Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

We must make changes - Dyke

Greg Dyke believes the pros and cons of a mid-season break should be considered

Greg Dyke put the issue of a winter break back on the agenda on Wednesday as he laid out a wide-ranging plan to bring English football out of intensive care.

In a hard-hitting maiden speech as Football Association chairman, Dyke made it clear that he believes the English game is not in a healthy state.

He reeled off a number of statistics, all of which underlined just how few English players are starting regularly in the top flight.

He spelled out his grim diagnosis by telling a captivated audience in central London: "The situation is very serious.

"English football is a tanker which needs turning.

"And we all have a responsibility to do our best to reverse this frightening trend because if we fail we will be letting English football down and we will be letting the nation down."

Dyke, who assumed his position in June, will chair a commission that he hopes will also include representation from the Premier League.

The commission will hear evidence from players and managers from past and present, academics and journalists in the hope that they can come up with a plan to remedy the dwindling number of home-grown stars in the Premier League.

A quota system will be discussed and the commission will also debate reform of the loan system.

Intriguingly, Dyke then added: "I would also expect the commission to evaluate the pros and cons of a mid-season break."

A mid-season break is commonplace on the continent, but it has never been introduced into English football despite lobbying from key figures.

Former England manager Fabio Capello said the lack of a winter break has been one of the main reasons behind the Three Lions' failure to win a major tournament since 1966.

And other influential people within the game like Michael Owen and Roberto Mancini have recently claimed the absence of a mid-season hiatus is damaging the English national side.

England could move into line with its European rivals if all parties involved can agree to bring in a respite.

Despite the paucity of English players in the top flight at the moment, Dyke set two ambitious goals on Wednesday.

"I want to set the whole of English football two targets," he said.

"The first is for the England team to at least reach the semi finals of the European Championships in 2020. The second is for us to win the World Cup in 2022.

"To show we are making progress I'd like to see us do well in the Under-20s World Cup in 2017 with the objective of that squad then moving on to the Under-21 European Championships.

"Are these realistic targets? Without targets what are we working towards? Some will say that targets are only burdening our players with more pressure but top players have to be able to handle pressure if they want to be winners - and we want to be winners."

As Dyke pointed out, the 2020 mission could be aided by England having home advantage for some of their fixtures under UEFA's multi-host idea.

What he did not mention was that the following World Cup is due to be played in searing temperatures in Qatar, which, as it presently stands, is still gearing up to host a summer tournament.

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