Foreword by Sir Trevor Brooking
Tony Carr and I played together in West Ham’s Youth Team back in the early ’60s and were extremely fortunate to come under the influence of two outstanding coaches – Ron Greenwood and John Lyall. Their training methods and philosophy created and reinforced West Ham’s renowned reputation for playing entertaining and skilful football.
I enjoyed myself so much I stayed at the club throughout my 19-year playing career. Tony’s playing days were cut short by injury, but he was quickly persuaded to retain his close ties with the club, and to continue to develop the up-and-coming stars of the future. I joined West Ham in 1965, just after they had won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, following their FA Cup success the previous year.
World Cup glory was to come in 1966, and the Hammers trio of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were to play a prominent part in the historic campaign. West Ham’s style of play required all team members to have the basic skills of good control, which naturally included the right kicking and passing techniques.
Youngsters today have far greater distractions and alternatives to football, which means we must make significant changes if our national game is not to languish behind the rest. It is these basic skills that have suffered more than anything since my younger days, as now football must compete with television, videos, computer games and numerous alternative sports.
Although individuals can be born with natural skills, it is only regular practice that provides the necessary technique to play the game well. I believe the younger you start, the better. The years from the ages of five to eight are absolutely vital because youngsters are totally receptive to everything you tell them, and they have not developed any bad habits. They can be taught the correct techniques for kicking and control, while also being encouraged to use both feet. Early football experience, during the primary school period up to the age of 11, is another crucial period.
Throughout this time the emphasis should be placed on football being fun and something to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, a good deal of the junior football played in this age group is not undertaken
by schools but by well-meaning parents. Too much emphasis is placed on winning at all costs, and quite frequently the “shouts” from the sidelines are more of a hindrance than a help. Youngsters do make mistakes, which sometimes cost goals, but at that age they are on a learning curve and should not have their spirit and enthusiasm extinguished.