January 2015 saw the unveiling of what the FA in England hope will create winning England teams, an evolving philosophy known as the England DNA.
This strategy is aimed at England teams both male and female from under-15 level up to under-21s and under-23s, a “world-class approach” to the development of Elite Players in the UK.
The FA see the England DNA as a plan for all those involved with elite players to follow, a definition of England’s football identity, values and standards of behaviour, and consists of five core elements.
I spent 2015 completing my diploma in football coaching through the League Managers Association and had to travel each month to the new home of the FA, St. Georges Park in Burton-Upon-Trent.
The course gave me a great insight into the determination the FA has in changing the culture of the game across England.
The first of these core elements is known as Who we are.
It’s an understanding of England’s past footballing heritage, pride in wearing the England shirt, striving for integrity and excellence, and a wish to retain the strengths of the English game.
The course allowed me to hear the views of some current premier league managers, FA tutors and coaches and special guests including Rick Parry and Alistair Campbell.
Undoubtedly on paper, the plan seems to have everything covered – a structured environment, a technically and tactically aware group of elite players, an improved coaching methodology, and a full support system driven by the FA.
But I have been asking the very same question in the League of Ireland for years.
Where is Ireland’s DNA? Where is our clubs support?
Yes the FAI have a plan in place but somehow I don’t see it communicated to all levels of the game in this Country, nor do I see a huge amount of investment directed to underage coaching or stadiums ?
Yes we have a number of football in the community development officers who are working tirelessly to help improve the game, but in my view they are sometimes seen as salesmen and women for the association.
To build any new house you have to start with the foundations and yet we ignore this very same principle.
We seem to be lagging behind in other health related industries namely obesity yet if you look at our net spend in this area you would wonder why we still have one of the highest rates of obesity among our children in Europe.
Are we learning any lessons from the past?
My granddad used to say to me that there was no future in the past and If you look back too much, you’ll soon be heading that way.
Can we not provide more full time coaches paid at this level. St. Josephs Boy’s and St. Kevin’s Boys both employ a full time Director of Coaching within their clubs and this professionalism has helped both clubs develop and sell on their players. Its easy to set standards in an organisation but the hardest thing is to uphold those standards.
Some Airtricity Premier and First Division clubs are experiencing this fall in standards on an ongoing basis.
I question the logic of setting standards and not policing them.
The recent outburst of UCD Manager Collie O’Neill over the state of the Cabinteely’s pitch prior to their match is buried in the fish and chip paper of last week.
Some of the grounds I have visited this season have not changed since I last played.
Alan Matthews was in the media complaining about some of his players were only getting paid pittance and we have are own funding issues down in Waterford.
The recent formation of the U.17 and U.19 Airtricity teams seems to have come at a big price to clubs across the Country.
Because of the recent bad weather and lack of training facilities some of these teams are only training for one hour a week and on a third of a full time pitch.
What standards are we setting for these young players.
Maybe our DNA stands for don’t name anyone so we cant hold anyone accountable for keeping our values and standards intact.
A farmer once said his mule was awfully backward about going forward – this is also true to many people today.
Are we as a football industry in Ireland going backward about going forward?