Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Big challenge ahead - Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson believes the FA commission has a big challenge on its hands

Sir Alex Ferguson believes there is no quick fix to improving the standard of youth football in England.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has set up a commission aimed at trying to establish the root cause of a dramatic reduction of young English players getting their chance in the Barclays Premier League.

It has already come under fire for the lack of ethnic minorities among the names that were initially released last week, although Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has since been added to the list.

However, Ferguson knows the solutions are not easy, with English football still paying the price for what he feels was the ill-conceived academy system, which limited the amount of time clubs were allowed to work with young players.

"It is a big challenge," Ferguson told the BBC. "If you look at the culture of Brazil, kids start playing almost as soon as they are born.

"Creating that culture in Britain is important.

"The start of the academies was one of the worst things that happened. You could only coach a player for an hour or an hour and a half."

Ferguson cited the example of legendary winger Stanley Matthews, whose professional career extended until he was 50, as evidence of what could be achieved if youngsters were allowed more time to develop their skills.

"Stanley Matthews was born in a period where they had the worst diet ever in English life, the 1930s," the former United boss said. "Yet he played until he was 50.

"When he was running up and down the beach at Blackpool with a ball every day for hours and hours, no-one said it was bad for him.

"Nowadays, they don't have enough time with a ball from a very early age.

"If they create that there is no reason to think they cannot become a great nation again."

Ferguson is even more concerned about his native Scotland, whose chances of qualifying for a major tournament appear increasingly remote.

Yet he feels hope does exist in the ongoing search for ideas.

"I have great concerns about Scotland but they are trying hard to get to the grass roots," Ferguson said.

"They are coming up with a lot of different ideas now but it is going to take time.

"The thing about starting something is that you have to see it through. That is what Greg Dyke will need to do."

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