English football is falling behind in youth football standards. Until the "we must win" mentality of youth coaches is eradicated and replaced by a "we must develop" mentality, England will continue to fall behind.
As it stands, England are about a decade behind such countries as Spain and Holland. The English grass-roots game has only just developed 9 vs 9 at under 12s, 7 vs 7 at age 8-11 and 5 vs 5 at under 7. Forms of the game which force the young player to develop a playing style which is unselfish and brings other players into the game. It encourages a passing game so prevelent in the European game but sorely lacking in England and also gives the player freedom to play, with more time on the ball. Learning to control a ball, the basics, must be concentrated on. English players need to realise that it is a 90 minute game, and that it does not need to be rushed.
On the other hand also, encouraging a little selfishness can be beneficial. Did Lionel Messi pass the ball as a child? No, he was good enough to play all by himself aged about 6. If he had been told to pass, maybe he wouldn't have grown into the player he is.
From experience, when I was 7, I fancied myself as a right midfielder. Soon enough, I found that this was not my position. I grew taller than most boys in my team and found that I was more suited to defence. However, at my team, I was not given the chance to develop as the manager was too focussed on winning and not on concentrating on his players needs. Fortunately, I was moved to that team's sister-team in which I was made a key player and given the captain's armband. This new team was not focussed on winning, we were under no illusion, the team was focussed on teamwork, morale and giving everybody a chance. I didn't see that in too many teams around the area. I stayed at the team for nearly a decade before I was forced to stop playing through illness. However, if I could've, I would've carried on. I had been given the foundations to build upon.
Unfortunately, general social conditions in England have got to a stage where kids can no longer go out with a football for fear of predators. Street football has all but disappeared. Countries like Spain have such a relaxed way of life that football and free practise thrive under (they even have a nap in the middle of the day!) and also work very hard, with working hours being generally longer than in England.
Parents also have a huge effect on the way a young player develops by teaching the player to be responsible for his own actions and for his own equipment.
This is not to say that there isn't a place in the game for the long ball. Keeping the ball opens up situations in which the long-ball can be utilised. Teaching young players the patience and discipline to know when that situation arises is what is needed. It is knowing when to play the ball forward and knowing that, if you can't play it, not to, and to consider a backwards pass.
There are 8,000 UEFA B-license coaches in Spain, yet only 1,500 in England, and the majority of those in England coach older players that no longer need development. The FA should concentrate more on the youth development in the country.
Maybe kids should just be allowed to play. The coach should notice which players have picked up what they have been taught and nurture this. There are no mistakes in youth football, only opportunities to learn.
Until the youth game in England is sufficiently evolved, the country will continue to struggle.