PAUL Bodin believes the Football Association’s new youth development guidelines are a sensible course of action as English football looks to fall in line with the rest of Europe.
The FA’s shareholders yesterday voted 87 per cent in favour of proposals to bring in a new player pathway for football in this country - including a mandatory five-a-side format for under sevens and under eights and a nine-a-side format for under 11s and under 12s.
The new policy, which will also feature smaller pitches to emphasise the need for individual quality and skill in close quarters, will become a permanent fixture across the English game by 2014/15.
And youth team manager Bodin, whose youngsters at Swindon Town are already subject to similar measures, is fully in favour of the move.
“Going from playing nine-a-side to 11-a-side can be quite a dramatic change and it is not necessarily a benefit for our young players to be using full size pitches too young,” he told the Advertiser.
“To go from a 60 by 40 pitch to a 110 by 70 is a big jump, and we’ve been using the intermediate pitches for many of our age groups for a while to help.
“Nutty (Jeremy Newton, Centre of Excellence director) works closely with the Football League criteria and everything that comes along with the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan), which is also a big part of all this changing.
“It’s been something we’ve been working towards and something that should be good for the game.
“The main thing we’re trying to do is, when players start playing football, they have more touches of the ball and learn to feel what it’s like to caress the ball.
“Sometimes we’ve been guilty of our players just learning to kick it and not learning what to do in certain situations, whether you’re one on one or anything else.
“We’re different to other countries like that and this should help give players the chance to learn how to beat the opposition player and what to do in certain situations where perhaps they weren’t so sure before.”
While the change of methods may require some getting used to for clubs up and down the country, Town are one step ahead - having already employed the techniques for several years.
And that is proof enough that Bodin and his team are behind the new guidelines.
“These proposals get bandied out to clubs and we’ve had the guidelines sent out to us about them before,” he said.
“We’ve been using these sorts of proposals for a couple of years and we’ve had to comply with the rules and regs.
“So we’ve been moving towards this anyway, it won’t be a massive change.”
Nick Levett, national development manager at the FA, said: “After 138 roadshows nationwide it was fantastic to get the endorsement of the majority of the grassroots football community.
“These changes are a massive step forward for the future of children’s football in this country.”