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Ex-Arsenal and Man City man: English youngsters lack desire

Patrick Vieira Patrick Vieira

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
11:44 PM

Patrick Vieira today accused English youngsters of lacking the desire to play for their country and warned it could take more than a decade for St George’s Park to bear fruit.

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Former Arsenal and Manchester City star Vieira claimed players were “not as proud as they used to be” to represent England, something he was at a loss to explain.

But he suggested the Football Association needed to solve the problem, as well as improve the standard of coaching in the country, in order to close the gap on the game’s elite.

Speaking as Western Union unveiled a new education initiative around the Europa League, City’s football development executive said he felt “a lack of love for the national team”.

He added: “When I grew up in France, I wanted to play for the French national team. That was my target, my dream, and I don’t think this is the same for the under-16s, 18s in England.

“I don’t think the young players are dreaming of playing for the national team any more.

“I don’t know the answer but, from the outside, I believe that, in England, they are not as proud as they are used to be.”

The World Cup and European Championship-winning midfielder welcomed the long-awaited opening of the FA’s National Football Centre in Burton.

“Finally, they did something, because, if you look at all the big nations, they all have their own ‘house’,” he said.

“It’s taken them a long time for them to realise they need a place. But it’s better late than never.

“The people running the English game realised they are far behind other countries, that something is wrong in the system, and they are trying to make it work.”

Vieira did not come through France’s famous national football centre in Clairefontaine but knew all about the academy that was credited with his country’s 1998 World Cup triumph.

“With Clairfontaine, producing someone like Thierry Henry, it took about 10 years,” he said.

“But when you believe in a project, you have to give yourself time.

“Everyone is talking about Spain now but Barcelona have been working on this for the last 30 years. You have to be patient.

“You may see the first players coming through in the next 10 years.

“But it doesn’t matter if it’s 10 or 15 years. The important thing is they recognised there was a lack of talent.”

He added: “It doesn’t guarantee success but you need a plan and the facilities to bring you success. It’s as important as having the right coach.

“It’s one step, but the most important one.”

St George’s Park will focus on improving the quality of coaches in England and hope that has a knock-on effect on the standard of players.

Vieira said: “For a big country like England, with the number of kids who love the game, you don’t produce enough talent.

“I strongly believe one of the reasons is the coaches. They need to review how to coach the kids from eight years old to 21.

“There is a way to go and learn and see what other people are doing.

“For Clairefontaine, when it opened, the coaches went away and saw what they are doing in Spain and Holland and Italy. They tried to get the best and do it in France with the French culture.

“England will never try to do what Spain and France are doing because the culture is quite different.

“I believe in this country there is a passion and a love of the game - that is a strength in this country. England should base the training on that.

“Then they should say, ‘What is the difference between the Spanish players and English players? Why do the English players have to improve? Where are the English lacking and what can be done to improve that lack of technique and tactics?’

“The heart of the English players is, I would say, double or triple that of Spanish or French players. That is a good base to start with.”

He added: “I spend every Wednesday evening, when I am not travelling, at the 1/8City 3/8 academy with the eight to 12-year-olds.

“I can tell you there is talent and a lot of talent.

“If you have a group of 20 really talented players at that age, if you don’t get five involved in the first team that means we have done something wrong and not coached them the way we were supposed to.”

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