Norfolk FA chief Dan Ashworth is in it for the long haul
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima
Norfolk's recently-appointed FA director of elite development Dan Ashworth admits England lag behind the game's global superpowers – but his mission is to bridge the gap.
The ex-Norwich City schoolboy and Wisbech Town stalwart is now leading the FA's attempts from his St George's Park base to play catch up on the likes of European rivals Germany and Spain.
West Brom's former technical director fully expects to be judged on the health of England's senior team, currently under the guidance of his one-time Baggies' ally Roy Hodgson.
'I see my job as giving Roy a bigger and better pool of players so if Wayne Rooney can't play, no problem,' he said. 'My job and the job of everyone at St George's Park – whether you are canteen staff or grassroots coach – is to help England win. It's the NASA thing, isn't it? What's your job? It's to put the man on the moon. When you look back at the likes of Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne, we always would have a series of match-winners in our teams - technical players. Without being disrespectful to our current players, we are now further behind some other nations and we have to make sure that gap decreases. We have to have a more technically-based game and players who are more comfortable on the ball.'
Ashworth, speaking to the Daily Telegraph, is under no illusions over the scale of the task to try and equip England to realistically challenge at major tournaments on a regular basis.
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'We have to change years and years and years of ingrained habits of encouraging children to smash the ball up the pitch, applauding when they smash it further and longer,' he said.
'We have to avoid criticising when children try skills. We have to do this as a nation, do this together. There are 60 million people involved in this: media, supporters, parents, coaches, players, everybody. Do we breed tough individuals as a nation?
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'We have non-competitive sports-days. It's not just football. We can't say this is just a society problem, a technical problem, tactical problem, psychological, physical, tournament or penalties problem. There isn't just one thing preventing us from winning a World Cup. There's no magic wand to win the World Cup. We are looking at everything.'