In the first of his fortnightly features for the Official Spurs website, director of football David Pleat examines the art of coaching in the modern game.
As a young player who was first becoming interested in coaching, I was fascinated by methods of how to maximise players’ abilities. Some young players went to clubs in the early sixties and never had any organised coaching, they were literally allowed just to play.
We have seen how the European and African teams in the subsequent years improved their football by having a more scientific approach. I was fortunate that I had a good coach, who introduced me for the first time to ‘functional practices’. The priority of ball or the option of a correct pass from a certain area depending on the style of play that the team was playing. In other words, what ball to look for.
For example, we recently played Sunderland who, as a tactic, continually hit balls diagonally or from deep areas to the head of Niall Quinn. In this case the policy must be: a - for the defence not to sit to deep and b - to try and stop the supply, which means closing down their crossing opportunities very quickly.
I had never opened my eyes to the thoughts behind the game because we all love playing and are less inclined to practice. The Germans, over many years, have always had the reputation of being prepared to practice. Practice hard, practice long. I firmly believe it is the reason why Manchester United has been so successful in the last few years. All their coaching staff tell me that they literally train and train and train.
I am particularly concerned about the new YTS scheme which embraces the good idea of the soccer academies, where boys are still spending, in my opinion, too much time, pro-rata, on education as opposed to football during working hours.
However, it is important that we back the Charter for Quality of Howard Wilkinson (pictured) because, for the first time, we are able to coach and work with schoolboys for two evenings a week plus weekends. So for four-and-a-half hours a week, most of the boys are getting quality coaching put into them.
The other day, watching a younger group of Spurs players under the direction of Mickey Hazard, I was very impressed by the touch and the quality of the players at that level. I can’t believe they would have acquired that through the school’s games programme as was in yesteryear.
Not that I would ever be disrespectful to any of those wonderful schoolmasters who coached in their own time, who worked and organised teams on Saturdays without any pay. Social circumstances and teaching problems have caused all that to stop. Now we have the boys we must work harder with them. The major question is, are the coaches good enough?
The recent appointment of Sven-Goran Eriksson has made many people suggest there is a paucity of coaches in this country, and people within the system will say ‘well what the hell has been going on for the last 40 years?’.