Director of Elite Development is a grand title. A great responsibility must go with it, especially when it’s England’s football elite that you’re supposed to be developing.
Dan Ashworth is the man with the title, although he’s very lucky to have it and not just because he appears to have risen through the football ranks without a trace.
Following England’s quite pathetic showing in the recent European Under 21 Championships, Ashworth claimed victory in the 2022 World Cup was still the aim.
Ignoring the fact that it’s incredibly convenient to have a ‘goal’ so far in the future, Ashworth also appears to be going about it in a strange way.
He’s handed the development of the Under 21s to Gareth Southgate, a manager notable for taking Middlesbrough out of the Premier League. Maybe Ashworth thought four years out of management might have enabled Southgate to forget how rubbish he was.
Southgate’s Under 21 side breezed through qualification, but flopped at the tournament playing slow-tempo, dull football, but he will keep his job so no wonder he’s laughing.
Ashworth claims to want his coaches to produce players comfortable on the ball in all areas of the pitch which makes his appointment of Aidy Boothroyd as England Under 20 coach even more baffling.
Boothroyd enjoyed success when managing Watford in 2006, but he then started to fall through the divisions, coming close to helping Northampton Town out of the Football League altogether.
Boothroyd may well be a gifted coach whose ‘lump-it forward’ tactic when working for Colchester, Coventry and Cobblers was merely a case of cutting his cloth accordingly. Underneath it all, the next Arsene Wenger could be lurking.
Or Boothroyd may have benefitted from his close personal friendship with Ashworth. The world is full of leaders who would rather work with yes-men than people who might use greater experience, knowledge and wisdom to contradict the chosen philosophy.
The same could be argued about Brendan Rodgers who has just appointed Sean O’Driscoll as his new senior coach at Liverpool despite Bristol City’s rapid improvement once O’Driscoll left.
Obviously given his recent failings, O’Driscoll had been managing England Under 19s.
At least I’d heard of him. The current England Under 18 manager is Neil Dewsnip and until recently a bloke called John Peacock was in charge of the Unders 17s, while Steve Cooper (who?) remains in control at Under 16 level.
No doubt they all worked hard to achieve the relevant qualifications and no doubt they can all deliver brilliant presentations to job interview boards.
There’s also no doubt in my mind that England’s future is in the wrong hands.
Thankfully as no success is required until 2022 there is still time for change.