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Football Association ‘ups ante’ as it tries to keep ex-England players in football


Nigel Clough made 14 appearances for England and has since managed Burton (twice), Derby and Sheffield United

Only one manager in England’s top two leagues has won a full England cap – Burton’s Nigel Clough.

Ten years ago that number was seven, 20 years ago it was nine.

By comparison, 10 former Spain internationals are managing in the top two leagues in their homeland, while seven former Italy players are doing so in Serie A and B.

In Germany and France, the equivalent figures are three and two respectively.

At a time when Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who both gained more than 100 England caps, have just retired, and Ashley Cole, another centurion, is reaching the end of his playing career, the Football Association wants to show there are ways of staying in the game other than the media – and not all of them involve managing.

What is the FA doing?

It rejects as an “urban myth” the notion it is now offering a fast track into management for former England players.

Instead, it creates bespoke programmes that help candidates understand what becoming a coach means – and work out whether it will be something they enjoy.

The FA has also got rid of the ad-hoc method of selecting candidates to study for a Pro Licence, without which you cannot manage at senior level.

Now, in addition to an application form, those hopeful of being selected must submit a video of their coaching philosophy, then attend a two-day assessment centre for psychometric and profiling tests across nine areas deemed to be leadership attributes, including working under pressure. Those who fail can reapply after 12 months but only if they show tangible proof of development.

“Word is getting out across the game that we have upped the ante,” says FA head of education Chris Earle.

But the FA’s programmes are not just focused on players going into management.

It says there are between 400 and 500 first-team coaching positions and 1,800 in the academy system in the professional game.

Former England captain Gerrard, for example, is taking his first steps towards an intended management career by working as an academy coach at Liverpool.

“We are not saying ‘forget those 80 caps’, or however many it is,” said Earle.

“What we are trying to find out is how well they communicate, how well would they manage in that complicated environment when you are surrounded by noise from the doctors, the physios and the talent ID people. How do you process all the information and still make good decisions?”

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What do former players say?

Trevor Sinclair, who won 12 caps and played at the 2002 World Cup, is going through the same Uefa A Licence course as former England team-mate Paul Scholes. He is also a regular pundit on Match of the Day.

Sinclair, who spent a year as assistant coach at non-league Lancaster City,