Depth, Vision and Direction and why the FA has none of it

The English education system was turned on its head in 2014 when the National Curriculum was revamped and relaunched under the rule of Michael Gove’s misfiring leadership. The curriculum became subscribed, dry and bereft of creativity. The maths curriculum in particular in Britain has borrowed aspects from successful international education systems – most prominently, Singapore.

The bigwigs in charge of devising and launching the curriculum for our children and qualified teachers usually have little background themselves in education and pedagogy. Yet they still push the profession in directions they see fit despite not taking into account the views of those who matter most – our educational practitioners.

The curriculum was launched and it was set out that due to the revised content all children would now reach the highest of standards. But Gove overlooked several things; the gap between the richest and poorest children was – and still is – widening, school budgets have been drastically cut, a wider spectrum of children with far different abilities and languages fill our schools, and there is a distinct lack of graduates entering the teaching profession.

We have tried to copy systems from abroad – but failed to take into account that English and Singaporean society differs so greatly there is almost no chance of replicating their educational values.

Peel it all back and you can clearly see the English education system is in dire straits.

If you’re thinking these same fundamental misfiring values sound familiar – then you would be right.

The FA, much like Gove’s educational reforms, is distinctly lacking in pragmatic vision. It is run by middle aged white men in expensive suits who earn a fortune from pontificating about a sport which surely deserves better.

Unlike in most other sports and most other nations, those at the top of the FA have continuously failed to call upon the expertise, knowledge and experience of past players in order to push the national game on. Germany appointed Oliver Bierhoff as General Manager of the national side. His role sits outside of the coaching aspect of the team’s management. Instead he deals with affairs such as business management and public relations. His influence has been revelatory for German football.

In England we have Greg Clarke and Martin Glenn. There is no sign of pooling the years of expertise and insight from the likes of Gary Lineker, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard. Appointing Gareth Southgate as head coach is a step in the right direction – but the FA should be using top players from the past who still have something to offer now.

The shambolic giving of evidence for the case of Mark Sampson only underpins the desperate need for reform.

In the same way Michael Gove failed to consult those in the know – the FA have left behind a generation of knowledge amongst players more than capable of offering valuable insight to our future players. The England DNA programme should be identifying former players like Lineker, Scholes, Neville, Lampard, Gerrard, Ferdinand and Beckham – and developing them into top coaches.

In education there is a huge gap between the rich and poor. In the UK it is estimated that four million children, that’s 30% of all children, are in poverty. There is a new class of people who sit below the traditional working class roots of footballers from the past – an under-class.

The impact of poverty reaches deep into society; by age 16 children in poverty secure GCSE grades 1.7 grades lower than their peers, children from low income families are more likely to die at birth or in infancy, and children in poverty are twice as likely to live in poor housing. The quality of play areas in low income areas is generally poorer, despite there being more of them than average, because of vandalism and prevalent drug cultures.

The issue of poverty in society impacts on more than just football. Life chances are lower now for poorer families than they ever have been. If this is the case – education, society and the economy suffering means the troubles for football are the least of our nation’s worries.

Like in schools and education, there is a distinct lack of funding at a grassroots level. The Premier League itself generates billions in revenue and only a fraction is redistributed back into the local game. The impact of funding problems is that is has caused an undercurrent of exclusion. Coupled with widespread poverty it means numbers of those able to access facilities and put in time for purposeful practice has, and will continue to, dwindle.

The England DNA programme was designed to build a cultural heritage of footballing identity. Instead it is a collection of technical buzzwords encompassing quite possibly every approach of how to play the game. At first glance, it has exactly the same surface level sheen as the England team itself, but on closer inspection it lacks exactly the same depth, vision and direction the national team has shown for a number of years.

It is plagued with a non-specific aim divided into further non-specific strands. It mentions we will have pride and passion – but nothing about resilience or guile. It outlines how we will play with and without the ball – but the pale generic nature of every aspect of the plan casts an eerie parallel with how England have set out tactically in recent years. Players deployed out of their natural positions tasked with endless lateral passing and lucky dip pot-shots from distance. These ideas don’t exactly present themselves as tournament winning tactics.

This is the FA through and through. A number of individual faults collectively aggregated into a collective disaster.

So where now?

The majority voice in England has become that of a Brexiteer, believing there is nothing to be learnt from our continental neighbours, that the country owes us something just because, and that we are all better off without our foreign compatriots living here.

When you peel it all back it is clear that the problems we have as a footballing nation stem from the wider problems we have as a general nation of people.

Until we confront the wider issues within the game itself, and how they affect general society, we will continue to look at the national state of football as an ongoing crisis.

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