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Former Tottenham Hotspur and St Albans City defender offers views on improving grass roots football
Former St Albans City and Tottenham Hotspur defender Dean Austin takes a look at grassroots football in his first column for the St Albans Review
At a time when the Youth Structure in England has come under huge scrutiny many people including the Football Association are trying to find answers and solutions on how we as a nation can produce better young footballers.
At grass roots level the FA have brought in new rules for five and seven-a-side football where the opposition has to retreat to the half way line from a dead goal kick. The aim is to get the goalkeeper to pass out from the back.
In being involved in local youth football for the last couple of years with my two young sons I have seen a lot of games, and this is just one of a number of things that could be brought into grass roots football with the aim of developing budding young footballers in this country.
Most of the games my son's Under-10s play, the opposition may make the first pass from the goalkeeper to a defender but nine times out of ten the next ball is smashed up the field with ferocity.
Here are a few points I believe will help us develop better young technical players.
1. The goalkeeper should not be able to kick the ball from his hands, i.e. it must be kept under head height.
2. The game up to Under-12s should be under head height completely.
3. All free kicks should be indirect, so the emphasis for the children is more possession and therefore to stop the biggest kid in the team trying to score from the half way line, which is normally encouraged from the side by coaches and parents.
4. I would also change the size of the goals for young ages. I would not alter the width but for Under-7s and Under-8s I would make the goals three feet high; for Under-9s and Under-10s four feet high and then go into the five foot goals at Under-11.
As I have said, I have seen a lot of grass roots youth football over the last two and a half years through being actively involved at Harvesters FC, as my sons play there.
I have also attended St Albans City Youth School Holiday Camps and I see the great work that is being done at both these clubs in implementing and developing football philosophies. I believe they are leading the way in terms of development in Hertfordshire from what I have seen on my travels.
We certainly do not want to lose the excitement from our game of football in this country but we are engrained in a culture where we want to see the ball go forward as quickly as possible.
You go to any game in any division in this country and if a player shows for the ball with a player marking him the ball will sail over his head.
In Spain they will pass him the ball knowing that that player is technically good enough to handle it. This is all about mastery of the ball and this is my point, that children need to be taught and shown how to master the ball.
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