FA offers a glimpse of England future that can't come soon enough

 

Wembley Stadium

Prior to this match the Football Association repeatedly played a video on the stadium scoreboard extolling the virtues of St George's Park, the new National Football Centre which is finally complete, just three decades overdue. The Burton complex is hugely impressive, with every possible need catered for. Good as it is, however, it is still just bricks and mortar, steel, pine and glass. If St George's Park is to make a difference it will through the men and women who work in it, and the ideas that emerge from it.

Progress is being made in that area. The scoreboard also displayed a video showcasing the changes made by the FA's youth development review which was passed in the summer. These include youngsters playing with smaller goals, in smaller teams, and other policies designed to reduce English football's dependence on big kids and long balls. The philosophy was backed up by inclusion in the programme of an exercise from the FA's Future Game manual, which emphasised passing through the thirds.

On the eve of this match one of the FA's brightest young coach educators gave a presentation at Fulham for aspiring coaches which put the theory into practice. This included a session designed to encourage players to keep possession of the ball – the new mantra following the success of Barcelona and Spain – but also to be aware of the fact that possession is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and players should remain aware there are times when the ball should be played forward early. The key is correct, swift decision-making.

Last night the seniors showed why St George's Park, and the overhaul of football development, is required. For long periods England's back six passed the ball to each other for the sake of it, then figured it was time to play it forward. Ukraine, well-organised and content to sit deep, picked it off easily.

Only when pace and penetration were injected into England's game, usually by Steven Gerrard, did England threaten in the first period. Tom Cleverley's misses were both set up by Gerrard, respectively via a first-time cross to Jermain Defoe and an early ball to Frank Lampard. It was not until the last 15 minutes when Ukraine withdrew too deep and England's desperation forced urgency, that England moved the ball swiftly on a consistent basis.

By contrast Ukraine, helped by being a far more cohesive unit than England (unsurprisingly, given this was largely their Euro 2012 team), moved the ball swiftly and purposefully. But then, teams from the region have been playing technical passing football since the days of Valeri Lobanovsky more than a quarter-century ago.

If English football produced such players wholesale two-thirds of the Premier League's starting XIs would not be made up of foreign players. It took decades for the FA to build a national football centre, it could take as long to change a football culture.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before