England Need to Develop Talent at the Youth Level to Succeed in the Future

Flash back to 2000. Fresh off a 3-0 defeat to Portugal and only 1 point in the group stage, Germany were left reeling only 4 years after winning the competition. Immediately questions were asked about how and why this could happen. Answers soon came, and they came in the form of a radically overhauled youth system for German football. By the end of the same decade, the seeds of that discontent had already begun bearing fruit, and soon everyone was raving at the amount of technically gifted players that were being produced by German academies. German football had hit a crossroads, and they worked as quickly as possible to fix it.

Now 14 years later, and England have been ousted in the group stage of a World Cup for the first time since 1950, the first year they qualified. It’s also the first time ever they’ve lost 2 consecutive matches at a World Cup. The inquests into youth development in England have already started, and the skeptics have already had their way because this conversation repeats every 2 years when England does fail at a major tournament. If they want to fix these problems for good, they might have to look to Germany for help.

Youth development in England is reliant on the clubs themselves keeping up their own academies and doing their own scouting. The business in England is driven by a profit, and only once a profit is turned will the academies be up to the standards they need to be. It also doesn’t help that the FA and the clubs have next to zero contact with each other. Everything is reliant on the clubs doing their own research and scouting, with no central outlet to help find the players in their prime development years. Conversely, in Germany all of these young players have been scouted by Bundesliga clubs because the DFB (Germany’s FA) has dedicated coaches go out and not only scout the players but teach them as well, and this starts as young as age 8. It’s methodical, intense, and exhaustive, and by the time the players are of the right age, a Bundesliga club’s academy will be ready to snap them up, and they’ll soon be ready for the rigors of first team football. Coaching is just as important, and coaching the youth to their potential and beyond is seen as an honor. It’s academic in England really.

The clubs in England have no patience because of the money, while the Bundesliga clubs have the ability to be patient because the emphasis is on the process, and not the goal. The FA needs the support from all of the clubs in the Football League in order to promote and pass through youth initiatives, and often they are stymied at the pass because the clubs do not have the patience to wait out the process of developing the talents of younger players from as young as age 8 on. English clubs certainly can afford to be patient, if smaller Bundesliga clubs like Freiburg can develop hordes of talent on a budget dwarfed by everybody else in the Bundesliga. The emphasis in Germany is always on the process, and in England it seems to be on the result more than anything. Yes the process doesn’t net any money immediately, but instant gratification only kills your bottom-line in the long run.

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