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Comment: Until the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea recognise the value of a successful national team then we are doomed

The argument Greg Dyke must win is not to get his B League accepted but to get the clubs to put the national team at the heart of their thinking

If nothing else Greg Dyke’s FA report has the football community talking. We know what the problem is but if the reaction to Dyke’s big B-Team idea is any guide we remain as far away as ever from a coherent solution to the ills besetting the national game.

Some see our failure to develop players as a coaching issue. Others point to the negative consequences associated with harvesting and stock-piling the best of global talent. Both are relevant, and linked to same structural brick wall into which all attempts to institute change ultimately run.

That is the disconnection between the FA and the Premier League, between the game’s regulatory body and the individual power houses that drive football in this country, the Premier League clubs. The hopes and dreams of the FA are not those of our great footballing institutions.

The clubs have no interest or structural stake in the national team. The priority at Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea et al is not to develop players for England but for themselves. If by bringing sundry Adnan Januzajs to Old Trafford at 13 helps United win the league title and Champions League then they will do this to the detriment of the national interest.

It is marvellous that 18-year-old James Wilson has forced his way into the first team at United, but this is entirely co-incidental. He played and scored two on debut against Hull on Tuesday because he was good enough - not because he was English and the product of a national coaching programme delivered under the auspices of the FA. 

The FA are certainly addressing the issue of coaching. Already there are more coaches registered to the FA’s Licenced Club than any other national grass-roots scheme in the world, 30,000 and counting.

There is a will and a strategy at St George’s Park both to improve the quality of coaching and to raise the profile of the role. This is happening now, today, under the aegis of Jamie Houchen, the head of FA Learning. But it is not linked strategically or structurally to coaching schemes at Premier League clubs.


In Germany the Bundesliga is subservient to the German FA. The football pyramid in Germany has the FA at its summit co-ordinating all aspects of the game. A decade ago after the failure of the German national team at Euro 2000 the clubs fell into line behind radical proposals aimed at transforming national fortunes. The result is a vibrant domestic league and a successful Germany team.

Until the Premier League and the clubs recognise the value of a successful national team in England then we are doomed. The argument Dyke must win is not to get his B League accepted but to get the clubs to put the national team at the heart of their thinking, to care about it and to support it.

Without their consent, their resources, their help, there is no England team. At the moment the identity of English football is carved through our clubs. England equals Chelsea, Arsenal, United, Manchester City, etc not the three lions. Those days are long gone.

Dyke is to be applauded for trying to get them back. Deride his ideas all you want, but he is not the problem. The problem is a Premier League that is way too popular and successful for England’s good.

And that juggernaut, sadly, just ain’t for turning.