Tom Byer: Australia should target winning the under-17 World Cup

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The grassroots coach believes a target should be set to help kick start quality youth development

Youth development expert Tom Byer says Australia should target winning FIFA's under-17 World Cup within 10 years as an 'achievable goal' to help improve production of quality young talent.

Currently Australia only has three players playing consistently in Europe's top five leagues, with Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield) and Mat Ryan (Brighton) headline acts at their English Premier League clubs and Mat Leckie (Hertha Berlin) a regular starter in the German Bundesliga.

But the Socceroos 2006 World Cup squad featured 13 players plying their trade at Europe's highest levels including Harry Kewell (Liverpool), Tim Cahill (Everton), Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough) and Mark Bresciano (Parma) - providing evidence the high-class talent being produced today is of less quality.

American-born Byer, speaking at his Football Starts At Home roadshow, believes the goal of winning FIFA's biennial under-17 championship should be set in order to get the ball rolling on producing better players.

"If I was in charge of Australian football development I would set the achievable goal of winning the under-17 World Cup in 10 years time," Byer said.

"Because it's held every two years, it allows for quicker measures of progress than say the senior World Cup.

"This would mean today's six-and seven-year-olds would be the generation to reach the target."

The Japan-based youth guru has been involved in nurturing and producing top-level football talent for 24 years in such regions as his adopted country, China, India and Australia.

He believes football development should be driven by parents and start at the age of two-to-three, not the usual age entry level of six, and that kids should be taught fundamental skills such as ball retention and touch before learning how to kick a ball.

As part of his Football Starts At Home presentation, the 57-year-old documents the progression of football development in his two boys from the age of two until today - with both now stars of their youth teams at nine and 12.

Byer says these kind of results are definitely achievable and pointed to Australia's previous success in youth football as a marker - with the Joeys finishing runner-up in the 1999 under-17 World Cup and reaching at least the quarter-finals seven times between 1985 and 2001.

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"You guys nearly won the under 17 World Cup before, right?" he said.

"It shows that it can be done with the right attitude and programs in place."

The Joeys have failed to qualify for three of the last five under-17 World Cups, and did not participate in the 2007 version.

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