Ask Guus Hiddink, another former Holland coach, for his three priorities in developing players and his list is simple. “Technique, technique, technique,” he said.
“You have to be boss of the ball,” De Haan elaborated. “It’s very important, the technical skills. If you are not the boss of the ball, you cannot play football the way we want to play football. Coordination, then, is very important, with and without the ball; and, because society is changing and children are sitting more, you have to make a programme for power and flexibility, from the age of about 12.”
Spend a day at Vitesse Arnhem’s academy and a similar message is conveyed. It is the spatial awareness and technical expertise of young players that comes first in their football training, built around their academic needs.
It’s not so much what they’re doing, but that they’ve thought about it at all.
This might be one of those posts that goes on to lament English priorities in this regard. But not altogether, this time:
Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA’s director of football development, recognises this need and is to announce the appointment of more than 70 full-time coaches for primary school-aged footballers. “We need much better quality coaches working in those age groups,” he said. “At the moment anyone who’s any good quickly goes through the system and is coaching 16-plus because that’s the only place he’s going to get any money, whereas in other countries they pay quality people to stay in the 5 to 11s and to stay in the 11 to 16s.”
But to some extent, nonetheless:
Steve McClaren, the England head coach, spoke of the fortitude he witnessed among the Under-21 team, who were within a minute of gutsing out a victory over the Under-21 champions in their own back yard. They played like heroes, James Milner, David Nugent, Steven Taylor et al….
….yet 64 per cent of their passes found their mark, compared with a success rate of 84 per cent from Holland, who enjoyed 70 per cent of the possession.
No wonder England ended up with so many broken hearts and bursting lungs, so many suspensions and walking wounded. They had been chasing the ball all night.
The only other sport in the world where you can win by gutsing it out is boxing, and then only in Rocky films. But even Balboa concerns himself with technique, as you can see here. Perhaps he’s been taking tips from Guus Hiddinck: