FA's coaching blueprint

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The Independent Online
The Football Association, fearful of an English Premiership wholly dominated by foreign coaches and players, has taken steps to encourage domestic players to become coaches.

Jimmy Armfield, the FA's technical consultant, is to work with the Professional Footballers' Association to ensure that high-profile players follow the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Kenny Dalglish and Bryan Robson by staying in the game after they retire from the field.

"This is not an anti-foreigner thing," Armfield, who will be in charge of the PFA's six regional coaches, said yesterday. "To say there should be no foreigners here would be nonsense and if young goalkeepers watch Peter Schmeichel or forwards learn what Gianfranco Zola does I'd be more than happy.

"But we need to ensure that the expertise of players like Dalglish and Robson are not lost when they stop playing. The PFA coaches and myself will be going to clubs and talking to players. Today's professionals are where the coaches of the future will be."

Armfield, who played for England 43 times in the 1950s and 60s and who managed Leeds United to the European Cup final in 1975, said that clubs were looking to short-term solutions of signing foreign players, rather than spending money developing their own players. Better coaching, he believes, will bring better players and reduce the need for imports.

Currently, there are more than 130 foreign players employed in the Premiership, while two clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea, are managed by non-British coaches. Those figures do not take into account the large number of Scottish, Welsh and Irish footballers who are also ineligible for selection by England.

At Chelsea, for example, a team made up entirely of foreigners is feasible, yet the movement in the opposite direction is negligible. Daniele Dichio, who moved from Queen's Park Rangers to Sampdoria in the summer, is the only English player in Italy's Serie A while there are none in the top divisions in Spain and Germany.

"I went to a Premiership match last season where there were only seven players eligible to play for England," Armfield said. "That cannot be good for the domestic game.

"Arsenal looked abroad for a coach, as did Celtic, and Blackburn also went to Italy, even if Roy Hodgson is English. There is going to be more of that in the future and we have to be ready to meet that challenge. If it was any other business they would already have done it.

"I feel very strongly that the development of our young players should be a priority for the Government and the Football Association. In the past I've felt this has been left to somebody else, as if it takes care of itself, but it doesn't."