While the Premier League season builds towards its most exciting finale in years, driven by a majority of foreign players, grassroots developments are pointing in a different direction that might yet lead to the meaningful growth of elite English players.
In one area at least English football leads the way. The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club reached the landmark figure of 30,000 members last week, making it the biggest football coaching membership scheme in the world.
Under the aegis of Jamie Houchen, the head of FA learning at St George’s Park, the Football Association is driving both numbers and quality with the aim of raising the status of coaching in the English game. The scheme is free to join and makes training resources available to young grassroots coaches, some of whom it is hoped will use the experience as a platform to a professional career.
“The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club is passionate and committed to developing coaching as a profession, increasing the profile and recognition for all members and supporting the whole game,” Houchen said.
“Central to the FA Licensed Coaches’ Club is the culture of continued professional development. For coaches to re-license each year they must complete a minimum amount of learning which proves they are updating their knowledge and delivering modern methods with their players.
“We want to develop a culture of lifelong learning where coaches don’t only complete their qualifications and the minimum amount of professional development, but continue to be inquisitive and find out the very best ways to work effectively with their group of players. Now we are the largest football coaches club in the world we want to ensure we can support all coaches with their continued development.”
Lisa Hollis, Licensed Coaches’ Club Manager, added that the coaches club team was relishing “the opportunity of now being able to provide the coaches with world class content and educational experiences through our varied CPD programme”.
The club scheme, introduced three years ago, is a part of the FA drive to develop a professional coaching culture to rival those in Germany, France and Spain. At the heart of the scheme is an annual, three-day coaching conference at St George’s Park, already a huge success with lectures and clinics taken by leading coaches from associations across Europe.
As well as access to a wealth of digital and print coaching materials, membership benefits include discounted entrance to regional and national coaching conferences as well as the annual gathering and exposure to coaching sessions delivered by The FA’s national coaches.
By widening inclusion via the filter of St George’s Park Houchen believes the quality of player produced will improve sufficiently to reverse the trend towards reliance on foreign players within a decade. This vision is broadly in line with that of Sir Trevor Brooking, who has targeted the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 as one England can expect to contest with conviction rather than hope.