Football performance points from 'professor of coaching'

17th January 1997 at 00:00
"When they want to insult me they call me an ex-teacher. That's a shame because teaching is to me the most important profession in the world - to the world," said Howard Wilkinson, the new man in charge of producing top-class footballers.

"But teachers seem to be just above serial killers in the public esteem league tables."

Mr Wilkinson, the Football Association's first technical director, taught physical education for two years, has a degree in business administration from Leeds University and was sacked last September after eight years as manager of Leeds United.

He is effectively the "professor of coaching" and explains his job as "very simple: we have got to find the best kids, produce more of the best coaches, put the two together and give them more time than they get at the moment".

Musicians, dancers and mathematicians will tell you this is sound sense, he added.

Mr Wilkinson, 53, who has been hired on a four-year deal with an estimated salary of Pounds 175,000 a year, said he wanted to take a more holistic approach to the game.

"Better performers tend to be well-balanced people. Instruction is different to teaching. There's a difference between teaching and directing."

This view should be attractive to Malcolm Berry, chief executive of the English Schools Football Association. The absence of Mr Berry - and of any representative of the ESFA - was noted at Mr Wilkinson's inaugural press conference last week. But the new director told The TES this week that he would be consulting the ESFA.

He said that "five or six" things needed to be done to improve football.

"But it would be politically stupid of me to put them on paper before I talk to the people involved. My power extends only as far as the ideas I have. "

Mr Wilkinson sees himself as a catalyst, but recognises that change will be difficult as English football has a complicated structure compared with other countries.

In Germany, for example, there is only one federation which runs the game compared with England's various bodies such as the ESFA, the FA and the Professional Football Association, all with vested interests.

And as Mr Berry points out, the game has developed in this country through schools, unlike Holland and Germany where new players emerge through clubs.

"We must remember that and build on it," he said, "otherwise we'll go down the same path as cricket. That's in a hell of a state."

Mr Wilkinson said: "We don't have a coaching culture. The governing bodies have developed as controlling bodies, but performers should be central - without them there is nothing to control, administer or censure."

A good youth policy, he said, will not vary from any good education and development programme.

"You take the best talent, provide the best facilities, equipment, teachers and information available with as much time as possible.

"Throw those into the pan and let them simmer for as long as possible. "

Mr Berry said he hoped to work closely with the new director, adding that he would like the FA to invest more in school football, especially in training for primary teachers.

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