Football Associations, like Governments, are instinctively drawn to Big Ideas whenever they are faced by a perceived crisis.

So, when England are knocked out of yet another major Tournament, an F.A. representative is unlikely to shuffle his feet, look at the floor, then shrug his shoulders and say, “Look, I’m very sorry, but finding a solution really is very complicated.”

No, instead they’ll stand blinking in the glare of the T.V. lighting a year down the line, clutching a glossy pamphlet, whilst a video montage with stirring music plays to the assembled hacks (Charlton? Tick, Moore and Pele? Gazza’s tears? Yes, please. Penalty shoot out heartache? Go on, then)

The pamphlet will be a newly commissioned report and will be called, ‘The Blueprint for Success’, or ‘The Way Forward’, or ‘The Future Game’
The Big Ideas in the report will often be very good ideas, but they will be large, and costly, and difficult to implement. So very little changes, and four years later we go through the whole process again.

As Robbie Savage might have said, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again.”

This is not to decry the efforts or motivations of the F.A. However, upgrading half of junior grass-roots facilities to a high standard, building a thousand new 3G pitches, or training 10,000 new Coaches (F.A. Commission Report 2013) is going to be impossible without major backing from Government or the Premier League. It might happen, but let’s not hold our breath. If only we had a spare 900 million pounds rather than a stadium for American Football, Rugby, and the X Factor Finals, eh?

So here are some deliberately SMALL ideas for Coaches, Parents, and Junior Football clubs, which I think will improve players, and the general standard of junior football in Britain. Best of all, the cost implications range from ‘None Whatsoever’ to ‘Just a Few Quid’, which has its own merit during a fragile economic recovery.

1. GOOD FOOTBALLS

Come on Junior Teams; you know who you are. Cut down on the short and sock tags, the perfectly matched training gear/ wet weather ensembles, the monogrammed body armour, beanie hats and Arsene Wenger coats for the Coaching Team.

Spend the money saved on a bag of good quality training footballs, and a couple of excellent Match Balls.

Balls should be cushioned, lightweight, in excellent condition, and should reward quality ball striking, and proper technique.

2. TRAINERS

You would have to put in some hard yard these days to find a truly bad pair of football boots, but it really is worth investing in a decent pair of trainers specifically for training on artificial surfaces. It can have a massive impact on a child’s ability to master a new skill, which in turn will lead to increased confidence and enjoyment when trying new techniques. Leave the High Top Trainers and Classic Reeboks at home; you can get a perfectly decent pair of Sondico or Carbrini Astro’s for less than fifteen quid.

3) PRACTICE AT HOME

Trust me. It works. And if every child in Britain practiced for a total of 3 hours per week, we would win the World Cup in the next twenty years, obesity would be halved, and the NHS would be saved. Vote Mark.

4) WALK PLACES MORE OFTEN

See above. And when you do, mix it up with some fast foot drills for you and your child. Sidesteps, little steps, cross feet, going backwards, jumps, skips, hops. Bit of jogging, very occasional sprint. You’re worried about your dignity? That ship left shore the moment you had children….

5) SCRAP THE SILVERWARE AT JUNIOR PRESENTATION NIGHTS AND TOURNAMENTS

Seriously. Think about it. I’m not talking about Players Player or Managers Player Awards.
I’m talking about the hundreds of trophies and medals costing thousands of pounds that are given to children for the simple act of playing. They want to play anyway. They love playing and will do it for nothing.

Save the money.

Spend it on a specialist groundsman to give help and advice on pitch care at your Club.

6) STOP PARENTS SHOUTING OUT ADVICE IN GAMES.

Please. It’s simple. Put Your Ego away. I’m embarrassed for you. Shut up.

What was that,
” Hello, Mr. Pot, can I introduce you to Mr. Kettle?”
Yeah, you can be quiet too :)

7) REFEREES to REFEREE PROPERLY

Yes, it’s junior football, so exercise good humour, show support, and give encouragement.

But letting dangerous tackles, shirt pulling or hand ball go unpunished because ‘they’re kids’ simply teaches bad habits. Help skillful, creative, or less robust players to express themselves by fostering a match environment that discourages excessive physicality.

8) THANK YOUR PRIMARY SCHOOL FOR SUPPORTING FOOTBALL PLAY AT BREAK TIME

They don’t have to allow it, and many schools won’t. Unstructured playground football, run by the children themselves, promotes the type of street soccer that the football fraternity say is dangerously in decline owing to car ownership. If your school encourages football at break time, take time to thank the staff and Head Teacher. Note to Governments, F.A. and Premier League: Give these schools ‘ a few more quid,

9) KEEP PRIMARY SCHOOL PLAYGROUNDS OPEN TILL 5

Arising out Number 8, why not ask schools (or some extra money) to allow children to play unstructured, unsupervised football after school? Parents of children who wish to play can sign a disclaimer absolving school of responsibility should an injury occur. It’s cheap, requires no specialist sports instruction, could potentially involve millions of children nationally, and bring a whole host of physical and social benefits for British Children. And help us find our very own Messi!

10) Controversial this last one.

Every time a junior player mindlessly smashes the ball out of play, because their results driven Coach doesn’t give stuff about player development, the Opposition gets a Penalty Kick.

Well, you do want to find the next Bobby Moore don’t you?