Grassroots way forward for England says Waddle

Chris Waddle helps renovate the world's oldest football ground  at Hallam FC to help launch Capital One's grassroots campaign ''Grounds for Improvement.'
Chris Waddle helps renovate the world's oldest football ground at Hallam FC to help launch Capital One's grassroots campaign ''Grounds for Improvement.'
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Former Sheffield Wednesday winger Chris Waddle fears for the future of the national team - unless drastic steps are taken to give more support to grassroots football.

Waddle, capped more than 60 times by the Three Lions between 1985 and 1991, is worried at the lack of top talent coming through. In his eyes, not enough cash is trickling down to grassroots level.

The 52-year-old, a regular media pundit, said: “The Football Association and the Premier League have got to come together and the players union should have a say too as grassroots football needs more investment. I look at the way clubs are blowing money in the Premier League and it is absolutely astonishing.

“The money that has come into English football over the last 10 years just gets thrown around like it is confetti to the big boys.

“We keep hearing about all these high-profile players saying that grassroots football is getting worse and needs help. Well, let’s do something about it. It is not about wasting money. You look at how much the Premier League generates every season. You wonder where it goes.”

Waddle has a radical suggestion.

“Premier League clubs should donate two to four million a year to their local areas,” he said. “Why have they got so much money? It is absolutely ridiculous. We are getting players in from all over the world and paying them unbelievable wages and it is grassroots and the English game that suffers.

“We have got to look to improve the national game in Britain. Capital One are helping out with grassroots funding but more needs to be done because it is so important to the community.”

Waddle, who enjoyed a successful career at Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspurs, Marseille and with the Owls, feels the growing number of foreign players in the top flight is depriving domestic talent of first-team football. Would a quota system work?

“Premier League clubs get kids in aged 13 to 14 from abroad,” he said. “Whatever rules are put in place, they will find a way of breaking them.

“What I am worried about is when Steven Gerrard stops playing. Who have we got coming through? I don’t see anyone replacing him.

“If we are going to find the next Gerrard, we have got to invest in grassroots. That’s the only way forward.”

Better facilities are required across the board if England are to become a main player on the world stage again, according to Waddle.

He said: “I went to Sweden a couple of months ago and visited a decent sized town which had about 24 football pitches. Goalposts were left overnight and there was no security. You would go back the next day and it is all immaculate.

“The club get funded. They make their own money as well but they see that you need facilities.

“If the pitches are not good and not looked after, it encourages people to launch the ball. That is not going to win England a tournament.”

It has been 17 years since England last reached the semi-finals of a major tournament and Waddle has written off their chances of lifting the World Cup in Brazil next year.

He said: “Roy [Hodgson] has done a good job. He should pick a team who he thinks will win the tournament. We may get a really hard qualifying group because we are not seeded.

“Brazil is different. The grass is a bit quicker. It is going to be warm. No European team has ever won in South America so we are bang up against it anyway. You look at Spain, Germany, Holland. All those teams are above us. We have got nothing to lose.

“England are not the best team going into the tournament. I think Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain will be the favourites.”

If England are to be successful in a knock-out competition, Waddle believes they have got to be less direct and focus more on ball retention.

“We have got to change the way we play,” he said. “We have got to play from the back. There have got to be rules set out by coaches.

“Everyone raves about Barcelona and rightly so. Why can’t we play like that? If you start playing that style at the age of seven, eight or nine, you can play like that. If you play that style, you have got more chance of going further in major tournaments.

“People say we nearly won in 1990 when I played but we didn’t. Apart from 1990, what have we done since? Nothing. We have got to three quarter-finals. No disrespect, but with the money we generate as a country we should be going to tournaments looking to do better than that.”

n Chris Waddle was at Hallam FC to launch “Grounds for Improvement” from Capital One, offering one grassroots ground the chance to win a makeover worth up to £75,000. Visit