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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 14, 2008

England need better youth policy, Ardiles says

BROXBOURNE, England, Feb 14 (Reuters) - As one of the first high-profile overseas footballers to play in England, Ossie Ardiles is in a unique position to comment on the difficulties now facing the English game.

England have real problems to overcome if they are ever to seriously challenge for the World Cup again, the Argentine says.

'I don't think it is a question of Fabio Capello waving a magic wand and making England great again. I don't think it matters if it is an English or a foreign manager in the job,' 1978 World Cup winner Ardiles said.

'If he does a good job he is going to be loved, like Jack Charlton was in Ireland. It doesn't matter who the England manager is. I think the problems are much, much deeper than just changing the manager.

'The real problem is...the development of young players. Why are there not enough good English players, Under-23 Under-21, Under-19, whatever you want to call it?' said Ardiles, who has coached in England, Japan, the Middle East and South America since his glittering playing career ended.

'When was the last time England won a world championship at that level? If you check the records, probably not more than once or twice in the last 40 or 50 years.

'Do England players lack a football gene? Do they have a deficiency? I don't think so. So it must be in the development, it is obvious. For me that is the answer.'

The influx of foreign players was not to blame, said Ardiles, who was back in England with former Tottenham Hotspur team mate Ricardo Villa.

'The responsibility of the Premier League clubs is to have the best team possible; it doesn't matter if they are English, Argentine, Nigerian,' he said.

'The people who have the real responsibility for England are the FA but who is the top manager in the youth set-up in England? In that position should be one of the best managers in the world who should be paid accordingly because these are the future World Cup champions.

'It is as simple as that. But for far, far too long, when Ricky and I arrived, in the '70s, and the early '80s, it was Charles Hughes...the long ball game.

'He was the one who said Brazil got it wrong. If you had someone like that in charge it was obvious that England were going to be suffering for a long, long, long time to come. What is needed in England is a kind of revolution in terms of developing youth players.'

The situation was very different in Argentina, he said.

'Look at Argentina, they are going to the Beijing Olympics with players like Riquelme, Mascherano.... Perhaps they'll win it, perhaps they won't, but they will be fighting for it.

Juan Roman Riquelme, 29, and Javier Mascherano, 23, were among the few experienced players picked by Argentina for the first match in their preparations for the defence of the Olympic title in August.

Most of the squad for this month's friendly against Guatemala were young, in keeping with Olympic soccer rules that limit participants to under 23, with three over-age players allowed.

'These are the players who are young now but could be champions of the world in a few years' time,' said Ardiles.

'Look at what happened in France; France was not even a real football country but they looked at the youth set-up and put all their efforts into a system that produced Zinedine Zidane and the others and they became world champions.

'This is exactly what England have to do. England can't even think about winning the World Cup. I would say they should think about qualifying first.'

The arrival in England of Ardiles and Villa, who helped Argentina to win the World Cup in 1978, made headlines and opened the door to the modern era of multi-national club teams.

The world of football had changed since they arrived in London nearly 30 years ago, they said.

'No-one spoke Spanish when we got to Spurs -- now the manager of Spurs is Spanish and the manager of England is an Italian. It is incredible what has happened here in 30 years, unbelievable,' said Ardiles, who maintains a home in his adopted country.

'No other country is like England when it comes to football,' said Villa. 'I'm not recognised in Argentina but in England, everyone recognises me. England is very special like that. I think we were very lucky to come and play in England.'

'No,' laughed Ardiles, 'I believe Tottenham were very lucky to have us.'

Villa, who is no longer actively involved in football but spends his time looking after his ranch in Argentina, 'farming, playing golf and tennis,' was in England to be inducted along with Ardiles into Tottenham's Hall of Fame at a gala dinner.

Villa will forever be remembered for the winning goal he scored in the 1981 FA Cup final replay for Spurs against Manchester City.

The countless television replays of the tall, bearded Argentine weaving his way through the City defence before scoring is the main reason he is still so easily recognised in England today.

'He planned it all,' joked Ardiles. 'He had a bad game in the first match and was taken off so he could come back for the second game and be very dramatic like that. He wanted all the glory. He is very Latin you know, very emotional.'