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The list of contributing factors appears endless: the relative age eff ect, early and late developers, growth, maturation, lifestyle, competiveness, composure and confi dence are just a few that we discuss. Also, does the player fi t the style and system of a particular coach or club? And, crucially, are they getting the opportunity? Rigg stresses that patience and perseverance are also underestimated issues in the complex plot.


“We’re quick to bring young players in and then quickly write them off . There’s a body of evidence out there that if we write an individual off at 16, for example, they drop out of the game. Unless they have that grit and determination then they might be lost from the game and that player may have not yet reached their true potential.”


Ahead of the tournament Rigg speaks of ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in analysing England’s prospective opposition. Dossiers and databases will be compiled for Roy Hodgson’s coaching staff and performance analyst Andy Scoulding to utilise.


Watching opposition players and teams with a specifi c focus on potential weaknesses is something Rigg believes is one of football’s marginal gains.


If creating a new qualifi cations structure for the talent identifi cation industry wasn’t enough, Rigg also has the small matter of a summer football tournament in Brazil to occupy his mind. His new remit includes aligning talent identifi cation processes for both the men’s and women’s national teams at all age groups as well as co-ordinating opposition analysis.


“The England players of 2022 are the twelve, thirteen and fourteen year olds of today. We have to try and look at the players in those age groups and assess what their potential is, not what their performance is today”


“For example we’ve looked at how diff erent players and teams defend against Luis Suarez. If we come up against him, we’ll have a profi le of what his strengths and weaknesses are.


“In a lot of other sports we talk about marginal games, our marginal gain is that there might just be one little aspect of his game that is a chink in his armour.


“Does he like to turn a certain way,


are there certain areas he doesn’t like to go into? He’s incredibly intelligent at drawing the foul so how do teams play against that?


Fortunately for Rigg, Brazil isn’t completely foreign territory. He has travelled extensively in South America and describes the World Cup host country as an ‘incredible place’. However, when he made his fi rst trip to South America he wasn’t the fi rst English football man expecting to be met by a carnival of unstructured beach and street soccer. Rigg explains that what he found was quite the opposite.


“I absolutely wrongly went there thinking it was going to be quite unstructured and chaotic, with beach soccer and football in the Favela’s, and it was anything but.


“Football there was very sophisticated, organised and structured and some of the academies and facilities they had, especially in the youth systems, are amongst some of the best I’ve seen."


Rigg will lead the scouting operation in South America whilst also overseeing the output of an analytical support hub at St.George’s Park.


“When the World Cup is on we’ve got to scout our immediate opposition. To back that up we’re also going to have an analytical hub based at St. George’s Park, where we will be analysing statistical and video information on all the players and teams in order to compile more detailed information.


“When you’re at a live game you miss so much information. You cannot see everything. So to back that up the hub at St.George’s Park will be complementing everything we will be seeing live."


“Two of the best players I’ve seen play against him earlier in the season were Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar. It’s a really tough one because of Suarez’s game intelligence."


Rigg stresses that the outcomes from the tournament scouting operation will have a much wider eff ect.


“The wider aspect of the work is how we can compile a report which we can use throughout the game and feedback into coach education and The FA Youth Coach Educator programme who are working with professional clubs. The report will look at current and hopefully future trends of the game."


Mike Rigg joined The FA in 2014 as Head of Talent Identifi cation and has been tasked with overseeing and aligning talent identifi cation at all England age groups, coordinating opposition analysis and devising a talent identifi cation


pathway. Formerly technical director at Manchester


City, he has been credited as playing a pivotal role in bringing some of the world’s top players to the Premier League, most notably Yaya Toure, David Silva and Mario Balotelli.


Alongside his time at the Etihad, Rigg’s CV includes spells as technical director at the Welsh FA and Queen’s Park Rangers, academy manager at Sheffi eld Wednesday and chief scout at Blackburn Rovers.


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