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Hereford's Jon Pugh appointed England blind football team's new head coach
10:30am Thursday 13th February 2014 in Sport
JON Pugh has been named as the new England blind football team head coach.
The former Westfields goalkeeper has taken the reins amid a funding crisis for the sport.
The Hereford coach was appointed just days before UK Sport announced plans to strip all Government financial support for the visually impaired sport.
The England blind football team has failed to meet ‘mutually agreed targets’, UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl has claimed.
But a spokesman for The FA confirmed that The Football Association, on behalf of the Great Britain Disability FA, would be meeting with UK Sport next month to discuss the matter further.
Pugh is a former assistant to Tony Larkin, who both work at the Hereford’s Royal National College for the Blind.
Ironically, Larkin and Pugh lost their roles with the national team in December 2012 just a week before UK Sport announced £1.3 million funding to prepare the team for Rio 2016.
But Graham Keeley, who had replaced Larkin as England’s head coach, left his role in the summer after the full-time England team had flopped at the European Championships.
And UK Sport last week revealed their intention to stop providing funding for England's blind football team and six other sports, including weightlifting, basketball and goalball.
Pugh started working alongside Larkin in 1996, later becoming a coach and guide and now heading up the Royal National College’s blind football academy.
After Larkin and Pugh had been replaced by the FA 14 months ago and the England team training base moved to Burton, FA spokesman Jeff Davis explained the decision.
At the time, Davis said: “We had a look at the team’s results over the last four years and the real problem was ever since 2009 when they beat Spain in the semi-final of the European Championship, they have not beaten a team ranked above them.”
However, the England team have slipped from being seeded second in Europe under Larkin to eighth. The team have also failed to qualify for the World Championships.
The England side have gone from matching the likes of Argentina, Spain and China to losing to Germany, Turkey, Italy and Russia.
Larkin’s and Pugh’s charges competed as Great Britain at the London 2012 Paralympics and finished seventh out of eight nations.
England were fourth as Hereford hosted a hugely successful IBSA World Championship in 2010.
And the duo guided England to third place at the 2011 European Championship in Turkey.