Brent Hills talks to TheFA.com ahead of an important Winter training camp in La Manga.
England head to La Manga today for a Winter Training camp ahead of another big year for the squad.
After securing maximum points from their first three World Cup qualifiers and a place at the Finals a strong possibility, Hope Powell and her coaching staff are already looking beyond China 2007.
If The Three Lions are to continue their development and close the gap on the traditional superpowers of the women’s game, Assistant Head Coach Brent Hills told TheFA.com that “a conveyor belt of talent” is required.
With an average age at Euro 2005 of just 22, and the likes of teenagers Lianne Sanderson, Sarah Snare and Jill Scott included in the travelling party of 30 players to La Manga, Hills is confident that this talent is beginning to emerge in the domestic game.
“Over the past ten years or so, the likes of Germany and the USA have been dominant on the world stage because they have had a nucleus of very experienced players, and then at major tournaments been able to blood one or two younger players” said Brent.
When Eniola Aluko and Karen Carney combined for the final goal in England’s first Euro 2005 warm-up game against Italy last February, it signalled the breakthrough of two talented young teenagers into the senior squad reckoning.
The same two players of course memorably went on to combine for the dramatic WOMEN’S EURO 2005 winner against Finland.
“The week long trip in Spain will enable us to work on a very intensive range of training, fitness and tactical sessions” added Brent, “and for the younger players, it is a chance for Hope and myself to see how they handle the environment.”
As Head Coach of the U21s, Brent has seen how England have narrowed the gap at youth level, whilst at the same time the team has in Hills’ words “re-invigorated “ the likes of Casey Stoney , who as one of the over-age players selected, captained the team with aplomb in last July’s U21 Nordic Cup.
“As a football player, there is nothing more motivating than looking at the bench and knowing that if you don’t do your job, someone else can” said Brent.
“Football is a competitive game and at international level players can never afford to be complacent. The younger players are improving all the time, and it is a pleasing result of the work put in by a lot of people at The FA, but importantly at club level too.”
“Our development pathway is based on scientific principles, allied with vital tournament experience. You can try and replicate different playing styles on the training ground, but you can only see how players adapt and take on board what they’ve learnt when they come up against the test for real.”
With three friendlies to come before England face their next World Cup qualifier at home to France on March 26, the possibility of another talented youngster breaking into the squad is not discounted by Brent.
“When you look at the average age of successful tournament winning squads in the women’s game, it is always about 26 or 27, and our average age is obviously much younger.
“For the established internationals, the challenge is to always find out whether they still have the same level of motivation for the game; it’s not about getting there, but staying there.
“The younger players will get every support they need, and the opportunities are there for those who want it most.”