“So Much More To Come” – Chris Coleman on Wales’ Progress

The Offside Rule

Jamie Thomas met Chris Coleman last night where he fired a warning shot to Wales’ Euro 2016 qualification rivals by insisting that there is so much more to come from his young, high-flying national side.

Following an event at Conwy Borough Football Club, which saw the Wales manager open a new clubhouse, Coleman was happy to speak to me briefly about Wales’ progress.

Warning Shot - Chris Coleman is bullish about the future. Warning Shot – Chris Coleman is bullish about the future.

Following on from his side’s relatively straightforward fixture against Belgium, the ex-Fulham manager was keen to outline how much the side had learnt and benefitted from the adversities they’d faced in previous fixtures.

“In every game so far we’ve had a bit of adversity and we’ve handled it really well, no matter what the conditions have been – whether it be the pitch in Andorra or the amount of injuries against Bosnia and Cyprus. We’ve got over…

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“So Much More To Come” – Chris Coleman on Wales’ Progress.

Chris Coleman last night fired a warning shot to Wales’ Euro 2016 qualification rivals by insisting that there is so much more to come from his young, high-flying national side.

Following an event at Conwy Borough Football Club which saw the Welsh Men’s National Side manager open a new clubhouse, Coleman was happy to speak to me briefly about Wales’ progress.

Following on from Wales’ relatively straightforward fixture against Belgium, the ex-Fulham manager is keen to outline how much the side had learnt and benefitted from the adversity they’d faced in previous fixtures.

“In every game so far we’ve had a bit of adversity and we’ve handled it really well, no matter what the conditions have been whether it be the pitch in Andorra or the amount of injuries against Bosnia and Cyprus. We’ve got over every bump in the road really well and that speaks to the character of these players.

It is fine having the ability in football but you have to have the mentality as well and the last few months have proved that these players have both.” He said.

The Welsh National side is a very young one; the starting XI against Belgium had an average age of just over 25-years-old and with youngsters such as George Williams (19), Jonathan Williams (21) and Harry Wilson (17) coming through, the manager believes the future is bright for Wales.

“They’re so young so we have a lot of years left to work with this squad and that’s great because we’re going to have a lot of players who have experienced a lot of adversity together and know how to deal with it and that can only be good for Welsh Football.” He said.

Adversity and character are two words that pop up frequently in our brief conversation as Coleman argues that one leads to another and can only serve to bring the best out of his side.

“There’s a lot more to come from this side. All of the experience they’re getting now coming through the adversity that they’ve come through is great because it shapes them and their character.”

Although he initially struggled to get things right after taking the Wales job in incredibly unfortunate and difficult circumstances, the former Wales defender believes he has found the secret to success.

“The secret to success here is getting players who don’t regularly play together, some who don’t even play at all, outside of the national side to play like a strong cohesive unit for 90 minutes.

Wayne Hennessey has been absolutely wonderful – Chris Gunter, Robson-Kanu, Joe Ledley, Joe Allen, George Williams, Dave Cotterill and so on – it is definitely a collective effort.” He said.

Sensing that, after going four games undefeated in qualification and losing only one of the last nine at home, momentum is with his side, Coleman is chomping at the bit for Wales to get going again.

“If I had my way we’d have gone to Israel five days after the Belgium game to keep the momentum going but the fixtures are the way they are and we have to wait until March.

We’re taking everything on a game-by-game basis. My target now is obviously to win against Israel then it’ll be to win the next one and the next one to put ourselves in the best position to get to France in 2016.” The ex-Sociedad manager added.

Whilst coming to the conclusion of the interview, news filters through of Wales’ triumph in the Victory Shield Competition – the first time the Welsh have secured an outright win of the competition since 1948/49 – Coleman is elated that Wales’ focus on their youth is paying off.

“The win is a strong indicator that all of the FAW’s hard work down in the lower levels of Welsh Football is paying off – developing the youth is the name of the game.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re coaching them right, treating them right and making sure they develop correctly.”

One thing is for sure – if the youth follow the example that the senior national side is setting right now then future is very, very bright for Welsh football!

FIFA Report causes mass uproar.

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas

As I’m sure you’ve heard, FIFA released their long-awaited report investigating the legality of the bidding process for the 2018/2022 World Cups and, to say the least, it has caused quite a stir.

The report cleared Qatar and Russia – although admitting there might have been attempts to bend the rules – of any wrongdoing and in a shocking turn of events, pointed the finger firmly at England, the USA and Australia with regards to their conduct in the voting process.

It is fair to say that a number of high-profile figures involved in English football, whether in a journalistic capacity or within the game itself, are flabbergasted.

Read on to find our analysis of the 42-page report!

FIFA dismiss Michael Garcia's report. FIFA dismiss Michael Garcia’s report.

FIFA’s Investigative Powers

Before looking at the report and its reliability it’s worth outlining that FIFA themselves do mention frequently that there is a…

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Brussels, and Belgium, will show what Bale and Co. are really made of

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas

The best start to a qualifying campaign for 12 years, undefeated after three games, leading two recent World Cup Finalists at the top of their group – it sounds like it has been a great few months for Welsh Football.

On Sunday though they’ll face their toughest test of the group to date as Chris Coleman and his men head to Belgium to face one of the most complete sides in Europe in their own backyard. Read on to see how we assess Wales’ chances!

Great chance - Gareth Bale will lead Wales in Belgium Great chance – Gareth Bale will lead Wales in Belgium

The Story so Far:

Despite the numerous plus points mentioned earlier on, Wales’ start hasn’t been without its difficulties – each of the three matches played so far have brought their own problems.

Qualifying Problems:

In Andorra the pitch was a talking point, to say the least.

The Welsh were the first…

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Brussels will show what Bale and Co. are really made of!

The best start to a qualifying campaign for 12 years, undefeated after three games, leading two recent World Cup Finalists at the top of their group – it sounds like it has been a great few months for Welsh Football.

On Sunday though they’ll face their toughest test of the group to date as Chris Coleman and his men head to Belgium to face one of the most complete sides in Europe in their own backyard. Read on to see how we assess Wales’ chances!

The Story so Far:

Despite the numerous plus points mentioned earlier on, Wales’ start hasn’t been without its difficulties – each of the three matches played so far have brought their own problems.

In Andorra the pitch was a talking point, to say the least.

The Welsh were the first team to play on the artificial pitch and it was clear to see that the surface hadn’t had the required attention from Mother Nature that it needed – a splash of rain beforehand would’ve made for a completely different match.

Nonetheless, victories earned through adversity build character.

That character was thoroughly tested throughout the next international window as, with a midfield ravaged by injury, Wales had to switch to 5-3-2 to keep Bosnia honest before an early injury and a sending off made the Cyprus clash much more complicated than it should have been.

The Welsh persisted though and found themselves top of the group on merit.

A new dilemma:

Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Robert Earnshaw, John Hartson, Craig Bellamy – over the last 30 years Wales have had a recognised threat leading the line for them.

Yes, Wales have Bale now but he fills the role that Giggs filled back in his day – both mercurial talents but even they can’t do it all on their own.

Giggs’ list of strike partners has been listed above – who has Bale got?

Simon Church has been the striker of choice so far but for one reason or another hasn’t been able to get going and is set to miss this clash because of an injury – the right man to replace him is Hal Robson-Kanu.

He’s not a striker by trade, as you will know, but certain facets of his game cover one of Wales’ and Bale’s biggest weaknesses – that they don’t press the ball early, nor robustly enough at times.

Bale’s sometimes lacking defensive effort has been well documented and against Bosnia Simon Church was just as guilty – I think it speaks wonders for the last two matches that they both swung Wales’ way when Robson-Kanu led the attack with Bale.

Also, with Robson-Kanu picking up some defensive responsibilities, it means Bale can concentrate more on finding the spaces that will make him so dangerous on the counter-attack.

Robson-Kanu is so dynamic, tireless and really encourages his teammates to press the ball early and vigorously and with Church out with an injury, the stage is set for him to step up to the plate!

A lot to be optimistic about:

Although there are still a few notable absentees, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen return in this fixture and despite the form of their respective clubs, it’ll be a huge boost for Wales to have them back.

Make no mistake – this is a great opportunity for Wales. They’re playing the best football they’ve played for years and will go to Belgium with thousands of supporters behind them.

Factor in that Vincent Kompany is a doubt and that some of Belgium’s better individuals haven’t always been their same mesmerising selves when playing for their country as they are for their clubs and you could forgive the Welsh fans for being quite optimistic going into the game.

Belgium showed in the World Cup that they struggle to get into a rhythm at times and if Wales can continue to work as relentlessly as they have in defence so far in this group, they can do well here.

The Welsh have had issues to contend with so far in this group: bad pitches, injuries, etc. however heading into this game they are in great shape and have as good a chance as ever of making it four games undefeated in the group!

FIFA Report causes mass uproar.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, FIFA released their long-awaited report investigating the legality of the bidding process for the 2018/2022 World Cups and, to say the least, it has caused quite a stir.

The report cleared Qatar and Russia, although admitting there might have been attempts to bend the rules, of any wrongdoing and, in a shocking turn of events, pointed the finger firmly at England, the USA and Australia with regards to their conduct in the voting process.

It is fair to say that a number of high-profile figures involved in English football, whether in a journalistic capacity or within the game itself, are flabbergasted.

Read on to find my analysis of the 42-page report!

FIFA’s Investigative Powers:

Before looking at the report and its reliability it is worth outlining that FIFA themselves do mention frequently that there is a limit to the investigative work they can do.

They also acknowledge they haven’t taken into account the information of whistle-blowers, particularly in the cases of Australia and Qatar (See section 6.6.1 and 6.6.7 of the report).

The potential deficiencies in FIFA’s authority with regards to the corruption being alleged is visible almost immediately, and perhaps chillingly underlined by a sentence they end the report with: ‘The main challenge with regard to corruption is proving it.’ (8.3)

The report also acknowledges indications of collusion in the voting process and that vote trading ‘to a limited extent’ might have ‘taken place in the context’ of the vote but that they haven’t established ‘conclusive evidence in this regard.’ (7.1)

FIFA reiterate their belief that they designed a bidding process ‘which was well-thought, robust and professional’ however notes that ‘FIFA can and must improve the process for future World Cups.’ (7.2.1)

The Case of Qatar and Russia:

Early on in their summary of Qatar’s bid, FIFA note a ‘lack of transparency’ between the Qatar bid team and two individuals who acted on their behalf and that binding these two individuals to ‘FIFA’s Ethics Rules poses certain legal challenges’ (6.6.2), potentially clearing the bid team of any wrongdoing if the two individuals were allegedly pulling strings without the bid teams knowledge.

The report also notes that Mr Bin Hammam did support Qatar’s bid and his actions did influence the voting process by ‘eliminating votes for Australia and England’. However they then go on to note that the difference it made wasn’t significant (6.6.6).

Also FIFA acknowledge the existence of a $1.2m payment between Jack Warner and Mr Bin Hammam ‘breached FIFA Code of Ethics … however that misconduct does not appear to relate’ to the vote itself (6.6.6).

In the case of Russia, FIFA acknowledge that there were indications of a ‘vote trading agreement’ between Russia and Japan although ‘no supporting evidence’ was obtained ‘that corroborated such indications.’ (6.7.2)

A most interesting point though was that ‘the Russia 2018 Bid Committee made only a limited amount of documents available for review’ due to the fact that computers used by the bid team had been ‘leased and then returned to their owner after the bidding process.’ (6.7.1)

The FA, US Soccer, Football Federation Australia under scrutiny?:

I think what has gone slightly under the radar so far is that this report surely means the voting process will not be reopened regarding the 2018/2022 bids.

Perhaps it has gone under the radar because it isn’t that surprising – we all expected that outcome. What many perhaps didn’t expect was that the aforementioned football associations would come out of this report on the defensive.

It is worth noting before drilling down into the details that FIFA point out England’s conduct in the voting process was not ‘suited to compromise the integrity of the bidding process as a whole’.

The report in particular notes that the England 2018 bid held a gala dinner in Trinidad in 2010 ‘once again in an effort to curry favour with Jack Warner’ (6.3.3) who was a key figure in the bidding process.

They go on to note that ‘there are certain indications of potentially problematic conduct of specific individuals in the light of relevant FIFA Ethics Rules’ and astonishingly inform the FA that ‘the Investigatory Chamber will take appropriate steps if it deems such measures appropriate and feasible.’ (6.3.6)

In the case of US Soccer, the report lists a number of alleged wrongdoings with regards to the USA 2022 bid such as influencing the Asian Football Confederation by spreading rumours of a potential bid by China for 2026 but note that the committee didn’t ‘have at its disposal any evidence corroborating this.’ (6.8.2)

The report also reflects negatively on Australia who, the report claims, ‘did undertake specific efforts to gain the support of a particular then FIFA Executive Committee member and that there may have been efforts to conceal certain relationships.’ (6.1.2)

42 Pages of Valuable Information then?:

Perhaps not.

There are a few key things that keep popping up in the findings that are disturbing. The biggest being that almost every concluding paragraph for the bids is mostly identical to the last.
Every single concluding paragraph, whether it be Qatar’s, Russia’s, USA’s, England’s or Australia’s concludes with something a lot like this sentence:

‘The Chairman … reaches the conclusion that … the circumstances of (insert country name here)’s bid were not suited to compromise the integrity of the bidding process as a whole.’

That isn’t the exact quote but the point is if that is the case, and it is written that way for every single county under investigation in identical wording, then why is there 15 pages of writing on where these countries allegedly skirted the rules?

If there are 15 pages written on England holding dinners for someone and the USA allegedly spreading rumours and the Australians allegedly hiding key relationships, never mind the two-and-a-half pages on Mr Bin Hammam’s alleged misdemeanours then why does this not damage the integrity of the process?

Surely if it didn’t damage the integrity of the process then there wouldn’t be 15 pages of things to say on how these countries allegedly skirted the rules?

To add to that, as I type this, one of the chief investigators behind the report has just said the findings are wrong and that he intends to appeal to the FIFA Appeal Committee.

Clearly then, something doesn’t add up. You can find the report for yourself on FIFA’s website (or click here) – I strongly encourage everyone who has an interest in football, or even just general transparency, to have a look.

One thing is for sure – the voting process might not be opening again but this story has a long way to run yet!

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Full Transcript of my interview with Seth Burkett.

Hey guys! As promised here is the transcript for my interview with Seth. If you liked the insights in the article then you’re going to love getting your teeth into this. Don’t forget you can get Seth’s book on his experiences in Brazil right here!

Jamie Thomas: First Mr Burkett thank you very much for taking the time to speak to me today!

Looking at your experiences in English football, obviously you started off at youth level with your hometown club before a couple of other teams showed an interest in you and you ended up as Captain at Stamford’s youth side. It seems you garnered quite a bit of interest from a few youth sides when you were at that stage of your career – was it difficult to deal with that attention, especially since you were so young and evidently focussing on your education?

Seth Burkett: It wasn’t really, no. I was playing at county level as well and although I knew there were a couple of sides having a look I remained realistic. I had always understood that I was more likely to succeed through working hard academically, and that any football career would likely be short-lived. It was nice to have that interest but it didn’t distract me.

JT: Just quickly on the education front, it seems a bit of a stereotype in British football at least that some players have reached such a level because they’ve spent the time they should’ve been spending in the classroom, on the football pitch. However you’ve been very conscious of the importance of education, whether it be with your A-levels or attending Loughborough – looking back, do you feel you made the right choice in turning down some of the opportunities you were offered in order to prioritise education? If you could go back would you change that?

SB: Both of my parents are teachers and I am sure that had a big say on my focus on the academic side. I’m not sure how much I read into that stereotype. At youth level there are many players who are very good academically. The trouble comes when they get a scholarship at a professional club and have to effectively give up on their education. That is the age when being intelligent is often frowned upon. When I played in academies there were a number of players who were bright academically. Upon being released from Northampton Town the head coach admitted that as I was good academically it was probably for the best. Even though a decision on a scholarship was three years away he said that as I was not the best player in the side I would not benefit as it would be unlikely I would get a professional contract. At the time I was gutted but in hindsight I am truly grateful. If you ask any academy coach he will say there are maybe one or two players in each age group who have a chance of making it professionally. The rest are just there to make up the numbers and have no chance when they get to 16.

The whole episode with Northampton impacted me greatly, as did the discovery of how much money can be made from semi-professional football. When I was offered a scholarship at the age of 16 I turned it down. I wanted to do A-levels to give me a better chance of getting into Loughborough University. I knew this would enable me to get a better job and also play football on the side to get money. People thought I was crazy but it turned out to be a good decision. Two of the players who got scholarships went on to get professional contracts. After one year of being professional both were released. The next year the club went bust.

It is incredibly hard to carve out a career as a professional footballer. I have seen so many exceptional footballers fall by the wayside. As such, I think education is incredibly important. I don’t regret prioritising education at all.

JT: When you went to Brazil with Stamford’s youth side for a tournament, was it ever in your mind before you went there that you might get the opportunity that you got or was it not something you really thought about? How quickly did you take the opportunity and how did you family and friends react?

SB: I always wanted to do something different and really wanted to play football abroad. I had a real desire to play in a random country, one with football at a low enough standard so that I could be involved with a team who played in the early stages of the Europa League. I had already had trials in both Portugal and Sweden and wanted something permanent. I never thought I’d get anything from Brazil but as soon as the opportunity came up I took it. My friends all thought I was crazy. Those who had been on the tour had seen the standard of living and facilities on offer and were less than impressed. We were only out there for 16 days but the majority got quite homesick. They couldn’t understand why I’d want to struggle in basic, filthy accommodation when I could be happy in my middle-class existence in England. My family were great. They told me to go for it as soon as they heard about it.

JT: You hear some of these horror stories every now and then of players like yourself taking a huge step in leaving home to play in another country and one way or another it goes horribly wrong – did those sorts of things ever cross your mind?

SB: Having seen the conditions when I first went out to Brazil I knew what I would be faced with. The living conditions were certainly touched. I shared a three-bedroomed converted garage located on the edge of a favela with 31 of my Brazilian teammates. Nobody spoke English. The windows were barred. There was no privacy, the toilets had no doors and the whole place was filthy. It turns out they do this on purpose in Brazil. Even at the best clubs the living conditions are tough. They believe it instils desire in players, a desire to better themselves and escape. In England players are given everything and can enjoy luxury accommodation. This, according to Brazilians, breeds a sense of entitlement. This sense does not work well on the pitch. The player has less desire to train hard and progress. He is happy with his current life.

I knew the conditions would be tough, but they turned out to be even harder than I expected. At first it is a massive shock, but you soon adapt to it. After a week I barely even noticed, though I must admit I really missed my warm showers.

JT: What was the lifestyle like over there – if a player were in their high-teens over here, even in the lower leagues, they’d probably be getting paid a few hundred, maybe even a thousand, a week and doing rather well for their age. I’m guessing Brazil wasn’t like that?

SB: I earned more money playing at Step 4 of the non-league pyramid for Stamford FC. For Stamford I would train for 1.5 hours per week; for Sorriso I would often train for 30 hours per week. That being said, I didn’t really need the money. The club provided the food, accommodation and whatever I wanted. Everything I received financially was profit. It was never about the money for me. Because we had no outgoings we could enjoy our money within reason. Many lads in my team came from poor backgrounds however, and a lot of them sent the majority of their wages home to their families.

What money they kept for themselves was spent on partying. The Brazilians love partying. They are always singing, dancing and laughing. It was brilliant to be around. They would always be heading out into the night. It didn’t even matter if we were scheduled to have an early morning training session. They’d still stay out till around 6 or 7am.

JT: Overall just how different was the lifestyle over there off the pitch? Is there anything in particular that stood out to you as being particularly strange, diverse or tough to adjust to?

SB: Everyone was so much more laid back and positive. Everyone was happy and there would always be somebody singing or playing music. It was infectious and really eased me into my new life. It was eye-opening how seriously religion was taken. We had to pray before every single match and training session. We would all join in a huddle, closing our eyes and pointing our hands toward the sky whilst reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The majority of players would cross themselves each time they entered and left the pitch. Many played with Biblical slogans underneath their kit, and many also took their Bibles and prayer beads to every match for good luck.

The heat was the hardest thing to adapt to. Even my teammates from more southerly regions such as Sao Paulo found the heat hard to adapt to. I used to sweat when I ate. It was like living in a sauna. Even something as simple as breathing proved tough at first.

JT: Just from looking at the financial information, The FA in England plough far more into the game than their counterparts in Brazil. You’ve experienced the footballing culture in both countries – did that gap in financial backing make itself obvious from the start or is the standard of the facilities etc. similar to what you experienced in football over here?

SB: The facilities in England are far superior. The pitches in Brazil either have no grass or far too much grass. They play games on pitches which are incredibly waterlogged. If you learn to pass and dribble on pitches like that then when it comes to playing on immaculate pitches the technique becomes much easier. I believe it is good for development. It makes the game much more natural.

JT: There are constant comparisons in the media today about the different playing styles that different leagues have – how would you describe the style of play in Brazil? Do they do anything particularly different in their training to attain this different style of play or is their style just something that is drilled into them?

SB: Nothing is drilled into Brazilians and that is the beauty of football over there. The style is so fluid because they receive little instruction: they are given a ball and asked to find a solution to a problem. Right now, this is not the case for the national team, who are rightly described as pragmatic under Scolari. However, if you look at the style of play in the Brazilian leagues you will see this spontaneous, fluid style. This is because most players grow up playing street football and futsal, where players do not have set positions and are expected to play everywhere. Players often only play futsal until the age of around 11, and are only coached on tactics from the age of 13. This compared to England, where a player is often assigned a position which they remain in for their career when they are as young as 7. How can you possibly tell a player where he should play when he is that young?

This fluid style is facilitated by a real focus on the beauty of the ball. Joga bonita – play beautiful – is the Brazilian philosophy. Everything is done with the ball over there, even fitness work. Would a musician practise without his instrument? Then why would a footballer practise without a ball? That was our coach at Sorriso’s philosophy.

It isn’t rare for over 50% of a training session in England to be conducted without a ball. It is a much more rigid style. In England the coach has far too much say as well. I really feel that we suffer from players being over-coached, with their creativity drained from them as a result. We produce robots. Brazil produces humans who make natural decisions, not something that is drilled into them by an autocratic coach.

The game over in Brazil is slower, too. The heat necessitates this. They do not like anything to be rushed, however. They are very disapproving of how the English game relies on everything being done at 100mph. It is a game that relies less on physical aspects and more on the technical aspects.

JT: What do you feel to be the most valuable lesson you learned or experience you had while over in Brazil? Is it something you have been or will encouraging other players to do in the future?

SB: My most valuable lesson was learned off the pitch. In my house there was a player called Fernando. He came from one of the poorest favelas in Rio de Janeiro. He arrived in our house with all of his belongings for a four-month stay packed into a tiny rucksack. He had a vest, a pair of shorts, two pairs of underpants, a pair of flip-flops and a pair of football boots. Plus a toothbrush. And that was all he owned in the whole world. He sent nearly all of his wages home each month, and yet he was the happiest, most positive person I have ever met. If Fernando can be so happy when coming from such a desperate situation then why can I not be happy? Fernando always told me to always be happy no matter what, and I believe this is incredibly important. Fernando taught me how things don’t matter, it’s all about how you approach life.

I strongly encourage other players to go abroad to play football. You learn so much both on and off the pitch. I think this is why England suffer as well. We only have players who play in the English leagues. We are ignorant to other cultures and styles of football. You look at the Spanish and German teams, they have players playing everywhere. I look at a player like Jack Wilshere and can see how much he would improve if he went abroad to play.

JT: Is going back to Brazil something you’ve considered, either to play or coach or anything else? What is the next career step for you now – does it involve football or are you going to be taking advantage of the educational background you’ve managed to build up over the years?

SB: I would love to return to Brazil to play. The only trouble is that going back to Brazil requires me to speak with Brazilians. I am yet to meet an organised, time-conscious Brazilian. I’ve been offered so many contracts since returning and it has always broken down once the team has attempted to sort my contract. Even when I offer to play for free they can’t manage it. I plan to take advantage of my educational background but would love to have another few seasons in Brazil first.

JT: I wanted to ask what were your thoughts about Greg Dyke’s (now defunct) plans for an extra league for B Teams and the work that has been done to try and bring more British players through the ranks? Do you think enough is being done to try and bring youngsters through?

SB: Not nearly enough, no. I love non-league football over here (the concept, not the style of play) and so am opposed to B teams. At the moment there aren’t really any benefits to bringing through English talent. It may even be a hindrance to the big clubs. You sign a superstar from Japan to play at left back and you suddenly get a big following from Japan. You get increased shirt sales, sponsorship opportunities and everything. You bring a young English player through to play at left back and a few of his mates will come along and it is good PR. And then if you do want a good English player they cost way above what they should.

More incentives need to be given to play English players. The concept of ‘home-grown’ players needs looking at. English players should be encouraged to play abroad in their formative years.

JT: Do you think any of the FA’s ideas have been the right way forward, whether those ideas are the ones that have been passed up or the ones that have been put through?

SB: The focus on coach education is a positive, though care needs to be taken to ensure that players are not over-coached. The new focus on futsal – particularly youth futsal is also a massive step in the right direction, as long as children are encouraged to express themselves and enjoy the experience.  

JT: After your experience in a country where they’re consistently producing at least a few players a generation that are, or are among, the best in the world in their positions – what lessons do you think we can learn from these other countries who just seem to be getting it right internationally? I.e if you had to go to the FA tomorrow with a few points about what you’d seen over there and how we could learn from it over here in Britain then what would you say?

SB: The most important aspect is without doubt the dangers of over-coaching. Players should be encouraged to express themselves on the pitch and to play without fear. I’d recommend that players are not put in positions that they specialise in until they are 13 years old. I’d stress the benefits of futsal and street football when played at an early age. If players are allowed to express themselves and enjoy the experience without worrying about making a mistake then creativity should be fostered. We don’t want to create robots. We want to create skilful, spontaneous players, players who joga bonita.


 

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My first post for The Offside Rule Podcast (We Get It)!

Hey guys!

A very proud moment for me this – check out a copy of my first article for the Offside Rule Podcast! You can find the article itself here on the Offside Rule Podcast’s website but this blog has had 1000 views in the last month so I thought at the very least I should put a copy of my most important article to date on here!

The article is based on an interview I had with a young man called Seth Burkett. Seth is the first English footballer to have ever played professionally for a Brazilian domestic side and, whilst I spoke to him about a number of different topics which you can see in the full transcript here, the article is based on where he thinks the British can learn from what he saw over there in Brazil!

Read on to find the article and be sure to click the link at the end to check out Seth’s book as well as the link to our transcript as there really are some great insights in there! 🙂


Joga Bonita, Futsal, the way forward for England’s youth

Having a successful youth career, travelling to Brazil – becoming a pioneer of English football in the process – and completing an education at one of the country’s best universities are achievements anyone would be proud of. 

At just 23-years-old though, Seth Burkett has no plans to stop there.

Having released a book regarding his experiences in Brazil, he was happy to go one step further for The Offside Rule (We Get It!) as he spoke to Jamie Thomas on how those experiences can help push England’s youth development programme forward.

Where England are struggling:

Burkett thinks England’s key failings start with the training sessions: “It isn’t rare for over 50% of a training session in England to be conducted without a ball. It is a much more rigid style.”

The philosophy of his coach in Brazil was a simple one.

“Would a musician practise without his instrument? Then why would a footballer practise without a ball at his feet? “Brazil’s fluid style is facilitated by a real focus on the beauty of the ball; they always train with the ball at their feet. Joga Bonita – play beautiful – is the Brazilian philosophy,” he added.

Burkett also thinks the lifestyle of English players causes problems: “In England players are given everything and enjoy luxury accommodation. This, according to Brazilians, breeds a sense of entitlement. “This does not work well on the pitch. The player has less desire to train hard and progress because he is happy with his current life.”

Where England can improve:

A key concept that kept popping up in our interview was Burkett’s belief that our youngsters are being over-coached, arguing that players need to be given freedom from an early age to express themselves.

He said: “If young players are allowed to express themselves and enjoy the experience without worrying about making a mistake then creativity should be fostered as a result.

“I’d stress the benefits of Futsal being played at an early age. We don’t want to create robots – we want to create skilful, spontaneous players, players who Joga Bonita!”

According to Burkett, Football Associations are taking some positive steps in developing coaches: “The focus on coach education is positive, though care does need to be taken.”

He also argues that more needs to be done to encourage English clubs to utilise homegrown talent: ‘More incentive needs to be given to play English players. The concept of home-grown players needs looking at.”

Where Brazil are getting it right:

Burkett thinks Brazil play with such flair because they aren’t over-coached: “Nothing is drilled into the Brazilians in training and that is the beauty of football over there.

“Their playing style is so fluid because they receive very little instruction: they are given the ball and asked to find a solution to problems they’re presented with”

He saw the benefits of Futsal first-hand whilst over in Brazil and is now actively involved in the sport, having been called up for the England Futsal squad previously.

“Most players in Brazil play street football and Futsal, where players do not have set positions and are expected to play everywhere until the age of 11, and are not taught tactics until 13,” he said.

This is where England are going wrong, in his opinion. “Here a player is often assigned a position in which they remain throughout their career from the age of seven. How can you possibly tell where a player should play at that age?”

Encouraging others to play abroad:

Despite spending his time in Brazil living in a filthy converted garage with barred windows and 31 teammates who didn’t speak English, Burkett says he would jump at the chance to go back to Brazil.

“I would love to return to Brazil to play. The only trouble is that going back to Brazil requires me to speak with Brazilians. I am yet to meet an organised, time-conscious Brazilian,” he said.

He does, though, recommend going abroad to play: “I strongly encourage other players to go abroad to play football – you learn so much more about every aspect of the game.

“I think this is why England suffer – we predominantly have players who play in the English leagues. We are ignorant to other cultures and styles of football.”

He also argues that many of England’s top prospects could have benefitted from heading abroad, adding one youngster in particular would have benefited massively.

“It goes for every player but I when I look at Jack Wilshere I wonder just how much he would improve if he went abroad to play.

“I just feel that, in say Spain, where players need to be a bit calmer and more measured on the ball, he could add a lot to his game and take himself to the top level,” he added.

For more of Seth Burkett’s story, his recently released a book ‘The Boy In Brazil’ is available on Amazon. The book documents his experiences in Brazil and has been hailed as “an enchanting story” by football writer Patrick Barclay.

The link to buy Seth’s book: The Boy in Brazil is here

Follow Seth on Twitter here!

Joga Bonita, Futsal, the way forward for England’s youth

My first post for The Offside Rule Podcast! A very proud and happy day! 🙂

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

Having a successful youth career, travelling to Brazil – becoming a pioneer of English football in the process – and completing an education at one of the country’s best universities are achievements anyone would be proud of. 

At just 23-years-old though, Seth Burkett has no plans to stop there.

Having released a book regarding his experiences in Brazil, he was happy to go one step further for The Offside Rule (We Get It!) as he spoke to Jamie Thomas on how those experiences can help push England’s youth development programme forward.

futsal photo

Where England are struggling:

Burkett thinks England’s key failings start with the training sessions: “It isn’t rare for over 50% of a training session in England to be conducted without a ball. It is a much more rigid style.”

The philosophy of his coach in Brazil was a simple one.

“Would a musician practise without his…

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