We Make Footballers Reaction to ‘No Hunger In Paradise’

Issues raised in No Hunger in Paradise are not just apparent in the UK, but worldwide problems seen in more industries than football.

Football Academies Franchising

It’s a few days since the No Hunger in Paradise aired on BT Sport and was made available to watch online for free. Since then, there seems to have been countless discussions on social media platforms and within coach community WhatsApp groups about the rights and wrongs of youth football in England. Everyone has an opinion on children with social media accounts, young players earning too much money early in their career and whether or not they start academy football prematurely.

I found it to be an enjoyable watch and I’ve recommended it to most people I know in football, even just so they can have an informed opinion when it no doubt comes up in conversation. Although I enjoyed it, I did feel I had to concentrate a fair amount to filter some of the one-sided reporting I was being presented with throughout.

The scene with Ryan Innis, the ex Crystal Palace defender who went to prison for assault, seemed to indicate that the academy system was to blame for his crime. There were images of prison flashing over the screen in dramatic fashion as he spoke and I began to think of the parents I know with children at academies, now fearing their children may end up in trouble with the law. Where was the data which told us the percentages of footballers who go to prison following being in the academy system? I felt there was a narrative being created early on in the documentary and viewers weren’t being allowed to come up with their own opinions on the subject.

They often referred to 3 year olds being scouted at academies as if this is now common. I’m contracted as a Scout Coordinator with Chelsea and I know I wouldn’t be allowed to send a 3 years old into any of our sessions even if I wanted to; the senior management would probably make fun of me if I tried. None of the scouts I know who work for the other major London clubs would dream of sending a player of that age to train; the idea is quite ridiculous. However it kept being mentioned through the documentary as well as in the promotional interview on BT Sport with Frank Lampard and Chris Sutton.

Another frustration I had was when Gareth Southgate was asked: “is there an optimal age you can judge a player and say yes he’s got what it takes?”

I found his answer conflicting: “No, I think that’s very individual. What I would say is that we take them too young. I don’t see how anyone can take a young 7 or 8 year old kid into an academy and have a realistic conversation with them or their family which talks about being a professional at the end. Because, for me, [it’s] impossible. They might be a talent, but that is some journey you’ve got to go on. By all means bring them in, let them enjoy football, improve them and give them the opportunity to play with good players but I worry that kids are signed up too early and the dream is there at an age it’s impossible for anybody to know what’s going to happen.”

Gareth Southgate praising English Youth Development in 2017

Although Southgate criticises young players joining academies in the documentary, in November 2017 he was complimentary of these same players: “We’ve given these guys the opportunity and we believe there are others coming through our youth systems,’‘ he said. “We’re showing people what youth development in our country can produce”. He highlights Winks, Gomez, Loftus-Cheek stating “they are comfortable with the ball, they are technically good footballers”. Yet both Loftus Cheek and Winks started with their clubs [Tottenham and Chelsea] at 6 years old, at development centres. Phil Foden has been at Man City since 6 years old, Marcus Rashford at Man U since the age of 7, Dominic Solanke was aged 6, as was Tammy Abraham and Jordan Sancho joined Watford aged 7. John Stones joined Barnsley at 8 years old.  So many of the current England players who are part of the new England DNA have been with their clubs since U8s.  I know from working at Chelsea that the majority of our youth team is now made up of players who were with us from the age of 7 and many are the same players who went on to win World Cups at Youth Level with England last year.  We are the first country to win three major competitions at youth level in one year with the approach we have had over the past 10 years, recruiting players at younger ages. We are finally starting to develop players who can compete at the highest level.

In Matthew Syed’s famous book Bounce, in which he studies the science of success, he sights there is no such thing as talent, just individuals who have applied 10,000 hours of purposeful practice! My question back to Michael Calvin is, if he wants to stop children going to academies at the age of 6 and 7, where do they get their 10,000 hours from? Unfortunately, although grassroots football in England has greatly improved, it’s still in a long way from where it needs to be, with a large number unqualified coaches responsible for managing teams and very poor facilities across the board. Is he proposing all our most promising young players don’t compete against the best players and work with the best coaches 4 times a week? I don’t suspect France, Belgium, Germany, Brazil and Spain will stop just because we would. This is the issue I had with the documentary. Michael Calvin also speaks about 7 year olds who are driven around 5 nights a week, being taken from club to club to get their practice and feels this is the wrong approach because they need a childhood. His solution was proposing children do a few sports up until the age of 10 or 11, when they have matured, and they can then join academies at that stage if they so wish. This would be awesome, if every other country did the same.

We are constantly complaining that English players can’t get into Premier League teams and our national team haven’t been technically good enough over the past few decades. We are now starting to develop players who can compete with the best in the world, as we proved with the three youth tournament cup wins in 2017. I felt the documentary could have gone deeper in it’s investigation and asked some broader questions. It’s horrible children are “Released” from academies at 6 years old and that there are parents pressuring their children to succeed at a young age, who view their children as vehicles to achieve their own dreams; I’m not arguing this at all. It raised excellent points and it’s great we are talking about youth football in England, as it clearly has to improve, but I see the same problems in children’s Theatre, Modelling, Music and Dance. If Fifa set a rule that no academies could sign players below the age of U10 anywhere in the world, to protect the welfare of the children and everyone agreed to respect this rule, it would be a level playing field; however this doesn’t seem conceivable. A rule like this would wouldn’t stop the coaching happening, it would just occur  under a different umbrella. Academies would be forced to outsource their coaching to outside companies to get the same results they are getting now and a lot the problems presented in Calvin’s documentary would resurface.

Football academies are a target as football is the most popular sport, but these issues are wider problems. We have to show more compassion and care everywhere. I do hope the discussions raised in the film create positive change and help improve child welfare across all industries which involve children, not just football.

If you haven’t yet seen the documentary you can watch it here:

https://sport.bt.com/bt-sport-films-no-hunger-in-paradise-91364241852638

 

WMF vs AG Football Academy

“We’re playing a team who will be young and quick but you can’t put a price on experience, which we have in abundance at WMF”
– Simon Karrie, Coulsdon & Carshalton Academy Director.

We Make Footballers are constantly challenging ourselves to develop as the leaders of football coaching for children of all abilities ages 4-12 and we do this by ensuring we bring our A GAME to everything that we do.

For this reason, we have put together the WMF dream squad and challenged AG Academy to a showdown match on the 17th of December as part of our Winter Series of Tournaments.

AG Academy are no strangers to talent with their aspiring players achieving professional contracts at Cardiff, Newcastle, Bournemouth and many reaching semi-pro sides. AG Academy was founded by former Chelsea youth player Godfrey K. Torto, who now develops world-class youth.

We Make Footballers deliver the best football coaching by ensuring we have the best and most experienced coaches, with all of our coaching team having played high levels of football, some in academies, semi-pro clubs and with some even reaching professional (see our success stories).

As momentum builds, our coaches have been preparing for the big game and they are now counting down the days in anticipation.

Founder and CEO of We Make Footballers, Sean Conlon has been working closely with his squad of players on strategy in preparation. He also is looking forward to enjoying the game with a coaching team he has worked hard to build over the years:

“I’m really looking forward to playing this game. I haven’t played 11 aside for a long time but have been training hard privately in preparation for the game. So many of my friends are going to be playing for our We Make Footballers team so the banter levels will definitely be high. My favourite coach who got me into coaching will be the ref so it will fantastic for him to see me play, my mum and dad will also be watching the game. I just hope the left winger isn’t too fast and skilful!”

Regional Academy Manager Coach Esmond who has coached over 1000 children at WMF is confident in his squad as earlier this week he told us

“I’ll be giving those youngsters at AG Academy a lesson on finishing. I’ll make sure I apologise to their keeper in advance. My score prediction: WMF 5 – 2 AG Academy“.

Coach Esmond is one of our most popular coaches with his appearances across the We Make Footballers Academies, he also played at semi-pro level and has just come back from an injury; we can’t wait to welcome Esmond back onto the pitch!

“The game against AG Academy will be a good test for both teams. They will definitely have to edge in fitness over us but we definitely have the experience to win this game. We have a very strong lineup and having played with the likes of Marcelo, Andrew, Sean and Jojo for years we know how each other play so that will definitely give us an advantage”.

True to the WMF Coaching and Playing Style, he gave us an insight on the secret WMF formation “It suits our team well, we have a solid base allowing our more creative players to do what they do best”.

 

We have looked to important members of We Make Footballers for this game and invited Coulsdon and Carshalton franchise owner and Academy Director Simon Karrie to play: “I am looking forward to the game as it’s been awhile since I’ve had that match day buzz”. Simon has been doing fantastic work in South London coaching 150 children a week and building a brilliant squad of coaches.
We have also invited Chiswick & Southall franchise owner and Academy Director Marcelo Graca. Marcelo has been with We Make Footballers since 2010, he worked his way up the ranks and now coaches over 220 children a week! He has worked closely with Sean on the strategic formation and set plays for the match

“We’re excited as coaches to experiment with the new ‘in style’ formation which is 3-4-3! We feel with the personnel we have in our squad it will get the best out of everyone individually and as a collective”

Feel free to come down to watch the WMF Team and support your favourite Coach! The game will be played this Sunday 17th December at 2pm at Whitton Sports Centre, on the 3G Astro.

The match is about team building, sportsmanship and fair play! We hope to bring the best out of We Make Footballers by challenging highly respectable teams in the football community but also have fun and make the most of our favourite sport!

Ex-Chelsea Footballer Helping Grenfell Victims

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We talk about the community in football and building a brand around the new wave of thinking happening in the game. WMF are always happy to promote other companies who are like minded and have a similar mission to ourselves; remember we are all the “WE” in We Make Footballers!

Therefore, when Sean Conlon (WMF CEO) read about the work his friend Godfrey Torto was doing to help raise money for Grenfell Tower victims and their families, we knew we had to share the story!

Sean has known Godfrey for the past 8 years and they have done a lot of work together helping players get contracts at professional clubs. Godfrey, a registered intermediary, has helped a number of players Sean has recommended to him.

Read this article on Godfrey and how he is using football to improve the lives of his players.

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Godfrey Torto, Yasin and Sean Conlon

This photo was taken when Sean helped Yasin Ben El-Mhanni get a trial at Chelsea. 3 months later he got his professional contract at Newcastle. 

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Is it OK stop supporting the team you have grown up supporting as a child?

Most football fans will say If you support a team growing up you have to stay supporting them forever.  However the time period “forever” is such a long time, it’s just so eternal.  Things change, people change, clubs change – do we HAVE to stay with the same club forever? (I’m just asking for a friend).

Working for Chelsea I have seen the success of the academy over the past 12 years and felt enormous pride throughout my time at the club.  The feeling of being part of something, the idea you are contributing to something bigger than anything you could do on your own is really cool; I’ve loved it. It has been hard to see players struggle to have a sustained run in the first team but Chelsea have been the most successful club in the Premier League in the last 10 years, so it isn’t easy for the players to earn a place. You know when you scout a player for the club you have full confidence you are doing the right thing for the player. 86% of players who signed as scholars for Chelsea, over the past 10 years, are still playing professional football now. As a result of all this, I’ve grown very fond of the club.  I feel part of the Chelsea family, I look up to the people working there as they are often the best in their selected field in the country.

You can potentially see where I’m going with this. My opening question asking if it’s ok to give up supporting the team you’ve supported for 25 years, was not for a friend; it was for me.  However it does get worse, the team I have given up supporting are arch rivals to Chelsea.  Chelsea fans are probably more interested in Tottenham and West Ham than QPR, but to hardcore Rangers fans, Chelsea are the number one enemy.

Also, I have my father to speak to, he has been a QPR fan since the 1970’s. He took me to my first ever football match at the age of 5 years old; QPR v Man City.

Despite all this, I don’t think there should be a hard and fast rule for staying with clubs you supported as a kid. My appreciation for football has developed in recent years and it is so hard following a club when you are mortified with the technical ability of their players, style of play and the team set up.  I have become quite a football purest and find I only really enjoy the top Premier League games, La Liga games and Champions League games.

As I conclude this blog/article/ramble, I have made a decision I will support Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona, Chelsea and Man City. These are the teams I enjoy watching and there’s a good chance one of them will win something this season.

I hope any QPR fans reading this will forgive me and any fans thinking of switching sides will feel encouraged to make the switch, forever is just such a long time.



Sean Conlon
CEO | We Make Footballers