Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Coleraine ace Carson warns kids to develop key skills

coleraine ace carson warns kids to develop key skills or be left behind

Rising stars: Stephen Carson, who has played for his country, has a message for today's young players

sStephen Carson feels the next generation of young British and Irish footballers must work harder to enhance their technical skills.

Northern Ireland's disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign has raised alarm bells at the Irish Football Association while boss Michael O'Neill is set to prolong his stay in charge of the team despite tasting more lows than highs in the Group F campaign.

Carson, one of the privileged few Irish League players who have stepped on to the international stage, won his only senior cap in May 2009 against Italy in a friendly in Pisa.

Now back at his beloved Coleraine and ready to face his old club Glentoran at the Showgrounds this afternoon, the 33-year-old is still focused on grabbing more silverware in the autumn of his career but the former Rangers starlet also longs to see a transformation in our international fortunes.

For that to happen, the winger, who has been developing his own coaching skills on Irish FA courses, feels youngsters will need to practise harder to realise their footballing dreams.

"My own view is there is a problem throughout Britain with our kids who want to become footballers," said Carson.

"They aren't playing and practising as much.

"You can never practise enough to develop those essential technical skills that you need to have.

"The boys have to put the hours in to get to where they want to be. Your technique will not improve if you don't have that hunger within yourself.

"It's about working hard when you're a kid. I worked hard but maybe not hard enough compared to others.

"Sir Alex Ferguson set about changing this at Manchester United when he wasn't happy with the length of time every week the club could work with players.

"Maybe the Spanish sides were doing so much more and it starts from grassroots level up. The right coaching methods and the use of small sides games is important.

"I think compared to other countries like Croatia and Iceland – who have reached the World Cup play-offs – we are not technically good enough.

"The players need to develop their skills in tight areas and that's where the focus should be."

O'Neill has brought in Jim Magilton (pictured) as elite performance director as the Irish FA look to help the production line of talent move faster and Carson hopes the west Belfast man can work his magic.

"I think Jim can help put the right systems and structures in place," he added.

"Some of the Northern Ireland performances were not fantastic but as a group of nations I think we all have plenty of room for improvement.

"There's just not a lot of patience around in the game.

"Even in the Irish League I think there should be more players who are capable of playing the ball from the back but then the first time a player makes a mistake the fans are moaning and groaning about it."

Turning to domestic matters, Carson has a feeling in his bones that the team who finished runner-up last in the title race last season – Crusaders – could grab the Gibson Cup next year.

"I thought Crusaders would win the league at the start of the season and nothing I have witnessed has changed my mind," said the Ballymoney man who helped the Glens with the Irish Cup in May.

"When there's a player of the calibre of Gary McCutcheon who can't get in the starting 11 that shows you their strength in depth.

"I like the balance of their team and their players are quality – Jordan Owens is looking leaner and hungrier, Timmy Adamson is scoring goals and the two new boys Nathan Hanley and Sean Cleary have given manager Stephen Baxter more options.

"David Magowan is a fantastic centre-back and they are strong in midfield too.

"They have a strong squad and it takes a strong squad to win the league.

"You can never write off Linfield and Cliftonville but from all the teams I have played against Crusaders are the side that impressed me the most. This could be their season."

'Carsy' is looking forward to seeing old pals today.

"Glentoran are a fantastic football club," he said.

"I think they are doing well, though they are perhaps missing that striker that every side needs.

"Look what Cliftonville have achieved with Liam Boyce and Joe Gormley.

"Glentoran came through their financial difficulties to win the Irish Cup when I was there and it was a happy ending after having come through a lot.

"I've still a lot of friends there and I wish them every success.

"This weekend is about personal pride for me and wanting to win for Coleraine."