The way in which Owen Hargreaves’ career was viciously consumed by injury, has cast one of the real black marks over English football in recent times. The common supporter may not have held any emotional burden for Hargreaves’ potential financial loss, but the sight of seeing a brilliant footballer deprived the opportunity to ply his trade, is an eternally sad sight.
But with the news that the Football Association is set to fast-track Hargreaves through their coaching system, supporters and ex-players have sprung a universal delight in seeing one of the better English midfielders of the past ten years, offered a route back into the game.
Yet as bizarre as it may seem, any potential shortcuts that the FA are set to offer to the ex-Bayern Munich midfielder, are just as likely to maintain the current gloomy status quo over English football, as any other the governing body’s recent failings. Owen Hargreaves shouldn’t be fast tracked in any shape or form.
Such a statement may seem initially devoid of thought and aimed simply to incite a furious response in the comments column, but there is substantial weight to the argument.
No one can deny the attributes of Owen Hargreaves as a professional footballer. Versatile, technically gifted and productive on the ball, Hargreaves résumé boasts four Bundesliga titles, two Champions League medals and a Premier League title. Despite being booed by England supporters when he came on for Joe Cole against Paraguay at the 2006 World Cup, Hargreaves emerged as England’s player of the year. There is no doubt that a player of his quality and experience on the continent, would be a real asset as a coach.
In fact, there is still no solid guarantees that Hargreaves has indeed packed it in as a pro, but the signs are certainly pointing to a curtain call. The journey of how Hargreaves went from one of England’s finest midfielders, to having to contemplate a career in coaching aged 31, have been disputed. But the man himself believes that the broken leg he sustained whilst playing for Bayern Munich in late 2006, set him off on a slippery slope of decline that ended up in debilitating patellar tendinitis.
And when a man such as Dr. Richard Steadman, the renowned knee surgeon who salvaged Ruud van Nistlerooy and Roy Keane’s careers, said Hargreaves’ knees were amongst the worse he’d ever seen, the writing may well have been on the wall for the Canadian born star. It is expected that Hargreaves will call time on his career this summer.
But for all his credentials in a shortened, but still silverware ladened career, Hargreaves shouldn’t be given any shortcuts as a potential coach. Especially not in a touted role that holds the weight of importance as one at the new English footballing hub up in Burton. Because the legacy of such decisions are more than partly responsible for the state in which English football currently finds itself.
Football in this country has been living for too long with the philosophy that those who played the game must know how to coach it just as well. In the footballing world of today, nothing could possibly be more incorrect.
You may be an award winning rocket scientist with a mantle full of prestigious awards for your work. But just because you’re an expert proponent in sonic propulsion, it doesn’t mean that you are going to be any good at teaching kids GCSE science. Teaching something is not the same as doing it.
And as odd as it sounds, the concept of teaching kids how to play football isn’t any different. The speed of children’s physical development, the education of tactical acumen and the implementation of sports nutrition; it doesn’t matter how many Bundesliga titles you win, you have to learn about this sort of stuff in the same way that an FA qualified coach would have to. Owen Hargreaves should be no different- there is no element of coaching education that he should be bypassing.
In Spain, there is simply no way they would entertain letting someone like Xavi skip an element of their coaching regimes. The education of their coaches has played a massive part in the current abundance of technically gifted youngsters that are flying out of every corner of Spain. The likes of Paul Ince, Gareth Southgate and even Steve Bruce were all given coaching jobs before completing all of their coaching badges. The concept simply wouldn’t have been entertained abroad. The legacy of such a stubborn rejection of these coaching principles, is apparent in the failure of the national team in Kiev last night. It affects the game at every single level.
Owen Hargreaves has the capacity to be a superb coach, but he has to take the same route as everyone else. If he can compliment his own skill and experiences with the necessary coaching education, then he could well prove to be a real asset at St. Georges Park.
Glenn Hoddle was one of the best players England ever had, but the stories of him running ball-drills as England manager in which his own players struggled to outperform him, serve as the perfect anecdote. We must stop valuing experience over education, for the good of football in this country. Owen Hargreaves shouldn’t be fast-tracked through anything.
How do you feel about Owen Hargreaves touted coaching career? Does his status as an ex-pro give him special dispensation? Or should he have to go down the same road as everyone else? Let me know how you feel, follow @samuel_antrobus on Twitter and get involved.