 2014 by The News Editor

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