When the people of the future find TSC‘s rotted remains in a shallow post-apocalyptic grave and bluetooth the contents of the black box directly into their giant, throbbing brainpods, this week should prove confusing. Wednesday: Gareth Southgate’s manifesto for the future of children’s football and its long-term effect on the national team.
Friday: Gareth Southgate has left his position as the Football Association’s Head of Elite Development, and no longer wishes to be considered for the role of Technical Director.
Although the official Football Association statement is coy about the reasons behind Southgate’s departure, one can only assume from the timing that either something has gone horrendously wrong at Wembley, or Southgate has been offered a role elsewhere as a manager. After just 18 months in the job, with St George’s Park only just launched and the Technical Director job seemingly very much in his future, it’s surprising and not a little disappointing to see him move on.
From the statement’s quote in the name of FA General Secretary Alex Horne, it’s clear that Southgate is the driving force behind his own leaving:
“Gareth has made an outstanding contribution in supporting Sir Trevor Brooking and myself across various aspects of our football development work over the last 18 months. We’re disappointed, but understand his decision and would like to thank Gareth for his efforts and wish him well for the future. We continue to recruit for key technical positions within The FA at what is a very important and exciting time for the organisation, with the imminent opening of our new training centre at St. George’s Park.”
It doesn’t appear from the statement as if Southgate has been given an indication that he wouldn’t be the new Technical Director. Indeed, his good work seems as if it has been recognised and will be missed by those in the corridors of power at the national stadium. As a supporter of his efforts, I hope his new job turns out to be a real doozy, otherwise this has to be seen as a damaging development for the FA.
As an England supporter I hope this can be taken at face value and it’s just a standard job move, inspired by all the usual motivators and not by any problems or conflicts at England HQ. Southgate’s presumably calculated and sterilised comments don’t point in that direction. If anything, they almost edge towards the end of a project in finalising St George’s Park:
“I’d like to place on record just how much I’ve enjoyed working at The FA over the past 18 months. It really has been an honour and a pleasure. Hopefully, I have been able to play some part in delivering important changes to the way children play at the youngest levels. It has also been a tremendous experience to work on the delivery of St. George’s Park.
The FA is heading in the right direction in terms of developing more, better coaches and players at all levels of the game under the leadership of David Bernstein, Alex Horne and Sir Trevor Brooking. I would like to thank them for their support throughout my time with the organisation.”
Southgate’s resignation, amicable though it may be, puts the FA in a bit of a situation. In addition to rebooting its search for the first Technical Director in a decade (assuming Southgate was indeed in line for the post), David Bernstein and Horne must now directly replace Southgate with a new Head of Elite Development, a role that sounds grand and has the potential to create real change.
These are two positions that traditionally haven’t really been given the importance they warrant. Elite Development for the FA should act as the vital link between children’s football and the top of the game, putting in place all of the theory and methods required to harness the best of our young talent and gradually ready them for an improved national team. It’s a difficult job, but it’s one worth doing.
One possibility I’d be keen to guard against is giving in to the temptation to appoint one person to do both of these jobs; they do, after all, have some significant overlap. But it’s high time the Football Association committed to this side of the game, and having a dynamic duo to address technical development overall and in the elite category is a great start.