Martinez backs youth shake-up

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ROBERTO Martinez believes Gareth Southgate is the ideal man to revamp youth development in English football.

And the Wigan manager believes Southgate’s first task should be to scrap 11-a-side fixtures on full-size pitches for kids as young as 11.

Southgate is the FA’s new head of elite development, and the man charged with implementing Sir Trevor Brooking’s new 25-point plan to improve standards in coaching and youth development.

“I feel we’ve got the right person in charge of youth development in Gareth,” Martinez told the Evening Post.

“He’ll bring a lot of good ideas and help restructure the system so that we can help to bring through young players in this country.

“The truth is we desperately need to help our youngsters to be as good as they can be. And I see Gareth as being a person who can take the programme on to another level.”

Part of Southgate’s remit will be to discover why the stars of tomorrow are failing to make it all the way through to the England senior side in the same numbers as the likes of Spain.

And Martinez believes England could do worse than follow the example of his own homeland, where schoolboys are encouraged to concentrate on ball skills rather than their ability to get up and down a field.

“At the age of 11 or 12, you need to have as much touches as possible, and not to be running long distances,” Martinez argued. “You need to be working on one-against-ones in both attack and defence, and learning how to use the ball.

“Kids don’t need to be focusing on winning and losing – kids need to be developing their skills and knowing how to use the ball.

“The smaller the group of players and the smaller the distances involved, the more you develop as a player.”

Martinez believes exposing youngsters to 11-a-side matches from too young an age is detrimental to their long-term development.

“You look at other leagues and countries around the world, who have done a lot of research, and you don’t want to see that,” he added.

“You don’t want to see players touching the ball once every couple of minutes – that’s not how you develop as a player.

“Players need to be constantly involved and constantly active, and touching the ball maybe six times every minute.

“To do that you need smaller numbers, smaller distances, smaller pitches.

“That’s the only way to bring on technical skills in a young player.”