Howe given licence to produce more skill

FOOTBALL: England's most experienced coach puts emphasis on technique a fter FA gives him wide-ranging role
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The Independent Online
Don Howe was officially appointed as English football's new coaching overlord yesterday. He immediately promised to push such apparently radical concepts as passing and dribbling to the forefront of the Football Association's approach to training young players. Howe, who was revealed as the FA's target by The Independent last month, will take up the newly created post of Technical Co-ordinator tomorrow.

And, in true coaching jargon, he immediately described his role as that of a ``linkman'', linking the various England sides with each other, and the England set-up with the clubs.

"I will be in touch with all the England teams, from Under-16 to the full international squad," Howe said. "I will bring the coaches together and we will talk about the way the teams play, their technique, and how we will develop international footballers.

"I will also be the man clubs can go to if they have problems - the players we use are their players. I will be talking to their youth coaches - and their managers - to tell them what we are doing with their kids to make them better players.

"We need defenders who are comfortable on the ball, we need to play through midfield, to pass the ball and to have players who can go past opponents in the opposition half."

This is a considerable departure from the current FA philosphy, as laid down by Charles Hughes, the Director of Coaching. This places great emphasis on getting the ball forward quickly in the manner once practised by Watford and Wimbledon.

Howe is at pains to stress he will be working with Hughes, not against or instead of him, and notes "there is a place for the long ball".

"The Brazilians use the long ball, but they only use it at the right time. They play `keep-keep-keep' then `bang'. They are all good on the ball. They have tough centre-halves like we do but they are good on the ball too. They have front players who go past defenders and create.

"They do a lot of coaching in Brazil. All this you hear about pulling kids straight off the Copacabana Beach, it is not true. They are coached. Carlos Alberto and Mario Zagalo [the brains behind Brazil's World Cup triumph last summer] are among the most organised men you have seen.''

Incidentally, this observation is underlined by the presence, in Brazil at the moment, of a Chinese youth training camp. The Chinese, desperate to improve their world standings, examined the coaching of many countries before settling on Brazil.

Howe, who will continue to work alongside Terry Venables with the senior side, will have a roving brief which will include visiting other countries and passing on new ideas. "I have been doing coaching demonstrations up and down the country and there is a hunger for ideas among our coaches," he said.

"They are all saying: `We want to get the job right. Tell us what is happening.' This is where I can tell them what I have seen at Ajax, or in Spain, or Italy. In Holland they are playing a lot of four-against-four games. They are trying to recreate the small-sided games that my generation played in the street.''

English teams have an enviable record at schools and youth level up to Under-21, but too often neither the results, nor the players, have continued into the senior side. At junior level, from the local primary school to Sunday morning youth games to the national schools sides, games are often settled on strength, not technique. Howe wants technique to be the deciding factor.

"We are terrific competitors, that is our strength and we do not want to lose that," he said. "But sometimes we are only competitors, we are not skilful. We need to be technically better and it is no good starting at the Under-21s. You have to start withnine-year-olds in the centres of excellence.''

Howe, 59, won 23 caps for England and played for West Bromwich and Arsenal. He later managed both clubs as well as Queen's Park Rangers and Coventry, worked in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and as coach to Leeds, Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers and Chelsea. He alsoasssisted Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson as England mangers, as well as Terry Venables.

He had to ease off after suffering a heart attack a few years ago but said yesterday that he had completely recovered, aided by a withdrawal from the stresses of league management.

When the post was first outlined, by the FA in November, it was to include planning a new curriculum for training coaches and a course for prospective league managers, but that will now be left to the new Technical Control Board. Howe, whose enthusiasm for coaching is such that last year he worked with Newbury Town in the Diadora League, preferred to work in the field rather than on the drawing board.