Manchester United Visit

April really was a terrific month of experiences & club visits.  We kicked off with welcoming Braga to Belfast then travelled to Stoke City & Manchester United.  To be honest Manchester was planned as a birthday present for my son & we organised to travel with friends but with having a couple of contacts there from the @Coaching Family on Twitter I couldn't resist to organise to meet up with them.  It was another memorable trip!

Carson & Cameron pitchside at Old Trafford

United Experience

We brought the boys down to Old Trafford for a stadium tour.  This was terrific for them as they got to see around the ground, sit in the changing rooms & walk down the tunnel onto pitch side before taking their seats on the bench!   They also got to learn about the history of the club from the Munich disaster through to the the successes on the pitch.  It was great to see around the museum & trophy rooms along with seeing an area dedicated to Paul Scholes.

After the tour we visited the club shop & the boys were able to get some United gear.  Quite amazing what you can get a Manchester United badge onto nowadays!

Packed up we departed for the Trafford Centre.  For those that don't know this is a massive shopping complex with entertainment & restaurants.  After visiting the week previous I wasn't keen to do the shops again lol.  Fortunately the boys entertained themselves in the arcade before we met with Pavl & Andy...known as @betterfootball & @Hiltaldo from Twitter.  Pavl interviewed me last year when I published my second book, '1-on-1 Coaching The Secrets To Improve ALL Football Players - GUARANTEED!'  You can hear the interview here.

We caught up over a drink & some lunch.  It is fascinating meeting coaches this way.  You meet so many quality coaches online & it is great to meet them in the flesh.  What was terrific was having the opportunity to follow Pavl & Andy up to Carrington, Manchester United's training ground.  Andy organises a community programme every Friday evening at Carrington.  This allows children to come in for coaching & games.   They cater from 5 year olds up to 14 / 15 year olds.  There is also a dedicated goalkeepers clinic & coach assessments that take place.  We met with Bill who holds the UEFA A Licence & is also a coach assessor.  I was impressed by the team along with the facilities of course.

Cameron & Carson getting a game inside Carrington!

Upon driving up to Carrington you pass Manchester City's training complex as well as Sale Rugby Club.  Arriving at Manchester United you wouldn't really know it was there training complex at the end of a country road.  Only for a sign up saying about first team players signing autographs you probably wouldn't think it was Carrington!  After driving down a narrow road we parked & then walked over to the complex.  This is when you know it is Manchester United!

The facilities are unreal.  The glass fronted complex we walked into is the famous complex where you see press gathering on a Friday for Sir Alex Ferguson's press conference.  That takes place up the stairs in front of the sponsor board.  Any other time though it is best known as the parents lounge.  Tea, coffee, juice & wifi is available while children can go on ahead & train!  On the same level you have viewing galleries & the story of how the youth academy was developed over the years.

On the ground floor at reception you are met with a large photo of Sir Matt Busby & Sir Alex Ferguson looking over you.  2 of the most famous & most successful managers at the club & across Europe.  They both invested heavily & believed in youth over the years.  As you walk down the corridors you are met with terrific pictures on the wall from our very own George Best & Norman Whiteside through to Bobby Charlton, David Beckham & Ryan Giggs.  There is a number of changing rooms then the entrance to the indoor 4G pitch.  We were told the first team don't like training on it & the surface was replaced.  Apparently this was due to a photo shoot being done with Park ji sung.  After the shoot the company knocked over one of the lights which smashed.  Due to them not being able to guarantee that all the glass was lifted they had to replace the whole pitch!  United at this stage then added to the amount to introduce the latest in 4G surfaces.  Although the first team still prefer to train outside even in the harsh winter weather.

Outside there is a full size 3G pitch & grass pitches as far as the eye can see.  There is a separate complex that houses the first team.  Unfortunately we never seen inside the complex but were informed it was the first team changing area, management offices, rehab area & gym.

What was a real treat was when our boys were asked to join in & play!  Cameron enjoyed playing with some of the coaches while Carson was straight in playing with the young kids.  Carson attends are Toddler Soccer programme & couldn't believe the opportunity to play at Carrington!  I shot a video of our experience at Old Trafford & Carrington & you can watch it here.

This was a remarkable experience for me & the boys.  I honestly can't thank Pavl, Andy & Bill enough for a wonderful time at Carrington.  I hope to return very soon.

Bolton Wanderers

With Mark who organised the tickets - he's a top man!

Another Twitter friend @JnrFootyCoach organised tickets for Bolton v Swansea at the Reebok Stadium.  Mark & his son & friend came down to meet us & organised tickets.  It is amazing how you just click.  The boys got on like a house on fire & mixed really well.  I enjoyed talking away to Mark who was telling me about his wee team he coached & it being their last game of the season.  He is a forward thinking coach & child centered letting the kids play & develop.

Bolton Wanderers offer grassroots clubs tickets for only £10!  It is a fantastic offer to see a Premier League game live.  The Reebok Stadium is a lovely ground.  There was great entertainment outside the ground before heading in for the game.

Swansea have performed excellent in their first season in the Premiership.  Playing some wonderful football they deserve to be were they are.  They took the lead early on with an amazing goal flying into the roof of the net that we were sat behind.  Bolton find themselves at the wrong end of the table & in the relegation battle.  To be fair they played some good football as well & deserved to equalise before half time.  Although that would be the end of the scoring as the game remained 1-1.

Watching the managers you could see Brendon Rodgers taking notes on a regular basis.  He's a manager I have a lot of respect for & funny enough comes from an area only 40 minutes away from me.  Aaron Danks, a coach from West Bromwich Albion, attended a recent clinic of his.  It was terrific to read some of his comments that stick in my mind; Rodgers philosophy on developing players, 'people don't care what you know, until they know that you care.'

'Every player I see has 4 magic words imprinted on their forehead - 'Make Me Feel Important'.'  He then went on to say about when he was out of work & trying to break down barriers, ' Don't wait, CREATE.'

We got ourselves back to our hotel & relaxed by watching the el Classico on Sam's laptop with a few beers.  It was great to reflect on another terrific day.  Sam was great doing all the driving & having the car with the kids was a great help.  We missed Coach Ronnie on Saturday.  He went to visit his son who now leaves just outside Manchester.  We would meet back up with the two of them at the United game on Sunday.  His son, Jonathan, played for me at Lisburn Distillery when I was under 18 manager & then reserve team manager.  He also played a couple of games for the first team.  Like his dad, Mr dependable, someone you can always rely on both on & off the pitch.

Our boys had done terrific.  Cameron really enjoying his birthday & young Carson kept up the pace so well for only being 4.  They mixed well together & always kept themselves occupied with the DS or i-pad during the travelling!

Manchester United

My son & I at Old Trafford

Our final day away had arrived & we had another visit to Old Trafford to look forward to.  This time we were watching their Premier League game against Everton.  It was a wet Manchester morning so we had to take cover in the club shop.  It was great to meet up with an old school friend of mine who now lives in Manchester.  Sam & the boys went on in to grab there seats while I had a coffee & catch up with Rob.  Ronnie & his son arrived & then we made our way in to the ground.

Our seats were in the Stretford End beside the tunnel.  The area we were in was the family stand.  It was great the activities & games they had going on in the concourse area of the stand for the kids.  We then settled down to enjoy the game & what a game it was!  We went 1-0 down to a Jelavic headed goal.  I must give the big man credit as never realised how good his movement was off the ball until I seen him at a live game.  Rooney though equalised for the Champions before half time.

The main action was saved for the second half.  Wellbeck scored a wonder goal at our end before Nani made it 3-1.  I managed to get his goal on camera & it was amazing to see the celebrations.  It was also funny to see young Carson sitting playing on his dad's i-phone while 76,000 fans were going crazy!  But this is United & we never make things easy for ourselves.  Everton pulled another back to make it 3-2.  When Rooney made it 4-2 against his old club we never thought for one minute that the score would finish 4-4 but it did!  SO the title race is going right to the last weekend of the premiership by the looks of it.  We were glad to be there!  Here is footage from the games, click here.

What an amazing trip & experience.  I can't thank everyone that played a part enough.  From Sam doing the driving to Pavl, Andy & Bill at United to Mark organising the tickets for Bolton.  The internet is an amazing place to meet amazing people!

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