MARK CATLIN believes England can re-establish themselves as one of football’s powerhouse nations – but only through major investment at grassroots level.
The Three Lions exited the World Cup at the group stage last night for the first time since 1958.
Two defeats in their opening fixtures against Italy and Uruguay – plus surprise Costa Rica victories over England’s Group D conquerors – ensured an early return home for Roy Hodgson’s men.
The national side’s shortcomings at this year’s tournament and failure to stamp their authority on major championships has reopened the debate on how England can improve their record on the big stage.
Prior to this year’s World Cup, Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke proposed the introduction of a new ‘League Three’ for Premier League B teams that would sit beneath League Two.
The concept was designed to allow young players to compete against each other in an elite environment and progress towards first-team football and, ultimately, the international side.
These proposals were, however, rejected by Football League clubs at their recent AGM, with Pompey chief executive Catlin leading the fight.
Speaking to The News, Catlin, who spent three years as president of Club Deportivo Jávea – a side operating in the regional section of the Spanish system which Dyke’s report was based upon – originally labelled the plans an ‘abomination’.
And to rectify England’s standing on the world stage, he believes the focus should be on investing in the grassroots game with the government’s help.
‘For all my anti-B-team proposal views, I do appreciate that the FA, under Greg Dyke, are trying to do something,’ said Catlin.
‘He has had a lot of criticism but at least he has had the courage to put his head above the parapet and try to make substantial changes.
‘I disagree with him but there is a lot more in the FA Commission report in regards to coaching and grassroots football that is right – but it costs money.
‘And if we want to progress, then the billions of pounds paid to the government in revenue in this country by football clubs needs to come back into the sport at grassroots level by way of coaching, facilities and participation.
‘If we do that, I’m convinced we can go on in the next 10, 15, 20 years and be a key performer on the world stage again.
‘If not, we are going to continue to get left behind by the rest of the world.’
Overlooking it’s league structure, Catlin does believe English football can learn something from its Spanish counterparts – who also departed the World Cup at the group stages.
He added: ‘In terms of the higher level of coaching – Uefa A, B and pro licences – the Spanish outnumber us 10 to one in coaches. That’s embarrassing.’