David Moyes has questioned why manufacturing giants such as Nike and Adidas have failed to produce a ‘training ball’ to protect players’ brains amid the sport’s dementia crisis.
The West Ham boss is already being ‘really thoughtful’ about the issue, rarely subjecting his players to the punishing exercises he went through as a centre half.
And the PFA got on board on Friday with a proposal to limit and monitor the amount of heading players do in training.
David Moyes has questioned why a training ball hasn’t been made to protect players’ brains
Brendan Rodgers has pointed out that lighter footballs are hit much harder by modern players
Ralph Hasenhuttl feels that academy players moving into the first team lack heading ability
THE WEEK OUR CAMPAIGN FINALLY MADE THE FOOTBALL WORLD SIT UP AND LISTEN
We launch our campaign with a powerful back page, saying ‘Enough is enough’. The image is of 28 former professional footballers in this country — just some of the players who have been diagnosed with dementia — while our seven-point charter includes calls for the PFA and FA to commit to increased funding. Our pages include Martin Samuel’s moving interview with Chris Sutton talking about his father Mike’s battle with this horrible disease, as well as heartrending words from Mike’s wife Josephine.
There was a heartfelt piece with Dawn Astle, whose father Jeff tragically passed away aged just 59, with a coroner ruling his death was caused by heading the ball. And strong words from Dr Willie Stewart, whose research has been crucial in tackling dementia.
The PFA then confirmed they had agreed to continue funding his work… after being contacted by Sportsmail.
The campaign gathered immediate momentum as we revealed the PFA had set up a taskforce, one of whose duties would be to properly answer our seven-point charter. England manager Gareth Southgate backed our campaign, while Matt Hughes’s exclusive story revealed the FA are braced for substantial brain injury claims from dozens of former pros. Nobby Stiles’s son John also supported our campaign while Kieran Gill’s touching interview with Jimmy Robson — one of seven players from the great 1960 Burnley team to have been diagnosed with dementia — resonated up and down the land.
Gary Lineker became the latest big name to back our campaign, in a revealing interview with Ian Herbert. Lineker explained he ‘ducked out of headers’ in training to protect himself. Former players Iwan Roberts and Mark Bright revealed they were taking part in a vital research project.
Some of the biggest names in the game threw their support behind us as 1966 World Cup final hero Sir Geoff Hurst and former England captain David Beckham backed us. Frank Lampard revealed he will alter Chelsea training sessions because the dementia threat means there must be a limit on heading, while Wayne Rooney said: ‘Head the ball less to live longer.’ Mike Keegan revealed there had been a PFA own goal as we heard familiar excuses from the union as we sought answers to our seven questions. But last night the PFA revealed they WILL call for a reduction on heading in training, to round off the week on a positive note.
‘We would have 30 or 40 balls kicked up the pitch to try to get our timing right, how high we could jump and how far we could head the ball. I’m certainly not introducing an awful lot of those practices,’ Moyes said.
‘I am amazed that the likes of Adidas and Nike haven’t come up with a heading training ball… something that is the same sort of weight that we can use for heading practice.’
The biggest issue, Moyes believes, concerns youth football. ‘We cannot bring up kids not to head the ball if we’re going to have heading in senior football,’ he said.
‘So even for under 10s, 11s, 12s, why do we not have balls which are suitable?
‘Why could they not come up with something which maybe the neurologist would say: ”this ball couldn’t do any damage”?’
The West Ham boss, 57, added: ‘For the next generations I don’t think we want to take heading out, but we could do with coming up with innovations to keep us doing practices and for players to be heading the ball but with no damage to the brain.’
Brendan Rodgers was among other managers to share Moyes’ concerns.
The Leicester boss said: ‘People say the new balls are lighter, but they are hit much harder than the older ones, so players are getting hit at a different speed.
‘In terms of heading, science has looked at it and if it finds a correlation then absolutely it’s something we could limit. If it means it stops this illness later on in life, then absolutely as coaches we will look at it.’
Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl added: ‘For the kids, we must pay attention. You can see all the players coming out of the academy, they have a lack of quality in heading because they don’t do it so often. So we must find a solution, maybe with balls that are not so hard or heavy.’
Newcastle’s Steve Bruce echoed Moyes’ worries over how it could affect players of his generation and urged the PFA to act swiftly.
The former centre half, 59, pointed to Sportsmail’s campaign and said: ‘It’s only right that we look into the links when you see the great World Cup team and how many of them suffered from dementia.
‘I read the article (in Sportsmail) about the great Burnley team of the 1960s this week as well. So if there is a link, we have to find it quickly.
‘Every day when I was young we headed the ball on a string in the gym. That would be repeated outside, hour after hour.
‘So there is a genuine concern when I see great players from the era before me affected. Why wouldn’t it affect my era?’
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, pointed to how the issue was treated differently abroad.
‘I had my family living in America and my kids weren’t allowed to head the ball at all,’ he said.
‘The way they explained it made sense, like all the contact and the issues that they have been discovering afterwards in the NFL. Let’s dig into it and see what is the best solution.’
Everton’s Carlo Ancelotti backed calls for increased research, adding: ‘It is true the players of the past have problems. Not only dementia but a lot of things.’
Steve Bruce is worried that the training methods used in his career may have affected his era
Mikel Arteta has hinted that a move to an American approach might serve kids in the UK well
Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon have also acknowledged the problem of dementia in football
In Scotland, Celtic boss Neil Lennon, a former Parkhead team-mate of Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton, said: ‘I heard Chris on the radio and he’s quite emotional about it.
‘You can see the effect it has on families and from their point of view the football authorities have not done enough.’
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard said: ‘It is obvious that more work and funding should go into player aftercare for those with dementia.’
Additional reporting: Adrian Kajumba, Ian Ladyman, Craig Hope and Dominic King