Southgate to take key FA coaching role in shake-up

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The Independent Football

Gareth Southgate is being lined up as the Football Association’s new Elite Development Coach and his first task is likely to be riding shotgun for Trevor Brooking. The Football Association’s Director of Football Development yesterday unveiled 25 proposals aimed at improving the education of English footballers. While most are common sense many vested interests have to be talked onside if they are to pass.

The most incendiary suggestion at the professional level is to bring in mandatory release for England age-group fixtures. This would, in theory, mean the FA could tell Arsenal they want Jack Wilshere to play in the Under-21s European Championships in Denmark in June, and the U-20s World Youth Cup in Colombia from July 29 to mid-August.

Given the row over Theo Walcott’s participation in the last U21 finals, and his subsequent injuries, one can only imagine how Arsene Wenger would react to that. In practice the FA aim to liase with clubs to avoid overworking young players. Brooking pledged that no player would be asked to participate in more than one finals tournament each year. In Wilshere’s case England want him for Denmark, which they believe is winnable. Because of the South American location and timing the FA have effectively written off the U20 World Cup.

The man charged with talking Wenger into accepting this compromise is expected to be Southgate. As a former club manager, of Middlesbrough, the 57-times capped England international has the ‘credibility’ identified yesterday by Brooking as a key requirement for the job. Southgate, 40, would be expected to work with the coaches of all the age-group teams and the respective club managers. Brooking accepted that the FA could communicate better with clubs as to how their players were managed and performed on England duty. Southgate, with his background and personable manner has been identified as the man to do this.

When this post was initially suggested it was indicated it would involve working alongside Fabio Capello. That will not now be the case but there is no doubt it would look good on the CV of any coach with aspirations of managing England one day.

At the other end of the football ladder another confrontation is brewing as the FA seek to build on the success of mini-soccer, which insisted on under-10s playing seven-a-side, rather than 11-a-side, and doing so without league tables. The FA now wish to ensure children aged 11-14 also play with appropriate-sized teams, goals and pitches, and hope to persuade leagues to adopt 9v9 as the template.

They recognize it will not be an easy sell. “I had hate-mail and demonstrations when we began mini-soccer,” said Les Howie, the FA’s Head of Grassroots, “but I think people recognise it has worked and hope the reaction will not be as bad this time.” Persuading the parents is half the battle. Cash must also be found for new-sized goals and re-sizing pitches.

The young player development review was instigated after England’s World Cup failure. Though provisionally passed by the FA Board this week some aspects, like the mandated release of players, will need to be ratified in April.