New FA leader Dave Reddin says English football is too insular

Former Olympic guru to tap into other elite sports to help achieve success

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The Independent Football

The Football Association's new head of performance services, who helped mastermind English rugby union World Cup success in 2003 and Team GB's extraordinary London Olympics nine years later, has declared that England have become too insular and must tap into other elite sports, if they are to lift a trophy and become one of the leading forces in the world game.

Dave Reddin told The Independent that the sport’s size had made it too preoccupied with imitating other successful nations, like Germany and Spain, rather than drawing on other successful elite sports within these shores.

“There’s a danger when the game is so big and global that you end up following and comparing yourself to football,” Reddin said. “We say, ‘Germany are doing that so let’s do that because they have won.’ We have to ask ‘why?’ Hopefully, one thing I can do is to get us looking outwards into other sports. The UK sporting system is incredible. It’s where the world comes to get best practice because of what we’ve achieved in Olympic sports in the last 16 years. I don’t think football has traditionally tapped into that enough.”

Reddin and Dan Ashworth, the FA’s director of elite development, last week launched the “England DNA” document, which lays out how a future generation of world-beating footballers can be developed. Reddin suggested that changes England might consider included announcing the team to players several days before an international. “Why would we not announce it early internally?” he said. “[That] allows everyone to understand what their role is that week, whether they are playing or not playing, that allows those who aren’t starting to adopt the role of opposition and so on.”

But he also wants to develop ideas from other sports. He and Matt Crocker, the FA’s head of coach and player development, will be picking up ideas in the new year from the multi-medal-winning British Sailing team, whose elite performers face the same constantly changing environment and decision-making demands, he believes.

Reddin also believes footballers should develop the same leadership roles that have seen the rugby union and Olympic teams to success – taking on responsibility for the analysis of how the team is playing and performing.

Reddin, whose prime role is with the FA’s development teams, rejected the idea that footballers lack the intellect of rugby union players and said that they are just as capable of leading team communication, as Sir Clive Woodward’s rugby union leaders did.

“Quite a lot of people have said, ‘They’re not like rugby players’. What does that mean?” Reddin asked. “What are rugby players like which means they’re so amazing? There’s this perception that rugby players went to private schools so they’re all public speakers and can run meetings and all the rest of it. There’s a few of them but it’s certainly not the universal experience.”

Reddin said the England captain, Wayne Rooney, had the same intelligence required of leaders in Woodward’s rugby union side and the British Olympic team. “He is no different from any of the elite players I’ve worked with in rugby and other places,” he said. “He is incredibly passionate about the game and has an incredible intelligence and insight, his game understanding is fantastic and he is inspirational for the young players around him. He is right up there.”

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