England are playing catch-up in player development - Ashworth

England manager Roy Hodgson (right) with FA director of elite development Dan Ashworth. Photo: PA

England have fallen behind other leading nations in technical terms, according to the Football Association's director of elite development.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said yesterday that he feels the national team lacks any identity, and Dan Ashworth, who was recruited by the FA from West Brom, is determined to ensure that changes in the future.

However, he accepts that, in the present, England are playing catch-up.

"When you look back at the likes of Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne, we always would have a series of match-winners in our teams, technical players," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"Without being disrespectful to our current players, we are now further behind some other nations and we have to make sure that gap decreases. We have to have a more technically based game and players who are more comfortable on the ball."

Ashworth is helping to drive the Elite Player Performance Plan, designed to provide a deeper pool of talent to England managers in the future, and he says that central to the plan's effectiveness is a change of culture.

"My vision, my dream, is that there's a philosophy on how we play the game from the cradle to the grave," he added.

"We have to change years and years and years of ingrained habits of encouraging children to smash the ball up the pitch, applauding when they smash it further and longer. We have to avoid criticising when children try skills."