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JOHN OWENS - PLAYING WITH NUMBERS

“Gary, recently, I sent this email to (some associates) I get so fed up listening to coaches at the clubs that I visit talking about "the number 6" or the "number 10" instead of talking positions and giving some real detail about each player's strengths. In an interview with one of the coaches, he said that he did not have a proper centre-forward so he plays ‘two nine-and-a halves’. ( 2 x 9½ ). Of course, we know what he means but please join me in my attempt to rid our game of this crazy habit of assigning numbers to roles in a team. Maybe we could have the courses and our assessments to try to stop coaches talking (silly). I can’t do it by myself. So, instead of a 9 and a 10 coaches want to have two 9½s. No need for a calculator here. Maybe if we play without wingers 7 and 11, we can have two 9s. Get it ?  7 + 11 = 18 = 9 + 9. It would get a bit crowded if we already had a proper number 9 to start with, so three number 9s in all. Very attacking line-up. Or the 7 and 11 could make three 6s – no that would mean that we would have 12 players on the field. Ok, I will stop there, but I am sure you can see that there are lots of other combinations that are just as stupid as having two 9½s, just as daft as always calling the holding midfielder as the number 6, or the midfield play-maker as the 10. Can we only have one play-maker per team ? Remember when Argentina won the World Cup with Osvaldo Ardiles at Number 1. I loved that. Before squad numbers came in, at Liverpool we had a centre-back who wore the number 4 shirt but played as a number 5. How terrible. So confusing !! Steve Heighway wore number 9 as a left-winger, sorry, as a number 11. Ray Kennedy wore number 5 at left-midfield. And there’s more, lots more. Let's describe players by talking about what they do, the skills they have and emphasize their potential. So if we select a player in midfield then let's not trap him/her into just being a defensive midfielder (as if they cannot attack!) or a play-maker (as if they are unable to defend!). Particularly with young players learning the game, let's keep all options open. They are all players. Let’s keep numbers where they should be – on the back of the shirt to identify the players for the observers who don’t know who the players are. Not proper fans. That's the main bit of the email. It really does annoy me”

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John Owens is one of the most respected and experienced person in the world of youth soccer.  After 19 years coaching Liverpool Football Club in the English Premier League he is currently one of the main technical auditors ‘Doublepass’ for US Soccer preforming audits/grading performance of MLS & US Soccer Development Academies. Previously he audited the English Premier League (EPL) and all 94 English Football Academies, evaluating & ranking them into 4 categories in order to positively impact the development of home-grown talent. Doublepass is also the independent audit form for the Belgian, German and Finnish Leagues. John as a former Academy Manager/Coach at Liverpool F.C was Winner FA Youth Cup '06 & '07; England U16 coach '95-'97; England 'C' team coach '97-'01. He possesses a UEFA 'A' License; FA Academy Manager's License; FA youth Coach's Award.  At Liverpool FC and England he coached European Football of the Year Michael Owen overseeing his ascendency from youth to first team to World Cup wonder. He also coached UEFA Champions League winning captain & England captain Steven Gerrard as well as Jamie Carragher, Manchester United’s  Wes Brown and Chelsea’s Joe Cole. John was at Liverpool FC between 1991-2011 in the capacity of Assistant Academy Manager (note manager means ‘coach’ in the UK) for U9-U14 age range; 5 years as Youth Team Coach U19/U18’s winning the FA Youth Cup 2006 and 2007 in the final two years as Youth Team Coach, then 4 years as Academy Manager 2007-11.