Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

No cutting corners - Ashworth

Dan Ashworth has been tasked with overseeing the work done at the FA's coaching hub at St George's Park

The Football Association's new director of elite development Dan Ashworth has acknowledged there are no quick fixes to getting more English players into the Barclays Premier League.

Ashworth took up his new role at the beginning of last month after leaving West Brom. The 42-year-old has been tasked with overseeing the work done at the FA's coaching hub at St George's Park, and ensuring the standard increases to a level that will improve the overall output of players to the English game.

Yet Ashworth concedes the task is not going to be straightforward and he knows there is no way of cutting corners to achieve it, saying: "Make no bones about it - there are no quick fixes in youth. There are no shortcuts."

With top-flight clubs set to pocket a mind-boggling £5billion windfall from the TV deal that starts next season, it gives even more financial muscle to buy the best players on the planet. It is against that backdrop that English players must compete.

Ashworth added: "It's all about building an education to get them through and that is a long process. The amount of revenue generated by the Premier League is not something we can control.

"Our job at the Football Association, the Football League and the Premier League is to make sure is that our own home-grown players are at a world-class level to get into a world-class league."

Increasingly, the way forward has been for players to spend time on loan away from their parent clubs in order to complete their educations. In Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley's case, that has meant spells at Leicester, Watford and Wigan. Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart had time out at Birmingham.

But for those success stories, there are others such as Sunderland's Connor Wickham, who made his first-team debut at Ipswich aged just 16, yet four years later owed a rare appearance at Chelsea on Sunday to the injury-enforced absence of Black Cats striker Steven Fletcher.

"Let's not forget, the Championship is the fifth biggest league in Europe," Ashworth said. "Wilfried Zaha and Thomas Ince are in there, plying their trades very well.

"I would say it is comparable with Dutch and Belgian leagues - maybe not technically, but certainly in terms of support. The Premier League is the wealthiest league in the world and therefore able to have a cheque-book philosophy and a here-and-now solution. It is an issue and it is a problem."

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