The FF Show panel back changes to boost youth football in England

Last Updated: 15/03/13 4:34pm

Roddy: looking to the future

Ged Roddy, the Premier League's Director of Youth, backed the Elite Player Performance Plan on The Footballers' Football Show.

The scheme is designed to boost the numbers of children playing football and develop their talent so professional clubs have a larger pool of accomplished young players to choose from.

"We allowed the grass to grow under our feet and maybe we weren't as joined up as we needed to be. But in the last few years we've tried to put that right."

Ged Roddy

Currently just 38% of players in the Premier League are eligible to play for England and Roddy is determined to support the EPPP and boost that figure.

"We have a fantastic league, probably the best in the world, and we want to ensure that in the future we have home-grown players playing in our teams," he said.

"We're making sure we have the systems in place to support the young players trying to make it into our league.

"It's self-evident if you are going to succeed in our league you're going to have to be one of the best players in the world and the task for the academy mangers is a daunting one, so we need to make sure we support them as much as possible and help them increase that percentage of home-grown players turning out in our stadiums."

Roddy believes more must be done at the grassroots level of the sport - but is hoping a unified effort between the Premier League, the FA and football clubs can increase the number of high-performing English players in the top flight and lead to success in the future for the national team.

"The better that grass roots environment, the more we nurture the talent pool, the better opportunities there are for academy directors to find talent," he said.

"We're all on the same page with this and it's a good situation for us as a nation to all be moving together.

"I don't believe there are great differences between our players and international players. But if you look at Germany, Spain and France, they've been working at this for longer than we have.

"We allowed the grass to grow under our feet and maybe we weren't as joined up as we needed to be. But in the last few years we've tried to put that right.

"This won't click into place overnight but I believe we're moving in the right direction."

Tony Carr, the West Ham Youth Academy Director, said he'd seen disappointing changes during his almost-40 years working in football and says there are currently fewer talented young English players coming through than there were in the past.

"We've produced a number of England internationals at our football club and the challenge is to maintain that standard and repeat those feats. But there are fewer boys now and the pond is a lot smaller than it used to be," he said.

"In terms of what one would consider real talent, those players are becoming fewer and fewer.

"What we've got to do as a nation - not just football clubs or the Premier League - is broaden that base of participation at the bottom.

"It's important we encourage young kids to play without any pressure; we have to make players want to play for the fun of the game."

Challenge

One of the policies being implemented by the EPPP is to have children play small-sided games on smaller pitches. And Nick Levett , the FA National Development Manager for Youth Football, believes that move, although a long-time coming, makes perfect sense.

"I came into this role at the end of 2009 and we knew we needed to do something to address it," he said.

"I remember speaking to a 10-year old in Bedfordshire who said 'why've I got to defend a goal that's so big adults have to use a step ladder to get the nets down?'

"The kids were clear what they wanted and it's our challenge to make sure they get that.

"If we get the grassroots right there will be better players to select and take on to the next level. If we improve the quality at the bottom then in theory there's a better raw product to take on from there."