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


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


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.


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


  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.


  • 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


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


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.


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!


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


  • 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


Attacking play through encouraging width & support from full backs.


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.


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.


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


  • 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


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


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.


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.


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


  • 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.

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

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.


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.

Stoke City Experience

I had the pleasure to travel over to Stoke City FC with 3 boys from our elite squad.  This was a terrific experience for the boys to see a Premier League club & it's academy set up.  Their U10 coach, Will Ryder, hosted us during our stay & I must say what a positive experience we all had.

Belfast Departure

We all met at Belfast International Airport for the 7am departure to Manchester.  A nice early start that had Ryan, Stephen & Tom all kitted out in their black TW Academy tracksuit along with white polo.  They all said goodbye to their parents & I became their surrogate father for the next 4 days lol.  We got straight through security & boarded the plane.  We enjoyed a pleasant flight over to Manchester on a lovely morning.  We used the time to chat about the experience telling them to be focused but to truly enjoy the experience.

The Stoke U10 Academy Manager, Will, arrived to collect us at Manchester & transfer us to his home in Stoke.  It was an enjoyable journey that offered an opportunity to get to know Will.  Straight away I found him to be very professional but with a warm personality that put the boys at ease.  It's funny as over the years I sometimes would meet very stuffy coaches who seem to be above themselves & I wonder how they can relate to kids.  To meet a guy from a top premiership club that had such a welcoming & down to earth attitude was refreshing.  But that's enough man love for Will haha.

Tom, Will, Ryan & Stephen training with Stoke City's Britannia Stadium in the background

Arrival & Small Group Session

We got settled in to his house & had a drink before preparing to go out for a morning small group session with Will.  The session took place on grass outside the Academy Dome which incidentally is just across from the Britannia Stadium.  What a back drop to have while you train!  It was a great opportunity to watch another coach work with a small group.  As many of you know it is something I work on a daily basis with - 1-on-1 coaching & small group coaching.

The boys had a terrific time concentrating on ball familiarisation, Speed, Agility & Quickness (SAQ), passing & then into finishing.  I filmed highlights from the session & you can see Will & the boys work by clicking here.  This is something I do until the cows come home.  You can never do enough ball work!  Will also had one of his academy development players arrive in to take the group up to 4.

When you watch the video you will see that Will has a great way with working with players.  I believe we share similar philosophies.  It is refreshing to see a coach work heavily on technique through demonstration, snippets of guidance & always positive encouragement.


First Team Training Complex & the Academy

After the session the boys got to see the Academy indoor 3G Dome & parents lounge.  We then transferred over to the first team training ground.  Will's U10 team had a friendly against the only team that Stoke have an official link with.  They were over from Orlando.

It was terrific to see around the first team complex & to see one of the academy teams in action.  At this age group they played on a smaller pitch with smaller nets.  On all occasions the keeper looked to pass the ball out & play from the back.  The defenders were comfortable on the ball & we witnessed some lovely passages of play & individual skill.  The players looked to take players on & the coaches only added encouragement & short snippets of advice to the players.

The weather decided to put on a performance as well & wanted to make sure every condition got a game!  We had warm sunshine, cloud, rain to a heavy downpour of hail stones!!

Picture with the boys in Stoke City first team training complex

I captured highlights from the game & the Stoke City first team training complex & you can watch the highlights by clicking here.  All the pitches were immaculate & their was a mix of a couple of full sized pitches for the first team, the reserve team pitch, academy pitches full size & a number of marked out smaller sized pitches.  There was also a full size 3G pitch.

The complex was over two levels.  On ground level there was reception, changing rooms, gym & a rehab room complete with mini pool.  On the first floor there was offices, including the first team manager Tony Pulis' office!  The canteen was also situated on this level.  Many may remember big Peter Crouch walking across this area on Sky Sports transfer deadline day!

We had our photo taken in here beside the Stoke City badge.  What was also present on all the walls was photos from the current stars of the first team to famous older players from yesteryear.  This included Gordon Banks & 'the dribbler', Sir Stanley Matthews!

I was very impressed with the facilities & the welcome we received.  There was always a smile & hello from coaches, players, staff or parents.  The boys loved the experience!  Not a bad first day to train, watch a game & be shown around the first team training complex!

The Britannia Stadium

We enjoyed a private tour of the Britannia Stadium

The Britannia Stadium is an all-seater that can accommodate 27,598 spectators (reduced from 28,384 due to segregation.)  The name is taken from the sponsors of the Stadium the Britannia Co-operative Bank.  Along with hosting football matches, the stadium has played host to performers such as Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams & Elton John.  The ground also holds conference & banqueting suites, the Delilah's Bar, & a club shop selling Stoke City merchandise.

The highest attendance being recorded at the stadium was 28,218 for the sell-out fixture against Everton in their FA Cup 3rd Round tie in 2002.  The first goal in the stadium was scored by Graham Kavanaghfor Stoke in a league cup game against Rochdale.  The club had played at the Victoria Ground until 1997.  Club legend Sir Stanley Matthews ashes were buried beneath the centre circle of the pitch following his death in February 2000; he had officially opened the stadium on 30 August 1997.

The Stoke City fans were awarded with the loudest supporters in the Premier League last season!  We were shown the executive boxes before being taken down to the changing rooms.  We all left our mark there lol before heading down the tunnel & out on to the pitch.  We got some great photos & memories that we'll never forget.  Those that clicked on the above video link will also see the stadium tour after the academy game & first team training complex.

Before leaving the stadium we made sure we grabbed some Stoke City training gear & were all kitted out!

Stoke City Development Game

After returning home to eat & relax we prepared for a game that night.  The boys would feature for Stoke City's Leicester Development squad playing against Stoke City Development squad.  This is the stepping stone to being selected for the academy.

Ryan, Tom & Stephen line up for Stoke!

The match was played at a local club called the Stoke Domino's.  They have a fantastic set up that reminded me of a typical Dutch grassroots / semi pro club.  While the boys got ready I grabbed a coffee in the club house & had a walk around the facility.  I met with a parent whose son had traveled over from Asia.  He played in the academy game the previous day.  It was fascinating speaking to them & hearing about their experiences back home.  He was a talent.

The game was played on a smaller pitch with reduced size nets.  The pitch size was perfect for a 9 v 9 game.  The coaches on the night decided to play 11 v 11.  Personally I thought it was too tight a pitch but on a positive it meant that Ryan, Stephen & Tom all got full games.  They played 4 periods which allowed the coaches time to speak & organise the players.

The boys played in the Leicester Stoke Development side & played some great football.  They were very unlucky not to score with Tom going close while a team mate hit the post.  It was in the second period that Stoke City went 1-0 up.  During the third period the boys did excellent.  First of all Ryan came up with a terrific bit of individual play by flicking the ball up & over the Stoke defender before sending a looping shot over the keeper to equalise!  We captured the goal on camera.  Although no sooner had kick off taken place that Tom picked the ball up & sent a thunder bolt into the roof of the net to put the Leicester Stoke side up 2-1!

This was great personal achievement by the boys as Ryan & Tom had scored at Stoke while Stephen grabbed the goal against Braga before flying out!  Disappointingly I missed Tom's goal on the camera : (

The third period seen Stoke Development equalise at 2-2 & that would be how the scores remained.  Was made up for the boys to play in the Stoke top & have such a memorable experience!  Watch the match highlights here!

Indoor Tournament

On Friday there was a meeting for all academy staff based on the new EPPP coming in so it changed the schedule of the day.  The boys enjoyed playing an indoor tournament in the Stoke City Academy 3G Dome.  The bonus was it included a lot of players from the actual academy so the standard was very high.  It was non stop action & I enjoyed watching the game before having a walk around the facility & the local area which was beside the stadium.

I really do like the idea of clubs having their training bases close to their stadium...what motivation must it offer players - especially young ones.  Barcelona & Ajax are two great examples of this.

As Will attended the meeting that night it offered us some down time in the house to reflect on the experience.  I think I was buzzing as much as the boys!  To see the various training sites, stadium & for the boys to be involved in training & games...along with grabbing a goal each!  These experiences should be jumped on.  We need more children from Northern Ireland to sample being around the professional environment that a Premier League club offers.

Return leg

On our final day Will dropped us down to the Trafford Centre in Manchester.  We enjoyed some food together before the boys seemed to change into woman & went shopping!  Never been into so many shops in my life.  Will played a game for his club before returning to collect us & take us to Manchester airport.

I can't thank Will & Stoke enough for what was an awesome experience.  Will opened up his home for us, as did Stoke City, & it will be a memory I'll never forget about not to mention the boys.  We hope to link up & offer a clinic in Northern Ireland by Will as well as a return visit to Stoke City.

Braga Visit TW Academy in Belfast

We were pleased to welcome Portuguese side, SC Braga, to Belfast over the Easter period.  My good friend & Braga's Assistant Academy Director, Hugo Vicente, travelled with his U13 side.  They were taking part in a tournament in Dublin.  We organised for them to travel up to see Belfast & play TWAcademy.

SC Braga U13 side that drew with TWAcademy.Org 1-1 in Belfast

SC Braga

Sporting Clube de Braga is commonly known as Sporting de Braga or simply Braga.  They play at the AXA Stadium which is also known as ‘The Quarry’ or the ‘Tool Box’.  This is due to the design where the stadium is built inside a Quarry with cables attaching the 2 main stands.  The ground was built for UEFA Euro 2004.

Braga had been known as Arsenal do Minho and changed their kits from green and white hoops to their Arsenal style red in 1935.  This is due to their coach, Jozsef Szabo, visiting and watching Arsenal at the old Highbury ground.

The emblem of Sporting de Braga is the city of Braga’s shield with Mother Mary and baby Jesus.  On the top of the emblem is the golden Mural Crown of Braga, with the name Sporting Clube de Braga on it.  Many fans of Braga have said that Mother Mary gives them luck.  The fans of Braga are known as Arsenalistas due to their team home kit that resembles that of English club Arsenal.

After finishing runners up in the Portuguese league during season 2009 / 2010 they qualified for the knock stages of the Champions League. They defeated Celtic and Sevilla to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League for the very first time.

Youth Set Up

Braga provides teams from 7 / 8 year olds and above.  The younger section of the Academy will train 3 times per week along with a match.  They concentrate heavily on ball mastery and 1 v 1 duels on defence and attack.

Players also receive homework so they really develop and are confident using both feet.  Braga will work closely with a number of other local clubs.  They play in a number of tournaments so they are playing against the best.

They will play small sided games on smaller pitches and with a smaller ball at the young age.  Their U13′s play 11 v 11 on a full size pitch.  I suppose one of the problems is with the local leagues that they are forced to play in.  Some opposition are very poor.

As the players get older they will start to train more.  The U19′s for example are in every day.  They also have players from all over the world.  The nationalities in the squad asides from Portuguese include; German, Greek, Brazilian along with a number of players on trial from Africa.

The U19′s train at the old Braga stadium which is a great facility.  The Spain National team used this as their base during Euro 2004.  They also play their home games here.  An athletic club also operate out of the same base.  During the week that we were in Braga there had been a lot of rain so the training was transferred to 2 full size 3G pitches that are at the same location.  They are Council run but a great facility to fall back on.

Belfast Welcome

MLA, Chris Lyttle, from Alliance Party welcomes SC Braga to Belfast at the NI Assembly

We organised a coach to transfer the players, staff & parents of SC Braga from their Dublin base to Belfast.  Chris Lyttle, MLA, from the Alliance Party organised a tour around the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.  This is were the Good Friday Agreement was signed.  The players & coaches enjoyed the tour & were able to get some great photos.

It was also superb to welcome a good 'Twitter' friend of mine called Liam.  He flew in from England to enjoy the full day...showing a real hunger to learn & develop as a coach!

After the tour it was back on to the Braga coach & transfer to Belfast Boys' Model School to play the challenge game at the fantastic venue of Mount Pleasant on the 3G pitch.

Braga playing in their famous red tops while TW Academy turned out in their bright orange tops like the Dutch!  It was a very well contested game of football.  The technical ability from both sets of players on show was impressive.  TW Academy started well & were very disciplined & played some attractive football.

Very secure at the back with Matthew & Jamie having excellent games in front protecting the back 4 it allowed freedom for the attacking players to try & create opportunities.  It was Curtis Ritchie who controlled the ball toward the end of the first period & beat the Braga defender.  Stephen Wilson then made a great run from the right & when Ritchie weighted the perfect ball Wilson made no mistake with the finish.  What a goal it was going in off the underside of the crossbar!  TW Academy 1-0 SC Braga.

The side that played SC Braga in Belfast

The second period was much more even.  Braga started creating more opportunities.  It was a pass that was made for the Braga forward that the defenders thought was off side but he didn't stop & put the ball in the back of the net to equalise, 1-1.

Both teams in the last period defended well.  The central defenders of TW, Nathan Kerr & Louis Simpson, made it difficult for Braga to break them down.  The final score was 1-1.  The parents & supporters enjoyed a very entertaining game.  What an experience for our boys, & myself, to prepare & play against a top European Academy!  It was evident how developed the Braga players were & how comfortable they all are on the ball.  It was a nice test for us.

Hugo Vicente, Assistant Academy Director of Braga, commented; 'I was very impressed with your team considering this was your first game together with a new squad & you only have access to the players once a week.  That is a testament to the work you & Lee carry out.  Imagine what you could achieve if you had them 3-4 times per week what you could achieve!'

Watch the match highlights by clicking here!

Player & Coaches Clinic

After the game the boys from both teams transferred to Belfast Boys' Model School for refreshments before they returned to Dublin.  We supplied all the players with a goodie bag thanks to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.  I also included a copy of my '1-on-1 Coaching The Secrets To Improve ALL Football Players - GUARANTEED!' book for each of the players.

Hugo Vicente shares the methods of SC Braga - fascinating night!

Our players remained with a number of coaches for the player development & coaches clinic.  Nigel Best from the Irish Football Association was pleased to award 5 credits for coaches CPD.  Hugo Vicente led the clinic assisted by the Braga Director of Goalkeeping, Ricardo.

Below is the report of the clinic from my Academy Assistant, Lee Hodge...


  • Develop players with initiative and top technical ability
  • Develop players’ able understanding, analyse and decide with quality in the game. – (Game based training helps develop intelligent players so they always include defenders)
  • Develop players with the right mentality and ambition to reach the 1st team and to play at top level football
  • Be a Community Partner (i.e. help them with school work, social lives etc.)

What they want to develop

  • Develop players through a clear vision
  • Create players in a team context and not teams (focus on individuals)
  • Specific contents for each age group, to develop the player in each dimension; Technical, Tactical, Mental and Physical
  • Creating a demanding environment but fun environment and ensuring the sessions are age appropriate

(We need to put ourselves in the players place – what do they want?)

Main focus is on individual development – Play players up if required. They are willing to lose to win in a few years’ time when it matters.

They believe when working with children it is essential to show you care. Then they will be willing to learn – BE THEIR FRIEND!

  • Focus on technical ability
  • Focus on speed
  • Focus on aggressiveness

The club also do one on one training with each player every week to improve these areas.

When the teams are playing the coaches limit the players when they don’t have the ball but not when they have the ball.

At the club they strongly believe in having a club vision. Therefore, they promote coaches after training to sit together and discuss the vision and develop ideas on how to achieve the clubs aims.

Hugo & Ricardo work with the players while educating the coaches

Specific Contents


  • Dribbling
  • Protect the ball
  • Moves
  • Shooting
  • Receiving and Control
  • Short Pass
  • Long Pass and Crosses
  • Heading
  • Other Behaviours

Defensive Techniques

  • Closing Down
  • Tackling
  • Charging

Under 9’s Syllabus

  • Technical development is top priority
  • Usage of weaker foot – condition games
  • Rules of the game
  • Basic tasks on different phases of the game
  • Learning the game principles
  • Learning the specific playing principles of the club: Focus on progression and closing down
  • Same percentage of playing time for each player
  • Players play in every position
  • 7v7 at this age group

Under 13’s

  • Technical development
  • Weaker foot
  • Pre specialisation: Players play in two or three positions according to their characteristics
  • Specific game principles based on the way we play
  • Percentage of usage time is merit based: According to the balance between quality and commitment
  • Control the game – don’t lose the ball

(Results are important as the games are reported in the papers).

Session Model

1st Phase – They do not believe in warm ups. Therefore they will play games such as tag.

2nd Phase – 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v1

3rd Phase – 4v2, 4v3, 4v4, 5v2, 5v3, 5v4, 6v3, 6v4

4th Phase – 6v4, 7v5, 7v6

Final Phase – 7v7 with no coach intervention

Liam filmed some of the sessions in the clinic...the links are below;

Braga Clinic - Part 1

Braga Clinic - Part 2

Braga Clinic - Part 3

The European Approach

After the clinic Hugo & Ricardo took the time to speak with coaches.  This is typical of the European approach.  They don't look at their watch or think I'm not being paid for this!  Remember they had departed Dublin at 7.30am & were still talking to coaches well after 9pm!  We got cleared up & drove them to Dublin.  Again many people would think that they don't want to drive to Dublin at that time as they wouldn't be home to after 2am...take 4 hours...spend money on petrol.  For me?  Easy decision, I jump at it.  Not just because Hugo is a great friend of mine & puts himself out for me when I visit him but I never stop learning.  In a car for a couple of hours with top European coaches develops me as well!

Can we change a culture here?  Let's stop looking at our watches & thinking what's the point...let us think can we develop & continue learning as coaches?  If it is the latter join me on my journey...

Thank you...

Massive thank you to SC Braga, Hugo, Ricardo, it's coaching team, players & parents for offering us such a wonderful opportunity to play against them.  Thank you to my players & parents for supporting the event.  Massive thank you for the coaches that attended - especially Liam from England!  What can I say about my team of coaches?  Lee Hodge my assistant that worked so hard in the lead up to the event & on the day.  Frank McLean who did referee & loads of jobs for me.  My young coaches of Craig & Brad who assisted on the day with set up & filming.  I'm sure I have forgotten someone so very sorry if I have...of course the support from the rest of the team that kept our weekly centres operating on the day.  My wife & kids deserve a massive thank you for their hard work & organising they did on the day & lead up to the event.

Professionally I would like to thank Chris Lyttle MLA from the Alliance Party.  Darren Nixon & Belfast Boys' Model School.  Grounded Coffee for supplying sandwiches & Julie from the Mace at Greenway, Cregagh for supplying refreshments.  The Northern Ireland Tourist Board for the welcome packs for the Braga kids.  Again I hope I haven't left anyone out!

Dublin Tournament

For those interested in watching some footage from the Dublin tournament that Braga took part in I have included links below.  They defeated Brondby from Denmark 6-0 to help progress to the semi finals.  They faced a very talented Arsenal side.  Enjoy!

SC Braga v West Brom

SC Braga v Arsenal (Part 1)

SC Braga v Arsenal (Part 2)

Session Notes

Here is my session notes from a recent academy session.  After the players warmed up with the ball through dribbling & juggling we transferred into some fun warm up activities.  This developed into a terrific passing, receiving & turning exercise that I received from Rene Meulensteen from Manchester United.

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction


Fun warm up concentrating on speed of thought & reaction speed.


Vary size of grid but generally 20 x 20 yard grid is nice size.

Adapt depending on your squad size.  The diagram is based on a squad of 14.


Players should inter link arms in groups of 3 to create chains.  In the diagram you can see 4 chains of players leaving two players free in the middle.

Player 1 tries to get on the end of a chain before player 2 catches them.  If player 1 links onto player C from the red chain then player 2 tries to catch player A from the reds before he reacts & then they try to join another chain.


  1. Introduce a ball.


  • Speed.
  • Reaction.
  • Communication.

This always offers great fun & laughs with the players & is a simple warm up session.  We then developed to increase the tempo & introduce the ball as early as possible with the session below...

Quick Feet

Quick Feet


Quick feet & reaction.


Place a number of random cones set out in the middle of the area.  Have 4 groups spaced around each side of the square about 10-15 yards away.


On the coaches call, the first player from each group attempt to get across the coned area.

Players must side step the other players & use quick feet to avoid touching the cones on their way across.


  1. Introduce a ball for each player.
  2. Set up goals in each corner.  After players dribble through the cones they finish with a strike at goal.
  3. You can introduce goalkeepers & defenders.  If on grass use poles rather than cones in the middle.


  • Quick side stepping.
  • Reaction movement.
  • Good ball control.

We progressed to a great session that was created by Manchester United first team coach, Rene Meulensteen.  This is terrific for passing, receiving, turning, timing & understanding.  There is 2 great progressions to the below session that we will share at a later date.

Link Up Play - Receiving & Turning

Link Up Play - Receiving & Turning


Receiving, passing, turning & link up play.


Vary the size of the grid to suit your players & what you want from the session.  Larger grid offers further distance for passing but smaller sized grid offers less space for turning & keeps the session game realistic.

I've carried this session out in a 12 x 12 yard grid.  Great - especially when the session develops & 4 players have to turn with the ball & deliver it to another wall player!


The outside red players pass to the red players inside the grid.  They return the pass then switch to the opposite player on the other side.  The yellow players carry out the same process.  Aim for 1 touch passing.

Session develops from red pass to red / yellow pass to yellow to red receives from yellow & yellow from red etc.

Timing of pass, look over shoulder, turn & receive is essential from all players so the session doesn't break down!

Rotate & switch the players roles.


  1. Players in the middle turn whilst receiving & play to the player on the opposite side of the grid.
  2. Players receive take the ball across then take the player on in 1 v 1 on the other side of the grid.


  • Movement.
  • Accuracy.
  • Change of direction with / without ball.
  • Awareness & communication.
  • Timing.

The players then transferred to my Academy assistant for some tactical training through small sided games.

Coaches, always adapt.  My diagrams above will show a certain amount of players but if you don’t have enough – adapt!  Adjust the size of the pitch too.  Insure your players enjoy the training but demand a lot of hard work from them at the same time.

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.

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

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