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11/23/2010 10:47:00 am

SUSO: The emasculation of another creative Liverpool FC youth talent begins...

The latest comments from Liverpool reserve team boss John McMahon highlight (IMO) a major issue with the club's coaching philosophy for creative youth players. It's the same depressing problem that has afflicted English football for decades, and something that Trevor Brooking has been tirelessly highlighting for years: over-emphasis (by british coaches) on strength, stamina and the physical side of the game, and not enough work being done to encourage skill, technique and creativity.

I absolutely despise the fact that English football prioritises strength, stamina and the ability to run 10 miles a game over individual skill, technique and creativity. What makes it worse is that this outdated coaching approach has seriously affected Liverpool over the last 12 years.

When was the last time a young creative player came through the ranks of the youth system at Liverpool and became established in the first team? When was the last time a young creative player was *signed* for the first team and actually flourished at Liverpool at all? Consider the sheer volume of young creative players who have been signed over the last 10 years: how many have actually made it?!

NONE.

Not since the halcyon days of Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen have young creative players flourished at Liverpool. The question is WHY? For me, the answer can (partly) be gleaned from John McMahon's recent comments about Liverpool youth prospect Suso:

"He turned 17 on Friday and hopefully he has a bright future at the club. He'll only have that future if he keeps working hard and listens to what the coaching staff are saying to him. But he knows that and we hope he will start working twice as hard now.

"We are looking at developing the whole player here. He has good attributes going forward and in the wide areas but he still needs to learn the other side of the game. He needs to know about the discipline and work that's required in a team, like tracking back, tackling and staying with runners. By playing him in midfield, like we did with Pacheco last year, it will hopefully add that other side to his game".


As a fan of creative players - and the club - these comments really make my blood boil. It's the same old outdated English football thinking that has blighted the sport for decades: complete disregard for the creative aspects of a young player's game and the institution of a system of coaching that 'breeds out' creative instincts by placing the emphasis on tackling, tracking back and 'working hard'.

As we have seen many times over the years, this process of destroying a youngster's creative instincts leads to demotivation and disinterest, with the end result being the young player leaves the club. And who can blame them? When these players are being told all the time time that they're not tackling/tracking back enough, and their natural instincts are being curbed, it's inevitable that they will grow frustrated and ultimately end up leaving.

Furthermore, McMahon's emphasis on 'developing the whole player' is equally maddening. Why do we need a team full of players who can do everything, and play in 5 different positions?! What happened to developing postional specialists? Does Lionel Messi play in 5 different positions? Can he?! WHO CARES. He's a specialist at what he does, and his creative talent has been nurtured and encouraged, and this has allowed him to thrive.

The opposite is true in English football: being good creatively is not good enough; being a specialist in your position is not good enough; you are not deemed to be 'premiership ready' unless you can run 10 miles a game and spend 90% of your time tackling and tracking back and/or playi

To underline his view on 'developing the whole player', McMahon also said the following about Dani Pacheco:

"The boss (Roy Hodgson) is keen on him. He sees Dani filling those wide roles, so when he plays for the reserves he occupies those positions and learns to adapt and play in them. It's good for his development to learn several roles and it will only benefit him, especially if he's required to do a job for the first-team."

Again, instead of developing his creative strengths, McMahon seems dead-set on forcing Pacheco to learn 'several roles'. Apparently, this will 'benefit him'. More than likely, it will dilute Pacheco's effectiveness and have a detrimental impact on his development. No wonder he allegedly wants to leave.

It really is massively frustrating to see this attitude at Liverpool. It is clear that the entire coaching philosophy for young creative players at the club is WRONG and needs to change.

Quique Gonzalez, the former Cadiz youth team coach, said this about Suso when Liverpool signed him:

"He is a left-sided midfielder with extraordinary talent. He has great quality, a good shot, his vision is great and his passing is outstanding. He has a bit of everything and I think they have signed a jewel. He can dribble well and does have great vision. He could be effective playing in the middle.

"What is very important though is that he can score goals. He likes to go into the area as part of the second wave. He has scored a good number of goals from distance too, that is one of his qualities".


Well, Liverpool fans can forget about ever seeing any evidence of this 'extraordinary talent' - if Suso ever makes it into the first team, all evidence of that individual flair will have been exorcised, and he will have probably have instructions to defend for 90% of the time. See Ryan Babel for a prime example of this.

Like so many before him, Suso will not make it; he will not be allowed to make it as the criteria for judging his 'development' will be the following:

* Does he defend enough?
* Does he track back enough?
* Does he tackle enough?
* Does he run enough?

On these counts, he will fail. Messi would also fail this test, as would Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldo, McManaman, Fowler and countless other superb creative talents down the years.

To his credit, Trevor Brooking is fighting a thankless battle to change this anachronistic and outdated approach to coaching in England. He summed it up best with the following insight:

"We...need to change what is being coached. Let's have more small-sided games so that they have more ball time. Let's allow them to have fun, take away the importance of winning and stop the young players being afraid of making mistakes. Concentrate on first touch and technique, allow that a short pass can often be more of a killer ball than the big hoof up to the centre-forwards."

That is the problem in a nutshell, and John McMahon's comments should be a cause for concern for every Liverpool fan, and the Liverpool FC hierarchy (IMO).

When it comes to creative, attacking players, Liverpool's youth coaching philosophy needs to change. 12 years of abject failure is proof of that.

It's time to start allowing creative youth players thrive. It's time to start developing, encouraging and PRIORITISING the attacking talent and technique of young players. If that means they don't spend all their time expending energy on tackling and tracking back SO BE IT.

Did John Barnes and Peter Beardsley run as much as Dirk Kuyt? NO. Did McManaman and Fowler constantly track back all the time? NO. Did it make a blind bit of difference to their superb creative impact on Liverpool FC? NO.

STOP STIFLING THE CREATIVE INSTINCTS OF LIVERPOOL'S YOUNG PLAYERS.

If a positive coaching change is not implemented then Liverpool will have another 12 years of creative youth failure to look forward to.

And won't that be nice?

Jaimie Kanwar




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89 Comments :

curli said...

Jamie -

I don't always agree with your opnions but have to say that I think you are bang on here:  way too much emphasis on the physical aspect of the game which is potentially stifling gems such as Suso??  Let the players 'play'....

row said...

The thing is, in order to flourish in the EPL, sadly those attributes are often required, apart from in some special cases.
Our league is just not suited to flair and skill. Suso will probably go the same way as Dani P, lots of hype, then goes missing.

row said...

The thing is, in order to flourish in the EPL, sadly those attributes are often required, apart from in some special cases.
Our league is just not suited to flair and skill. Suso will probably go the same way as Dani P, lots of hype, then goes missing.

row said...

The thing is, in order to flourish in the EPL, sadly those attributes are often required, apart from in some special cases.
Our league is just not suited to flair and skill. Suso will probably go the same way as Dani P, lots of hype, then goes missing.

Tommy said...

Disagree with this article.
Ian Rush, arguabley Liverpool's greatest ever striker was reknown for his work rate, for pressuring from the front. He possibly set the modern day precedent of workig from the front.
In fact looking at your examples of Messi, Ronaldo (at Scum United) and Zidane at Real, I really disagree with your comments that the defensive side of their game was not strong. That is my opinion.
And I dont think that you have to have one or the other. David Beckham, wand of a right foot. But also known for his persistent work rate.
Modern day football is about the team. No great team out there is based around the solely creative skills of an individual, not even Barca.
Further to this I believe that real genius can not be taught and does not get lost. If the boy has unbelievable tekkers he will always have these skills. Fitness and positional sense can be taught and if it can be taught, why not? I can not see this stifling creativity. People will quote Joe Cole as a prime example of work rate destroying natural creativity but Joey still has magic. But if he did not have the work rate forced into him at Chelski he would have been sold on and he wouldnt have had medals.
Oh and Beardsley worked unbelievably hard Jaimie.

LOL said...

i agree with the point, but not the focus.

It seems we have alot of good talent, pacheco, suso, ince, stirling etc my major worry is there never ever gonna be given a chance.

Surely jaimie, its down to the manager??? to bring them in and give them the chance - its fine to blame the coaches and yes it is their fault, but the manager has to take the blame for not given these kids a chance - 

it really upset me to hear that pacheco has had enough, and sadly i cant really blame him...when hes sitting behind players that have shown zero flair or zero anything all season ...

David Latimer said...

Jamie

I have read quite a few of your comments/posts and wonder whether or not your aim is to be divisive or not at times. On this occasion though, I agree 100% with the sentiments you echo and I'm hoping that Commoli in his new role will give the club the vision and direction it needs.

The likes of Barca, Arsenal and Man Utd have a set of characteristics they look for in their players and physique ans stamina rank quite low in the initial criteria. Liverpool need to define what makes an LFC player today and actively seek out these qualities when scouting players, be they for the Academy or first team. There's a reason why creative and flair players costs the most and in Suso (I'd personally include Pacheco too), we have a real gem who can save us a fortune and make a real difference. Encourage these players to play their natural game and buy workhorses to cover for them.

I hate to bring him into this discussion but Roy Hodgson seems to emphasise team shape, organisation and work rate every time he's interviewed and apperars to prioritise these above all else. For me, we need to define our formation and get every aspect of the club playing this way. Until this is defined, I wonder whether the work of Segura, Borrell and McParland will truly bear fruit.

markjuliewalters said...

Jaimie,

While I agree with most of the article one of the most annoying comments I spotted recently was john McMahon's regarding Pacheco (See below)



"The boss (Roy Hodgson) is keen on him," he told Liverpoolfc.tv.
"He sees Dani filling those wide roles, so when he plays for the reserves he occupies those positions and learns to adapt and play in them.
"It's good for his development to learn several roles and it will only benefit him, especially if he's required to do a job for the first-team."


We appear to be turning a player who looks a natural at playing behind a lone striker into a left / right midfielder, and at the same time unsettling him at the same time (if press reports are true).

It would also appear that the instruction appears to be coming from the manager, with McMahon just doing what he is told.

Brad Joy-Clavis said...

Well said and I don't think too many people could argue against it.  Take what a player is naturally skilled in and try to build on it.  If we just concentrate on bringing his other skills up to the same level, all you end up with is an average player.

KB said...

<span>

Funny one this. Totally agree that there is more focus on strength and stamina rather than natural ability these days. However, don’t really see much wrong with McMahon's comments to be honest. The lad has just got a pro contract and his coach is saying he still has to work harder and on some parts of his game. Ideally he is able to compliment a high work rate with skill (Rooney for example, Tevez another, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi). All these guys press, harry and work for their teams. There isn't anything wrong with that. The problem only arises when all creativity is ironed out of them but, to be fair, I don't see anything in McMahon comments to suggest this is the case. The boy looks to be a talent though, lets hope we can get him through.
</span>

KB said...

<span>

Funny one this. Totally agree that there is more focus on strength and stamina rather than natural ability these days. However, don’t really see much wrong with McMahon's comments to be honest. The lad has just got a pro contract and his coach is saying he still has to work harder and on some parts of his game. Ideally he is able to compliment a high work rate with skill (Rooney for example, Tevez another, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi). All these guys press, harry and work for their teams. There isn't anything wrong with that. The problem only arises when all creativity is ironed out of them but, to be fair, I don't see anything in McMahon comments to suggest this is the case. The boy looks to be a talent though, lets hope we can get him through.
</span>

KB said...

<span>

Funny one this. Totally agree that there is more focus on strength and stamina rather than natural ability these days. However, don’t really see much wrong with McMahon's comments to be honest. The lad has just got a pro contract and his coach is saying he still has to work harder and on some parts of his game. Ideally he is able to compliment a high work rate with skill (Rooney for example, Tevez another, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi). All these guys press, harry and work for their teams. There isn't anything wrong with that. The problem only arises when all creativity is ironed out of them but, to be fair, I don't see anything in McMahon comments to suggest this is the case. The boy looks to be a talent though, lets hope we can get him through.
</span>

Jaimie Kanwar said...

Thanks for those comments, mark.  They again expose the problem with LFC's coaching philosopy.

I don't see how you can turn this round and blame it on Hodgson though.  Where exactly is the instruction coming from the manager?  McMahon says that Hodgson sees Pacheco 'filling those wide roles'.

He then says 'It's good for his development to learn several roles and it will only benefit him, especially if he's required to do a job for the first-team'.  That clearly looks like McMahon's own opinion, not Hodgson's, no?

I know it's fashionable to blame Hodgson for everything these days (!) but he cannot be blamed for 12 years of failure, can he? The philosophy is seemingly ingrained in the club, and has been for years.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

I'm going to add those comments to article.  thanks again for highlighting them.

Aquilani said...

I agree. Don't agree with you on everything but this is sooo true.

Jay Wright said...

I wholeheartedly agree with this article.  A team is supposed to have a blend of talents but with our focus on "hard work" and "determination" at the expense of all else, we are regularly sending out an extremely limited team that is industrious but lacking in technical ability.

Many players flourish throughout the Premiership without being magnificent physical specimens; the problem is that technically gifted players are more frequently dismissed as physically inadequate,as it is just an easy accusation to throw at them.  e.g. Aquilani is bigger than Lucas - who is allowed to anchor our midfield in spite of his physical limitations - but because he is more of a flair player and it is easy to just dismiss him as frail and not a hard worker. 

I doubt that Pacheco is much smaller or weaker than Maxi, Lucas, Scholes, Wilshere etc but apparently it is way too much of a risk to play him in the Premiership.  Our use of young attacking players over the last decade or so has been nothing short of abysmal and needs to change asap!

aa said...

Bring back super stevie heighway!!! It was him that devoloped the likes of gerrard, fowler, owen, mcmanaman etc.

DC said...

agreed Jaimie, i think its evident that Pacheco is a victim of this training/development philosophy too.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

As I said in the article: name one youn creative player who has flourished at Liverpool in the last 12 years, either coming through the youth ranks or being signed (like Babel).  That is the proof that there is a problem with LFC's coaching of young creative players.  Not ONE single player has flourished.  Do you not see this as a problem?

It's not enough just to say 'if he has talent he will make it'.  That is just not true.  So many young creative players have fallen by the wayside; did none of them have the talent to succeed?  That seems hard to believe.  More likely, it's the draconian coaching methods that are to blame, and historically, this would seem to be the case.

markjuliewalters said...

Jaimie,

So Hodgson wants him to fill those wide roles but went McMahon says its good for his development that he learns several roles its only McMahon who is wrong.

Is there a meaning of the word 'roles' that I don't know about? 

Rav said...

Ill name one for you - Steven Gerrard. Creativity, skill, pace, power and immense work rate.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

Yes, and it's so frustrating.  I'm so sick of creative players being subjugated in favour of workers like Kuyt.  The whole coaching philosophy needs to change, and we also need managers who support that change.  Benitez (and to some extent, Houlllier) were both defensive minded manager whose own personal philosophy aligned with McMahon's. 

That needs to change.  We need a progressive manager like Wenger who values creativity and skill.  Hodgson is a short term option so he doesn't count; the next managerial appointment has to be the right one, and cannot be someone with a similar philosphy to Houllier or Benitez.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

No - Gerrard does not count.  He came through the ranks in the late 90s before the current coaching stranglehold took over. He was coached for years in the 90s before making the step-up.  it's the youth coaching part that matters.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

Totally agree, Brad.  Focusing on creating all-rounders just creates jacks of all trades with nothing that sets them apart from anyone else, i.e. bog standard average premier league players

KB said...

I think Torres qualifies as young, creative and a success. So there is your one.
You have missed the point of what i was saying. There is an endemic problem with our ability to create young talented players, no question. HOWEVER, the quotes you are using are tenuous at best. At no point does McMahon state that he wants to curb the players attacking traits, just that he wants to compliment them with work rate. You use Messi as an example in the article, have you seen how much he closes down players. Ditto Iniesta. Besides, McMahon cannot be blamed for Liverpool's inability to produce talent for the last 12 years. Previous youth coaches can though, which is why they were replaced fairly recently. Rodolfo Borrell may know a thing about bringing through the right type of player given his experience at Barca.

markjuliewalters said...

Jaimie,

Why do I have a feeling that you will use the comments out of context and remove any link to the manager.

KB said...

Gerrard was coached by the same person who coached McManaman, Fowler etc. Steve Heighway. Also the person responsible for not bringing through any other players until he left recently.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

Mark - it is you who has used the comments out of context.  As I said in my previous comment: please explain how McMahon's comments hint, imply or suggest that his instructions come from Hodgson.  You've twisted his comments to unfairly shift the blame onto Hodgson.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

Yes - you are ignoring the key word: WIDE.

Hodgson wants Pacheco to fill WIDE ROLES.  That has very limited scope; it means left or right wing, i.e attacking positions.

McMahon's own opinion is clearly different to Hodgson's.

Tosh said...

If he is to play in EPL then he needs to work on the attributes that you need to succeed, strength and hardwork. That is the nature of the league. No point in having a player who all the tricks in the book but gets knocked off to easily.
I have no issue with skilful players being made to work harder. Messi is the perfect example of a player who combines excellent skill with hardwork.
As for LFC not bringing skilful players through it's hardly a unique thing to us. English football in general isn't a great breeding ground for young skilful players. Game to fast and general style isn't complimentary.

billywhizz100 said...

Spot on article. I would add that any great team will have the player who can "do it all". And it is that type of player that needs to be coached in the way that McMahon speaks about. Think Souness, S. McMahon and Gerrard. These are the types of big, strong players that need to be pushed in this respect. But don't lump the likes of Barnes, McManaman and Pacheco into that same one-size-fits-all category.

Obviously the game is very different today, but I can't help but draw upon a pertinent Shankly-ism. When talking of his playing days at Preston North End, he would regale that "...at Preston we didn't train to be weight lifters or marathon runners, we trained to be footballers." I couldn't put it more succinctly than that. So let's not train the Pachecos and Susos of this world to be marauding beasts, let's get them to play football. The beautiful game.

rick said...

These arguments are rubbish.
Roy is finally giving a chance to our talented youngsters & locals: Jonjo, Martin Kelly, Jay S, Nathan Ecclestone, Jay S.
These guys, thanks to Roy, have experienced first team football in front of huge crowd, at Naples, Turkey.
Kelly made his debut in EPL under Roy Hodgson.
Nathan Ecclestone gave his voice yesterday:

'Roy's faith has inspired me'

And Nathan is the future of Liverpool: I'm sure of that.
Roy can be target of many sort of blames, in so many directions, but He's <span><span></span></span> <span>undoubtedly a good coach, and a good motivator, for our lads.</span>
It's the first time since Rafa has gone, that I can finally hear these claims of confidence from our youngsters.
Under Rafa Nathan Ecclestone travelled around any corner of UK on loan, and maybe He could become a figure of the game table "Monopoli".
There are some facts which no-one can deny: Roy is doing an outstanding work with our youngsters.

markjuliewalters said...

From the comments it is impossible to know that Hodgson is talking about any less or more 'roles' than McMahon. Just because McMahon makes no use of the word 'WIDE' doesn't mean that his opinion is any different .

The way I see it is that both are just as guilty as each other

KB said...

<span>

Sorry but that is just nonsense. Players should be coached to improve. If a player has a sweet left foot should they ignore their right one or try to improve it also, making them a better all round player. Tactical awareness can be gained by playing players in different places to get them experience otherwise Carragher, for one, would have stayed at striker where he excelled as a kid. Or he would have stayed in midfield where he came through the youth ranks. Players find their positions via alternative coaching. Neville, Beckham, Scholes all changed position coming through Utd youth ranks. Suso, if he is going to play in midfield, needs to look at the defensive side of the game also. The trick is not to blunt his attacking talent.
</span>

markjuliewalters said...

Jaimie,

Either McMahon is carrying out the instructions of the manager or he is disobeying the manager and the official website is reporting on it. The former is far more likely to be happening

The 'he' in He sees Dani filling those wide roles is obviously the manager, therefore McMahon is carrying out what Hodgson wants.

rick said...

Hodgson is an open minded manager with a lot of experience abroad.
You're making the error of understimate the manager Jamie.
The man is particularly good to fit his football thoughts to team's resources.
Actually, no-one can deny that the Man is doing an outstanding job for best youngsters of Accademy, both as coach & motivator.
No quick decisions, We look at the bigger pictures at the end of the season because the Lads are improving.
There are some rilevants facts, which highlight the good work of Roy with the youngsters.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

Rick - I agree with you.  I haven't argued that Hodgson is to blame.  it's the coaching philosophy espoused by John Mcmahon that is the problem.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

What Man United did has *nothing* to do with Liverpool, so why bring it up?  The fact is no young creative players have come through the youth ranks and/or been signed and made it in the first team since Gerrard, Owen, Fowler etc.  That is not a coincidence, and it's a point you keep ignoring by diluting the issue by focusing on completely irrelevant things.

Address that issue: could it not be that the coaching philosophy outlined by McMahon is culpable here?

Jaimie Kanwar said...

Another thing you seem to be missing is McMahon's history: he is steeped in the outdated culture of English football.  As a player, he played for the likes of Wigan, Tranmere, Crewe and Preston; he also managed similar level teams.  The failed coaching principles of English football are part and parcel of his approach, and his history proves that, as do his latest comments.

McMahon's approach is the complete opposite of what Liverpool should be trying to achieve, and as long as that philosophy is being forced on youngsters, they will continue to fail.

Jaimie Kanwar said...

McMahon joined Liverpool a whole year before hodgson arrived - He will obvously have his own ideas.

KB said...

Yes, it is McMahon's (who joined us a year ago) fault that we haven't brought through any players in the last 12.
Ace deducting there superstar!
And the point about Utd's players is pertinent in the wider context of what you were talking about producing players based on their strengths. Just because it highlights your shortsightedness doesn't make it any less relevant.

KB said...

Yes, it is McMahon's (who joined us a year ago) fault that we haven't brought through any players in the last 12.
Ace deducting there superstar!
And the point about Utd's players is pertinent in the wider context of what you were talking about producing players based on their strengths. Just because it highlights your shortsightedness doesn't make it any less relevant.

GF said...

Eden Hazard would be shooting himself in the foot if he joined us. At last I agree with your views Jamie (But not about Hodgson). Rijkaard would be a better coach as he was somewhat familiar with youth development at Barca, don't you think?

markjuliewalters said...

So the reserve team manager does what he wants to do, whilst releasing statements that appear to show that the manager wants him to do it, and Hodgson is powerless to stop him. Er....highly unlikely.

If that is the case, which is highly unlikely, Hodgson's critics have just been proved right as he can't control his own reserve team manager 

tjmreds said...

If a player has aspirations to play in midfield at the highest level he has to learn to (slightly editing John's words) <span><span><span>"track back, tackle and stay with runners</span></span></span>". I don't think this is unacceptable, it's pretty basic tactics.

However, this should not be at the expense (or valued more highly) than a players technical creative ability and skill.

You're right to highlight the worrying lack of creative talent coming through the youth team ranks for the last decade. I would hope that Borrell (and others) work will bear fruit (as it has at Barca), though this means the adoption of a consistent playing style (and football phlosophy) throughout the club, I'm not sure we're there yet!

Split said...

Good article.
Nice to see the emphasis switched back to discussions about what happens on the pitch.
However, is playing young players in a variety of positions, so that they can learn a variety of different skills, such a bad thing? Is this not the same policy endorsed by the Ajax Academy? 

Mike Arms said...

Wasn't Stevey Heighway doing the job before McMahon? Rafa realised he was not producing any results after a decade so got rid and brought in McMahon. Now McMahon has only been in a year and yet he is being blamed for no results in the last decade, how does that work then?
All premiership managers expect the players to go on the pitch and be able to do everything, it's no good doing all tricks and frills if the player  then loses the ball and stands there while the opposition are attacking. The premiership is so competitive and so tight no team can afford to have a show pony.
Although I do understand the point of the article, I am certain the coaching methods are to nurture natural flair while emphasising strength and stamina. I'm sure it can't be one or the other otherwise it wouldn't make any sense to sign any talented players at all, the scouts could just attend all the Sunday league games and choose the strongest and fittest athletes.

Bobartist said...

Can't help but agree with the sentiments of this article, not just at Liverpool but throughout the English game. If you want recent evidence of that, look at the skill levels shown by the England '2nd team' against those of the young French side last week.

That '2nd team' had a fair sprinkling of our next wave of supposedly up and coming youngsters, yet they looked about as happy on the ball as a grizzly bear with piles.

I'd like to think that Liverpool have hidden away Pacheco for a few weeks while they hone him into a fantastic winger/foil for Torres (God knows we need one!) as he seems to have disappeared totally from view.

If ever there was a  game where he could have been launched on an unsuspecting Premiership, the West Ham game was it. Yet he wasn't even on the bench. Blackburn, Stoke, OK; he's going to get kicked over the stand, but not against West Ham.

He was the stand out player for Spain in the U-19 championships in the summer, playing down the left wing, scoring goals and then popping up here there and everywhere to create chaos in the opposing defence.

Unfortunately, Hodgson has always run a rigid, predictable outfit and I suspect that he simply doesn't have the mindset or the room in his team for a creative spirit. Far too many English coaches see 'creative talent' as a euphemism for loose cannon, 'lazy player' and so on.

As already mentioned, Rush and Dalglish worked hard tracking opponents BUT IN THEIR OPPONENTS HALF.

You didn't see them constantly defending in their own 6 yard box - they were lurking somewhere in midfield or by the half way line so that when we broke from defence we had a real CREATIVE outlet - or two.

When did you that last see THAT at Anfield ?

ash said...

I believe you are wrong on this point, take the dutch youth system for example and at club level the ajax youth development program, every graduate will tell you that they have played in all the position during their development and i think this help create players who are football thinkers and above all creative players. I think we should model our youth academy more on the ajax model. Food for thought jamie. Hope you can come on an equally good article related to youth development around the world and which m odel we should adopt.

billywhizz100 said...

Yes, interesting question. Personally, I believe that any model is better than the English one. I have a 3 year old who goes to "little kickers" one day a week (sadly a Monday when I'm at work). The group is taken by a young Chelsea FC "YTS" lad. I was horrified to see, on the one day when I could attend, that the final 10 minutes of the session were taken up by a free-for-all "match". While I admire this young lad for taking the time to educate such young minds, I shouldn't see the youngest football minds being "trained" by a relative amateur. I know for a fact that in Spain, only the most highly qualified coaches can coach young kids; in this country, that's where the coaching begins!! It's wrong.

We have the wrong mentality in this country when it comes to coaching. It's not progressive, and I believe it runs right up to the professional game (well, the youth and reserve teams, at least).

I think Total Football is a good idea, but only for an education (i.e., on the training pitch). When it comes to the real deal, the Ajax players were nearly always played in their preferred position. You never really saw Cruyff playing centre back. I know, it's not as simple as that, and there was a great fluidity to the Ajax and Dutch teams of the 70s, but what I'm trying to say is there wasn't an emphasis on the creative players in the side to be plonked in the positions that required a certain degree of physicality.

We need a monumantal change in mentality in this country, and I think it's the responsibility of the top clubs to try and engender a better style of play, and a move away from this idea that all pros need to be giant bulldozers. As a case in point, look at the great job Owen Coyle is doing at Bolton. While they still rely to a degree on strength and power, they have added a certain deal of finesse to their play. Under Allardyce, you'd have believed that Bolton would never get anywhere unless they played the prototypical lump it and lump 'em game. Wrong. And Coyle is proving it. Okay, it's not exactly Barcelona, but it's better than it was.

Gary said...

Interesting article. This is a deep rooted problem in English football not just at Liverpool. Small, young, skilful players at young ages are being let go from youth systems through the country because they aren't big or strong enough for the English game. Imagine what would have happened to Xavi and Iniesta had they been born in this country.

Therefore I don't think this is necessarily down to the Liverpool coaches. English football is played in a certain way so they have to train and develop their players in that way too. Unless English football changes then our training and development won't change. A player can have as much flair and skill as you want but if they are brushed aside by the likes of Blackburn/Stoke/Wolves et al they are pretty much useless to the team, so they have to be stronger. And because of the pace of the English game you have to have players that track back/defend etc. The pace of the game on the continent and South America is slower. The build up is slower and they rely on technique and skill more, whereas we really on speed which is why all players need to be able to defend in the English game.  

You ask to name one young skilful Liverpool player in the last 10-12 years which has made it though the youth system into he team. I would actually extend that question to naming any player from any club which has made it. I can't think of many. Joe Cole, in term of English players has, in my opinion the technique and flair of a "European" player. But even that was systematically taken out of him by Mourinho, who asked that he defend, track back, work harder for the team etc. Other than Cole, we're talking about a handful of young mainland European players - Fabregas and Ronaldo for example, and to be fair they learned some, if not most, of their trade in Spain and Portugal respectively.  In fact the most skilful players in our league are "foreign" and in most cases had their youth development at non-British clubs.

I do disagree with you on one particular area though. There is no reason that a player cannot be both technically good and have flair, and work hard and have a defensive aspect to their game. Barcelona probably has the best youth system in the world in recent years. They have developed lots of technically good players. When you watch Barcelona you will see that all of the players work very very hard. Xavi and Iniesta track back/tackle/close down all the time and this is what makes them great players. They have flair and technique but there are defensive aspects to their game which are sometimes overlooked. There is a reason that Ibrahimovich and Henry didn't do that well at Barcelona and that is because they are lazy players in comparison to the rest of the team.

Voland said...

Could not agree more Jamie, excellent article. I would love to know Borrell's views on this.

dixie222 said...

Good article!! Stevie highway had a great list of talent he helped bring through. With the old boy network of dalglish as manager and steve bringig players through it seemed to work even with souness in charge he gave the youth a chance. Stevie Highway could spot a star at an early age, I remenber when I started going the game and standing in the Kop waiting for a match to start and their was a full spread about this kid called steven gerrard. We have seen similar spreads in the past few years but they seem to disapear or never have their chance. I rember when robbie fowler got his chance, it was like lighting the touch paper on a firework!!! He was not the best at tracking back, or pressing and for 80 mins he would look a bit lazy but for the  10 mins you needed him him he would bang in 3 goals as that was his speciality. I dont want a striker who can play in midfield and tackle like a centre back, I want him to be able to get into the right positions and score goals. 

Andy said...

Roy imo is comming across slightly xenaphobic by virtue of the fact he plays only english kids. Now while thats good - Pacheco has been with us long enough now to constitue home grown - where he is - hes streets ahead of all the above... If you belive rumours hes "another" player who has fallen out with Roy.

I do agree with Jamie - we dont develop enough youth. Darby - not good emough but decent tbf, Jay - a squad player but i belive he is happy with that. Martin Kelly and Nathan are talented kids - they should make it, i hope. defo Kelly - still remember watching him in his first game in europe...

Susos, Pacheco, mendy, mavinga - plenty of plyers....I do belive Rafa made inways into reforming the youth - as we all know NESV are huge on youth investment and highly approved of the people and the strusture - lets hope we finally see the rewardrds on the pitch

dave said...

personally, I think the reason has been a lack of chances for youth in the last few years. I don't think we had very much talent in our reserves until recently. The evidence for this is none of our reserves in the last 10 years have gone on to make it at any big clubs. Rafa and his team brought in some great talent and I think that talent just needs chances  on the pitch. Hodgson has given a few players chances which is great. Many of us fans though are a little bewildered as to why Pacheco hasn"t been amongst the players given chances. He is after all highly sought after by other clubs. More than you could say for the likes of Spearing for instance. No offence to Spearing of course, I think he is useful, but doubt he can make the same impact as Pacheco.

Simon said...

You are totally right

There is no harm in educating him tactically etc but hopefully not to the point where we snuff out his natural talent

Pacecho was amazing for Spain U19s, he has superb technique and power when striking a ball, we are ruining him now

What would we have done with Cristiano Ronaldo if we had signed him years before? I doubt he would have commanded a fee of £80 million after a few years of bluntening with us

Jay said...

Sensational article Jamie. Top marks brother.  Bang on the button here. Great read mate

campg1946 said...

Everytime I read an article on this site I wonder whether you're not sitting behind me and my mates as we bemoan the state of Liverpool. I couldn't agree more about the development of young players brought to the club under the management of both Houllier and Benitez. Years of poaching young talent from clubs and none, absolutely none, have ever improved under the tutilage of the Liverpool academy and reserve team staff. The first time I saw Suso it was obvious he was a very special talent. On his most recent appearance he looked like he was running in sand. If he and Pacheco don't get out of our club they will have no future at this or any other club. They should look at Babel, four years down the line and he looks like he couldn't trap a bag of cement. It maybe too late for Babel but Pacheco and Suso have time on their side. Go boys. Look to your future.

ash said...

Well billywhizz i agree with most of what you say. but i would like to emphasize on the importance of role diversity that is essential when a little kid starts kicin the ball, You are right that players will always get chosen at their preffered place but the real question or headache to any youth trainer is, i think, to know where the kid will actually excel in, what is common practice is to chose according to body mass, that is physically imposing guys get at the back and the rest accomodate the midfield and attack, but on a rotation system like that of ajax, a genuine striker playing at left back for example is getting a feel of the position and when he faces a defender he might anticipate the guys movement. that i think how the robbens and van persie works, anticipation play is really important nowadays, we are playing lightening foot in epl and we need fast english players.

KB said...

<span>

I agree totally, it is not like there have been a number of great players that we have blunted is it. Who has gone on to be good elsewhere and by good, I mean LFC standard. Something is happening in terms of our being able to produce talent though, I think it is to do with luring them to the club in the first instance. I am 100% positive that we shouldn't be blaming it all on John McMahon because he has the temerity to suggest a player recently given a pro contract, has a lot to learn. Suso is a midfielder, whether he likes it or not to succeed in that position he will have to take on a certain amount of responsibility. Wilshere looks a great player at Arsenal, he also has a tackle. It is required of any midfielder, not just in England but worldwide.
</span>

KB said...

<span>

I agree totally, it is not like there have been a number of great players that we have blunted is it. Who has gone on to be good elsewhere and by good, I mean LFC standard. Something is happening in terms of our being able to produce talent though, I think it is to do with luring them to the club in the first instance. I am 100% positive that we shouldn't be blaming it all on John McMahon because he has the temerity to suggest a player recently given a pro contract, has a lot to learn. Suso is a midfielder, whether he likes it or not to succeed in that position he will have to take on a certain amount of responsibility. Wilshere looks a great player at Arsenal, he also has a tackle. It is required of any midfielder, not just in England but worldwide.
</span>

KB said...

<span>

I agree totally, it is not like there have been a number of great players that we have blunted is it. Who has gone on to be good elsewhere and by good, I mean LFC standard. Something is happening in terms of our being able to produce talent though, I think it is to do with luring them to the club in the first instance. I am 100% positive that we shouldn't be blaming it all on John McMahon because he has the temerity to suggest a player recently given a pro contract, has a lot to learn. Suso is a midfielder, whether he likes it or not to succeed in that position he will have to take on a certain amount of responsibility. Wilshere looks a great player at Arsenal, he also has a tackle. It is required of any midfielder, not just in England but worldwide.
</span>

leeches are gone said...

you could use the same arguement about hodgy .. the teams hes been linked with , Blackburn , fulham .. why should those be ignored and hodgy be good enough , but macmahon being with preston , tranmere wigan etc. you state not good enough for Liverpool .. surely on that basis both hodgy and macmahon are not good enough..both outdated in coaching ,no?

The Roy Hodgson Brigade said...

There is always this talk about our academy having some of the best youngsters out there but WTF has happened to them coming trough the ranks? Roy has actually had the decency to give the likes of Kelly & Spearing & co a go at first team football but after Gerrard there has been f*** all. How much money alone has then been wasted in our academy?

Brilliant read Jaimie!!! I hope NESV turn this club the right side up, it might take some time though but I believe we will eventually get there.

pepe liverpools most committed player said...

You have got to be the biggest hypocrite ever. You come out with this, while i agree with the idea. You supporting a manager who pisses away 10 million on goons like koncheskey and poulson i don't understand! Oh sorry he did bring in one player with some skill but he only signed because CP offered him 90k a week.

Jason said...

Ssshhhh, don't mention the unmentinable that now is in Italy. You only call Kanwars rage on you.<span> </span>

Yewo said...

In the main some good points in this article- I don't think it's just Liverpool though it seems to be an English thing.

I do disagree with the clubs played for being used to citisice though. I'd argue Dario Gradi has done more than anyone for youth players in England and he's "only" managed Crewe.

Mickah said...

good to see JK speaking from the heart instead of rattling off stat after stat. Your sentiments here are spot on. Lose the stats JK.

Fremen said...

I'm sorry, but where exactly in McMahon's quotes does he state that they are going to focus on developing Suso's tracking back, defending, tackling and running back AT THE EXPENSE of his creative abilities and the creative side of his game?
If anything, he seems to be saying that they will be looking to develop those aspects of his game to supplement his already well develop creative skills and in so doing produce a more well-rounded and complete player.

What's so wrong with wanting to do that?

You're simply choosing to read his comments in the most negatve light and to make out of them what you think they are planning to do even when he does not state that they will do that and then using that as a stick to beat the club with.

Nobody's certainly going to aruge with your assertion that a major failing of the part of the British youth training system has been moer of an emphasis on training the physical attributes and preparation for the physical aspect of the game, but surely you have to understand why it is that way. FOr one thing, the English system does not produce naturally skilled and creatively gifted players to the same degree that other countries do any more, so you can only prepare them with what they've already got. Additionally, most of the club's youth system are designed with an eye for preparing their youth players for life in the Premier League, which as we all know is a physical league and not one that favors creative talent and skill like La Liga. So how can you blame the coaches for preparing their players to deal with the particular demands of the particular league in which they will be playing?

Besides which, Gerrard came through the same system, and in addition to his skills and pace going forward, he is the team's (both Liverpool's and England's) best tackling midfielder, best at running and tracking back to defend. Even Torres who came up in the Spanish system at Atletico, certainly tracks back and runs and even get's some defensive duties in for a central Forward.

So again I ask, how can you start slating the team's current youth coaches for wanting to help develop Suso into being the same kind of "complete" players that they are?  He DID NOT say that they would do this while sacrficing the creative side of Suso's game, so why act like he did?

I really don't understand what's the point and necessity of seeking controversy and confrontion where there's really none to be had.

Jason Turner said...

Couldn't agree more, well written article!!

Si said...

Is there anyway this post can get forwarded to the management at Liverpool as this is so true

daboy said...

Jamie you will notice that Benitez changed the coaching staff at the club and i am lead to believe they are raised by methods used in Spain.
Players today must be all round talents you cannot be found wanting or the team will get exposed.
I would love to see a Liverpool side full of champions from the academy but some of these talents are better suited to less physical competitions.
What the biggest problem is the nature of the English game needs to become different and some of these talents will flourish.
In saying that up until recently Liverpool just simply have not had enough quality coming through as since Gerard only Warnock had made any real impact but i have a feeling there is some real gems there now. 

StevieP said...

Andy, while reading your reply, I was suddenly hit by a blinding flash of realisation, I have wondered since it happened, why send Insua out on loan....a very promising, young left back who provided more assists last season than any other only to replace him with an aging, very mediocre left back and be left with no cover whatsoever, the only answer I can see is that Insua is Spanish. He also let Ayala go and he too had shown a lot of promise when called on last season! I am still somewhat puzzled as to what was behind letting Aquilani, who is setting the Italian league alight, go out on loan, maybe it's all about, getting rid of as much of the previous manager as finances would allow, that's OK, as long as it doesn't leave a squad so short of depth we are having to constantly play players out of position!

alex said...

great read! thanks.

sumon said...

Really good article Jaimie...I'm glad you highlighted this issue. I do worry about will happen with Pacheco and Suso.

Paul said...

Completely agree!

wirral redman said...

John McMahon seems to be the next LFC employee who is going to get the JK treatment. LFC are a huge organisaton and there will be a coaching strategy for all levels of the club. This will not have been dictated by John McMahon. The development of Players is not an exact thing, some are brilliant at 16 - 18 and fade and dont make it others develop much later and maybe havent been involved with league clubs in there formative years, I am thinking of Ian Wright in particular. I also recall Steve Highway being interviewed on the pitch at the end of FA youth cup final in the season he left. He was asked how many of the current crop where ready for 1st team action he said at least 4 but didnt name them who where they and more importantly where are they now. I suspect Spearing was one and Guthrie another but I am not certain

Vas said...

First things first.. there is a this myth that clubs abroad train there young players in a certain way that is different to how they train players in this country.

The truth is that there is no Spanish way, Dutch way, English way etc etc etc...

Every club around Europe train players in their own way.

A family friend works with the youth setup at Notts Forest. During his training he travelled around Europe to see different training methods and found that there is most clubs, including those in England train there youth kids same way.

At forest (which is a model followed by most European clubs) is that kids aged between 4 - 11 are taught technique. So ball control, passing, running with the ball etc etc. The purpose behind this is that no matter which position you may end up playing, you can do the basics. That is why when you watch a team like Arsenal you notice that every player is comfortable on the ball.

Once they hit 11 they start teaching positional play, tactics etc etc. They make them play in small 5 aside games and rotate their positions during the game so each player learns the basic of each position.

It is not until they reach the age of 14/15 where they find out where there best position is.

You can see how well this works at Arsenal where you can see defensive players who are very capable running with the ball, are very versatile (able to play proficiently in most positions), one touch football, very adapt at passing etc etc.

This allows those who have that something special, those rare talents to expanded their play on the field as the other players on pitch, because of their training, are able to accommodate those players.

The main issue with Young English players, which is something I hear from lots of people who work with clubs (i.e physio's, coaches etc..) is that they do not work any where near as hard as the foreign counterparts. 

As an example, you will find that the foreign will be first to arrive at training and will stay way after training has finished, are much less interested in going out, cars etc etc.

They seem to understand that the only way you make it in football is to work as hard as you can otherwise you will be left behind.

As for players not coming through, ever thought that they maybe simply not good enough?

The level now is much higher then it was 10 years ago so you need to be at a higher level to be able to break though. This is happening at all the clubs at the highest level.

Also when you look at the great players now, I see them tracking back, working hard for the team, playing in different positions so I see nothing wrong in training somebody who maybe very talented in one area to be able to expand his game in other areas as it will make him a better player.

Cal said...

I'm afraid I can't agree here, Jamie. Not tracking back and so forth may make for a more entertaining player individually, but it's thinking like this that leads to the dreaded 4-2-3-1 - yes, you tend to have a playmaker in that system who doesn't have to do anything defensively, but you need 2 players doing nothing but defending to make up for him. The best and most attractive teams have set-ups where everybody can attack and defend, and nobody needs to take responsibility.

There seems to be a myth that attacking, creative players, are somehow stymied if they are required to do anything else - people forget that a lot of the game's greats - George Best is a perfect example - were all-round players. Even with his attitude, he worked hard for the team, and could tackle, head the ball, track back, etc.

rayola said...

I'm sorry but Roy isn't doing everything he could be to bring through the youngsters. Where was Kelly or Spearing in recent matches when we had players out - no he'd rather play a centre half at right back or a 33 year old injured left back or anybody else than test one of our promising kids.

And it also appears to be a very english only perspective from Roy. We have quality foreign kids in the reserves and apart from a couple of games early on where have they disappeared to? we have players like Ecclelston playing infront of Pacheco who probably doesnt deserve to be out there as he's probably not good enough.

I agree with the sentiment with regards to coaching kids from an early age that is also a lot down to FA rules and regulations where kids play on full size pitches at the age of u11 which is far to early in my book!

eeko said...

Umm, Steviep, Insua is an Argentine international. I think he's been capped once or twice under Maradona. But yeah, I'm also beginning to think Woy is a big Xenophobe. Never really noticed that he only gives the English lads a go in the 1st team. While those boys are talented, there are some foreign kids who are better than them. Wenger would probably love to work some the talents we have in our reserves and academy. Really whish NESV get rid of the gaffer, soon. He makes my blood boil. I get sick when I watch us play. The tactics are baffling (if you can even call it that). Here's hoping he gives Danni a decent run, even if it's off the bench. If not, the boy will leave soon.

eeko said...

I agree Mark. It cleary states that Woy would love to use Dani as a winger. Just think of the assists this boy could give Nando playing behind him. Could even turn into a potential Spain partnership. Here they want to convert him into a winger. And Jamie, why does everything always have to be about defending Woy? Seriously. McMahon's comments are as clear as day, a priest on a mountain of sugar if you will. Why can't you see that?

Nick said...

Utter rubbish as usual Kanwar.

Time and time again you pick your conclusion and selectively display evidence to support it. Why not look at Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish as an example of how creative players can work hard and still excel?

Ian Rush is the example used by almost everyone as the centre forward who almost continuously chased down and harried defenders in an effort to win the ball, Dalglish would do a similar job closing down space and options for defenders to pass to so Rush could be more effective in his efforts.

They were the greatest forward partnership in the history of Liverpool Football Club and also the most hardworking. They defined 'defending from the front' and pressing high up the pitch yet still managed to destroy teams with their creativity and goalscoring prowess.

Why would you choose to ignore the greatest strikeforce in Liverpool's history? Oh I know, they don't support your argument.

Nick said...

Still deleting the posts that show you up for talking nonsense are we Kanwar?

Grow up you silly little boy.

Nick said...

It's a good job you don't have any talent to stifle Kanwar.

rick said...

Kelly made his debuto in EPL against CHELSEA, CURRENT CHAMPIONS.
Kelly, Spearo 6 Shelvey played in front of 80000's Napoli's crowd at Stadium S. Paolo.
Ok, I'm open minded in respect to different opinions but We can't deny the facts.
Roy gave a big chance ot our lads: it's a fact that no - one can deny.
Roy is doing a big work with the youngsters.
Ecclestone, Spearing, Kelly, They all hold in highly respect Hodgson.
The manager can be the subject of critics under many directions, but surely youngsters development is the BIG asset of this job.
No one can say LIARS.

Rob said...

Sorry, Barcelona, the best team on the planet are superb off the ball, tracking and closing down the opposition. Spain do the same. Hard work and a good attitude on the football pitch are absolutely vital to future success - ask Arsenal. All the talent in the world and Barcelona destroyed them with superp closing of the ball.

Indeed, lack of a good attitude and work ethic, and you will get nowhere in any competition in the current footballing climate.

Rob said...

you should probably also look up emasculation.

Womack said...

Jaimie. Your point would of course be valid and relevant were not for the fact that we currently have José Segura and Rodolfo Borrell playing such key roles in youth academy development. I'm sure you'll agree that their record at the La Maisa academy, Barcelona is quite extraordinary. It would be nothing short of churlish to suggest that they would try to mould players in the same way in which you have outlined.

Key improvements are being made in the youth academy - lest of course I add that Benitez was responsible for the aforementioned appointments; that'd open an entirely different can of worms on this particular site.

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