Evening Standard

So you think it is set in stone that Fabio Capello’s successor will be English? Well, think again.

“It’s not,” Sir Trevor Brooking tells me. “I think the general view is, Let’s see what happens in the next 18 or 21 months.’ But, come the summer of 2012, we would like to go English.”

His belief is somewhat at odds with the claims of Club England chief executive Adrian Bevington that Capello’s replacement after Euro 2012 will definitely be from these shores.

“We’ve got to see what English people are available,” argues the Football Association’s director of football development. “There’s one or two who have got good club roles. So you could get to the situation where you identify a person. But he’s locked into two years on a four-year deal with massive compensation. He can’t unlock himself. Suddenly your three best English candidates might not be available.”

The “one or two who have got good club roles” are Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson but, as Brooking admits: “Until they got the Spurs and Liverpool jobs, it was very difficult to get an English coach in the top half a dozen clubs.”

So would the pair be in a prime position come 2012?

“Roy and Harry are getting great experience but you’re not going to squeeze me down to those two. There are other managers and it’s not going to be my decision alone.”

Brooking helped choose Capello after Steve McClaren failed to take England to Euro 2008. Although the FA say Brooking spoke to Jose Mourinho and Giovanni Trapattoni, Capello was the only one they met.

Then, after the failure of England at the World Cup, Brooking and his colleagues met to decide the Italian’s fate.

“Soon after we came back, we had a meeting with the Club England members, who are Dave Richards, the Premier League chairman, Adrian Bevington and myself. We believed Fabio was still the proper person to take England forward.”

Brooking and Capello also had a post mortem on the World Cup but all the Englishman will reveal is that the manager now thinks that the two-week training camp in Austria may have been too long.

Brooking dismisses Neil Warnock’s suggestion that England played without a smile in South Africa because they could not share jokes with the Italian.

“If Fabio was at this lunch you’d have no problem,” says Brooking. “He can joke, definitely. But he is wary, particularly of saying something which might get misinterpreted.”

Was that the case, I ask, when Capello seemed suddenly to retire David Beckham in a television interview ahead of last month’s friendly with Hungary?

“Yes and then they [the media] tried to say he hadn’t given Becks respect,” he adds. “Fabio’s so respectful of everyone, that was the last thing he would have wanted to convey. When he’s comfortable with people around him, he’ll say things and might get it slightly wrong but we all know what he means.”

Impressive victories over Bulgaria and Switzerland this month have lifted some of the gloom over the England team following their poor performance at the World Cup. But, for Brooking, 2010 has highlighted a much bigger problem, one he has been wrestling with for years — the debate about grass-roots football.

It is on the back of this, that the FA are hosting a two-day seminar in Daventry, starting next Monday.

“In August, the Board asked Alex Horne, the general secretary, to make recommendations as to how we should develop better young English players,” says Brooking. “We’ve invited the Premier League, the Football League, the League Managers’ Association, the Professional Footballers’ Association and our own coaches to say where they think we can improve.”

The problem, Brooking admits, is money.

“We [England] have under-invested in coaching and player development, less than two per cent of our budget, whereas the bigger countries invest in double figures or more,” he says.

“The Germans have invested 50 million euros in youth development in each of the last 10 years. Spain are reaping the benefits of the previous 10 or 15 years investment in young player development. We have not done that. So I’ve asked Alex to look at the budgets to see if there’s money we can identify.”

When Lord Triesman was chairman of the FA, as Brooking ruefully admits, “we did not get any investment. We tried very hard but coaching and player development wasn’t an area he really wanted to support.”

Brooking says Roger Burden, the acting chairman, is supportive but the former England midfielder cannot be sure if money will be found.

“What I do know is that the FA are struggling to identify sufficient money,” he says.

Brooking is only too aware of the fact that English football is made up of various bodies which have their own different pots of money. This is the reason why next week’s meeting will be attended by those people who hold influence within football.

“We’ve invited our main Board and professional Game Board members. They’re decision makers so, if and when they get asked, Is there any money available?’ they will understand what we’re trying to do.”

But, while Brooking hopes all this, “will transmute itself into investment and resources”, the question still hanging in the air is that of the National Football Centre at Burton.

The FA accounts, published last week, showed that the national game is coping with a £60m shortfall as a result of the collapse of Setanta and £17m costs of moving from Soho Square to Wembley. So could money for Burton, due in 2012, be found?

“Burton is due to go to the Board in the next couple of months. Everything is in place including planning permission. In the end, it’ll be a funding decision. The FA have invested £20m, it will need another £60m or £70m. At the moment, it’s got as good a chance as it’s ever had.”

But, beyond Burton, for England to become a world beater, Brooking says we need a massive cultural change in youth development.

“The problem is the intensity of the must-win’ attitude. The desire to win at every step, rather than develop talent, is a fundamental fault-line in our game. A lot of the games at youth level are just not beneficial to development. The quality of the football is poor and the youngsters do not benefit.

“It’s pretty evident across the country they’re not enough quality 16 year olds which the clubs feel confident to sign. That’s why we bring in overseas youngsters at 16. We’re the only country that does that. Most other countries wouldn’t do it before 18. That is why the new home-grown rule isn’t as beneficial for us as for other countries. Somebody comes here at 16, goes through the system, they’re home grown at 21 and might not be English.”

In Brooking’s day, his beloved West Ham were the academy for English football but there is not much cheer there, the club having won only their first point on Saturday.

So, even at this early stage of the campaign, does Brooking think they will beat the drop?

“We only just survived last year and obviously we have got off to a bad start,” says the 61-year-old. “There are eight clubs: four that qualify for the Champions League, and Manchester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Everton who are rock solid. The rest of the 12 can all have a bad season and go down.”

If this is the result of the Premier League revolution, then Brooking also “regrets” that the FA Cup is not as important to clubs as it once was.

“I’m sitting here 30 years after my header won West Ham their only domestic trophy in three decades,” he says. “At least once a week an

Arsenal-supporting cabbie reminds me that my header beat their team. It’s a lovely feeling!

“Now, come January or February, when somebody’s in the bottom four or five of the Premier League, their priority is to stay there because it could mean £35m rather than a one-off Cup success. Also, the overseas players don’t understand the significance of the FA Cup as we do.”

In a summer of disappointment for England, the one bright spark on the international stage came from the Under-17 team, who were crowned European champions. Although this was England’s first age-group title since 1993’s Under-18 triumph, it was the style of this latest achievement that impressed Brooking most.

“They’re the best passing team in the seven years I’ve been at the FA,” he says. “We beat France in the semi-finals and Spain in the final. The great thing about this group was they never panicked. If they were under pressure at the back, they didn’t just whack it clear. They actually passed their way out of trouble.

“You could’ve taken their shirts off and put them on any of the countries that are more recognised for doing development and you wouldn’t have known they were English. But what we haven’t got is the depth of talent and we’re not producing such players every year.”

In the past England compensated with passion. “The problem is that passion alone is not enough,” says Brooking. “Other countries have caught up with us. They are also physically strong and technically better. We have to catch up with them technically. Let’s face it — after 44 years we haven’t won anything.”

So when will the drought end?

“After this summer, I’d like to dampen enthusiasm. Euro 2012 will be tough, so will 2014 because it’s in Brazil, no Europeans are likely to win. I’d like to say, let’s win the bidding in December to host 2018, that’s our target.”

And 2018 could be like 1966?

“Let’s not push our luck,” warns Brooking.


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