This article seeded the launch of GROI as ex. Premier League player, Matthew Piper (Leicester City and Sunderland) and grass roots coach Ian Bannister came together to agree on the number 1 problem with football in this country...



I hear screamed for the umpteenth time as I snake my way between pitches of eight year old boys, apparently playing ‘our beautiful game!’ The time is 10:30am on the morning of which my beloved, but has to be said, unflattering, uninspiring and downright average national team England are to play Italy in the European championship quarter final in Kiev.

Dodging screaming parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and not forgetting the three managers/coaches each team now have at these age groups, strategically placed around the pitch, barking orders and commands for their players to adhere to.

I finally arrive at my sought out destination (pitch 8b) having navigated all the chaos of what has become children’s Sunday morning football. My eldest boy,  Brandan is playing for a team on this pitch, within two seconds of me being there, he receives the ball half turned, immediately takes his first touch away from pressure, side steps an opponent with his second and third touch ( Lionel Messi like) my heart fills with pride and a great appreciation for a developing young footballer. He’s still moving forward with wonderful balance and grace with the football and……………………… ‘PASS IT, PASS THE BALL!!’ Is bellowed from the far touchline and almost as an echo reverberating back, yet different words and from the near touchline, I distinctly hear yelled, ‘BRING HIM DOWN!’

Welcome to the world of children’s grass roots football ladies and gentlemen, where all we seem to be interested in as parents and coaches is ‘WINNING’ and winning at all costs and no interest whatsoever in the development of young footballers and their continued enjoyment in participating in this wonderful game.

Take the title of this article for instance, I hear that statement shouted more times in the vicinity of a children’s football match than any other. I am often asked why we as a nation are way behind other countries at national level and I always refer back to that very statement:- ‘GET RID OF IT!’

In this country we are producing panic ridden players and this panic begins to reside in these individuals at shockingly early ages. A young boy/girl is playing down the park with Mum/Dad having a kick around with a football, really enjoying themselves and could be showing a natural ability with a ball at their feet. Starts playing at school, in the back garden, on the streets with friends, in the living room with the door through to the dining room as a goal (me and my brother, when we were kids) these kids are yet to be spoilt by the ugly side of grass roots football.

The next step for these youngsters is to join a team and apparently further educate themselves through competitive game play and matches. Which in most cases could not be further from the truth, they begin to hear phrases like KICK IT OUT, GET IT UP THERE, BRING HIM DOWN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, THATS NOT GOOD ENOUGH, PASS IT PASS IT, and the number one phrase that is used most frequently on our parks and pitches around the country………………..


WOW, we really should be ashamed of ourselves

Take Pirlo ( Italian play maker ) for instance, a picture of calm and relaxed grace when receiving a ball from an Italian centre half 10 yards from his own penalty area with three England players so close he could feel their breath on his neck, did he panic?  Ha ha, don’t be so silly, he calmly took his first touch away from pressure,  jinked left and then right, pirouetted delightfully on the ball between them with a cool confident arrogance and sprayed a 50 yard ball into Mario Ballotelli’s chest.

The question I have to ask myself is, if Pirlo was Peter and was born in England and he came through our grass roots football structure, would he be the same player?

And every time I would have to answer with a categorical ‘NO!’ and the reasoning for my answer, I hear you ask…

When we all first start to play the beautiful game and the ball is at our feet, under our control, panic will not be a feeling we encounter. You’re down the park with your Dad (or Mum), who plays you the ball, you can hear, see or feel your brother applying pressure to try and rob you of the ball, is my first feeling panic? Or a little excitement and a small burst of joyful adrenaline in the task of keeping the ball from him.

Whether that be using my body to protect the ball or using a turn I have seen or made up to take the ball away from pressure or simply playing the ball back to where it has come from and altering my position to try and create some space to receive the ball again.

I feel those three situations in keeping possession of a football, in any circumstance would come far more naturally than the feeling of panic and hoofing the ball away, to get rid of it.

This panic only begins to set in when we join a team and you take your first touch and before your second touch your being barked orders on what to do with the ball next, where to play it, what to do with it or if you have received the ball in a so called dangerous position the old favourite rears its ugly head.. ‘GET RID OF IT!’

Would the likes of Pirlo, Ronaldo, Messi … ETC be hearing these terms and negative comments when growing up and developing their talents in their prospective counties?

I think not.

We are unfortunately creating a culture of robotic players that end up not thinking for themselves and being unable to work out problems on the field in real time because they are use to being told what to do, where to run, who to pass to, when to pass, where to shoot from,when to kick it out and so on, not to mention all the negativity surrounding these pitches I witness daily.

Young boys and girls frightened to express themselves in matches and training through fear of losing the ball to the opposition or doing something the parents or coach will not be happy with. We as parents and coaches are creating the panic I have spoken of, with the comments and negative outbursts we blurt out from pitch side.

Let the children play, allow our beautiful game to be the teacher, let us back off a little and allow the children an unspoilt insight to competitive game play because to them its just a game that should be enjoyed. To keep their desire high, we as adults need to keep it fun!! Because any child that continually hears negative comments or is constantly being told what to do when a ball is at their feet, will soon begin to lose that desire.

A study in the USA was undertaken on how best to stop your child becoming a couch potato and playing video games 24/7 and results determined the best way was for the parents to learn the child’s favourite game as well as possible and then ask to play the child at that particular game and beat them at it, over and over again and all the time reiterating how bad they are at the game for how much they play it and research has shown that the child will soon lose interest in spending all their time playing the computer game, and yet that is all we are doing at grass root level in a lot of circumstances in this country. Constantly relaying a negative feed of disappointment and highlighting mistakes. Then scratching our heads and coming up with far more elaborate excuses of why we are so far behind other countries at international level.

Like the old poem Children learn what they live (by Dorothy Law Nolte) reads :-

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Next time you go to bellow a negative comment at a youngster’s football match, just try and remember the concept of the poem above and hopefully it will allow you to think twice before harming a child’s further development in our beautiful game.