An exploration of young professional football players’ perceptions of the talent development process in England

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Abstract

The identification and development of players in English professional football has become an increasingly significant topic of debate given the historical perceived underperformance of the English national team at international tournaments. To enhance understanding of the challenges and barriers experienced by English youth footballers, the authors explore the developmental experiences of English professional football players from different levels of the English football pyramid. Professional players (N = 11) from football clubs in the top four professional divisions in England took part in individual semi-structured interviews, which were analysed inductively using thematic analysis. The data revealed three interrelated themes that were perceived to mediate player identification and development pathways at professional clubs. Pathways for young players to progress and experience first-team competitive football differed when the level of the league that the players operated within was considered, with significant issues also raised relating to the suitability of the under 21 league structure, the importance attached to the educational welfare of young players, and variations in the identification of player attributes. This study sheds new light on the priorities and processes of talent development and education provision in English football.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalSport Management Review
Early online date3 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Association football
  • Education
  • Soccer
  • Talent development
  • Talent identification

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