The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY -

I CHAT­TED to one of my lads this week about his on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment needs.We dis­cussed his back­ground, in which he ben­e­fit­ted from an ex­cel­lent foot­ball school­ing.

And we broke down his as­sets and deficits into three core cat­e­gories: with the ball, with­out the ball, game play.

The con­clu­sion we reached was that the academy school­ing that lads re­ceive nowa­days tends to ma­jor on ‘with the ball’. So when you talk to a young cen­tre back to­day, he doesn’t talk about win­ning tack­les, win­ning head­ers, or­gan­is­ing around him.

No, he dis­cusses his abil­ity to play from the back and re­ceive the ball un­der pres­sure.

I look at the pres­sure Barcelona put teams un­der when they don’t have the ball. They or­gan­ise ef­fec­tively and clev­erly, they set traps, they pres­sure with in­ten­sity, unity and struc­ture. Their skills are not limited to what they do with the ball.

And then there are key game skills like how to be­have to close a game out. How to build mo­men­tum. Or how to break flow. These skills seem to be lack­ing in younger play­ers.

In my opin­ion, we need to de­velop the academy syl­labus so that we aren’t pro­duc­ing play­ers who be­lieve that foot­ball is just about what you can do with the ball.

The best teams in the world are great with the ball, with­out the ball and in their game play.

Our fu­ture re­quires that we give our kids a full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of all as­pects.

The ev­i­dence I see is that, what­ever we want to say or think, too much youth de­vel­op­ment is one di­men­sional.

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