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Possession With A Focus On Width

UEFA A Licence Coach, Tim Wareing, operates his Academy in Belfast.  The ex Academy Director of Irish League side, Lisburn Distillery, shares his latest elite session with The Soccer Store.  All the equipment that Tim uses can be purchased direct from The Soccer Store.

As soon as the players report in for training they each get a football.  The first 10 minutes is for them to juggle the ball, dribble & perform skills.  It also offers time for them to catch up with team mates.  The Academy is open to all players & many will play for different clubs across Northern Ireland.  After this period I will come in & increase the tempo.  On Sunday I put them through the 'Ronaldo 7' which is a series of 7 skills performed stationary with the ball.  We then played a game of 'Every Man For Themselves'.  Simply half the boys will have balls to dribble & protect while the other half attempt to steal & keep.  This insures maximum exposure with the ball & increases the tempo.  After some stretches & water the players went through S.A.Q. (Speed, Agility & Quickness training using speed ladder, hurdles & hoops) before I progressed the session.

I wanted to keep the high tempo but at the same time recreate game like scenarios.  The below session comes from the outspoken Dutch man, Raymond Verheijen, who is a master on periodisation training.  Many of my sessions will focus on possession type games.

5 V 2 Periodisation Game

5 v 2 Periodisation Game

Emphasis

Ball possession based around periodisation.  Overload then build up to 5 v 5.

Set-Up

Session takes place on a 20 x 20 yard area.  5 attackers v 2 defenders.  Have 3 players waiting to be fed into session to build up to 5 v 5.  The coach should have a supply of balls to keep the game moving.

Objectives

Simple possession game where players develop their skills of passing & supporting each other.  Players in possession should try to pass to teammates.

Simple, early passes should be delivered & after having delivered the pass, players should adjust their positions so as to receive a return pass if necessary.

The team that starts with 2 players receive an additional player every 30 seconds.  The coach lets them know when to join in every 30 seconds as follows;

0.00 - 5 v 2 (2 touch)

0.30 - 5 v 3 (3 touch)

1.00 - 5 v 4

1.30 - 5 v 5

Progressions

  1. Set target of passes to be awarded a goal.
  2. One / two touch play.
  3. Add target players on the outside of the grid.
  4. Rotate groups to suit squad size, i.e. 3 groups of 5, work 2 & rest 1.

Coaching

  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Create angles.
  • Protect ball.
  • Communication.
  • Quality passing.
  • Positioning.
  • Passing combinations.

Another important factor to remember is to keep a similar theme to your session so you build it up nicely & each session relates to the last one.  To develop I focused on a session I viewed from Arsenal Football Club.  This starts to add a bit more shape & encourages the central players to be the playmakers linking in with the wall players.  You can offer an opportunity for all players to sample each role or if you have an established team or working with an adult team simply play each player in their position.

Arsenal's 6 V 4 + 2

Arsenal's 6 v 4 + 2

Emphasis

Keep ball game with play makers linking with wall players.

Set-Up

Session takes place in a 30 x 25 yard grid with a supply of balls on the outside.

Full build up with 12 players involved.  Positional game with 6 outfield players, 2 midfielders in the middle against the 4 defenders, represents a real game-like environment.

Objectives

6 wall players look to keep the ball through linking with the floaters (play makers) in the middle.

Encourage your players to think about the set up.  From the bottom of the diagram to the top you can see the basic formation of left back, centre back & right back.  In front of them left & right winger with forward at the top...playmaker / centre midfielders working to link all in the middle.

Keep score.  1 point for 5 successful passes, bonus 2 points for a split pass made between the defenders & 5 bonus points for a nutmeg.

Likewise, if the defenders win the ball they get a point.  If they keep it for 5 successful passes in the middle they get a bonus point & the same points for a nutmeg!

Progressions

  1. Change players roles throughout.
  2. Limit outside players to 2 touch.
  3. Floaters in middle only allowed 1 touch.
  4. Change scoring system.

Coaching

  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Communication.
  • Quality passing.
  • Passing combination.
  • Use the whole area.
  • Shape.
  • Positioning.
  • Losing the defender.
  • Receiving the ball side on.
  • Defenders should stay compact - play in a diamond shape.  They should play pressure, 2 support players & a cover man (sweeper).

The goal of my session was to build into a game.  The game below works perfect as it keeps the theme of possession going but encourages width.  As always don't get too caught up in the training game.  For example, although you want to encourage the ball to go wide if the ball is played through the centre encourage the forward player to have an attempt at goal rather than always going wide to the winger.

Wingers Game

Wingers Game

Emphasis

Encouraging attacking play through the wings.

Set-Up

Play takes place on half a pitch with 2 full size goals & goalkeepers.  A channel is marked out with cones on either wing & separated in two.  Also divide the pitch in two.

Play 3 v 2 in either half (+ goalkeeper).  4 wide players are positioned in the channels, 2 playing in the attacking half for each team.

Objectives

The objective is to play the ball from the back, where the 3 defenders should have comfortable possession against the 2 attackers.

The ball should be played to one of the forwards who passes wide to one of the unmarked wingers.  The cross is then delivered to the 2 forwards who look to finish at goal.

Progressions

  1. A defender can join the attack along with the other winger being allowed to leave their zone & come into the central area.
  2. Change roles.

Coaching

  • Quality of crosses.
  • Movement of forwards.
  • Movement - check run, make space in front to receive.
  • Technique - stop just before receiving the ball.
  • Strength - shield the ball from the defender.
  • Awareness.
  • Quality passing.
  • Timing of run.
  • Quality finishing.
  • Communication.

The football played was terrific.  I always allow the players their own time at the end to play a game with no restrictions.  It was encouraging to see the main points we worked on carried out.  Some of the football was a joy to watch.

Another important factor is to be flexible in your sessions.  I had no goalkeepers present so used 4 mini goals (2 either end) & positioned them 5 yards in from each touchline.  This again reinforced width & switching.  Likewise adapt to suit the players you have in.  Although the above game is based on 14 outfield players I only had 12 present.  I simply played with 1 wide player on each wing who played as a neutral player.

Enjoy the session & let us know how you found it!

The European Approach

I really enjoyed writing this for The Soccer Store.  If you require any soccer equipment make sure you visit their website!

Why do our European neighbours seem to produce more technical gifted players that seem to play with so much flair & creativity compared to our home grown talent?  Over the years I have visited Holland, Spain & Portugal to see how they develop their players from grassroots through to pro clubs.  What is the relationship like with players, parents & the link from Pro Club to Boys' Club.  You will be surprised with some of my findings...

The UK

I have been fortunate enough & made to feel very welcome with a number of top pro clubs in England.  The facilities are second to none but one problem I noticed straight away is the location.  Many of the training centres are in the middle of nowhere so unless you drive you can't get there.  Talented children from low income families may struggle to get to the venues.  This was commented by a club official when I visited Derby County.  When we arrived at the training complex I commented on how nice the first team players' cars were...he laughed & informed me they were the parents cars!

Coaches should always look to learn & evolve

Coaches should always look to learn & evolve

The other factor is the schedule.  Children are in school all day & then when they get home they are trying to do homework before Dad leaves work to get them to training on time...many occasions families struggling to eat dinner together.  So location & schedules are a problem but as we look closer at how a child starts playing football & progresses what is the typical learning experience?

Although the FA are improving education & development for clubs it will take time to filter down to grassroots.  For too long children start playing for their local club run by volunteers who aren't qualified.  This is not a dig at those people who give up their free time to cater for young people but the FA, the professional clubs within the area & those members in the club should do more to improve a child's first experience.

For too long training for children in the U.K. involves a number of laps around the pitch before coming back in for long winded conversations with the coach before doing long boring line drills.  Too much emphasis is on fitness & the adult game rather than a child centered approach.

Then when it comes to the game children as young as 9 are playing on a full size adult pitch with full size goals.  The 'coaches' scream instructions to the kids.  When they aren't doing it the parents join in.  The shouts of 'pass it' & 'get rid of it!' put pressure on the child.  If a child tries something different like taking on an opponent with a bit of skill that doesn't come off they get shouted at for losing the ball.  This is a culture that is teaching children to play in their comfort zone & not take risks.  As coaches are telling a child how to play the game, what to do in training all it is doing is creating robots that can't think for themselves.  How can we create exciting players that play with flair, creativity & imagination?  We have done it in the past.  As a young child I remember the magnificent squad England had under Sir Bobby Robson that went to Italia '90.  They got to the semi finals only to be beat on penalties by the Germans.

Let's think about that for a minute.  In that squad we had exciting flair players of Chris Waddle, Peter Beardsley, John Barnes & the entrance of a young Paul Gascoigne.  These were players that could change games.  Add in the grit & determination of Terry Butcher, Stuart Pearce, Bryan Robson with the goalscorers of Gary Lineker & David Platt coming from midfield.  For too long the nation stood still & we never evolved.  In every walk of life you need to keep moving forward & looking to develop, to evolve, to create.

Spain

I suppose the Spanish are one of the best nations to look at first having won the last 3 major tournaments.  I spent a week in Barcelona viewing their famous youth set up.

While a host of other top European Clubs spend millions on players hoping to buy success Barca continue to develop their own home-grown players.  Messi, Iniesta & Xavi all came through the Barca Academy & cost nothing.  Barcelona’s youth Academy, which in Spanish goes by the name of ‘La Cantera’, meaning the quarry.

Start of a youth team session at Barca

Start of a youth team session at Barca

Other players to come through the Academy include Cesc Fabregas, who Arsenal took away at the age of 16 (has since returned),  Mikel Arteta from Everton (now Arsenal) & Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.  Ex Barca manager, Pep Guardiola, also came through the Academy.  In his first season as manager he helped Barcelona win every competition they competed in, 6 in all, including the Spanish League title, World Club Cup & the Champions League against Manchester United.

Against United in the Champions League final, 7 of Barca’s starting line up were all produced from the Academy.  Goalkeeper Valdes, defenders Puyol & Pique, midfielders Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta & forward Messi.

When I visited Barcelona I loved the fact that the training complex was beside the Camp Nou.  The club has a boarding house that accommodates the older boys from the Academy.  Boys from the age of 13 or 14 that live outside the city are housed here so they don’t have to worry about travelling to and from training.  Typically they will train for 6-8 hours per week along with playing a game.  The club insures they also develop their lifestyle & attitudes along with their football education, preaching the importance of healthy eating & early nights.

The boys live, sleep & eat together.  Each morning they are bussed to the best local schools.  Barcelona stresses the importance of finishing their education to the boys.  They return at 2pm for lunch & siesta, with training early evening.  They do their homework in a library with access to private tutors & have a games room with table football, pool & PlayStations.

The boys have 3 objectives when playing matches.  First, they must be the more sporting team, committing fewer fouls & being less aggressive.  Then they must try to win by playing very well, more creatively than the opposition, with attacking football.  Finally they need to win on the scoreboard.

Reina and Arteta were great friends at the Academy.  Although Arteta suffered from homesickness & cried himself to sleep many times.  Iniesta also had problems with homesickness after moving from central Spain to Barcelona at the age of 12.   Saying goodbye to his parents at the end of each weekend would become a mini-drama.  Although Iniesta only had to look out & see the Camp Nou to remind himself of his goal to play there.

Messi arrived at Barcelona from Argentina with his family at the age of 12.  He had a growth deformity and no club in Argentina would pay for the drugs he needed to treat it.  It is no surprise that Barcelona took on Messi unlike in England, where size, strength & the ability to throw your weight around is highly prized.

The model of Barcelona is that 50% of their team should be from the Academy, 35% should be the best players from Spain or Europe & then 15% from the top ten players in the world.  Although the Barcelona Academy is so successful it is also producing players who are among the top ten in the world.  This season their starting XI has included a team made up of academy graduates!

The Academy has 12 boys’ teams.  In the Academy each squad has 2 coaches & there are 23 or 24 players in each group.  At least half of the coaches have a UEFA Pro licence.  The club provides the budget, around 6 million Euros per year, & is fully responsible for the academy facilities & training programme.

The qualities that Barcelona look for in a young player is pace, technique and someone who looks like a player.  The speed of decision-making, the way he approaches the game, the vision to pick off a long pass – in other words, the mental qualities to go with the technical ability.  The emphasis is on speed.  When this speed is combined with top-quality technique, then they believe they have the ingredients.

From the age of 7 to 15 everything is about working with the football at the Barcelona Academy.  With the very small boys, the most important thing is to control the ball very well, to have the ability to run with the ball & to think very quickly & execute their passes very well.  They use the same playing system as the first team, so all the youth teams play 4-3-3 formation.  The development teams have to play attacking, attractive football.  Barcelona believe if they do everything well, the winning comes as a consequence.

Every team I witnessed dressed exactly the same as the first team, right down to the youngest age group.  All sessions focused on ball work.  A high percentage of the time at the start of the sessions was given to the children to play with the ball.

Sessions also featured plenty of 1 v 1 duels.  Again, the kids were given a lot of freedom.  No lines, no cones or coaching area.  The concept was simple.  Half the group started on the throw in line with a ball.  They were partnered up & had a duel with their team mate to get to the other side using turns & tricks.  A slight competitive edge was introduced with scoring being kept between the boys.  The boys were given the freedom to dribble from one side to the other going forward, back, left or right.  It was realistic & fun as everyone was involved.

Sessions developed to passing & possession games.  Plenty of shooting drills were evident throughout all age groups.  All sessions finished with small sided games.

The older sections became more tactical but was set in a relaxed pace but roles were given to each individual.  Although lost in translation , coaches talked to their players in a calm voice.  All the players from the youngest group up applied themselves & were all comfortable on the ball.

They also like to keep an open mind & expose players to different playing roles as part of their education.  They work intensely on the individual skill, but also on group play, including each line of the team.  They train the Barca way which involves fast movement of the ball, player mobility, use of width, & a lot of fast, effective finishing.  They watch the passing movements of the first team as they provide the role model of the youth teams.

Another factor which helps continue the development of young players is that Barcelona have a ‘B’ team.  They play in the lower Spanish League. This helps the club continue to develop young players between the ages of 18 & 21 in a controlled environment.  In England the FA prevent Premier League clubs from having feeder teams in other domestic leagues.

The Barcelona model is based on a number of people providing specialist skills & all working in the same direction, with the same objective: to prepare players for the first team.

Other European Nations

One thing that struck me when visiting the European clubs was their openness & welcome they offered.  Especially in Holland, a nation with 'no secrets' that wanted to work with all coaches.  The relationship from professional clubs to grassroots clubs seemed so much closer.  Yet listening to the pro coaches the concept was simple & refreshing.  At PSV Eindhoven they informed us that they had links with a number of grassroots clubs, as does all Dutch Pro clubs.  They regularly visit the clubs & offer coach education & session plans.  This helps the grassroot coaches deliver better sessions & in turn help develop better players.  The junior clubs know exactly the level of player that the senior clubs require as they visit the academy on a regular basis.  So when they feel they have a talent they contact the club to come & watch them.

At PSV Eindhoven the Academy Director gave us a presentation on the blue print to their academy!  On another visit the first team manager talked to us for 30 minutes.  Players posed for photos, signed autographs.  In fact at the PSV training complex they are happy for coaches & fans to visit.  On my last visit I sat drinking a coffee while watching the first team train only yards away!

The academy players are transported from their homes to the training complex & school.  This offers opportunity for them to train twice a day without missing out on their education.  I watched the pre development squad train.  It happened to be their last session of the season.  After the session they were all given a signed poster from the first team & a letter from the club.  My Dutch friend translated the letter.  It was coming direct from PSV Eindhoven thanking them (the player) & the parent for their commitment & hard work.  I found this so refreshing, a top European club thanking the child & the parent!

Portugal

Although it is common for these pro clubs in Europe to be so respectful toward the player & parent.  My good friend, Hugo Vicente (ex Benfica & now assistant academy director of SC Braga), explained that without the parent they don't have the child so the respect is there.  Although I often remember some of the great stories his Benfica Academy Director got up to.

In a staff training meeting he brought one of the staff up to the front & slapped him on the face.  The dazed coach looked at him as he said, 'you weren't expecting that'!  As he went to slap his face again the coach was ready for him so this time he kicked him!  The member of staff received a slap on the face then a kick to the leg!  Why?  This was his way of asking his coaches to preach to their players that he wanted them to play with creativity, to improvise, to play with surprise!  Simply put if a player always attempts the same skill there is no element of surprise for the opposition & they can prepare to expect it.  But the coach who was hit on the face was expecting the same thing again as the hand moved toward him then in a split second he got kicked!  Expect the unexpected!?

The same Academy Director had a novel way of dealing with parents shouting from the touch line telling their kids what to do.  In England the parents are told to stand behind a piece of rope normally 50 yards away from the pitch.  In Portugal it is different.  If a parent shouts or tries to coach their son they simply sub their child!  This way the club don't need to speak to the parent the kid does it for them as they don't want to be replaced.  Although on one occasion they had a repeat 'offender'.  The Benfica AD went up to the father before kick off & passed him a Playstation remote control.  The puzzled parent looked at him & was told, 'If you want your kid to shoot press the 'X' button, hit 'O' for pass & the 'triangle' for tackle...now shut up'!  Brilliant!

Juggling education & training can be a challenge

Juggling education & training can be a challenge

It isn't always perfect in Europe.  One problem they have in Portugal is the balance of school work to training.  School times vary in Portugal.  Some mornings start anytime from 9am to 11am & lessons can go through to 5pm, although they have a longer lunch break.  When I met with a young player called Pedro from the U13's it was nice to speak about his schedule & experience.

A typical day for Pedro starts at 7.30am.  Wake up call, shower & breakfast.  The club will then send a car or club bus to take Pedro to school at 8am.  Lessons will start at 8.30am & continue through to lunch at 12pm.  Pedro will then head to a restaurant before returning to school at 1.30pm.

In Portugal they have extended lunches but school can finish later.  On this particular day lessons didn’t finish to 6.30pm.  He then travelled back for an evening training session with Braga U13′s at 7.45pm.  The session was shorter on the night we were there, it lasted one hour.  Pedro then showered, changed & head for a meal at 9pm.  Club officials would insure the young players are accompanied to restaurants.

Pedro arrived home to start homework at 10pm before bed time at 11pm.

I must stress that this schedule is variable.  Some day’s school finishes at 4pm & home work can be completed then.  On other days lessons will start later so Pedro can have a longer rest.

Personally I was surprised at the long days.  Pedro admitted on this particular day he was feeling tired but I was impressed at the same time how the club monitor their young players.

Schedule

The club will always arrange transport for players that are away from home.  This includes too & from school, training & meals.  At meals they will always insure, especially the younger players that they eat with a club official or the U19′s.

Although Pedro lives away from his family & misses them he simply told us he adapts.  He lives in an apartment owned by the club with 3 other boys & looked after by a ‘Nanny’.  The adult will look after the boys.  Generally the boys will partner up & share a room each.  He will see his family generally every weekend.  If he has a game on the Saturday his father will come along to watch the game.  After the match Pedro will travel home with his father & return on Monday morning.

The club try to send all the children to the same school so they can adapt a schedule to suit their training sessions.  They eat together so that the club can control what they eat & when they eat.  The players will generally eat red meat on Monday & Tuesday, white meat on Wednesday & then pasta, etc. thereafter.  The nutritionist talks with the restaurant to adapt & suit the weekly programme.  The boys’ height & weight are recorded every month too.  The club also has 3 Doctors to attend to any sickness.

Players, at this level, will generally train 4 times per week.  The U19′s will train every day & also receive wages.  The accommodation, schooling, transport & food are all paid for by the club.

Braga has psychologists that work alongside the club.  If a coach knows he will be releasing a player the psychologist will work closely with that player but not obviously tell him right away.  The club will also try to find another club for the player.

Summary

The first thing that I picked up on from my first visit to this club was the family feel it had.  Everyone greeted each other with a welcome, smile & hand shake.  This is very positive & creates a real togetherness.  The set up is very impressive.  All sessions concentrated heavily on the technical side of the game.  This includes use of the ball along with pressurised drills & sessions.

Personally I was surprised at Pedro’s schedule when I was talking to him but I suppose we have to consider that this was possibly his busiest day.  Other days of the week had later starts, or earlier finishes or a non training night.  Although in some cases it is no difference from a child living in the UK that has to juggle schooling, homework, meals, transport & training.

The big difference I feel is the interest they take in each individual child.  The club record everything from school work to eating habits & from training to simply monitoring their height, weight & rest.  Also for the players living away from home.  The effort they put into for accommodation, transport & duty of care.  Then the long term development & future of the child is put as most importance with every last detail thought of – even if they unfortunately have to let a player go.

It was nice to sit & have a meal with one of the players at this age group.  It also, I suppose, shows how quick they mature as in Pedro’s words he simply ‘adapts’.  He obviously enjoys what he does even if he does miss being away from his family.  I found all the Braga Academy players to be confident young players that behaved & worked very hard in all sessions & games.

Europe v UK

Overall I think the relationship with grassroots & professional clubs is so much closer throughout Europe.  England at times can seem to have a massive gap in that respect.  The focus on ball work, dribbling & small sided games is evident but to be fair England are now rolling out a programme right down to grassroots to focus on this.  I feel the major problem will be converting the old school at the bottom.

Data from the 2008 UEFA Coaching Convention shows that England has 1,759 B Licence coaches, 895 A Licence coaches & 115 Pro Licence coaches.  France has 15,000 (B), 2.400 (A) & 188 (Pro).  Spain has 9,135 (B), 12,720 (A) & 2,140 (Pro).  While Germany has 28,400 (B), 5,500 (A) & 1,070 (Pro).  Although the FA's acclaimed & highly respected Nick Levett has responded to say that each Football Association roughly develop the same amount of coaches per annum & that the results weren't realistic, i.e. The Spanish apparently awarded many 70 year olds with their B Licence who most likely no longer coach.

At the same time the UK has a mentality of having 8 mini clubs within each club.  Although they share the same identity through badge & colours they compete against each other rather than forming a strong youth system.  There is many stories of parents falling out with coaches & taking their son away & starting their own club!  I feel there is too many clubs which result in too many unqualified coaches resulting in a poor youth education for the player.

In Holland they generally only have 1 or 2 clubs for each village or town.  Many clubs with have 100 teams within their set up.  Rather than U9, U10, U11, etc.  They have A, B, C, D, E, F & G.  'G' being U10 but they could have 10 teams at that age group, i.e. G1, G2, G3, G4, etc.  G1-G3 teams will be the most developed kids playing against other clubs G1-G3 teams.  While G7-G10 will be the late developers, the recreation players, etc. who will play against players there only level.  This means the Dutch will very rarely have a game that will finish with more than a 3 goal deficit.  They also play with a lighter ball on reduced playing fields.  They have 15 & 16 year olds refereeing the games while parents use the games as a social event.

When I took my academy team over to Holland many of my parents were shocked that the kids played in such a relaxed atmosphere.  The main voice you could here was the children's voices.  Parents stood & chatted while watching the game.  All the clubs ask in return is what can you offer when you register your child.  They mean what time can you offer.  You could have someone volunteering 4 hours per week that will simply assist with kit or working in the bar area.

I can't stress enough, if you are a coach you need to visit Holland to see what I mean.  The Dutch are so organised & the club we visited hosted over 50 games on that Saturday!  This was from children to seniors including women's & an over 65's team!

The coaching style across Europe is simple.  They encourage the players to think for themselves & let the small sided game be the teacher.  They get away from the 'stop / stand still' tactic to coaching within the game & summarizing at the end.

The Future

Certainly it is not all doom & gloom.  Manchester United are renowned for their way of thinking.  When they play 8 v 8 they will ask the opposition can their 4 subs play Manchester United's 4 subs a 4 v 4 game so everyone is involved.  The focus on the technical side of the game is improving at all levels.

A recent visit to Watford FC & the Harefield Academy was very refreshing.  Nick Cox is the Watford Academy Director.  It is very interesting listening to Nick & seeing the thought process & the importance of everyone at the club to the school backing the concept.  The typical English Academy system will have boys going to school as normal then returning home to start homework, eat dinner & then to be transported by a parent to training.  This adds a busy schedule to each individual boy & adds pressure to the family life.  It is not uncommon for a father to return home from work early & to eat on the way to take his son to training.  Nor is it uncommon for that child to be up at 7.30am on the morning & on the go all day to 9.30-11pm at night.

Watford made many visits to European Academies to see what suited them best to move forward as a club.  The Dutch Academy set up was one of choice, especially a club called Willem II.  They have a similar set up in terms of stadium size, club structure, fan base, etc.  The big difference in the Academy structure was the club would work in partnership with a school.  This is what Watford FC based their concept on.  Although it was not copying the Dutch club they would simply set up an academy to best suit Watford FC & their Academy players.

The main positives for club, school & player include;

  • Increased contact time for training with the boys.  From an average of 3,500 hours to 9,000 hours (approx 10-12 hours per week but up to 15 hours available)
  • Greater Academic support & discipline – less conflict between school & club.
  • Prime time training – day light & on grass (indoor 3G dome available too)
  • Better home lifestyle – more family time with less inpact, i.e. transport & finance.
  • Professional lifestyle – more training, less late nights, regular meals, less hectic.
  • Better relationship with players – get to know them better.
  • Optimum time for education & sport.

Typical Day

Below you will find a typical schedule for a Watford Academy player attending Harefield Academy.  Classes are mixed, i.e. not exclusive to all WFC players.

  • 6.45am – Pick Up
  • 8.15am – Lesson 1
  • 9.15am – Football Training with WFC Academy Coaches
  • 11am – Lesson 2
  • 12pm – Lunch
  • 12.30pm – Lesson 3
  • 1.30pm – Lesson 4
  • 2.30pm – Normal day ends
  • 2.50pm – Study (home work / support)
  • 4.20pm – Day ends
  • 4.45pm – Football Training with WFC Academy Coaches

So you can see as a nation we are moving forward.  It wasn't so long ago that Manchester United produced Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville & Nicky Butt.  Although important to research other nations & see what they are doing it is important to find the right formula that suits the UK.  For me a closer link to grassroots & more contact time to players is a massive start along with more qualified coaches & focus on CPD.

How Much Game Time Does Your Youth Team Players Get?

It's a cold winters morning & your squad of 16 players have been up from 8am getting ready.  They meet at 9am to travel 1 hour to the venue.  10.30am they're doing the warm up for the 11am kick off.  So 3 hours have passed by & 11 players take to the field to kick off while 5 others watch on...

This is a common situation in youth football.  The scenario I have used above puts the manager against the 'best' side in the league.  So he picks his best 11 players to play the game which is 30 minutes each way.  His team come in at half time 2-0 down.  He looks to the bench & simply thinks he has his best 11 on the pitch & the other 5 won't make a difference so doesn't make any changes.  The 5 kids on the bench are freezing & disappointed, they have all went to training during the week & have been up from 8am...now at 11.40am they still haven't got anywhere near getting on!  Mid way through the second half the manager finds his team 3-0 down so asks the 5 subs to get warmed up.

10 minutes to go & it is 4-0.  He replaces the 2 forwards with 2 subs thinking they can't do any worse.  5 minutes left he replaces a winger like for like.  In the last minute he makes the other 2 changes so everyone gets a game.  The game finishes 4-0 & everyone is disappointed.  They do a cool down & get changed before making their way home.  They leave the ground at 12.30pm & return home at 1.30pm.  Jonny who has been up at 8am got back into his house just before 2pm...nearly 6 hours dedicated to the team that offered him 2 minutes on the pitch today.

Development

How do young players develop if they get less time on the pitch?  Surely the players who are behind their team mates should be the ones getting more game time?  As Academy Director at Irish Premier League side, Lisburn Distillery, all coaches had to report to me once a month.  Although I worked with the players & coaches on a weekly basis so communication levels were always good from the coaching team to parents & players.  They had to use an online system I had created to record all the details.

This included everything from appearances, minutes on pitch, goals, rating, information on performance, behaviour, training attendance & time keeping + presentation.  Our monthly meetings offered an opportunity to review all this.  I had to receive all team managers squad information on the Monday so it would be up to date & offer me time to review before the staff meeting on Thursday.  Below you will see examples of this information...

Always record everything & keep on top of it...

This is going back to our U10 squad in season 2007/2008.  At that time in Northern Ireland we had 7 aside or 11 aside on offer to play.  The level to which we played (Irish League Academy) we played our first season at 11 aside after playing a season at 7 aside.  Although what was nice was we could still play our boys in Mini Soccer.  You will see the players in the list with the symbol 'M.S.' indicated they continued at Mini Soccer & played briefly at 11 aside.  We discussed this with them & their parents.  The end result was another 4 months in Mini Soccer would develop them more & offer more game time than at 11 aside.  Likewise we also brought a younger player to play up a year to offer a taster for him.  By the end of the season 5 younger players would have played a year up to experience the step up from 7 to 11 aside.

The rest of the squad you can see averaged 640-780 minutes playing time from a maximum of 840 minutes at the time.  We played 30 minutes each way & had played 14 games at this stage.  One player I had put an * beside to indicate he had to play catch up as was on 565 minutes.  Although you should always monitor sickness, injuries, holidays, general attendance, suspensions (although hopefully not many at U10!) as well as this will have effect on playing time.

Idea

The first team manager, Paul Kirk (Pro Licence), said to me at the time, 'Tim start with your less developed players so they gain more playing time then put on your more developed players on the second half.  What this offers is a challenge for them.  As rather than starting at 0-0 they may be introduced to a game 1-0 down.  This means they need to raise their game.'

This always stuck with me & I have always passed this onto my team of coaches.  You need to always set challenges for your players.  My younger age group found themselves winning 8-0, 12-0 & 18-0 every game so I moved them up an age group to get tighter games.  Done them no harm as after losing a few games they soon started winning against boys older than them.  Technically they were better players but short term they weren't used to the physical side of the older boys.  They soon caught up!  This is why I like introducing boys playing a year up.  Youth football has got too structured.  When was the last time you played street football & asked the year of your opponents birth year?

Subs?

Insure they don't stand about doing nothing.  You will see from a previous blog post 'How Many Touches Do You Get' the importance of using a ball within your warm ups.  Why not play 3 v 2 on the side of the pitch or ask the other subs to join in & play 5 v 5?  Let kids just play.  While they are playing 3 v 2 or 5 v 5 they are receiving far more touches with the ball than what they would in the 11 v 11 game.  But the most important thing is that all 16 children play for the full hour + their warm up every week!

Your Thoughts from Twitter & Facebook...

'This is a tricky one for sure Tim & will vary massively depending on levels & age.  At the Coerver Youth Diploma I spoke to one of Port Vale academy coaches.  He said from U12 up all of their training & playing time is orientated towards the top three players.  The club's stand point is why should the best 3 players have their playing time reduced in the hope that others can catch up.  It creates an environment in training where the other 90% players work their chops off to get that playing time.

Of course at a more recreational say U10/11 level players need exposure to playing time in order to put into effect what they have trained to do.  At younger ages I always try even playing time.  But if we did that with our U14 national league team players who put the work rate in would dip as they think 'why should i bother if so and so puts half the effort in and still plays?' - therefore we say to the boys that playing time is related to their work rate /ethic in practice & when they play.  If they practice half assed their team mates see that if affects their playing time.  I always remember Mourinho talking & playing in a way that makes you untouchable & we twist that to relate to work rate & ask them to graft on the pitch in a way that makes them impossible to take off & easy to pick the next week.'

Gary Fowler, Northern Ireland National League

'Rotate, rotate, rotate!  Some players (& parents) don't like to but it has so many benefits; experiencing the responsibilities, pressures, skills required & emotions of playing in other positions is paramount to building a 'football brain' especially at an early age.  There's so much to be gained from rotating players'

Pumpherston United FC

'At our club we guarantee all players up to U15 will get at least half the playing time each month.  I have a decent spreadsheet to record it & helps coaches immensely so they can see who needs playing time.'

Darrach Teague, Cliftonville Academy FC

'Imperative to insure parents have full understanding of aims.  Pressure to win at all costs often prohibits effective rotation.   Often the group is split between the parents of those more advanced & those who need the game time to advance.

One interesting observation of mine is that those 'stronger' players often ignore those playing to develop & try to do more on their own.  Results in loss of shape, poor team performance & a general step back in development of the group.'

Upton United FC

'Parents all pay same fees.  I put attitude & attendance at training as to who starts, but fair game time for all.'

Aaron Graham, Coach

Jose Mourinho – Guest Blog by Ricky Clarke

Ricky Clarke is a recent graduate of the NSCAA Master Coach diploma.  The Master Coach program is the NSCAA's response to growing trend in coaching education, continuous self-improvement.  Ricky’s coaching resume is very impressive.  He holds the USSF National A’ License, USSF Youth License & the NSCAA’s Premier Diploma.  You can follow his journey at www.RickyMasterCoach.com where he interviews professional soccer players, coaches & provides FREE downloadable sessions for coaches. 

Below he has shared 2 sessions that he watched Jose Mourinho perform at a Real Madrid training camp in America during summer 2012.

JM

The Jose Mourinho Way – Part #1

The NSCAA and UCLA hosted a Special Topics Course Tactical Thinking with José Mourinho last weekend in Los Angeles. The NSCAA is based in Kansas City, Kan., the National Soccer Coaches Association of America is the largest soccer coaches’ organization in the world. Coaches from around the world travelled to California to hear the methodologies employed by the “Special One”.

The Jose Mourinho – Three Part Series

I’ve broken the course into three main parts. The first post will involve ideas used during his first training session (July 30th) as Real Madrid prepare to face L.A. Galaxy on Aug 4th. The second post will discuss the two hour lecture we experienced with Jose Mourinho and the entire Real Madrid first team coaching staff. Finally, the last post will outline ideas used in the second training session that afternoon (July 30th).  I’ll also attempt to conclude some thoughts on the weekend…it was an unbelievable experience!

REAL MADRID – TRAINING SESSION JULY 30TH  @ UCLA 

Jose Mourinho sessions were extremely well organized. Below, I’ve outlined the training session notes I took during our first training with Real Madrid. Some key notes were:

  1. All Real Madrid first team coaches were involved throughout the session. Whether it’s coaching, player management or moving equipment (even Jose did).
  2. Jose Mourinho used TWO full-sided fields every session.
  3. The players had very little downtime. Breaks in between coaching were short and the intensity remained consistent.
  4. Everything is timed, players are directed by one main time keeper.
  5. Each activity lasted less than 20 minutes.

NOTE - Players stretched and participated in a light jogging session for 10 minutes before starting the session. 

 Part 1 – Speed & Agility Shooting and Small Sided Games 

  • Players: Every player was involved
  • Time: 20 MINS. The team was split into 2 groups. The groups would switch very 4 minutes, this helped keep the intensity high.
  • Field: 1 Full sized field
  • Game Conditions: The SSG was open, players could score in any goal, 1-touch play was encouraged, the playing area was very tight and compact. The game was intense and competitive, the players didn’t hold back.
  • Coaching Points: Technical perfection was encouraged, intensity was encouraged at all time.

Part 2 – Pattern Play with Central Midfield & Striker Combination 

  • Players: Every player was involved.
  • Time: 20 MINS
  • Conditions: Players were shown a set series of patterns, they were then encouraged to complete them at game speed.
  • Coaching Points: Technical perfection was encouraged, players performed at speed, intensity was encouraged at all time.
  • NOTE – groups would switch roles every 5 minutes. Jose Mourinho would spend time explaining the pattern, then watch and coach if needed.

Pattern #1 – Playing Through Central Midfield                  Pattern #2 – Playing out of the back

Part #3 – Small Sided Game & Functional Training of Mid-Fielders   

  • Players: 17 Players involved – 3 Players being training functionally away from the 7v7+3 game.
  • Time: 20 MINS (3 minute rotation for target players)
  • Conditions: Players were challenged to find targets before they could score. The area was tight and compact.
  • Coaching Points: Technical perfection was encouraged, 1-touch and combination play desired.

Game: 7V7 + 3 Targets 

Central Midfielders being functionally trained at the same time away from the field 

Part #4 – Cool Down and Stretch 

NOTE – In between rest breaks Mourinho and his staff always used these opportunities to man manage. They would pull players aside to discuss the session and their ideas. As you can see below, everyone cool’s down together.

Conclusions! 

Jose Mourinho once described Louis Van Gaal training sessions as:

“With Van Gaal i could arrive at the stadium a mere half an hour before the practice. I had nothing to worry about because the work was always completely defined. I knew everything we were going to do beforehand. From the practice objectives to the time for doing exercises, not forgetting the main points of methodology, nothing was left to chance and everything was programmed in great detail. All that was left for me – and for the other assistants in the different areas – was the training on the pitch. This meant that my work improved tremendously in terms of the quality because, as I mentioned, with Robson I didn’t get much practice as a coach on the pitch”

Source: Jose Mourinho – Written by Luis Lourenco

Now we know where he gets his organization from!

NEXT POST – JOSE MOURINHO “KEYS TO SUCCESS” PART #2

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho gives in

The Jose Mourinho Way – Part #3 

REAL MADRID – TRAINING SESSION JULY 30TH @UCLA (Second Session) 

Jose Mourinho sessions were extremely well organized. Below, I’ve outlined the training session notes I took during our first training with Real Madrid. Some key notes were:

  1. All Real Madrid first team coaches were involved throughout the session. Whether it’s coaching, player management or moving equipment (even Jose did).
  2. Jose Mourinho used TWO full-sided fields every session.
  3. The players had very little downtime. Breaks in between coaching were short and the intensity remained consistent.
  4. Everything is timed, players are directed by one main time keeper.
  5. Each activity lasted less than 20 minutes.
  6. This session involved varying levels of intensity and space, constant adaptation.

NOTE - Players stretched and participated in a light jogging session for 10 minutes before starting the session. 

Part #1 – Speed, Agility & 1V1′S 

This session involved numerous training exercises with varying degrees of intensity, they ranged  from tight spaces, shadow play and 1v1 environments.

  • Players: Every player was involved (GK’s trained in their own).
  • Time: 20 MINS. The team was split into 2 groups. The diagram shows one grid, but the session had two grids running.
  • Field: 1 Full sized field
  • Game Conditions: Players would run into the grid through the sticks and over hurdles. The defenders needed to win the ball and keep possession until the whistle blew.
  • Coaching Points: Players were encouraged to shield the ball and keep possession. Some players looked dribble (Alonso & Ozil) away from pressure.

Part #2 Functional Training – Attacking Midfielders 

  • Players: Every player was involved (GK’s trained in their own).
  • Time: 20 MINS. The team was split into 2 groups. The diagram shows one grid, but the session had two grids running.
  • Field: 1 Full sized field
  • Game Conditions: Attacking players had to combine going to goal. The offside was used to keep the game competitive and fair. If the defenders won the ball, they kept possession and use targets to create a 7v4 situation.
  • Coaching Points: Attacking players were encouraged to play 1-touch combinations in and around the PK spot area. Wingers would look to play a reverse pass if they got in behind the full-back. Attackers were encouraged to win the ball back “immediately” if they lost possession.

Part #3 – Possession with Targets 

  • Players: 20 Players – 1 Player functionally training away from the group.
  • Time: 20 minutes, each game 4 minute rotations.
  • Field: 1 Full sized field
  • Game Conditions: Targets can only 1-touch. Once you combine with one target, you must find another target in a different grid.
  • Coaching Points: Technical perfection, movement to support, space awareness. Players always rotate roles (targets).

NOTE - The younger players were being functionally trained to cut inside and take a shot across the GK with a coach.

Part #4 – Pattern Play – Attacking Movement using a 1-4-3-3 

  • Players: 11 Players –  The remaining players practiced combining and going to goal.
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Field: 3/4 Full sized field
  • Game Conditions: Players were shown two combinations by Jose Mourinho. Everything was expected to be performed at game speed with technical perfection.
  • Coaching Points: Technical perfection, movement to support, dynamic movement.

Pattern #1 – Wide forward moves inside, striker runs into space and crosses.

Pattern #2 – Wide player receives and plays a deep cross to the back post.

The training session finished with a 11v11 game on half a field (open play). NOTE – the players were extremely pissed when Jose finished the game. The sign of a good session, finishing it when the players are demanding more!

Please check our FREE Download section for the full session.  

Periodisation Training

Dutch man, Raymond Verheijen, is a very outspoken person who is confident in his methods.  The Russian fitness coach criticised many nations at this years European Championships about their pre-historic methods & daily double training sessions.  Russia was the only nation to train only once a day & they started the tournament excellent but then stuttered & didn't manage to qualify from their group.  He is a man that looks to evolve & is widely respected in the professional game having held roles at Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City & having been involved in the last 3 World Cups & 4 European Championships.  I attended one of his clinics in Northern Ireland earlier in the year & here is what I found out...

Periodisation in football

1. Football Philosophy

  • Traditional fitness --> Football  (isolation of fitness from football)
  • Periodisation football --> Fitness

2. Analysis of the Game

Raymond used a concept of showing actions per minute using a ‘X’ & used ‘----‘ to indicate reduction in actions per minute, i.e. X--- X----X-------------X

  • During game quality reduced (fatigue)
  • Less actions per minute during final stages

Ideal X---X---X---X---X (quality and duration, improvement & consistency)

Subjectivity in football is a problem, especially past performances.  Remove your opinion & stay objective, it’s not a “pub chat”.

“Subjectivity is the weakness of our profession”

Fatigue is non-contextual, but “actions per minute” is

Quality/Quantity Chart

Football                                                                X---x-----x                           X-----X (30sec)   X-X-X (15/30/45)

Analysis                                                                X---X---X---X                      X---X---X (15s)   X-(15)-X-(15)-X

Football                better football                  maintain good                   more actions      ability to maintain

Performance     actions                                  f’ball actions                       per min                 more act per min

Football                more explosive                 maintain exp                    quick recov        ability to maintain

Fitness                  f’ball action                         actions                                  between acts    quick recov bet acts

Football                football sprints                  football sprints                 games 4v4         games 11v11/8v8

Experience         with max recov                 with min rest                     and 3v3

Training                see following sections on breakdowns

Method

“We must communicate objectively to avoid confusion and misinterpretation, keeping it precise for the  players”

3. Football Performance

  • Better football action, better passing, pressing, defending (per minute)
  • To maintain more football activities (per minute)
  • Quality, quantity, maintain - BE MORE DEMANDING!

4. Football Fitness

  • Build football fitness into technical and tactical aspects of training
  • Less Space & Time à Execute Actions Faster à More Explosive Football Actions
  • We can learn from the fitness world but take it back to football & make it applicable

5. Football Conditioning Exercises

Traditional athletic approach

  • Start run when you want
  • Moment of action
  • Direction of action
  • Speed of action

A study was conducted over 15 metres with 1 player isolated running the distance.  They compared this to 2 players running against each other.  Finally, the coach held the hands of either player with a ball between them.  This offered a resistance & when the coach played the ball between the players the player that won the ball got to score.  He called this part the ‘environmental trigger as it was within a football context

This offered a closer realism to the game & players worked harder as there was a reward at the end of it so their performance increased.  Making simple adjustments like this to your training will improve the overall results, better training instead of more training.

After the initial power point presentation Raymond then took a practical.  He worked with the Northern Ireland U16 squad.  Upon arrival the players had received a warm up from their coach.  Raymond set up a pitch with 2 full size goals.  The pitch was split into 3 sections of 15 yards each.  He wanted the players to sprint, jog then walk before receiving a 15 yard pass from him.  He wanted the players to receive on the half turn before striking at the goal.  The players started with a chip into the keepers hands before he developed intensity.

Set 1 – Max Rest (with a finish on goal)

A)    5m football sprints

B)    10-15m football sprints

C)    20-25m football sprints

Set 2 – Progress to Short Rest (noticed a drop in & i.e X---X-----X------x---------x---------------------x)

Notes – look at quality with rest and then without rest and ability to maintain

The session then developed to the 2 players against each other with resistance from the coach holding their hands.  He operated this from either end & in groups of 8.  He had a lot of fun with the players by trying to trick them before making contact with the ball.  You can increase the distance set over 30, 45 & 60 yards.  So with the group of 16, 8 worked while the other 8 operated 6 v 2 for an active recovery.  If you have an odd number place a cone down mid way & the player must get to the ball before it passes the cone.

Raymond then operated a game on a 75 x 48 yard pitch.  He played 6 v 6 rotating with another team of 6 - play 2 minutes then switch.  The progressions he added included developing shape / tactics (3 v 2) then the team without the ball had to press.  While the team with the ball always played out from the back, i.e. goalkeeper played out so players always looked to drop / width.

  • Free play (low intensity)
  • Tactical (higher intensity)

Small sided games = overload body in actions per minute = BODY ADAPT!

Verheijen had a great method to replicate actions per minute in a game.  This was shown on a chart like this; X-X-X------X, 'X' indicates actions per minute while '-' indicated less actions per minute.

As coaches we should look to replicate problems from games to training & keep realistic.  For example if the movement per minute not as it should be look to press / transition.  Break it down to work 11 v 11 or 8 v 8 etc. 

  • 10 minutes X - X - X - X
  • 20 minutes X - X - X - X
  • 30 minutes X - X - X - X
  • 40 minutes X - X - X- - - - - X

In the above example the body says no but the coach says yes!  Body will adapt.

The Game     X - - - X - - - - X - - - - - X

Higher Level  X - X - X - X - X - X - X

Based on the higher level example above.  To improve the first actions per minute is through football sprints with max rest.  Then to develop is through games, i.e. 4 v 4 / 3 v 3.  Coming to the latter stages 11 v 11 / 8 v 8 or 5 v 5 / 7 v 7 will improve as will football sprints with minimum rest.

He talked about coaching the moment where the X---X---X------------X----X gets missed out, this was especially prevalent in the 2nd half of the games when the boys were unable to press or transition.  It allowed RV to push/coach the player to maintain his actions for a longer period of time. 

6. Training Methods

  • Football sprints with maximum rest

a) 6-10 football sprints x 5 metres / 30 second rest

    4-8 football sprints x 15 metres / 45 second rest

    2-6 football sprints x 25 metres / 60 second rest

Step 1 - 6 x 5     4 x 15     2 x 25

Step 2 - 7 x 5     4 x 15     2 x 25

Step 3 - 7 x 5     5 x 15     2 x 25

Step 4 - 7 x 5     5 x 15     3 x 25

Step 5 - 8 x 5     5 x 15     3 x 25

Step 6 - 8 x 5     6 x 15     3 x 25

etc.

Step 13 - 10 x 5     8 x 15     6 x 25

b) 2-4 series x 6-10 football sprints x 15 metres / 10 second rest

c) 2-6 games x 1-3 minutes work / 3-1 minutes recovery / 4 series

Step 1 - 2-6 games     4 v 4 / 3 v 3      1 minute work     3 minute rest      x 4

Step 2 -                                                                            2.5 minute rest

Step 3 -                                                                               2 minute rest

Step 4 -                                                                            1.5 minute rest

Step 5 -                                                                               1 minute rest

Step 6 -                                                                            0.5 minute rest

etc.

d) Extensive endurance rest

2-6 games x 10-15 minutes work / 2 minute series rest

Step 1 - 2x10 minutes     11 v 11 / 8 v 8      2 minutes rest      x 4

Step 2 - 2x11 minutes

Step 3 - 2x12 minutes

Step 4 - 2x13 minutes

Step 5 - 2x14 minutes

Step 6 - 2x15 minutes

Step 7 - 3x11 minutes

Step 8 - 3x12 minutes

Step 9 - 3x13 minutes

Step 10- 3x14 minutes

Step 11- 3x15 minutes

Step 12- 4x12 minutes


4-6 games x 4-8 minutes / 2 minute rest

Step 1 - 4 x 4 minutes 2 minutes rest

Step 2 - 4 x 4.5 minutes

Step 3 - 4 x 5 minutes

Step 4 - 4 x 5.5 minutes

Step 5 - 4 x 6 minutes

Step 6 - 4 x 6.5 minutes

Step 7 - 4 x 7 minutes

Step 8 - 4 x 7.5 minutes

Step 9 - 4 x 8 minutes

7. Pitch Size

11 v 11 - 10 outfield players - 100 x 60 metres

10 v 10 - 9 outfield players - 90 x 54 metres

9 v 9 - 8 outfield players - 80 x 48 metres

8 v 8 - 7 outfield players - 70 x 42 metres (50m)

7 v 7 - 6 outfield players - 60 x 36 metres (40m)

6 v 6 - 5 outfield players - 50 x 30 metres (40m)

5 v 5 - 4 outfield players - 40 x 24 metres (30m)

4 v 4 - 3 outfield players - 30 x 18 metres

3 v 3 - 2 outfield players - 20 x 12 metres

2 v 2 - 1 outfield players - 10 x 6 metres (15x10m)

1 v 1 - 1 outfield players - 10 x 6 metres

8. Periodisation Model

Day / Training Week X

  • Saturday - Game
  • Sunday - Recovery Training (subs F.C.T.)
  • Monday - Day off
  • Tuesday - Tactical Training (am - Strength)
  • Wednesday - Conditioning Training
  • Thursday - Tactical Training
  • Friday - Tactical Training
  • Saturday - Game

Day / Neutral Week

  • Saturday - Game
  • Sunday - Recovery Training (subs F.C.T.)
  • Monday - Tactical
  • Tuesday - Game
  • Wednesday - Recovery Training
  • Thursday - Day Off or Tactical Training
  • Friday - Tactical Training
  • Saturday - Game

Mid week game = skip conditioning session

Part Time / Training Week

  • Saturday - Game
  • Sunday - 
  • Monday - 
  • Tuesday - Full Conditioning Work
  • Wednesday -
  • Thursday - Tactical Training
  • Friday - 
  • Saturday - Game

Periodisation Model

Week to Week on FCT day

3 Blocks x 2 weeks = 6 weeks total

                1                              2                              3                              4                              5                              6

 

Explosivity Prep Exercises            F’ball Sprints with min                    F’ball Sprints with max

                                                                                Rest (10”)                                            Rest (60”)

** For Pre-season**

                11v11 / 8v8                                         7v7 / 6v6 / 5v5                                   4v4 / 3v3

**Zero Pts **

                3x12’                     3x13’                     4x5’                        4x5.5’                    2x6x                       2x6x

                                                                                                                                                1’W/3’R                1’W/2.5’R

ß---------------------------------------------------------CYCLE 1-----------------------------------------------------------à

 

2.            3x13’                     3x14’                     4x5.5’                                                    2x6x

                                                                                                                                                1’W/2.5’R

3.

4.

5.

6.            4x13’                     4x14’                     4x7.5’                    4x8’                        2x6x                       2x6x      

                                                                                                                                                1’W/45”R             1’W/30”R

Explosivity Prep Exercises  (prep for min rest)

TR 1/2                   6 x 60m                 60%                        60”R

TR 3/4                   7 x 50m                 70%                        50”R

TR 5/6                   8 x 40m                 80%                        40”R                      

TR 7/8                   9 x 30m                 90%                        30”R

TR 9/10                 10 x 20m              100%                     20”R

**                           2 x 6 15m             100%                     10”R       = stage 1 of min rest football sprints

** Prepare for 10” rest = lactic acid prep exercise and therefore injury prevention

101%                     ^ Football Sprints (max rest) 4v4/3v3

I

I

                Intensity              I

I

I

                100%                     ---------------------- > Football Sprints (min rest) 11v11 / 8v8

                                                                Maintain/Volume

Where to make zero pt??  e.g. 36min net playing time equates to 3x12’ = starting point

9. Lower Level --> Higher Level of Play

  • Youth Academy --> 1st Team
  • Higher level play = High speed of game
  • Intensity increases
  • Volume...?
  • Higher intensity = smaller volume
  • Higher level of play

--> Gradual increase for youth players to develop body.

10. Playing Style --> Fitness

Raymond offered examples of playing styles.  Below offers what he had to improve on in major competitions with each country & how he did.

World Cup 2002 - Korea

1st Half

Very high intensity of play X - X - X - X - X

2nd Half

Dramatic drop in work rate X - X - X - X - X - - - X - - - - X - - - - - X

Solution

More 11 v 11 / 10 v 10 --> 8 v 8 training.  4 x 10 minutes, 5 x 10 minutes, 6 x 10 minutes, etc.

Euro 2008 - Russia

1st Half

Relatively low intensity of play

2nd Half

No drop in work rate, low tempo

Solution

Improve actions per minute through small sided games.

11. Principles of Periodisation

Speed of actions!

  • Football is an intensity sport...
  • ...not an endurance sport
  • Increase the intensity of a session
  • ...not the number of sessions per week
  • Better 4 sessions @ 100% intensity
  • ...than 6 sessions @ 80% intensity

Football Philosophy

  1. Traditionally = Fitness --> Football / More = Better (quantity)
  2. Periodisation Football --> Fitness / Less = More (quality)

1. Traditional = Quick build up

  • 2-3 weeks physical training dominant
  • 2-3 weeks tactical
  • Quick build up = short term fitness
  • Fitness drop in November / December & April / May
  • Quick build up = more injuries
  • Less training / games with strongest teams
  • Quick build up = fatigue in pre-season

Most important - Team development, playing style & understanding

2. Periodisation = Gradual build up

  • 6 weeks football (conditioning) training
  • Gradual build up = long term fitness
  • Fitness increases during season / no drop
  • Gradual build up = almost no injuries
  • More training / games with strongest team
  • During injury slow loss of fitness
  • Gradual build up = no fatigue in pre-season
  • Same fitness level as quick build up!

Part time pre-season

Week 1

Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday (3 training sessions)

Week 2

Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday Game (2 training sessions + 1 game)

Observations

Periodisation in Football

  • Football specific (just play & learn the game)
  • Gradual physical development (long term fitness)
  • Periodisation = less injuries (more player development)
  • Academy Structure (periodisation long term process)
  • Talent Integration in first team (smaller training volume)

Football coaches are the best fitness coaches.

'Football is an intensity sport - not an endurance sport.  Less is more!'

'Better training instead of more training.'

Raymond Verheijen with Tim Wareing

Coach Tim’s Shooting Session

For all those 'coaches' who insist lining 20 kids up to lay a ball off for you to do a flick & for them to shoot then wait 5 minutes before getting their second go please read my session notes below & watch the video!

These outdated methods need to change & parents need to watch out for them.  A line of 20 kids offers 20 shots really means that your child receives 2 touches while the coach receives 20 touches every cycle...lol says it all!

Coach Tim's Shooting Session

Watch the video highlights

Coach Tim's Shooting Session

Emphasis

Great session to work on passing, touch & finishing.

Set-Up

Session takes place around the 18 yard box.  Set 4 cones up as shown in the diagram.  Players positioned at the cones on the goal line should each have a ball.

The same amount of players stand at the cone facing them.  The beauty of this session is it cuts down on long lines & moves fast.

Objectives

Player B checks before receiving a pass from player A.  Player B meets the ball before playing a return pass to player A who moves away from the cone to receive.

Player B then makes an angled run to receive the pass from player A.  Once received player B finishes with a shot at goal.

Players then switch roles.  Rotate from either side.

Progressions

  1. Have players operate from either side so they use both feet.
  2. Vary distance & technique of pass & shot.

Coaching

  • Check run before receiving pass, i.e. move away from cone, push off with arm & meet ball.
  • Quality passing - weight & accuracy.
  • Meet the ball.
  • Quality lay off.
  • Movement & communication.
  • Shooting technique - body over ball, standing foot alongside ball, eyes on the ball + head steady, toes of the striking foot point down towards ground, strike across middle of the ball with laces.
  • Quality finishing - follow shots in.
  • Work both feet.
  • Goalkeeping technique.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

Valencia Coaching Clinic

The Spanish philosophy & training methods are high in demand with them being current World Cup & European Championship winners.  Along with the success of fellow club sides Real Madrid & Barcelona.  Valencia visited Belfast to operate clinics for local children & coaches.  TW Sports hosted an event in conjunction with organisers Saffron Sport.  Below you can read about the clinic along with some background about this famous Spanish club.

From left; Manel (Valencia), Tim Wareing (Director of TW Sports), Glenn Murray (TW Sports coach) & Jose (Valencia)

Valencia

Although Valencia deserve the credit as much as Barca & Real.  They play in La Liga & are one of the most successful & biggest clubs in Spanish football & European football.  Valencia have won six La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey trophies, two Fairs Cups (which was the predecessor to the UEFA Cup), one UEFA Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, & two UEFA Super Cups. They have also reached two UEFA Champions League finals in a row, losing to La Liga rivals Real Madrid in 2000 & then to German club Bayern Munich on penalties after a 1–1 draw in 2001.  Valencia were also members of the G-14 group of leading European football clubs.  In total, Valencia have reached seven major European finals, winning four of them.

In the all-time La Liga table, Valencia is in third position behind FC Barcelona & Real Madrid.  In terms of continental titles, Valencia is again the third-most successful behind the two, with these three being the only Spanish clubs to have won five or more continental trophies.

Valencia were founded in 1919 & have played their home games at the 55,000-seater Mestalla since 1923.  They are due to move into the new 75,000-seater Nou Mestalla in the north-west of the city in 2013.  Valencia have a long-standing rivalry with Levante UD, also located in the City of Valencia, & with two others club in the Valencian Community region, Hercules CF & Villarreal CF.

Valencia are the third most supported football club in Spain, behind only Barcelona & Real Madrid.  It is also one of the biggest clubs in the world in terms of number of associates (registered paying supporters), with more than 50,000 season ticket holders & another 20,000+ season ticket holders on the waiting list, who can be accommodated in the new 75,000-seater stadium.

Session Plan

Registration for players & coaches took place from 9.30-10am.  The Valencia coaches, Jose & Manel, arrived early to set up.  Over 30 local children & coaches attended the event.  Many from my Academy attended along with some of my coaching team.  It was nice to see many other children from our Mini Soccer programme come along with children from other local grassroots & Irish League sides.  As always Northern Ireland mentality means so many other children & coaches don't bother to attend an excellent opportunity like this!  Was great to see a coach travel up from down south to attend the clinic too.

After a light warm up & fun game of tig in the 18 yard box they then divided the players to operate keep ball.  This took place in a series of small 5 x 5 yard areas playing 4 v 1.  The duration of the warm up & introduction was approximately 35 minutes before stopping for water.  After this Jose & Manel split the groups.  They worked with 14 children in each group.

Jose briefing the players using the i-pad

Pressing & Come Back

Jose used an i-pad to explain the session & draw out the session plan using a football pitch app.  The players embraced the new technology & way of explaining.  We would see them refer back & use the i-pad on a regular basis to get across explanations to the players throughout the day.  The session took place on half a pitch with full size goals.  The pitch was divided in half & goalkeepers were used.  The basic set up was 3 defenders in one half with 3 attackers in the other half.

One team had to always keep their defenders in that half while the other team had freedom for the defenders to join in with the attackers.  The scenario Jose was trying to create was a tight game whereby one team was winning 1-0 & wanted to keep it tight while the other team were chasing the game.  This was a nice session & you could see the players looking to press as a unit.

Jose would add different restrictions to challenge the players.  The session operated for 30 minutes before players stopped for water & swapped groups.  We then followed the same group to see Manel's session.

 

Shifting

Manel worked on half a pitch with 2 full size goals & quartered the pitch.  He was concentrating on 'shifting'.  He used the i-pad to help explain to the players what he wanted.  Players were not allowed to tackle, only intercept.  The team out of possession was encouraged to pressure ball while the team in possession started with 3 touch play.  The main concept was when the ball was lost players were told to drop back & shift in relation to the ball.

This was a nice game that developed players understanding of their role when not in possession of the ball.  The Spanish teams don't get enough credit for their hard work & pressing to win the ball back.  This session offered an opportunity to the players to see how disciplined the Spanish are in relation to what each players role is when not in possession of the ball.

FIFA Street

The session took us up to lunch at 11.45am.  The players were given an hour to eat & rest.  After lunch Jose & Manel selected 4 teams to play 'Fifa Street'.  This offered players freedom to play.  They didn't shout or tell them how to play the players were simply given control & freedom of their games.  The only rules were maximum of 2 minute matches or goal the winner.  Winning team stayed on or if it was a draw both teams replaced.  The only other requirement was to make a pass before scoring in the other half.  They used the 18 yard box as the pitch & 5 aside goals.

This was probably the only bit I didn't like in terms that 2 teams were always off & 'ineffective'.  I would personally prefer to have all teams involved.  Although thinking about it & putting myself into their shoes in Valencia it is very hot & they want teams to receive recovery so I guess this is why they did it.  From my time in Holland & Portugal the European approach is that they like players to watch players.  They feel it offers opportunities to learn & if a player likes a move that a team mate tries they are more likely try to replicate it with possible variations.

From the small sided games they then operated a circle drill.  3 players were in the middle trying to gain possession of the ball while the outside players had to make 10 passes with a restriction to 1 or 2 touches.  They rotated players in the middle every 30 seconds.  This led us into the final part of the session for the day.

Local coaches observe & take notes

Space Management

Jose took the final session of the day based on space management.  On half a pitch with 2 full size goals he set up 5 different coloured boxes.  He had one in every corner with a central box.  The main objective was to pass into 2 boxes then play off central box before scoring.

This encouraged players to look for space & use width.  Jose would also at times call out certain colours if he wanted to dictate play more.  The players worked hard at this & I really liked the session as it focused on players finding space & good ball retention.

You can watch some footage I recorded of Jose & Manel working with the group by clicking here.

Interview

After the session I had an opportunity to interview Jose & Manel.  We spoke about youth development in Spain & Valencia's philosophy as well as covering touch line behaviour comparisons & on training methods.  You can watch the interview here.

Review

I'm passionate about sharing ideas & continuing my education in football.  What a treat to spend a day with Valencia & I can't thank Jose & Manel enough for their time & insight.

They coached within the game & only in snippets.  This got players thinking for themselves.  Coaching really isn't a case of screaming all the time & telling players what to do.  Let players search for the solution themselves & you'll notice a real difference long term.

Massive thanks to Saffron Sport for organising & Gareth for offering us opportunity to host the day.  Thanks of course to everyone who supported the event & for my coach, Glenn, for his assistance on the day.

If you want to hear about future pro club clinics or club visits please keep in contact & connect with us.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

Periodisation, Possession & Switching Play

Sundays Academy session was influenced by Raymond Verheije (current periodisation coach for Russia) & notes I'd found on some session plans from Jose Mourinho.  I adapted them to suit my group & to keep the session along the same feel so it had natural progressions.  The players enjoyed & responded well to the session.  It challenged them which is always the outcome we want as coaches for them to problem solve.  The quality improved as the session developed.

We always have to remember we are coaches & we need to plan a session but also have the freedom to change or develop where need be.  At this time of year it is difficult to establish how many players I will have to work with.  This sometimes bugs the life out of some coaches but we should be able to adapt.  Always remember the fun stories of Paul Cooper (from GUBOG) when he told us about the coach that had the 12 players for his session then little Jimmy walks over the hill & he is pulling his hair out as he is 'one player over'.  Crazy.  The session plans I will share with you below allow many changes from playing 5 v 5 to 8 v 8 in sessions to adding a neutral player in the session.  Always adapt.  For the record I had 15 players in.

After my initial warm up of dribbling & ball familiarisation exercises we performed a series of group juggling games.  The first 20 minutes is light & allows players to loosen up which is important as they are different ages & have different needs.  Some have also started the pre-historic 'pre' pre-season sessions of 3 hours of physical abuse!  So we have to be careful.

5 V 2 Periodisation Game

5 v 2 Periodisation Game

Emphasis

Ball possession based around periodisation.  Overload then build up to 5 v 5.

Set-Up

Session takes place on a 20 x 20 yard area.  5 attackers v 2 defenders.  Have 3 players waiting to be fed into session to build up to 5 v 5.  The coach should have a supply of balls to keep the game moving.

Objectives

Simple possession game where players develop their skills of passing & supporting each other.  Players in possession should try to pass to teammates.

Simple, early passes should be delivered & after having delivered the pass, players should adjust their positions so as to receive a return pass if necessary.

The team that starts with 2 players receive an additional player every 30 seconds.  The coach lets them know when to join in every 30 seconds as follows;

0.00 - 5 v 2 (2 touch)

0.30 - 5 v 3 (3 touch)

1.00 - 5 v 4

1.30 - 5 v 5

Progressions

  1. Set target of passes to be awarded a goal.
  2. One / two touch play.
  3. Add target players on the outside of the grid.
  4. Rotate groups to suit squad size, i.e. 3 groups of 5, work 2 & rest 1.

Coaching

  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Create angles.
  • Protect ball.
  • Communication.
  • Quality passing.
  • Positioning.
  • Passing combinations.

This was a nice session & due to timing the session we worked in periods of 2 minutes with recovery.  Quality rather than quantity.  We started with an overload 5 v 2.  The first group was slow to get going as their decision making & poor movement off the ball to create an angle for team mates was lacking.  With having 3 groups of 5 players there was opportunity to work 2, rest 1 & the quality improved second time round.  The group that wasn't involved worked with my assistant 3 v 2.

I always like to have my coaching area set up so there is no waiting for the players.  The first 2 parts of my session worked easily in a 20 x 20 yard area in one of the corners of my 40 x 30 yard pitch.  After concentrating on possession I wanted to continue the theme but encourage a point of attack along with the focus on switching.  This worked perfect.  With my group of 15 I had the option of playing with 10 (3 v 3 with 2 sets of outside players) & rest 5 players then rotate.  Rather than doing this I decided to adapt & play 5 v 5 in the middle with one neutral playing with team in possession.  They looked to combine & attack either side of the pitch to their wide man.  The person that made the pass to the side player replaced them keeping the game competitive & played to a high intensity.

3 V 3 Playing To End Lines

3 v 3 Playing To End Lines

Emphasis

Possession game focusing on shifting the point of attack & switching play.

Set-Up

Vary the size of the grid to suit your players & what you want from the session.  Larger grid offers further distance for players to cover but smaller sized grid offers less space for turning & keeps the session game realistic.  Players have less time on the ball & will help decision making.

I've carried this session out in a 20 x 20 yard grid.  The players have to play quick & always look over their shoulder before receiving!

Have a supply of balls with the players on the outside to keep a high tempo to the session.

Objectives

Team that has the ball tries to keep possession by playing from one side of the pitch to the other.

A point is awarded for each successful pass to an outside player then switch to other side.  Teams can play off same side to keep possession but are only awarded a point for each successful switch.

Keep score to add a competitive side to the game.

Develop so player that passes to outside player replaces them - always rotate!

Progressions

  1. Increase / decrease size of grid.
  2. Limit touches.
  3. Change scoring to encourage passing sequence or certain passage of play.

Coaching

  • Movement.
  • Quick combination play.
  • Change of direction with the ball.
  • Communication.
  • Support play.
  • Decision making.

This was carried out to a very high standard & I was extremely happy with the quality of play.  I wanted to build & progress this along with focusing on the killer pass.  I still wanted to continue the theme of width but wanted to see the ball played into an attacking area that focused on the weight & timing of pass & run.

Switching Point Of Attack Encouraging Width Through Full Backs

Switching Point Of Attack Encouraging Width Through Full backs

Emphasis

Attacking play through encouraging width & support from full backs.

Set-Up

40 x 30 yard pitch, with 5 yard end zone at either end & 5 yard channel for full backs to operate in.

5 v 5 is played in middle with a neutral full back on either channel.

Have a supply of balls around the perimeter of the pitch.

Objectives

5 v 5 is played in the main playing area with 2 unopposed full backs in either channel that are neutral & play with the team in possession.

Score by playing the ball into the scoring zone, player must not arrive before the ball but must time their run to control in end zone.

Attack either end & use either full back to keep possession & encourage width.

Progressions

  1. Rotate players roles.
  2. Restrict touches for full backs.
  3. Add a neutral player in the main playing zone.

Coaching

  • Forward runs.
  • Timing of runs.
  • Create space.
  • Quality passing - weight & accuracy + forward pass.
  • Movement & work rate on / off ball.
  • Decision making.
  • Combination passing.
  • Communication & understanding.

Again I adapted to suit my group size.  I played 6 v 6 in the middle zone along with a neutral player.  With adding the neutral full backs on either side this offered all 15 players involved.  1 or 2 players struggled with the timing of their runs at the start.  For example they arrived into the scoring zone before the ball.  I wanted to keep the session game realistic so added the off side rule for any player arriving into the end zone before the ball.  Again I was happy with how the players performed.  Only on a few occasions did I decide to stop the play to really get across my coaching point.  In most cases it was due to giving away possession too easy through making a difficult pass when a better option was on, i.e. the full back or playing back & starting again.

As always I wanted to take the technical & theme based session into a tactical game.  The introduction of 6 small sided goals still offered the focus on switching play & the players enjoyed finishing with a game.  This also offers players an opportunity to problem solve themselves without a coach going in & stopping it every few minutes.

8 V 8 Game With Focus On Width & 3 Goals

8 v 8 Game With Focus On Width & 3 Goals

Emphasis

8 v 8 game with focus on width & 3 goals.  Team shape & changing the point of attack encouraging play through full backs.

Set-Up

30 x 40 yard area.  8 v 8 + a neutral full back on either side of pitch.  3 mini goals are positioned on either side of the pitch.

Supply of balls spread around pitch & with coach.

Objectives

Each team has 3 goals to attack & 3 to defend.

Look to score in any 3 goals with support from fullback encouraging width & changing the point of attack.

Look for good rhythm in possession, when to switch & when not to.  Also when to penetrate & when to be patient.

Progressions

  1. Rotate players roles & organisation.
  2. To encourage sharper passing limit number of touches on ball.

Coaching

  • Width - look to switch (when & when not).
  • Use of full back.
  • Create attacking options.
  • Decision making.
  • Shape.
  • Work rate & movement on / off ball.
  • Quality passing & finishing - don't force it.
  • Positional play.
  • Communication & understanding.

After the session we had a quick debrief & cool down.  Always ask your players open questions so they can start thinking for themselves rather than always offering the answers & solutions.  We need to create a new breed of young players that think for themselves & play with flair, creativity & freedom.

Let me know how you get on if you use with your own team.  Always feel free to re-post & share as long as you link back to my blog.

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TWAcademy.Org Tour To West Bromwich Albion

It was a chance phone call at the start of the season that set up this weekend to West Bromwich Albion on the last weekend of the Premiership.  Rewind to August & we had organised our Academy tour to London to see our friend Hugo Langton & his academy along with playing a game against Fulham.  Through Chelsea being awkward & West Brom being so accommodating we finished the season with the Baggies!

TW Academy outside the Academy Dome

We had tried to organise tickets for the Chelsea v West Brom Premier League game at Stamford Bridge.  Although Chelsea would not offer any tickets for less than £75 per person!  No child discount, no group discount & stuck up in the second tier of the Matthew Harding stand.  They suggested contacting West Brom.  I remember to this day phoning West Brom & selecting the foundation at 5.20pm to get the most helpful & accommodating woman called Jan.  It was Jan that offered us a fantastic match day experience at the Hawthorns along with great assistance & hard work by Rich.

West Bromwich Albion

The club is also known as West Brom, The Baggies, The Throstles, Albion or WBA.  They are an English professional football club based in West Bromwich in the West Midlands.  The club was formed in 1878 & have played at their home ground since 1900.

Albion were one of the founding members of The Football League in 1888 & have spent the majority of their existence in the top tier of English football.  They have been champions of England once, in 1919–20, but have had more success in the FA Cup, with five wins.  The first came in 1888, the year the league was founded, & the most recent in 1968, their last major trophy.  They also won the Football League Cup at the first attempt in 1966.  The club's longest consecutive period in the top division was between 1949 to 1973, & from 1986 to 2002 they spent their longest ever period out of the top division.  The 2011–12 season is their sixth season in the Premier League since 2002.

The team has played in blue & white stripes for most of the club's history.  Albion have a number of long-standing rivalries with other Midlands clubs; their traditional rivals have always been Aston Villa, but more recently their major rivalry has been with Wolverhampton Wanderers, with whom they contest the Black Country derby.

The Hawthorns

The speed with which the club became established following its foundation is illustrated by the fact that it outgrew four successive grounds in its first seven years.  The first was Cooper's Hill, where they played from 1878 to 1879.  From 1879 to 1881 they appear to have alternated between Cooper's Hill & Dartmouth Park.  During the 1881–82 season they played at Bunn's Field, also known as The Birches.  This had a capacity of between 1,500 & 2,000, & was Albion's first enclosed ground, allowing the club to charge an entrance fee for the first time.  From 1882 to 1885, as the popularity of football increased, Albion rented the Four Acres ground from the well-established West Bromwich Dartmouth Cricket Club.  But they quickly outgrew this new home & soon needed to move again.  From 1885 to 1900 Albion played at Stoney Lane; their tenure of this ground was arguably the most successful period in the club's history, as they won the FA Cup twice & were runners-up three times.

The boys behind the goal on the Stadium Tour at the Hawthorns

By 1900, when the lease on Stoney Lane expired, the club needed a bigger ground yet again & so made its last move to date.  All of Albion's previous grounds had been close to the centre of West Bromwich, but on this occasion they took up a site on the town's border with Handsworth.  The new ground was named The Hawthorns, after the hawthorn bushes that covered the area & were cleared to make way for it.  Albion drew 1–1 with Derby County in the first match at the stadium, on 3 September 1900.  The record attendance at The Hawthorns was on 6 March 1937, when 64,815 spectators saw Albion beat Arsenal 3–1 in the FA Cup quarter-final.  The Hawthorns became an all-seater stadium in the 1990s, in order to comply with the recommendations of the Taylor Report.  Its capacity today is 26,272, the four stands being known respectively as the Birmingham Road End, Smethwick End, East Stand and West Stand.  At an altitude of 551 feet (168 m) above sea level, The Hawthorns is the highest of all the 92 Premier League & Football League grounds.

Club Badge

Albion's main club badge dates back to the late 1880s, when the club's secretary Tom Smith suggested that a throstle sitting on a crossbar be adopted for the badge.  Since then, the club badge has always featured a throstle, usually on a blue and white striped shield, although the crossbar was replaced with a hawthorn branch at some point after the club's move to The Hawthorns.  The throstle was chosen because the public house in which the team used to change kept a pet thrush in a cage.  It also gave rise to Albion's early nickname, The Throstles.  As late as the 1930s, a caged throstle was placed beside the touchline during matches & it was said that it only used to sing if Albion were winning.  In 1979 an effigy of a throstle was erected above the half-time scoreboard of the Woodman corner at The Hawthorns, & was returned to the same area of the ground following redevelopment in the early 2000s.

The badge has been subject to various revisions through the years, meaning that the club were unable to register it as a trademark.  As a result of this, the badge was re-designed in 2006, incorporating the name of the club for the first time.  The new badge gave Albion the legal protection they sought.

The teams line up before kick off

Saturday night friendly in the Academy Dome

The success of the Academy teams reaching finals meant our scheduled game against West Brom had to be cancelled.  Although through the special effort of Rich he managed to organise a game against his own team that finished the season as league runners up & cup winners.  Another bonus was he secured the Academy Dome to play the game in!

What an experience for our boys to play in a Premier League Academy facility.  It was also great to have the Academy Dome, Foundation & The Hawthorn Stadium all in the one location.  This was something I liked at Stoke City & previous visits to the likes of European giants, Barcelona & Ajax.  I think it adds as an extra motivation to really make it as a kid developing through the ranks when you see the stadium every day from where you train.

We played 3 periods of 25 minutes.  The first period was very close with both teams playing some attractive football.  A well taken goal from young Ryan McCrory put TW Academy 1-0 up.  His finish was a quality lob over the keeper.  The second period seen another 2 well taken goals from TW Academy through Reese & Curtis Ritchie making it 3-0.

It was also encouraging seeing Rich, like ourselves, insuring that all players were involved & received similar playing times.  The changes that were made seen TW slightly stronger in the third period with John-Lee grabbing a hat trick, Connor Maxwell getting on the score sheet along with Ryan McCrory adding to his tally.

It was a game played in terrific spirits & I was very impressed with the organisation.  Not only did Rich organise the Academy Dome & referee but supplied us with equipment to warm up along with plenty of water & cups for the players.  Although to have a physio present was crucial after Andy McIvor had a bad fall & needed extensive treatment.  It was reassuring that he could be checked over by her.  Again these are all things that people take for granted, but believe me, I know how much planning & organising that has to go in to bring it all together & I can't thank Rich enough!

Here is some highlights from the game - watch the video!

Match Day Experience

The teams meet before kick off; West Brom v Arsenal

What terrific value West Brom offered us.  For only £25 we received a match ticket to see West Brom play Arsenal, a stadium tour, fun training session & small sided games in the Academy Dome along with a packed lunch!

After a cooked breakfast in our hotel we enjoyed the short stroll over to the Hawthorns to meet Rich.  He welcomed us & placed all our bags securely away in an office so we didn't have to worry about carrying them all day.  We started the morning with a tour around the Hawthorns.  The highlight was to get pitch side & sit on the bench!  Rich was very informative but insured he kept interesting for parents & children.  After the tour we had an opportunity to see around the club shop & purchase some West Brom goodies!

We then transferred back over to the Academy Dome.  Rich took the boys for a fun warm up & kept it very light after the game from the previous night.  He then soon divided the boys & operated small sided games.  We then seen first hand to what level the club works in the community.  The Dome was packed with other clubs & teams doing the same package.  Not forgetting that they had to be split, so while we were all playing football there was another group doing the stadium tour...there must have been several hundred children on the match day experience!  We were even treated to a display of talent from Connor's dad - watch the video!

After the session we all received a packed lunch.  This included a sandwich, drink, piece of fruit, chocolate bar & crisps.  We were able to eat this before taking our seats for the game.  What great seats we received as well!  We were in the third row & touching distance of the players.  It really was a special atmosphere as it was the final day of the season & many West Brom supporters came in fancy dress (Batman& Robin insured we got across the road safely & into the stadium!)

West Brom wanted to finish on a victory as Roy Hodgson was leaving for his new role as England Manager, while Arsenal needed the victory to guarantee Champions League football next season.

It was a terrific start to the game.  After an early mistake by the West Brom keeper Arsenal went 1-0 up.  Then the Baggies fought back to go 2-1 up!  The atmosphere was electric!  Arsenal equalised before half time making the score 2-2.  It really was an unbelievable half of football & such a treat to see these Premiership stars live & be so close to the action.

TW Academy Director, Tim Wareing, with Darren Moore

The second half started well & Arsenal went 3-2 up.  After a lengthy stoppage West Brom offered everything going forward & forced what seemed to be 5 or 6 corners in a row but couldn't find that equaliser.  We had to sneak away just before the final whistle so that Rich could grab our bags for us & we transferred back to the airport for our return flight to Belfast.

We captured highlights from a special day at the Hawthorns - watch the video!

On returning to the Academy Dome to collect our bags we bumped into Baggies hero, Darren Moore, who signed autographs & was happy to have his photo taken with us all.

Clubs don't receive enough credit for opportunities like these.  People sometimes take things for granted but to receive what we did for such a low price is special.  To head to an Irish League game can cost in the region of £10-£12 per adult & £5-£7 per child.  To think what West Brom offered us for only £25 really does show you the lengths they work too.

Thanks

Our thanks goes to West Bromwich Albion FC for such a fantastic experience & for their hospitality - especially to Jan & Rich.  Also to all the parents & children that supported the tour.  A lot of organising goes into these great opportunities & pro club visits & shouldn't be taken for granted.  The Academy was launched in 2010 & boys have had the opportunity to travel to Holland to play PSV Eindhoven & Helmond Sport including playing in an all seater stadium along with visits to PSV & Ajax's stadiums.  We then travelled to London & played against Fulham before having a bumper April & May.  This offered opportunities to players from the academy to travel to Premier League side, Stoke City, for training & a game before a visit to Carrington & Manchester United.  Of course we can't forget about the terrific game & clinic against SC Braga in Belfast!

For those that want more information about the Academy & to request a trial please contact Tim Wareing on; 07740120788 or email.  Remember this does not effect the club you play for.  We offer additional training to develop your child's technique & game understanding helping to offer the all important 10,000 hour theory - 1 or 2 sessions per week is not enough.

TheSoccerStore.co.uk

We have linked up with The Soccer Store to review soccer equipment.  They are one of the leaders of providing top soccer equipment at affordable prices with a quality service to match.  My first batch of equipment arrived within 2 days - speedy delivery too!

The Kickster Football Goal

Set up in less than 2 minutes, light, portable but can withstand a rocket from Rooney! Kickster Goals are a unique innovation in training goals. They are portable & quick & easy to set up without the need for instructions

Kickster Goals are a unique innovation in training goals.  They are portable & quick & easy to set up without the need for instructions.  The poles on a Kickster goal are joined by elastic reducing set up time to just 2 minutes.  The Kickster goals are about half the weight of a normal portable goal & pack away in to a compact carry bag with shoulder strap.

In fact my 12 year old son was able to carry the goals with ease.  I was even able to put them up easy enough on my first attempt which was lucky as I was filmed doing so!  You can watch my video review here.

As a coach I have seen many goals & use many alternatives.  What I like about the Kickster goal is how light & easy to transport they are.  More importantly how quick they are to assemble at the same time of not losing the fun of hitting the back of the net.  They stand up to some pressure.  I drop kicked a few volleys & they managed to take the pressure (no jokes here about my shooting please!)

They come available in a number of sizes.  6 x 4 (perfect for a garden or young players), 8 x 5 & then 12 x 6 which is perfect for any age or small sided game.  The other option I liked was the combo unit whereby the goal came with a rebounder.

The rebounder is a great addition to any coaches collection of equipment to the child that wants to practice at home.  By adding an attachment to the bottom of the goal & swapping the netting you have the rebounder complete.  My son enjoyed using the rebounder to practice his keepie ups, touch & then playing a one-two with it before finishing with a volley into another goal!  I also demonstrated the use the rebounder has for goalkeepers.

This makes the ideal goals to use at the end of a training session or to take down to the park or beach.  Especially at this time of year when many goal posts come down these goals add more fun & professionalism to your session rather than jumpers for goal posts!

The goals are designed and manufactured by Quick Play Sport and tested to British Standards BS-EN71

To watch me put together the goal & the rebounder along with seeing my son use the goals from shooting to a game click here.

How to order...

To order your Kickster goal & coaching equipment simply contact The Soccer Store via website, email or phone call;

Web - www.thesoccerstore.co.uk

Email - uksales@thesoccerstore.co.uk

Phone - 01270 257892

We will be reviewing more coaching equipment from The Soccer Store over the coming months.  If you would like any item reviewed let us know!

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