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Guest Blog by Matthew Nickels on IFA CPD in Association with Seaview Enterprises

Matthew Nickels is a coach with TW Sports & attended a CPD event organised by the IFA in association with Seaview Enterprises.  Below he shares his notes from what was discussed in the morning session.  The event took place at Seaview, home of Crusaders FC.

Introduction

Nigel Best opened by discussing the evolution of Grassroots football.  His central focus was on comparisons with the same on the continent.  The most prominent countries he mentioned were Spain, France & Portugal, as they have continuously generated high quality players over a sustained period.  Belgium was also mentioned based on the players generated in the current 19-22 age bracket.

Observations from a study visit were given.  At 4 clubs visited, that were not even top flight clubs, each had their own 4G pitch provided by the local council, free of charge. This was used by all their age groups, 4 times a week, with each age group having 2 outfield coaches & a goalkeeping coach.

With rates of £60 plus per hour for similar facilities here this is not possible.  The IFA are encouraging effective coaching to maximise the limited contact time, & Pascal is developing the new Youth Certificate.  Nigel believes the Youth certificate is degraded by coaches refusing to do anything non UEFA.

The current level 1 is also being revised due to concerns over how technique is coached.  Age specific methods of coaching technique will be included in future courses.

In study visits games are attended.  This is an important part of learning systems of play.  On a TV screen you can only see where the ball is, however, when at a live game you can also see what is happening where the ball is not.

Nigel concluded the introduction with comparisons between a development coach & competitive coach.  He asked those present which they were, or indeed if they were a bit of both, but warned suppressing the competitive coaching element was difficult & important.

What technical aspects are increasing/ decreasing in top level football?

More of…

-          Fast Transitions/ breaks

o   Arsenal selection of players influenced by speed over 30m.  When defending there is usually only 1 left forward.  Success in transition depends on speed of support.

-          Combination Play

o   Barcelona often look like they are going nowhere with 1 touch passes.  However this draws the opposition and they then exploit the space created.

-          Screener

o   1 or 2

-          Match Intensity/ Tempo

o   Coaching better technique provides players the ability to take in more visual cues & therefore make better decisions.

o   Analogy given of driving a car.  When a learner you have to look at the gearstick, the pedals & even the wheel.  You can’t take in the information the mirrors are giving you.  After practice this is not required & you can even monitor your mirrors subconsciously.  4 sources of information, constantly updated without focus.

-          1 Striker

o   Coach single striker roles, don’t expect to deal with being marked by 2 defenders

-          Defending 4-5-1

-          Attacking 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1

-          Tactical Flexibility

o   Coach player understanding of roles

o   Prepare multiple systems

-          Middle to front attackers

o   How do you mark between the lines

-          Long Diagonals

o   Now an important technique for a modern CB

-          Technical Quality

o   Technique on its own is not sufficient, application of technique under pressure is what makes it game relevant.

Individualists

Less of…

-          Back 3

-          Sweepers

-          Man to Man Markers

-          Less Space (make quicker decisions based on less time)

-          Predictable movement (i.e. running straight lines up channels)

-          Defenders on the posts

-          Set Play Frequency

-          Twin Striker Play

-          Less Offside Decisions (deeper defending)

o   Coach centre forwards to play behind the defenders

§  Out of sight

§  Creates further space for midfielders

§  1 yard head start when attacking in wide positions

-          Advanced Pressing

o   Triggers

o   Pressure high up the pitch is for Barcelona only.  Their interplay is short, they are always compact.  When they lose the ball in the final third there are 4 or 5 players to press collectively early.  This is difficult to replicate in other styles of play.

-          Long Ball Back to Front

o   Described how some centre backs will mark channel side to intercept, with their partner covering the goal side.

-          Rigid 4-4-2

-          Comebacks after conceding first goal

-          Midfield schemer

Transition (counter attack)

-          First Pass Forward

-          4 types;

o   Classic – back 3rd to front quickly to 1 or 2 attackers

o   Collective – regain in midfield area & group attack with 4 to 5 players

o   Advanced – retrieving ball high up & a few attackers exploit

o   Solo – individual creates by running from around half way line

-          Fast break Principles;

o   DEFENDING – disorganised; space behind; low numbers; square passes

o   ATTACKING – interception; reaction time

o   THREE PHASES;

§  Trigger – i.e. clearance, interception

·         6 seconds to exploit

§  Transfer – running; passing; combinations

§  Target – Shot

-          Counter the counter attack

o   Quickly reform

§  Midfield at half

§  Defence around 25 yards from goal

o   Press Ball

o   Midfield Screener

o   Defending Deep

o   Technical Fouls

Awareness

-          http://www.vimeo.com/36972053

-          Don’t just coach a player to look, what they see is what is important.

Money in Football

From Roman Abramovich arriving at Chelsea FC to Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour the sugar daddy’s seem to have let transfer fees, player wages & ticket prices spiral out of control.  In English football how far away is the riches of  the Premier League from lower leagues?  Will UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play regulation bring an end to the crazy money being passed about & will football ever be the same again?

As money in football increases so does each individual player’s salary.  Although along with the rich club owners it is the normal football fan helping fund the game.  Gone are the days that you could go to a top flight game at an affordable price along with picking up a match day scarf, programme & pie.  In today’s game the cost of a ticket for a top flight game can be in access of £70.  This is for a normal seat – no VIP hospitality…for that you will pay well over £300!  Then we have the mega stores.  To purchase the latest full kit along with name, number & Premier League logo we could be talking £70, & that is only in a child size.  This is before you enter the ground for the over priced food & drink.  Although let’s concentrate of player wages in the Premier League.

Premier League Wage

It is believed that one player in the Premier League at a top club can earn up £1.5 million a year.  Comparing this to over 5 seasons previous you will find the highest paid player received approximately £650,000.  Premier League players on average will receive £780,000 per year.  If you compare this other industries you will be shocked.  A nurse will receive £23,500 per year, a teacher £30,000 per year…Wayne Rooney?  £250,000 per week!  His 2012 earnings were £17.2 million!  This shows not only how much a week he earns with his wages but extras through bonuses, sponsorship & player image rights!

Top to the Bottom

So the average Premier League wage is £22,000 a week…before bonuses!  Or if you like, £1.16 million a year.  Compare this to the average Championship player who receives £4,050 per week (£211,000 per year).  This is a fifth of a difference for playing one league down!  Dropping down to league 2 you will find the average weekly wage is £750 which is 30 times smaller than those in the Premier League!

All good managers talk about needing a strong spine in their team.  So whose the top earners as we strengthen our team down the middle?  The manager at the top of the wage chart is the man who keeps his house in good order, Arsene Wenger.  He earns £115,000 per week.  The top shot stopper is Peter Cech from Chelsea earning £96,000 per week.  Not to be outdone his team mate, John Terry, earns £130,000 playing centre back.  Manchester City purchased midfielder Yaya Toure from Barcelona in 2010 for £24 million & offered him a weekly salary of £190,000.  But across the city at United Wayne Rooney finds himself leader of the strikers receiving £250,000 per week!  Despite being in a world recession top Premier League players earnings have went up more than 200% since 2000.  Is it time for a salary cap?

While Football league clubs research has revealed 72 clubs from the Championship, League 1 & League 2 have racked up a combined debt of £2 billion.  We have all witnessed the demise of Portsmouth FC going into administration so UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play Model needs to be adhered too.

Wealthy Owners

The Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, is a Russian business tycoon.  Russia’s 5th & the world’s 50th richest person he is estimated to be worth £8.4 billion.  When he arrived at Chelsea money was made available for transfers, & plenty of it.  When Shevchenko arrived for £30 million Chelsea’s end of year showed a loss of £140 million in June 2005.  By the end of June 2006 this was down to £80 million.

Manchester City owner, Sheikh Mansour, has an estimated wealth of £17 billion but a family fortune of at least $1 trillion US dollars.  He completely wiped Manchester City’s debts of £305 million on arrival.  From September 2008 approximately £300 million has been spent on transfers.  By year ending May 2009 there was a loss of £92.5 million.

UEFA

The Financial Fair Play regulations want clubs to live within their means & was first introduced during season 2011/2012.  Failure to do so could mean disqualification from European competition.

The concept has also been supported by the entire football family, with its principal objectives being:

• to introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances;
• to decrease pressure on salaries and transfer fees and limit inflationary effect;
• to encourage clubs to compete with(in) their revenues;
• to encourage long-term investments in the youth sector & infrastructure;
• to protect the long-term viability of European club football;
• to ensure clubs settle their liabilities on a timely basis.

These approved objectives reflect the view that UEFA has a duty to consider the systemic environment of European club football in which individual clubs compete, & in particular the wider inflationary impact of clubs’ spending on salaries & transfer fees.

In recent seasons, many clubs have reported repeated, & worsening, financial losses. The wider economic situation has created difficult market conditions for clubs in Europe, & this can have a negative impact on revenue generation & creates additional challenges for clubs in respect of the availability of financing & day-to-day operations. Many clubs have experienced liquidity shortfalls, leading for instance to delayed payments to other clubs, employees & social/tax authorities.

Therefore, as requested by the football family, & in consultation with the football family, UEFA is introducing sensible & achievable measures to realise these goals.  They include an obligation for clubs, over a period of time, to balance their books or break even.  Under the concept, clubs cannot repeatedly spend more than their generated revenues, & clubs will be obliged to meet all their transfer & employee payment commitments at all times.  Higher-risk clubs that fail certain indicators will also be required to provide budgets detailing their strategic plans. (from UEFA.com)

This should help clubs compete on a more level playing field.  It should also stop the investors finding loopholes, for example, selling advertising boards for £100 million!

The Magic of Football

Although the top 4 in England used to be a contest between Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal & Liverpool the millions have brought Manchester City into this bracket.   We have also seen Tottenham Hotspur challenge for a place in the top 4 in recent seasons.

But one thing will never change & that is the magic of the FA Cup.  Most recently Premier League side Liverpool visited struggling League 1 side, Oldham Athletic.  The cash strapped League 1 side dumped the Premier League stars out the FA Cup!

I have just received some great coaching equipment from www.TheSoccerStore.co.uk & will be sharing my notes & record the session that I’ll take with my academy side. Check back for my next post that will include all my notes!

How Many Touches Do You Get?

Over the past couple of weeks we have monitored a child to see how many touches they actually receive on the ball during training sessions & matches.  In my last blog post we talked about the 10,000 hour theory, in that to become an expert or professional in any field it takes 20 hours practice time per week.  What we experience as coaches is parents believing that their child has made it by playing football for a club that in some cases only have one session per week & one match per week…but how many times do they touch the ball?

To improve & develop you need to practice.  In football to be more comfortable on the ball & possess a good technical ability you need to practice with the ball.  Simple theory but crazy how many people miss this at such a young age!  I watch youth sessions & I see kids running round a pitch in 2′s with the coach shouting, ‘left hand down, right hand down’.  They get away with it as all parents see is their kids in their footy kit, with ‘coaches’ dressed in their gear & training on the best 3G pitch.  Well before I talk about improving the technical ability of kids I want to make a simple statement.  When paying upwards of £50 to hire a 3G pitch I don’t want to run round the edge of it – I want to use the bloody pitch!

Then we have the IFA run mini leagues that encourage small sided games which in theory is great but again, unfortunately, they get it completely wrong in my opinion.  I operate Toddler Soccer in an indoor 3G arena on a Saturday morning.  Next to us we have kids only a year older than some of my toddler group playing in these mini leagues.  They play 5 a-side, but on the same size of pitches as fully grown men play with the long wide nets!  To me this is still like playing 11 v 11 on a full size pitch with the big goals!  What happens?  The ball is at one end of the pitch with 9 kids around it while the poor little kid is at the other end stuck in nets waving to his dad…then the inspired words from the coach, ‘GET RID OF IT!’, as little Billy lumps the ball down the other end for the 8 kids to run after with the other coach shouting, ‘KEEPER – SWITCH ON!’  It is a waste of time.  Some will argue that the kids enjoy it, I don’t know.  I would split the pitches in half & play left to right into mini goals with NO KEEPER, & encourage 4 v 4.  Still loads of space but more touches of the ball, more 1 v 1′s, more tricks, more goals, more fun = improved technical ability.

Concentrate on the amount of touches each individual receives during each session

Through poor training methods & mis-guided development games the technical ability of our game suffers.  This starts from the grassroots game & no surprise continues through to the professional game.

Reading a recent report the Premier League has announced plans to at least triple the amount of coaching for promising young players in England which it hopes will eventually help improve the quality of the national team.

Under the plans, Premier League academies will provide 15-20 hours of coaching a week for 9 to 16 year olds instead of the current 5 hours, meaning youngsters would get even more coaching time than those in Germany or Holland.

The plan, which might also include football schools, was agreed by the 20 Premier League clubs before the World Cup in which England produced their worst ever performance.  There were 222 English-qualified players who played first-team football in the Premier League last season.  League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, believed that was enough to find 11 to perform in international competition.

Ged Roddy, the Premier League’s director of youth development, stated that the average 18 year old at Ajax gets 6,000 hours of ‘contact time’ with coaches compared to 2,500 for the equivalent player in England.  He also added that the English system has lagged behind & it needs reconstructed.  One of the aims is to have about 10,000 hours of contact time in the future.

One English Club leading the way is Watford with the Harewood Academy.  They studied the set up at Dutch Club, Willem II Tilburg, & have tried to replicate the set up in England.  The focus is that the boys are transported to the Harewood Academy, which is a normal school with other pupils attending, so that boys continue their education but have more coaching time with the coaches.  Already the contact time with coaches has increased from 6 hours per week to 15 hours per week with studies, home work & meals all completed on site.  The project is currently based on 11-15 year olds.  They train in the morning then have classes before lunch.  More classes in the afternoon along with time for homework & another training session before returning home.  You can watch some videos about the Harewood Academy by simply clicking the following links…it also includes ballet dancing in one!  Harewood Academy 1, Harewood Academy 2 & Harewood Academy 3.

‘The young boys, they practice 5 times a week, at the end of the year they will not be the same players.  It’s no superiority from any other country, it’s just that here in England is less practice with the children than anywhere else.’

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal Manager.

This leads us on nicely to our study.  We took one player & counted the amount of times he touched the ball in different environments.  This was from training sessions to matches.  If you want your child to improve technically you should monitor how many practice sessions they are doing on a week to week basis & what they actually do in these sessions.

IFA National County Programme (2 hour training session)

20 minute warm up, working 1 ball in pairs passing.  171 touches.

Remainder of session working on patterns of play & a match.  53 touches.

Overall touches – 224.

Dungoyne FC Club Training (1 hour session)

Warm up, individual with a ball each.  170 touches.

Remainder of session based on possession game then a match.  137 touches.

Overall touches – 307.

Dungoyne vs. Carniny, League Game (30 minutes each way)

Played in midfield for duration of game on wing.  Scored a goal & set up 3.  Dungoyne won the game 8-1.

Warm up, 20 minutes.  162 touches.

During game, 60 minutes.  80 touches.

Overall touches – 242.

1-on-1 Coaching (1 hour session)

Session started off with keepie ups for a warm up.  Then operated the skill square concentrating on dribbling, turns & skills.  A fun passing exercise was followed by S.A.Q. (still using the ball).  A selection of shooting activities completed the session which included volleys, lobs, over heads, free kicks & then a cool down.

Overall touches – 699.

No surprises that the 1-on-1 session involved the most touches but shows the importance of them.  The overall total touches is heavily affected on what you are working on in training.  It is also interesting in the results that the shorter sessions still resulted in more touches of the ball!  This can also be a reflection on the coaching style.  How many times the session is stopped, how long the coach talks for, etc.  But one thing to remember is the importance of using a ball during the warm up.  The difference from a short warm up with the ball (average 165 touches) compared to zero touches if running around a pitch!

In signing off, how many touches does your player / child receive during a typical session or a match?  If it is not in the hundreds & they are not completing enough sessions / practice time you can bet their technical ability will suffer for it.  Why not take a count at the next session or game & add in the comments box?

U12 Training Session

I took a session for a local U12 side last week.  I always prefer my sessions to run smoothly so players aren’t standing about but also that each session is based around the same theme.  Last Thursday was an awful night.  Strong winds and rain so essential that the players were kept busy and always moving.  Likewise, having your coaching area set up so players can move from one thing to the next without you having to have them stand about and take time to re-set your coaching area.  I like to see all players with a ball during the warm up dribbling, performing skills and juggling the ball.

My warm up started with all players in a 10 x 10 yard grid with a ball.  I made a further 4 different coloured 10 x 10 grids in either corner.  This concept is taken from my great Dutch friend, Bert-Jan Heijmans.  All players remained in the centre grid dribbling the ball, perfoming skills & juggling the ball.  I then performed the ‘Ronaldo 7′ which is 7 different skills performed while the ball is stationary.  The idea is that your feet is furthest away from your brain so through repetition will lead to improvement on speed, reaction and the idea of performing skills on the pitch ‘without thinking about it’ or if you prefer, instinct.

I then worked on a spatial awareness game.  I had 16 players in the centre zone so I wanted them to react on my whistle and dribble at speed to either of the 4 outside grids.  If done correctly we would have 4 players in each grid.  The players had great success from this.  You can also operate a number of  ‘mini games’ within each grid like ’3 v 1′ or ‘Ball Hunter’.

My diagram below doesn’t exactly show what I have explained as it is another variation on my session.  If you add another grid in the middle and obviously base on the idea that the players will be split equally amongst the grids.

Dribbling Grid Game

Dribbling Grid Game

Emphasis

Dribbling, spatial awareness & listening skills game.

Set-Up

Great game if you are on your own as a coach or waiting for another group to finish before your allocated time meaning no set up time or little preparation.

Start the session inside a 10 x 10 yard grid using all the same colour of cones (although in my diagram you can’t see this the grid should appear in the middle with the other 4 grids on the outside.) All players have a ball & dribble around. While the players are doing that set up another 10 x 10 yard grid alongside it, but leaving a 10 yard safety area. This time use a different colour of cones.

Encourage players to look for space & perform skills. Again leave another 10 yard safety area & set up a third 10 x 10 yard area using another colour but keeping inside a ‘square’ shape. Finally set up a forth 10 x 10 yard area using a forth different colour of cones.

Objectives

With four different coloured 10 x 10 yard areas set up on the outside players should dribble within the centre grid.  On the coaches call players should dribble at speed to the outside grids.  I worked with 16 players so ideally there should be 4 players in each grid (unlike my diagram!)  On the next call players return to the centre grid.

This is an excellent session for players to improve their decision making & getting their head up.

Progressions

  1. Play mini games when players are in the outside grids like ’3 v 1′ & ‘Ball Hunter’.

Coaching

  • Dribbling skills.
  • Tricks.
  • Head up.
  • Look for space.
  • Change of direction / speed.
  • Awareness.
  • Listening skills.

Set up well so players don't stand about

It is essential to plan and set your session up so that it runs smoothly and players aren’t standing about getting cold, distracted & bored!
I wanted to work on 1 v 1′s and continue the theme of dribbling, skills, turns and work at a high tempo.  My next session was easily combined into the set up from the first part of my session.
With having 4 grids set up on the outside all I had to do at the start of the session was leave a couple of extra cones down in each grid for the mini goals.
Players then worked in their groups of 4, playing 1 v 1.  This in turn kept the high tempo but also allowed enough recovery for each player.
Having mini goals on either side of the grid insures players can change direction to beat & fool the defender.  Although if the defender should gain possession they then become the attacker.
Rotate players so that everyone has an opportunity to play both as an attacker and a defender.  I named the session after PSV as I viewed it at their Academy!

PSV 1 V 1

PSV 1 v 1

Emphasis

1 v 1 duel, beat the defender with a move at speed.

This is a simple session that I viewed at the PSV training ground.  The Academy played this at a high tempo.

Don’t have long lines although work in groups of 4-5 players per grid so each player receives a recovery period.

Set-Up

Set up 10 x 10 yard grids with a safety area between each one.

Players should position themselves at the top of the grid in the centre facing the defender at the bottom of the grid.

A mini goal should be placed on either side of the grid.

Objectives

Defender starts with the ball (red player).  They make a firm pass to the attacker (yellow player).

The attacker should meet the ball & both players come to the middle of the grid.  The attacker performs a skill & attacks one of the goals while the defender applies pressure.

Encourage the attacker to be brave, perform a skill & play at speed.  They should also be patient & if they cannot score in one goal look to switch & attack the other goal.

Progressions

  1. Increase / decrease area depending on age & group ability.
  2. Change roles so each player has an opportunity of being a defender & an attacker.
  3. If defender wins ball they can attack either goal.

Coaching

For attackers;

  • Accurate driven pass.
  • Good close ball control.
  • Assertiv, determined dribbling in tight space.
  • Use of both feet.
  • Change of direction.
  • Skills & turns.
  • Fakes.
  • Be direct.
  • Speed.
  • Be brave.

For defenders;

  • Deny time & space for opponents.
  • Pressure first touch.
  • Close down space quickly.
  • Jockey opponents.
  • Force player wide – away from gate.
  • Tackle opponent correctly – not from behind, make contact with ball & ensure correct timing.
  • Don’t go to ground unless the ball is played out of play.
  • Showing a player inside – outside.
I am always keen to take what is learnt in the technical session into a tactical themed game.  I thought the 5 goal game was perfect as it encourages spatial awareness with changing the point of attack.  The scoring system encourages 1 v 1 and dribbling as a player dribbling through the gates receives a goal.  It also combines team play & passing.  If a player passes to a team mate they receive 2 goals and to encourage movement and support the team is awarded a bonus goal for a 1-2.
I had 16 players so I played 5 v 5 + a neutral player (i.e. they play with the team in possession making it 6 v 5).  To keep all players active and not to over crowd the pitch I played another team of 5 as wall players.  They were spread around the outside of the pitch and were restricted to 2 touches and couldn’t be tackled but had to play at speed.  They could move up & down but not allowed to enter the playing area.  I played roughly 5 minutes a match with every team taking a turn as wall players.

5 Goal Game

5 Goal Game

Emphasis

Possession & combination game focusing on changing the point of attack.

Set-Up

2 equal teams play on half a pitch.  5 mini goals / gates are set up within the area using poles or dome cones.

You can adapt the size of the area & the amount of mini goals set up to suit your group.

Objectives

Teams combine to score a point through dribbling through the gates, passing through the gates or score a bonus point by playing a 1-2 / give-&-go through the gates.

Players are not allowed to score back-to-back goals in the same gate.

Progressions

  1. Add more mini goals / gates.
  2. Colour code certain gates, i.e. gates on the wing to encourage good width.

Coaching

  • Good first touch.
  • Quality passing.
  • Movement & work rate on / off ball.
  • Don’t force it through gate, look to open up & switch.
  • Always receive ball side on.
  • Awareness.
  • Communication.
I finished with small sided games with no restrictions (again I rotated the teams but the resting team played as wall players to stay active).  Apart from some encouragement, praise and lighted heartedness let the kids play – they listen to us coaches enough!
Let me have your thoughts on my session plan and if you have tried it.  Great to have feedback!  One thing you will see is that my players always have a ball at their feet.  With the session being set up so well players did not get cold or frustrated.  They were kept moving during the entire session and I kept my coaching points short and to the point.  They were that busy enjoying the session the gale force winds and rain were forgotten about!

Tour to Holland

As Director of TWAcademy.Org I organised a tour for 25 boys & parents to travel to Holland.  The tour arrangements were organised by my close friend & top Dutch Coach, Bert-Jan (BJ) Heijmans.  The tour brought together a selection of boys from over 6 different boys & Irish League clubs.  The tour offered an opportunity to live the life of a professional during the 4 day training camp.

After a great flight from Belfast International to Schiphol Amsterdam we were met by a luxurious coach & good friend BJ.  We transferred to Den Bosch to our base at the 4* Hotel Vaught.  After checking into our rooms & unpacking we met up for a team meeting.  BJ took the opportunity to welcome everyone & explain in full the weekend ahead.  The squad then enjoyed a meal together before having a stroll to the old town.  The boys then headed to their rooms for a well deserved rest.

Saturday morning the team met for breakfast before transferring to VV Eindhoven, this is a feeder team of PSV Eindhoven.  After a team talk & warm up the boys took to the field for what would turn out to be an excellent performance & very entertaining game.

Eindhoven v TWAcademy.Org, Saturday

The match was played in 3 periods of 25 minutes.  During the first period we had a number of great chances created by some fast flowing football.  Unfortunately Mackie, Stewart & McCrory couldn’t break the deadlock.  Against the run of play, & right before the first break, Eindhoven scored to go 1-0 up.  A very cool finish by the Eindhoven forward.

The second period was very exciting.  Mackie scored probably one of the hardest of his opportunities by finishing well with a volley to make the score 1-1.  More excitement was to follow after a free kick was awarded on the edge of the Eindhoven box.  Ryan McCrory stepped up to score a marvellous free kick into the right hand corner of the goal, 2-1 to TWAcademy!

All the goals seemed to be saved for the final period.  Eindhoven equalised, making the score 2-2.  Soon after Luke Fisher received the ball on the half way line & beat 2 players as if they weren’t there.  He then outsprinted the covering defender before cutting inside & finishing with a lethal right foot finish, 3-2.  TWAcademy then took control with Mikey Crawford taking a well worked goal, 4-2.  The temperature continued to rise & some tired legs started to show.  Although it was the heads to go first, switching off from a corner Eindhoven pulled a goal back.  A number of the Academy players were frustrated & ran to the referee claiming that the corner was taken half way between near post & corner flag.  To their frustration this is allowed in Holland.  Again this shows how they tailor the game to the children in Holland.

With minutes remaining the talented PSV Eindhoven forward finished brilliantly to make the final score 4-4.  What a great performance by the young boys.  The scouts watching were very impressed & will monitor a number of the TWAcademy players.

Philips Stadium

After the game we enjoyed lunch on the executive bus that the Premiership teams use for games.  We transferred to PSV Eindhoven’s ground, The Philips Stadium.  Our tour guide was very friendly, informative & interested in our party.  We got pitch side, taken through the changing rooms, media room & executive seating area.  We walked the corridors that many famous players & managers of the past have done.  This includes the great Sir Bobby Robson & players such as Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Before returning to the hotel we had opportunity to purchase some PSV gear in their shop.

Evening Session

BJ then took the boys for a training session at a fantastic indoor arena owned by our friend Martien Pennings.  Martien is a head scout at PSV & travelled over to Belfast to operate a clinic for coaches for TWSports.Org.

BJ’s session involved all the players & each of them always had a ball.  You can view these sessions on a DVD that will be produced from our trip.  For more information contact me on, 077 4012 0788.

Helmond Sport v TWAcademy.Org, Sunday

After breakfast we transferred to Dutch First Division side, Helmond Sport.  With the first team being away we had the opportunity to play in the first team stadium, a 5000 all seater stadium!  What a great experience for the boys.  The pitch was shortened & smaller goals placed on either 18 yard line.  Again proving why the Dutch are more technically gifted & offer a more child friendly approach.

The game was quite one sided with TWAcademy.Org recording a great 10-1 win.  Although the Dutch counter parts were younger, played some nice football & never gave in.  Again a number of the TWAcademy players attracted interest.

The game finished with everyone hitting a penalty.  In both games our Dutch counterparts offered us all the balls, bibs, cones & water we required for our warm up.  We had showers & changing rooms & a club room for tea & coffee.

Dutch Taste

After the game we went to the local chippy to discover the Dutch equivalent to fish & chips!  Although some of the kids were not fussed on some of the items the parents & coaching team enjoyed it!

We then went for a game of bowls before transferring back to the Philips Stadium to watch PSV Eindhoven v AZ.  After a non eventful first half the second half improved & we cheered PSV on to a 2-1 victory.

After a very busy, but very enjoyable couple of days, we enjoyed a free night in the hotel.  Along with BJ & Danny we carried out player analysis after dinner.  This offered a 1-to-1 informative chat with each player to add to their game & how they can improve on any weaknesses.

PSV Eindhoven First Team Training, Monday

After breakfast we boarded the bus with our luggage sad knowing that it was our last day in Holland.  But to cheer us up BJ had organised another fantastic day!  We arrived at the first team training ground of PSV.  We saw a couple of first team & reserve team players train.  They also took the time to speak with us, sign autographs & pose for photos.

They also had their academy players in for a week of professional training.  2 sessions daily, basically training as a first team player.  It was fascinating to watch.  Kids had the freedom to train & coaches got down to their level & made it fun but always high tempo & use of the ball.

Hans Segers

I think the highlight was meeting ex Wimbledon keeper (aka crazy gang!) Hans Segers.  He is now a goalkeeper coach at PSV & organised a penalty shoot out for the boys against the PSV keeper!

It hit home to everyone – players & parents – to what I have been saying over the past number of years.  In Holland everyone is so approachable & down to earth.  There are no big egos or super stars.  This was our final meeting at PSV at what a way to finish on!

Ajax, Amsterdam ArenA

Before making our way back to the airport we stopped off to enjoy a stadium tour of Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA.  We also had time to view the historic museum of this great European club.

On our way back to the airport our captains, Luke Fisher & Keegan Rice, presented BJ & our coach driver with gifts & made a speech through the microphone on the coach.  They spoke very well & it was very moving for BJ to have 2 young boys speak so well.

Observations

This was my fourth time in Holland.  So was great to meet up with friends & for so many parents & boys to see my love for the country & philosophy so much.  The boys & parents mixed so well.  It shows the training each week at the Academy really does add to their games along with what they receive outside of that.  In Holland boys of 11 & 12 will train up to 4 times per week.  In Northern Ireland the reality is once weekly, maybe twice.  This is why children attending the TWAcademy don’t only benefit from another session but the quality coaching & opportunities they receive really does add to their game.

Another massive difference is that the Dutch continue to work with players & always keeping them at a level that suits.  While Premiership clubs (& youth teams in NI) replace up to 50% of their players it is no surprise long term development is not available & more & more players are leaving the game.

The DVD features BJ’s analysis on this & what he thinks about TWAcademy.  If you want to hear more & watch more sign up to our Facebook page & You Tube channel.

This experience will live with us all.  We have made a video show casing what we do along with footage from our tour.  Watch our video review by clicking this link!

Future

The boys will continue to train with myself on a weekly basis.  Some also have booked & continue to avail of my 1-on-1 coaching.  We will return to Holland.  We also have an invite from Portugal.  Short term we will look at taking the boys over to visit BJ in Durham & play his side as well as Sunderland or Newcastle.

We also hope to organise player & coach exchange between TWAcademy & in Holland.  Many of our players attracted interest.  So if you would like to find out more about getting your child involved simply contact me now, 077 4012 0788 or by email.

Thanks

TWAcademy.Org would like to thank our sponsors; Absolute Marketing, Grounded Espresso Bars & Kaizen Print.  We extend our thanks to all the children & parents for their support.  Finally we thank all the clubs & people in Holland that welcomed us along with BJ who put together one magical experience!

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