Southgate wants major change
FA chief calls for 'sweeping' changes at grass-roots level
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @skygraemebailey. Last Updated: June 27, 2011 2:18pm
The Football Association's head of elite development Gareth Southgate has called for sweeping changes at grass-roots level if England are to keep pace with the best teams in the world.
Last year's World Cup demonstrated the gulf in class between England and the likes of eventual winners Spain, with similar failings evident in this summer's European Under-21 Championship, while Manchester United were taught a footballing lesson by Barcelona in the Champions League final in May.
Pep Guardiola and Vicente Del Bosque's sides have set the benchmark for passing football in recent years while in England, the emphasis remains on physical presence, pressing and passion.
"We must be careful not to become Barcelona-obsessed but if I was a small kid in England, I would look at them and think, 'Do you know what? Small guys can make it'," said Southgate.
Southgate stepped into his role, which focuses on developing English players for the future, in February and feels a sea change is needed.
His plans include limiting games to seven-a-side and nine-a-side on reduced size pitches at all age groups up to Under-12, and also restructuring the season for junior leagues.
The 40-year-old former Middlesbrough defender and manager said: "How often do you see little Jonny getting the ball, trying to take someone on or play a pass out of defence and he loses it and the opponents score? His team-mates point the finger and parents go mad on the touchline.
"So the next time he has the ball he hoofs it down the field out of play and gets a round of applause - daft, isn't it?
"At the moment there is one long league season but we want to split the season into three. Start with friendlies, then a league and a third part where teams of similar strength play each other instead of getting hammered by ones at the top.
"That's not easy for some parents and junior teams, especially those who like winning all the time, (but) everyone has to get on board with it and parents, too, have to realise why it's right."