Gareth Southgate: 'England suffer as the big clubs hold all the power'

Former FA director Gareth Southgate tells Jack Pitt-Brooke he walked away as youth development is so hard to control

It is one of the many mysteries of English football's governing body: why Gareth Southgate, after 18 months' good work, would walk away from the Football Association and the technical director's role. That job will now not even be filled. Dan Ashworth from West Bromwich Albion will instead become director of elite development at the end of the season. Clearly the role would have been perfect for Southgate, given what he did when he was head of elite development to change the structures of youth football.

But Southgate said no. "I just felt at this moment in time, this wasn't what I wanted to do," he insists. "It would have meant committing myself to that role for at least three years. But I think when you've got a career decision to make, you've got to decide what works for you and for your family, and the longer it was left the more I felt maybe this wasn't the time for me to do this sort of a role. You've got to be 100 per cent certain."

Southgate evidently was not. But he admits that the great frustration of development in England – the power of the clubs – weighed on him too. "Clearly I'm uncomfortable with the fact that the FA don't control youth development. And as technical director you would be accountable for something that perhaps you don't control. But other than that it was a personal, career decision.

"In most countries the actual federation controls youth development. They don't here. Really, the clubs and the Premier League are in charge of the academy system. In Germany, for instance, the two work closely together."

Decisions made 20 years ago have made the FA's task so much harder, according to Southgate: "That's a historical situation, when the Premier League was formed and when control of the academies went to the leagues. Unfortunately that power was lost under previous leadership of the FA and under previous technical leadership. And that's not the fault of people that are there now. Unfortunately that's the landscape as it is."

One hindrance, Southgate believes, is the structure of English football is built around the needs of the clubs, not the national team. He adds: "Really, are we serious about international football? Or is our football geared towards the clubs? Because in the end it's very difficult always to get the release of players for international junior tournaments, and sometimes that's because clubs want their players to play in friendlies or go on friendly tours. So at some point we've got to decide are we really serious about our international team or is it just an add-on?"

Despite these frustrations, it is clear that Southgate's work as head of elite development was rewarding. "I really enjoyed the work I did with the FA, it was a great educational experience for me," he says at an event promoting Phones4U's Upgrade Your Team campaign for club football teams. "I enjoyed working with the people there.

"My remit there was to help the implementation of some of the Youth Development Review. But that role was always an 18-month role and the work will be continually on-going."

As well as the new academy structure, graded by category, other changes made by Southgate involve smaller teams and pitches for youth football, starting with four against four. "We've got to create better players in our country," says Southgate, pinning down the heart of his role. "There is no use us complaining about better players coming in. But for every youth coach working out there who sees European football and wants his team to play a possession game and to develop kids to make decisions for themselves, there is another youth coach who thinks the old way is the best and to get it forward and just win matches."

The story is well-known. Backwards methods mean worse players which means fewer in the Premier League and a weaker national team. "The talent pool that he's picking from is limited in terms of the first-team football that they're getting," Southgate says of Roy Hodgson's problems. "If you've got a bigger pool of players to pick from then inevitably the quality of the player will be better as well."

With fewer players to pick from than is ideal, transition into the national team must be well managed from above. "It is important the coaches of the [Under-19, Under-21 and senior] teams interact and have the same philosophies, which then lead into the seniors.

"It will be interesting now with Raheem Sterling, because I think he should stay with the Under-19s where possible and develop gradually and slightly out of the spotlight. There will be a lot of public clamour for him to be promoted to the Under-21s very quickly and that might not in the long-term be the best thing for his development."

The Phones4U Upgrade Your Team campaign is giving away £2,000 to 10 amateur football teams to upgrade their squad, plus the opportunity for Gareth Southgate to play for one.

http://www.facebook.com/Phones4u

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
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

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing