Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says coaches are to blame for 'fear factor' ruining talent of English players
Brendan Rodgers has launched a withering critique of the English coaching structure, arguing that the Football Association’s £110 million coaching hub, St George’s Park, is nothing without a proper, enlightened footballing philosophy.
Liverpool’s manager calls on the FA to involve Glenn Hoddle to help banish the "fear factor" inhibiting England. "We need to stop blaming the players,’’ said Rodgers. "It’s the coaching.’’
Rodgers has earned widespread praise for the fluid, imaginative, attacking qualities of his former Swansea City team and current, high-flying Liverpool side.
Rodgers, whose team take on Newcastle United on Saturday, encourages his players to express themselves. He wants England, the FA and those involved in developing players to take off the straitjacket.
"Absolutely,’’ said Rodgers. "Christ almighty, look at the players who’ve been available to England over the years, guys like Chris Waddle being told they didn’t work hard enough. Then he goes to Marseille and he’s world class.
"You look at the players over the last 10 years, the Gerrards and Scholes, the technicians we’ve produced. You are talking about European Cup winners. You cannot say that we can’t play football when you look at the technicians we have there: Hoddle, Waddle, Scholes, Gerrard.
"I wouldn’t want to disrespect any [England] coach that has taken the players. But I went into football initially to try and make a difference to the British players, who were told they were not technically good enough or couldn’t pass.
"I’ve thought for years and years that British players are technically as good as their European counterparts. I’ve worked with kids of five years of age in community schemes, and some of the biggest players in the world, at Chelsea and here, and I’ve felt that Brits can play football.’’
According to Rodgers, many English players had the talent coached out of them or were simply stifled.
"Absolutely. It’s just fear. It’s easier to get rid of the ball than to pass it. If you over-coach players, you lose the fluidity. Look at the talent there is. Look at the young boy [Ravel] Morrison. What a mover! The balance.
"We’ve got a young kid here, Jordon Ibe. If you were to come away after watching him for the first time and you said he was Spanish or Brazilian, you would say ‘phew, what a player, what a mover!’
"We need to stop blaming the players. The players get the blame in this country. No. It’s the coaching. Glenn Hoddle would be brilliant for you. Those types of people have to be involved if the game is to change and it has got to. Otherwise you just keep churning out the same stuff and people keep saying ‘it’s workmanlike’.
"There always has to be tactical discipline but you’ve got to have confidence. It’s not about being so nervous about the other team. What about your own talents? You have to maximise them. If you can have coaches who carry the pressure of taking the blame if the players make mistakes with the ball then we’ll do OK - because we’ve got the players.
"The problem is that the guys who are ‘that [visionary] type’ of coach, you never hear of them really. Look at Sean O’Driscoll. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever come across. He’s working at Bristol City. He’s never had a chance in the top flight. His teams are expressive, have movement, are technical but he’ll probably never get a chance at a higher level.
"Lee Johnson at Oldham: he’s trying to play. Give him a chance to develop a young group of players that can be expressive. There’s a fear [elsewhere]. If you don’t win games, you smash the ball up the pitch so you don’t lose your job.
"Does St George’s eradicate the problem? I don’t think it does. You can have a philosophy on the pitch with grass up to there [indicates 18 inches off ground]. You can have all the facilities in the world - and it is a brilliant facility - but without a philosophy, it doesn’t matter. You can have the best pitches in the world. You can have medical centres and sports science but if you don’t have a philosophy and an identity, then it doesn’t matter.
"St George’s is a very impressive site and it’s great that they [England] have the site. But I look at what we had at Swansea. We trained on an AstroTurf pitch at Swansea because we had no facilities. I used to get showered with the public.
"We had nothing, absolutely nothing. Yet everyone was wondering and talking about how we played football. It’s about football principles and defending those principles with your life. If you can get that fusion between the British players who will work their socks off but also have technique, and tactical understanding, then young players will get better and better.’’
Rodgers paused before resuming. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there are not great people [at St George’s]. There are some terrific coaches. Look at John Peacock, a wonderful [England Under-17s] coach and educator. I’ve travelled Europe many times and we have the best facilities, arguably, in the world. But it goes back to philosophy, to the belief of how you want to play.
"I was going home one night, listening [on the radio] to something about the committee they’ve put in place [Greg Dyke’s FA Commission into England’s flaws]. I was a bit worried when I heard Dario Gradi saying he was in a role but he didn’t know what it was. He’s a coach that’s not afraid to be expressive, to coach a young player to receive the ball and give it to someone under pressure.’’
Rodgers will be invited to give his views to the commission. It is unlikely to be a brief conversation.