I read with interest recently Roy Hodgson’s comments about the state of football coaching in the UK. I could not agree more with his sentiments. I have worked in sport all my life at senior management levels and was a senior coach of the Football Association for six years.
My last post in football was as chief executive of the Irish FA, where we were mindful of the importance of engaging local coaches. In fact, had Roy not taken up his current post at Fulham, I like to think that we might have tempted him to Northern Ireland.
The FA in England used to be seen as the “fount of all coaching knowledge”, under the leadership initially of Sir Walter Winterbottom, followed by Allen Wade and then Charles Hughes. Howard Wilkinson then took up the cudgel, but since then the coaching effort has dissipated with the programmes being shared by the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), the League Managers Association (LMA) and the FA itself.
There is no obvious leadership from the FA in the technical area, and much as I appreciate the contribution to the game of Sir Trevor Brooking, coaching and coach education were never his bent.
The enlightened coaches to whom I speak all revere the grounding they got from the FA of the past, and the influence of the men I have mentioned. The FA might have been seen to be too dictatorial, but it set high standards in coaching and there appeared to be an appreciation in those days of the successes of Germany and Holland in particular. English coaches were in great demand everywhere and aspiring coaches from all over the world queued up to attend its coaching courses
Whilst I appreciate the importance of winning the World Cup – and I think England may run it close in 2010 -there will be little legacy from Fabio Capello’s period of tenure. During Sir Bobby Robson’s time he had with him Don Howe – arguably the best coach England has produced – Dave Sexton and Mike Kelly as the goalkeeping coach.
There was continuity and amazingly the FA allowed Graham Taylor to dispense with Robson’s support team and bring in a group with no track record internationally. All that international coaching expertise went to waste. Terry Venables corrected that during his brief period in charge, by bringing Don Howe et al back, but after that all continuity disappeared again.
Had we attracted Roy Hodgson to Northern Ireland he would have worked with local coaches as his support group. There seems to have been some continuity between Roy McClaren’s “back of the house” team and Capello’s, but will any of the them be up to the mark to lead the ship?
There is talk now of Hodgson replacing Capello in due course. Had the FA known its business he would have been appointed in 2002 and we might be talking a different story about the quality of English, or British coaches.
Howard Wells is the former chief executive of the Irish Football Association. A fully qualified FA coach, Wells played and coached at Wycombe Wanderers and has also been chief executive at Ipswich Town and Watford.