Is England’s Problem – Talent Identification?

Is Englands Problem – Talent Identification?

Recently I watched a video by Rasmus Ankersen about Talent Identification and some of the reasons why top athletes become top athletes in there sport.

When watching it i kept on thinking has england been looking for the wrong players? and have countries like spain been looking at something different. There are so many factors that create top international players however the top athletes have the same kind of characteristics that make them who they are. Rasmus Ankensen reserched into many top sports around the world and why these countries produce the top athletes and came out with 3 things that determine how real talent can reach its full potential. He also went into how it is very easy for coaches to miss the next superstar?

The question i kept on asking myself is how many xavi’s, iniesta’s, pedros, etc have been missed?

Ankersen goes into how performance can quite easily overlook potential. This meaning a strong quick boy who has hit puberty at the age of 13/14 who is more affective in games can stand out by scoring goals and being dominant. While a small player who is a “late developer” but has great vision, sees a pass, can dribble, can get out of tight spaces but physically cannot keep up – gets overlooked.  example: Shawn Wright Philips getting Released by Nottingham forest for being “too small”.

Barcelona’s academy La Masia state that the main characteristics in players is that they are very technical and cognitively sound and are not interested in physical attributes in players at younger ages.

“The main thing that the scouts look for is that the children make decisions differently from everybody else. By this I mean their speed of thought. It is a quickness of mind we look for. Already at 12 or 13 they understand that football is played within a particular style.” P.Guardiola, Ex FC Barcelona Coach

Ankersen also goes onto mention that sometimes players that are super talented early that are both physically dominant and skillful technically and cognitively are called “shouting talent” example Wayne Rooney.

Here are the three main things Ankersen came up with:

1/Great Talent is not necesserily right talent:

Arkersen mentioned that sports clubs use diverse ways to analyze and evaluate player performance. He mentioned that some players in certain tests (physical or cognitive) may not shine but may shine in other areas of the game that they are not getting tested on. The first thing that came to mind was a try out for youth players at clubs and what clubs are testing players on. Are clubs testing on pure speed? Are they testing on physical strength? Are they getting evaluated in non-pressure exercises? What are the coaches looking for in players?

2/What you see is not what you get:

He also went onto how an athletes performance (without the correct training) gets compared to an athletes performance with the correct training. He goes on to saying that too many times an athlete that doesn’t perform to the level of an athlete that has had the correct training gets overlooked on their results then instead of knowing the training history.  For example a player that goes on trial at a club may have the potential to be a world star but does not perform to the level of players who have been coached the correct way. They get judged to early and never get another chance. Do coaches really do their homework on players they are not sure about?

3/Never Overrate Certificates & Never Underrate Character:

Arkersen goes onto mention that an athletes character and mindset is way more important than results on a piece of paper or a medal/certificate. For example players that are performing to a high level scoring goals at a younger age and having success but do not have the mental strength to take their game to the next level, will quickly go down the pecking order. Arkensen goes onto mention that a performance environment should not be designed for comfort but for hard work. This can also relate to too many young players been spoiled. Meaning that a younger players getting offered crazy contracts worth lots of money too early. Does there attitude and hunger for the game get affected? Do the clubs create this player demeanor? Will it keep on happening.

Barcelona are an excellent example of creating players that are humble,

“These guys might have been chosen to be part of Barca but it is humility that earns you respect. We don’t want them to go around talking about huge amounts of money. You can be humbled if your surrounding are, but it’s tough. But take Iniesta – he is not arrogant, he more or less goes unnoticed.” 

Carlos folguera – FC Barcelona Academy Director.

Here is a video on the LA MASIA – FC Barcelona

However i understand that England is trying to do the right thing to produce good players. My recent Q&A with John Peacock suggests that the FA are stepping in the right direction. There are shining examples of excellent academies that are producing top level players such as Southampton Academy. Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are three players that were produced and played on the champions league and International Stage.

Here is a video with Alex Oxlade Chamberlaine of how Southampton FC were patient enough to allow him to fulfill his potential.

Theses are great examples but again i ask myself why isn’t England as a nation producing players of this nature on a regular basis? Is it the premier League World market? or aren’t we just producing top level players to play at this level? If players are good enough why cant they force their way into the top level teams.

To see more on Rasmus Ankersen visit:

4 thoughts on “Is England’s Problem – Talent Identification?

  1. Unfortunately clubs are still not getting it, my lad jude who is 13 small and has not hit puberty yet has played at Stockport all his playing career untill its end this summer. He has been on various trials and the first two have told how good he is but the boss feels he wouldn’t be able to compete in games coz of his size. I do agree that he might not be good enough but when the league or fa came round to watch Stockport train they told jude coach to tell me how good his tech abiliy was and not to worry about how you influence games nows and keep working as you are. This sound just like bit in this article.
    He us now on trial at one centre and a academy and hope that bosses now see potential than results now.

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