News began to emerge from Wembley today that the Football Association is lining up a new Technical Director. The role, familiar to sports fans in the United States in particular, is one that represents a gaping hole in the FA’s planning and plotting for the future of English football, and especially for the national team.
According to The Telegraph the FA’s current Head of Elite Development, Gareth Southgate, is the favourite for the job, which raises rather an obvious question: is this a new role (leaving Southgate’s to be re-filled) or a repositioning? There are merits to either route, but one can’t help but think a promotion for Southgate and a team built underneath him provides a solid start to the rebuilding of England’s future. That assumes a fundamental willingness to change, of course.
The FA last had a permanent technical director as far back as 2002, and he was the only one they’ve ever employed. That man was Howard Wilkinson, who was replaced in a caretaker capacity for the next two years by Les Reed. Les Reed! Only the best for England.
I’ve made no secret since his involvement with the Football Association that I like Southgate. I don’t think we really share a future vision, as such, but he dedicates plenty of time to studying football at home and abroad, and he understands that we as a football nation need to embrace a more enlightened approach to the coaching of young players. His new role clearly has an impact on that type of reform, so if becoming Technical Director gives him a better share of the ear of Trevor Brooking, and more sway over the FA’s leading lights, it can’t be a bad thing.
One of the technical director’s key challenges will be the administration of the controversial Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which makes all the usual noises about furthering the fortunes of the national team but looks to cynics like me to be suspiciously weighted in favour of the big clubs. Southgate backed EPPP on Twitter when it attracted a lot of early criticism.
This is certainly a line to keep an eye on, not just because it is the resuscitation of what should be an important role, or because it hints at the direction to be taken at St George’s Park, but because the FA is again demonstrating its faith in an intelligent and relatively young former pro. With a role that gives him the responsibility for overseeing important parts of what will hopefully one day become “the England way”, the former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender could be about to step into one of the most significant jobs in English football.