coaching session on the Monday under the backdrop of Wembley Stadiums iconic
arc we put together games for the boys. Some registered academy players and
some trial players. I happened to be on the phone to a well-known coach as I
struggled to get all my equipment and balls from my car to the pitch. He said I’ll
let you go but I suddenly thought, no wait actually because something has occurred
to me. I had recently hurt my back yet I had counted 15+ lads had walked past
me and not offered to help. I have a bag of balls, a kit bag an equipment bag
as I shuffled around consciously not asking to see if anyone offered. Within
yards of the pitch one lad finally offered to give me hope that some decency
and manners existed still. That was followed up by a lad showing me the
ultimate disrespect kissing his lips at me when asked to play in a position he didn’t
like. I offered him another option which was standing on the side of the pitch
and he decided to opt for the first option and play where I asked him. I later
explained to him the importance of trying different positions, examples of
professionals playing now where we had done the same in their development
lad had arrived late and we got him on the pitch. Just as I was in a bit of a
gaze despairing in my mind and frustrated at the attitude of some of the boys
that we are here trying to help, maybe they think they have cracked the code.
As I quietly & thoughtfully carried on watching I was quickly diverted. The
new lad was running and trying like I haven’t seen in a long time from any
player. He tactically wasn’t great and you could see he was ‘raw’. Immediately I
can see that he hadn’t been in any academy structure which sometimes I like.
When he got the ball his first touch was excellent and positive. He drove at
players, could beat them 1v1 and had a great shot but also awareness to pick
out opposition. Every time his team lost it, he ran and closed down like it was
the last 5 minutes of an FA cup final he was losing. I got him on the side for
a chat as I had not really spoke to him. After introductions…
great start, well done”
you” (hes looking at me smiling)
could you tell me, where have you been playing”?
play for *** ******” (of course need to protect his identity)
Me “So, how
long have you played for them”
played for them for 3 months”
Me “Oh cool,
so where did you play before that?”
just came to the country a year ago”
ok, so you played where you lived before”?
I didn’t, I never played football”
happened next took my breath away. It turns out this child is an orphan
refugee. He has foster parents in London and was rescued from a war torn country.
His parents killed in the process. He had never played in an organised football
match until September this year and at best practiced skills in the street on
his own. Hes 13. We’ve all seen the refugee crises on the TV and most have seen
and heard the resentment towards people that come here perhaps unjustified.
However, for me this was the first time I had met a real victim. A poor child
on his own in a foreign country. I have children and it quickly hit home how
lucky we are. I put him on the pitch and what he displayed the first time only
got better. It was like watching one of those X Factor episodes of a child
lighting up the stage that followed a heart-breaking story. Except this was no
stage and no audience. However he still left me thrilled and excited. I of
course had to remain professional but inside it felt both heart-breaking and heart-warming.
If this child gets signed and continues on what he showed, he will be an unbelievable
story. I feel like if he does then every cold wet night evening of ups and downs
will have been worth it, just for that. I think I might need to wear sunglasses
next week if he performs like that again.
Reward v Reports
Fiitball this week in schools got me thinking about player reports in academy
football. We really want players to learn movement off the ball and forward
runs. In Fiitball we have scoring end zones and when the first child did it I
really exaggerated the reward. I stopped it, everyone clapped. I reminded
everyone how that indicates great tactical ability. Guess what, within 5
minutes of restarting 6 further children ran into the end zone seeking out a
similar “well done”. I then thought about player reports and what if I did that
as a trial. As an alternative method just write that learning objective down on
the child’s report. Then see how translate that into a game. To me, most
children have a natural competitive instinct that can be exploited as a coach
to be able to provoke that leaning point. Just by a tweak of the rules and game
targets can help you get the learning target out instead of putting it down on
paper as a ‘negative’ that many children can take badly even putting them off
the sport. I’m not a fan of endless pointless reports and I believe it creates
something outrageous this week. A professional club development centre putting
bronze, silver and gold bands on the children. This is ten year olds. Maybe
they do it with younger ones as well. But what is your view on this? Am I alone
in thinking of so many reasons of why this is bad and I don’t know how it helps
development at any level of football. Reality is, some players are better than
others. In the end, at professional clubs, some get contracts, some don’t and
get released. In development years I see no benefit whatsoever of there being a
public display of your ‘opinion’ of who is doing better and who is struggling.
It will create an environment straight away that could create bullying behind
your back. It’s embarrassing for the child and you could completely demotivate
that child and put them off football. Also, how does it help the ‘gold’
players? They think they’ve cracked it, get over confident and now start to
coast along. The reality behind the scenes inside professional clubs is that
they indeed will have typically three groups. Those struggling, the ones in the
middle and the ones flying at the top. Ultimately if players don’t improve or
development strategies tried have failed they will get released. Recruitment
teams then replenish those players. But discussions need to be private with the
player and parents and include expected areas of improvement. To put bands on
them to me is awful. If it was my club I would tell the coaches I’m going to do
the same with them. Put them is groups of who we as a club rate as a club and
those we don’t. I wonder how that would make them feel? Or let the parents put
them into those groups. Sounds outrageous doesn’t it? That’s because it is, if you’re
a coach, stand up for what right and challenge that please. Or, help me
understand the argument for it. For example, in class the children will sit in
groups for maths. Stronger ones will be developed/challenged more. Lower performing
groups helped more. Personally, I don’t think this can work in football. Do
It goes without saying that I like 99% of others have found
the recent revelations around Barry Bennell the football coach and scout completely sickening, to think this could
happen in the industry we work in is so appalling and shocking. It has sparked
all sorts of emotions in me after watching the original dispatches video on
youtube which left me speechless and shocked. I had never seen it before. Why
was this brushed under the carpet?
When I reflect on this it leaves me with the conclusion I
have have had before. There is no doubt in my mind that people like this (men
and women) that have sexual tendencies toward children and act out their sick
fantasies are not dealt with strongly enough. The consequences resulting from
the actions of these people when they follow through their urges cuts so deep
and affects so many people around the victim to extents that somehow don't get
considered enough or people and authorities don't realise.
If a person serves time as in the case of Barry Bennell. 9
years for 25 convictions does he come out cured? If somebody goes to jail for
their actions of crime it is meant as a punishment. It might make the criminal
think twice about a further assault or a thief think twice about stealing. But
can sexual urges and instinct be controlled with the same mindset? As adults
who are attracted to other adults can we relate to that? Imagine being single
but being told it is against the law to look at or approach another adult that
you are attracted to? I think that would be virtually impossible to prevent and
I consider it impossible to prevent in proven paedophile’s whether they have
been to jail or not. To me, if you are a threat to a child you should not be
walking the streets with protected identities. It’s the children that should be
protected first. Jail for a man like this should have been whole life, or 9
years and chemical castration (if that works). That then complete with constant
monitoring and complete isolation from the public. Is that extreme? What about
his human right’s? He didn't kill anyone? Well, I will explain further my
‘extreme view’ if that's how you see it.
He's convicted of 25 crimes against 6 boys. But how many
others are there? Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, Paul Stewart, David White,
Chris Unsworth, Jason Dunford and Ian Ackley have spoken up about him and
potential other coaches. But, in the case of Barry Bennell it would be naive to
consider we have seen and heard all the cases. This is made very clear in the
heart breaking interview on Victoria Live. A lot of people are too embarrassed to come
forward, so it must be more. But the original 6 for which he was charged,
that's 6 lives affected. What if any of them ended up like my family?
We had a very difficult life of unexplained events. It
didn't include sexual assault but it certainly was a very difficult time which
my siblings and I endured. The end result was both our parents dyeing very
young. 48 & 49. Without going into detail the whole episode resulted in
elements of huge dysfunctional nature. Lets just say that we have seen problems
including alcohol, drugs, depression, break ups, detachment, violence,
emotional issues, anger and suicide attempts to name but a few. This progressed
consequently through two further generations. Only years later most have found
peace and normality stabilising their day to day lives. But these were all
victims. A knock on affect that spirals out of control. Mixed in to this we had
a mother who the kindest most giving charitable person I’ve ever known. But
something also wasn't right. Things we overheard. My father suspected something.
I even remember a ritual burning of evidence in the back garden. Maybe in that
era that was supposed to be the method for getting over something that was
torturing you. To me, none of it made sense, apart from a hunch. Working on
that ‘hunch’ I did some homework. I asked a lot of questions from people still
around. 15 years since my mother locked herself away and destroyed herself, I
only recently had it confirmed. My mother had been a victim in a paedophile
ring growing up in the Devon area. This is what left her so disturbed and
something she never got over. Something that was covered up/ignored by her own
friends and family. Im not suggesting they supported it. I actually know one
member that was desperate to expose it and was trying to save her. But the rest
turned a blind eye. Chose to pretend it didn’t happen despite her despair. In
an era where saying “underpants” was deemed rude it seems the embarrassment of
this would be too much to bear. Maybe they feel guilt, and a sense of blame for
allowing certain situations to happen or allowing people into their lives.
Better just to move on rather than face the outrage? Also, the perpetrators are
so convincing as they control the extended family, maybe there is doubt? Who
would believe us anyway? All this bears a striking resemblance to Barry
Bennell. I have names, places, events but it looks like all the people involved
are likely now dead. Or maybe they to moved on with protected identities?
At least I now have
the explanation. I take some comfort in that and also feel I owed it to my poor
tortured mother to find the truth, some people somewhere must have gasped a huge
relief when they heard she fell quiet. She was no longer at risk of exposing
them. For the record, if you’re alive and reading this, I haven't finished
looking for you…
But it also means I’ve seen first hand the damage over
generations of extended family these people inflict indirectly. They should get
life for every life they ruined in my family. At the very least my mums. They
murdered her and put her through the slowest painful death.
We see now in the excellent BBC drama The Missing the damage
and carnage heaped upon a family as a result of the evil monster who kidnapped
their daughter. Worse still is the cover up from like minded people or from
people keen to not upset the image of in this case the British army. It’s so well
written but, of course fictional. Credit to the writers. But this is something
we have seen in other major organisations like the Catholic Church, the BBC and
now, professional football. With what we now know is there anything less taboo
than protecting children?
There of course has to be responsibility of the ignorance and
lack of action from the organisations. It’s even been suggested that there was
more people involved in organised paedophile rings. Frankly, that wouldn’t surprise
me, why else would so many ‘accusations’ be dismissed out of hand? As they say,
there is no smoke without fire?
It has to be said that the FA had taken great steps in the
last decade regarding child protection and I applaud that. That follows the DBS
implementation that schools followed post Huntley’s vile crime. But what I want
to say is, who committed the crime? We have a tendency to go after everyone else
and somehow let the perpetrators off the hook. Is it more PC madness? We can’t
afford to offend someone? We have to include them? The strong hand needs to be
with those that commit the crime which for me is not enough.
I have been on numerous child welfare/protection/safeguarding
courses. It does open your eyes and also makes you think about your own actions
and protection. It certainly reminds you to never put yourself in a
questionable situation. I would also suggest they show the dispatches video
from 1997 presented by Deborah Davies which somehow got little or no coverage
and was not followed up sufficiently. Let’s not hide from the truth, this is
why we are here. Ultimately that together with DBS checks makes it more difficult
for a new Barry Bennell to utilise our game to carry out his or hers sick
perversions. However one thing crosses my mind which I think adds weight to my
argument of not dealing with perpetrators strongly enough. Ultimately, what has
the training course done for those individuals that have those sick thoughts?
Do they go, “oh, actually it’s wrong to do that”? So don't be a paedophile. A
course isn't going to cure that. However we can’t be complacent and these
awareness sessions do indeed serve to help prevent incidents.
Do we turn into hysterical paedophile hunters though? I have
been all over the country delivering our new game we created in many schools. We and our staff are well qualified, well checked,
we work within education requirements and of course we work within rules and
our own guidelines. But being a new person in a school certainly highlights
I remember once packing away my goals and equipment in the
car park. It happened to be next to the playground. I’m inside the school
gates, I’ve got identification on. I’ve coached all morning. Its lunchtime. A
few of the children said hello who I had been teaching that morning and two
girls stopped by as I was back and forward to the car with equipment. They were
asking about the game, who created it, where it is played etc. Of course as I
was back and forward loading the car I answered their questions. One of the
dinner ladies was looking over. I could feel I was being a watched. A good
thing? They are looking after the welfare of the girls. That's cool, not an
issues. I would be doing the same if it was my own children. But then the
dinner lady came over, not looking at me she said “Come away from that man
girls, we don't know who he is”. Well, I was a bit shocked with that. She made
me feel awful. I was guilty of being spoken to. Why should I feel like that?
You see, that's their fault. The likes of Bennell. In football we've all seen
it. Hysteria, a granddad takes a photo of his grandchild playing football and
were running over to him making him feel like that also! That can’t be right
can it? I think as part of the courses we should be learning how to address
this in how we communicate. For example If I have to approach a grandparent in
situations like that I always start with an apology and explain things like
identifying children that could be under the watch of the authorities and can’t
be photographed. Remember, this is just an innocent loving proud granddad,
please pay him the courtesy of an explanation and think about how hurtful and
suggestive we can be in our protective cautious behavior.
But what is also highlighted in the job I do is the
vulnerability of the children. It’s incredible. I meet some children for 40
minutes yet they are trying to hold your hand and cuddle you. There’s an
immediate trust, it’s frightening. This is what makes this so much worse. What
sort of animal can take advantage of that vulnerability? It certainly
highlights why children indeed need many ears and eyes to gauge potential risks
to them. But equally, we also need to remind ourselves that 99.9% of adults are
genuine caring people.
When I think back to my childhood which was troubled to say
the least, I found football. Trouble was, I couldn’t get there, I was picked
up, for years, by the most genuine, nicest guy in my life at that time. Plus I've
got a surprise. That's it! He picked up several players on a regular basis.
Without him I would never have got to football. But we never went to his house
or had any inappropriate behavior. He was my hero. An unpaid hero getting lads
together to play football. He gave me something to look forward to, an escape.
Ironically though, that's what Bennell did. That's what makes that twisted evil
man so bad. He's made society’s really nice people, think twice about nice.
Think twice about helping people. That makes me so mad. If it wasn't for my
football coach, god know’s where I would be today. If anywhere.
We are in a culture that brings more football children’s
parents to football so I think these situations are rarer. My own children both
played football and they were never left alone with anyone other than our
closest friends and family. I think the work of DBS checking, identity checking,
workshops and culture changes certainly make it more difficult for a Barry Bennell
to operate but it would be extremely naive to expect there to be no-ne out
there with his thoughts and tendencies. My answer would be to deal with THEM ‘effectively’
to protect children that will inevitably come into contact with THEM. The
system is too soft in its dealings with monsters like this. That man got nine
years, but let’s put that in perspective. Nine years for alleged hundreds of
rapes on children? He should never have seen daylight. I don’t think that is an
I have seen the Interview on Victoria Live from four of the
men. The deep pain in them men etched on their face and images frozen in their
eyes. As parents and as, in this case ‘football people’ we owe a huge gratitude
to them. What bravery and courage to have shared their gut wrenching stories
for the purpose to help prevent this in the future. Big strong men completely broken
up. I absolutely concur with them about their parents and extended network being
victims of this evil twisted man. The punishment needs to be greater. Studies
need to be done to uncover the true extends of carnage these people cause. It’s
never just the physical person they attacked that’s the sole victim.
This ‘Man’ Bennell and others like him operated and got away
with it because the subject was taboo and they held dreams in their hands. They
bullied the victim and manipulated the loved ones around them. I can’t think of
any example of a sadder low-life human being. We have got to oust them, lock
them up, throw away the key, offer lifetime support to the victims and then
move on so we can allow children to still form genuine appropriate
relationships with decent adults.
So we first wrote about this scam August 2016 and detailed it here http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/corporate-scam-warning-university.html
A few days later and after extensive work to uncover this we detailed our findings. This is what we found http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/purchase-order-fraud-hits-uk.html
Since then I wrote to Margot James MP as she is the secretary of state for Small Business. I felt for sure she would pick up on this due to the huge risk to small business. This is what I wrote
I copied in various organisations that have been affected by this and included the University of Bath. They did respond as follows, I protect this genuine staff members email address...
Last week I got a letter from the Home Office. To conclude this appalling episode I have published the letter and added numbered highlights which I would like to comment on...
"It is the chief officer of the force who is ultimately responsible"
I was never dealt with by a single force. Or any force for that matter. As detailed I was batted around different forces as none of them wanted to be burdened with it. I spoke with Bedfordshire Police, The Metropolitan Police and Surrey Police. I even spoke to a 'Falcon Team' Supposedly set up to tackle fraud.
Action Fraud told me that all they do is record crime and couldn't understand why all the forces had vacated responsibility and kept sending me to them
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) Identify link between seemingly unconnected incidents.
'seemingly'? We had cast iron links.
We found a company in Bristol that had shipped thousands of pounds of medical equipment as victims of same fraud. Delivering to a haulage company in West Midlands
As well as University of Greenwich we found that the same scam was apparent to Aston University, University of Reading, University of Bath and others who who desperately concerned about the lack of response from the authorities.
"Where there is enough evidence available and a viable lead, actionable intelligence"
No 'investigating' or intelligence was provided by any authorities. Our own work had uncovered real delivery addresses. This was not a 'cyber crime' of clicking on a link for a credit card number to be swiped. This was REAL goods, being delivered to an address. Is that 'actionable'? We had kept the fraudsters warm to the delivery, believing goods were coming, thinking the police would jump all over it. How mistaken we were. We also even uncovered a further address being used in stourbridge which was a haulage company that had direct communication with the fraudsters to arrange shipping the goods overseas. No one ever took this further. Actionable intelligence?
'Intelligence packages are created and sent to the appropriate force' Not one force was interested. They had no idea what this was or how to handle it. We made circa 40 phone calls and got no where. This is simply fancy wording that covers over the harsh reality. No force acted, not due to lack of evidence or intelligence. Simple lack of willing, resource and know how.
"I hope this letter has reassured you that the government takes fraud seriously"
This is a complete insult. I can confirm that I do NOT feel reassured. It has sapped my life of work hours, it has tied up capital and made us vulnerable. None of the groups with fancy titles designed to make people think these issues are being tackled have done anything, either proactively or reactivity. I have a folder of evidence to look at and yet we never spoke to an investigating officer. There has never even been a question about what on earth someone would want with this type of equipment? Blood Scanner, Multi-gas detectors, chemical hotplate stirrers...would this type of equipment being stolen not raise any suspicion anywhere?
To rub further salt in the wound, the same people have targeted our company again twice in the last week. How many others have been targeted? How much university staff time has been consumed? How much money and goods have been lost?
Do you think its time to set up a department that actually 'does' something? The FBI appointed a dedicated officer to this crime in the states. What have we done? Set up departments to record numbers, statistics, information on systems that don't even work. Then add them to a PowerPoint and call that crime fighting?
Obtaining money over the counter at a bank or under tunnels is how it was done in the movies 30 years ago. Unfortunately the criminals have moved with the times. Maybe the police and authorities need to do the same?
I did my session in London for the academy satellite centre. Driving in I recognised one of the families walking from the tube. It was a mum with her son. I made a point of asking her how far she comes to training when i seen her later on. She had a long train journey home from training as well. Its quite clear that many of these people live on or near the bread line, have difficult lives, single parents and it amazes me the lengths, strength and desire of some parents. We foolishly as well presume that they go to these extremes because its them pushing the child. But she said to me, "I just do whatever it takes to make him happy, this is what he want's so I find a way". She never mentioned money. I'm sure he does, but I hope her lad appreciates what his mum puts herself through.
There was also a lad training that didn't seem right to me. I asked him and he said he felt sick and had been off school. This started another series of questions. Too sick for school but drags himself to training? My club would not want that and I certainly don't. I explained to him that his commitment is commendable, however. I cant think of any child in all the years that succeeded or failed becasue they were sick and missed training as a result. He looked reassured, wrapped up and went home with his parents.
A long day, started on the road to head to Gloucestershire from Bedfordshire to deliver Fiitball in a primary school. The feedback from the teachers was fantastic and more importantly, the pupils who all took part and some asked if we could go back again. We were talking about movement and awareness in team games and netball came up. I asked "can you name me any sports then where you think netball skills would also be useful"?. A little girl put her hand up and replied, "yes, netball". Haha, done me there. I asked for that!
After the school day I went and had dinner with a previous colleague from QPR who now works for Swindon Town before I headed to the ground for my scouting role. They had Eastleigh in the FA Cup. Eastleigh were excellent and had a good game plan executed by some good experienced professionals. I sat with Paul Furlong to watch the game who I also worked with at QPR and we had a good catch up. It still amazes me how big the ego's are on some people in football who have never really achieved anything yet guys like Furz are so nice and humble.
Managed to get a late upgrade to the Celtic Manor resort which was a fantastic nights sleep before a short drive down to Newport where I was to deliver Fiitball to a whole school years 3-6. One thing that becomes apparent to me doing this all over the country is that there is a difference in the mannerism of the staff and children. Also a difference in resilience. I see lots of children who get upset very quickly, or hurt and rushed off to medical rooms seemingly for no reason. I didn't see that here. The children were bright, enthusiastic, bags of energy, tough and most of all funny! Its great to hear children laughing and allowed to have personality. I didn't once hear "he said, she said". Technically I could clearly see many children passing the ball to each other in the style of rugby. There is no doubt what is popular round here. One child said to me, "You smell like Ronaldo" after a conversation about the smell of the bibs. I don't know how it was intended but I certainly was taking that as compliment.
I had a long drive home to listen to radio and decided on talksport. During that drive and over the next days i heard host after host continuing the Wayne Rooney discussion. I must have heard his name 500 times. For me its a non topic and all those who criticise him as hes a role model etc need to take a look at themselves. Yes Wayne is England's captain and indeed a role model to children. However its parents that are the closest influence on their children and i'm sure 99% can tell similar stories and worse. Hypercritical warning me thinks!
Also in the car I listen to a talksport show topic title. 'Was Paul Scholes all that'? What a fantastic player. World class and now in his retirement do we really need to have such a pointless debate? Comparing him to Gerrrard and Lampard. Why? He was different. All three were great for slightly different reasons. Its typical English, we have to find whats wrong, we have to find fault. Many managers get critised for lack of decency and integrity or horrible management skills. Gareth Southgate is in the frame for the England Managers job, wait for it, hes too nice! When will we ever stop?
Wayne has been one of the most exciting English players ever and lets be straight, England's top scorer! What a great servant to club and country. Over 400 premier league games and 119 England games. Does he not deserve a bit of respect instead of hounding him like hes an evil criminal? He got drunk in a hotel lobby. So what?
Yet another school delivering Fiitball. This time in Oxford. Got a great response from the pupils and teachers again. Its so rewarding to have a group who at one end includes elite academy footballers and at the other many stated special educational needs. So to have a whole class together enjoying sport, boys and girls, all willing participating and getting something from it is very rewarding. I always like to try and leave with success in at least one development topic. I focused on triangle shape around the ball, individuals losing markers and risk v reward passes.
A teacher afterwards and said how impressed she was how I had handled a boy who is a signed academy player. Of course, I have been working with boys like him for many years so I have a way I guess that can challenge him, acknowledge his ability but equally keeping him grounded.
Myself and Kevin Gallen headed to Watford to do a couple of sessions for a grass roots club under our brand 2touchfootball. On the first group we decided to try something. "What do you want to do in training"? We asked the group of U11's. I will then try to help you within the session that you decide. After a couple of minutes of excitement, they decided. Two things came out. Shooting and Play Matches. We put it to the vote and 'Play Matches' was by far the most popular. Its interesting I feel for us as coaches to remember what it is the children want. We get frustrated when they keep saying "can we play a match now", but its proof that is what they enjoy most. So can we get topics out as a coach inside their choice to play matches? We put a 'cross' on each pitch and played 3x 5 aside matches. as we progressed we put rules and challenges inside the games that allowed us to achieve, ball manipulation, 1v1s, passing and receiving, movement and awareness and combination play. Not bad considering the lads did what they wanted. Playing games.
Saturday afternoon I went to Barnet v Crewe and it looked as though Martin Allen was attempting to keep himself away from the touchline. However, that didn't last long and he was soon down there dragging players into areas he wanted them. It was reported that he didn't need his minor heart surgery. But i'm sure and hope he keeps tabs on it. To this day its still so devastating to know that my own father lost his life at 48 to a heart attack that could have been prevented with a stent in minor surgery. Its a tough job and Martin Allen is a big strong man. Fingers crossed hes now on the mend!
Have a great week doing sports and coaching!
For many like me, this is the time when I get a stark reminder of all the operations iv'e had on my knee. I'm sure many people can relate to the pain that comes this time of year. Of course its got nothing to do with age! I had been to Northampton Town V Harrow Borough on the Saturday. Great to catch up with Mick Harford there. We spoke about Luton Town and the crop of talent there. Exciting times for Luton I feel. I have to say its really refreshing. Harrow Borough going two goals behind early on of course quickly sealed this games fate. It was cold as well, at half time around me there was a collective groan of pain as all the scouts got up for the half time coffee!
Doing our weekly training at a school in Hertfordshire where we coach a real diverse range of abilities. Something I really love about this is one of the children's granddads comes along to watch. Iv'e been in grass roots and have experienced some parents and grandparents shouting and sideline coaching. But I think we all need reminding sometimes how special it is that they come and support. We call him the Director of Football! I think we are too quick to dismiss people on over the top policies. Hes a top man!
In the evening I did a session at our level one recruitment satellite training center. I really do buy into the training methods. All geared around sessions that look like real football. Something I think the lads really enjoy more as well. Had a discussion with the local guys there about some of the great English players that have come from the areas around Brent and what attributes they demonstrated which gave them the edge to kick on. Lots of comment about desire and hunger. Funny how that always comes up?
Its ironic, the next day in school football we are having a discussion with the boys and girls about behavior and attitude. I start to think, is desire and and hunger in you? Technical/Tactical development can 100% be coached. What about desire and hunger? I certainly think we can effect enthusiasm with competitive games and sessions.
In the evening I nipped over to Stevenage V Southend to look at players. Was a bit deserted and its no secret that this EFL tournament needs review. I certainly see pros and cons.
Wembley 2009 After JPT Final
Interesting driving to Reading U23 v Yeovil in the EFL Trophy listening to talksport where the topic was EPPP. I was a bit disappointed to have to go in the game and missing it so I did catch up later. I think the guys spoke very well and have real good arguments for change. We couldn't leave things as they were and the facilities and resource now at the disposal of the big clubs is tremendous.
I split the key areas in to three that I feel still need to be reviewed. 1. Grassroots to Elite pathway and 2. EPPP environment 3. Elite Development pathway to 1st team.
1. Grassroots to Elite
- No contracts for any players under 11. Just a free registration.
- No restrictions on where they play and what sport they participate in. With a 1:200 chance at a club it's a moral crime to deny a child wider sporting memories
- Reduced controlled contact. The children are too tired
- Address the pay to play culture. Talent is lost in schools as they cant afford to travel to academies or even the subs for a grass roots team. Set up FA regional elite centers that are fully funded. Schools can then send unattached selected players for free.
- Change and enforce restrictions on scouting bonus systems. Short term bonus cannot work. If all the incentive is on new players some existing talent could get squeezed out. Also no bonus for early signing of scholars and 1st year pros.
- Clubs should have a sign and release committee.
- Zero tolerance to recruitment based on ethnic background. If a player meets the target criteria then they are given the opportunity
- Recruit balanced players of ranging attributes. Not one style (Messi)
2. EPPP Environment
- Players are turning up hungry or eating rushed meals, siblings negatively affected, parents risking work issues to meet times. Escalating fuel and travel costs, players falling asleep in class. We need to review the contact hours relevant to age.
- 20-40% loss of education contact hours on a 1:200 chance. That is career changing and morally outrageous.
- Quality of coaches reduced due to some walking away due to pressures of low income and hours required to record data on computer systems that are unreliable.
- Endless repetieve player reports on players that few consider in final decisions and sometimes serve to add huge pressure to the players. Huge amounts of subjective information that will have little effect on development and decisions.
- Changing senior academy staff and heads of coaching which affects club philosophies and whole ethos. Academy managers should be on four year contracts. If they don't want a four year contract then it maybe clear they are using the role as a pathway to something else. This is not healthy for a clubs and its young players.
I recently spoke to a '3rd year scholar' at a club who said to me. "Im so bored, its like school"
3. Elite Development pathway to 1st team.
I have to say, I do feel this is the most challenging for the guys that run our game. They have trialed the EFL Trophy and I dont think anyone really supports the outcome of that. Loaning out players still serves up the best pathway in my mind but the trouble now is that the clubs have trawler fished so much of the talented lads that they have them in stock piles and no where to go. Something that goes back to the youth development phase. Sometimes players are better left where they are to learn their trade, break into the first team. Become a professional then progress back that way. The other problem with the huge numbers in the very sanitised route is that many seem cocooned in the fantasy world in which they have operated and maybe that is why they are left shell shocked and unable to cope with the real world.
In this country we have over 100 full-time professional football clubs. That in its self is a huge unique situation that we can boast about and could surely utilise better?
Those 100+ pro clubs make up 5 national leagues.What other countries can boast this? One thing is certain to me. A footballers successful pathway is still unproven. Those that get there probably got there because fate took them on the journey that worked for them, not because one way works over an other. Players will always come via non-league, its very reasonable to suggest that its not an error that they were missed by the pro games recruitment, its more likely that's what worked for their development. Had they been in the 'system' it could be that they would have failed, like most do. Equally those within a level 1 academy and make it, well done, clearly they were on the correct pathway for them. Or thirdly being loaned down the ladder to learn the trade. In my mind, all three of these methods work at times and all three fail, at times. But we need all three. It seems however that there is growing disregard for the smaller clubs and perception that only the top eppp level 1 clubs have the formula to produce players. That is enormously incorrect based on fact and 100% dangerous to our games future in my opinion.
This is the best football country in the world, if only we could recognise the features that make it great, embrace them instead of trying to disown them as they are maybe a threat somehow to the Premier League 'Corporation'.
I went to England v Scotland which I was very excited about. Watching Stones up close started another series of questions in my mind. Mainly, is he still then classed as professional development phase? Even though this is a competitive international at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 against Scotland? I think there can be no doubt the increased level of technical ability is a huge credit to the culture of his youth upbringing. But is it now a mindset thing to get him to understand that to have a great 1st touch and 1v1 capabilities under pressure which can get you out of trouble, doesn't mean you should constantly do things to put you IN trouble to demonstrate it?
I also have to point out that I was sat near the guy that was drunk out of his mind and videos emerged in the press of his bloodied face and torn shirt. I also read that this was a brawl between Scotland and England. I walked past all the guys and not sure if anyone in Scotland speaks with a cockney accent?
Saturday morning was great. A private coaching clinic with some little guys at a great club in Hertfordshire. It feels great to share some experience although we were quick to tell them how we are always learning also. That's the nature of this coaching thing, we are all in it together.
My week was rounded off with a visit to MK Dons against Walsall. Good to say hello and I hope they keep scrapping for much needed points. I avoided all the temptation around the ground to go home hungry and have a family meal to wrap my week up...a busy one!
Lots of paperwork & highlighting later
I've got it, I have finally got to the bottom of the scam where we were attempted to be robbed and has caused us significant hardship. This took a lot of phone calls following the path of these goods and looking for clues. I found other companies that have been duped and for most was very confused about the reasons for the type of goods being targeted for theft. In this event we know it included Blood Pressure Monitors, Multi-gas Detectors, Bladder Scanners and most worryingly chemical Liquid Hotplate Stirrers. All sorts of conclusions were running round in my mind and I woke this morning feeling this has to be escalated.
Looking again through all the complex communication I spotted something. A mistake from the scammers. They fake the time shown on the email to look like the UK. But when they reply to my message, their computer adds a real time and date stamp they cant see. It shows when my email landed in there inbox. It shows them being -8 hours from us. So, indeed they are overseas. A quick look puts them in the region of California USA. But how would they get the goods? Also, what sort of Hospital/University in California would be buying stolen medical equipment?
I jumped onto the best international detective service, Google. Then, in the words of the great Lieutenant Frank Drebin "Bingo". I found multiple articles. They seem to originate in California about a scam the FBI call "Purchase Order Fraud". It looks like it was heavily reported around two years ago and the details are not nearly the same, they are exactly the same. So, it appears the scammers are resident in California where they initially targeted local companies in that region. This grew to the whole of the USA and now they are expanding the operation overseas. news.sofpedia.com reported in October 2014 "A new, highly complex Nigerian scam is currently aimed at retailers in the US, in what FBI calls "purchase order fraud". Various articles indicate that the goods were quickly moved on to Nigeria and this explains why the scammers had attempted to enlist a 'cross docking service' in Stourbridge where they said DHL would arrive with shipping docs. They also describe how the scammers recruited people to assist with moving equipment in what they believed was genuine. It describes the processes used with key detail. It claims this huge scam was investigated by Special Agent Joanne Altenburg.
In another article written by Michael Cooney for Network World it is again claimed that the FBI warned of a Nigerian based criminal group using fake email addresses to defraud retailers. As of Oct 2014 they reported 85 companies and universities across America were used to perpetrate the scheme with $5 million lost.
On July 10 2014 Jenny Lower reported for 24x7mag.com where a supplier Ultra Solutions of Ontario, California was interviewed. They describe a 'widespread new scam targeting the medical supply industry, posing significant risk to small and mid-sized companies'. In the article it says 'According to Sterling Peloso, CEO of Ultra Solutions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation told him the hoax has already succeeded with at least 185 businesses, resulting in losses in the millions to tens of millions of dollars'. It again describes the detailed process which matches the process now happening in the UK. However it says the equipment is immediately reshipped to Africa, typically Nigeria.
Through my own research I have now seen that in the USA the scheme has used the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It is known by the Florida State University and University of Michigan. In the UK we were conned using names from the University of Greenwich but we now know that the names from University of Bath was used to try and steal bladder scanners. Suppliers have also been targeted using the University of Reading and Aston University. What amazes me is it seems that the UK attempts have been reported to ActionFraud yet they seemed completely baffled by my initial report & subsequent reports. Its time for them to urgently pull these reports together, alert industry and perhaps City of London Police need to communicate with the FBI who seem to have made some ground on preventing this in the USA. What would be good for all the small and medium enterprises who face survival risk as a result of this, is if you even bring someone to justice.
The Scam Process Described
In all cases I've read both here and in the USA the process is mirrored in detail. In order to protect fellow businesses from unnecessary loss of time, goods and capital please beware of these and...erm...report to ActionFraud (My 20 calls to police included 3 to action fraud never resulted in any call to "action" but its worth following advice I guess)
1. Your organisation receives an invitation to quote for goods. In this case medical equipment. It requests terms Net 30 days. Crucial to the scam of course. The person appears to be a real person from the university. in this case the Director of Procurement with a 'nearly' matching email address, but crucially, not the ac.uk part. Crucially there are grammar errors (hindsight) in the signature of the email.
2. Following your quotation you receive an 'official' purchase order. The document uses a faked document. (hindsight) it doesn't look an order created from an accounts software application, it is a word generated document with fake logo's etc converted to Pdf. It states terms net 30 days. It has a shipping address different to the University or any of its campuses.
3. A fake second person gets in touch, she claimed to be from the finance department and again uses a real person from the university finance department with a faked email address. She chases delivery (not unusual) but also keenly chases the tracking number. Crucial detail. The goods would be shipped to a storage company, in this case Mitcham, Surrey. There is a fake company name used 'Greenwich Surrey Division Centre'. The result of this is that the real delivery is refused at the storage site becasue they don't recognise the company name. They go back on vehicle and returned to local depot.
What we sent: A Jiffy Bag with a pic of a prison van inside
What they tried to steal
4. Goods are then collected at a courier depot by one of the scammers 'runners/fake employees', however, our delivery could not be tracked (we hadn't sent it as we got suspicious). Within a few days we started communication to keep the scammers reeled in as we believed the police would intercept for us (they didn't). We sent a 'parcel' to try and trap them. We sent a jiffy bag to give the scammers a tracking number they were desperate for, to see if the police could follow that tracking number also and see if they could catch someone. We couldn't get any progress from the police though.
They give us a second forwarding address. Its a haulage/warehouse company in Stourbridge, west midlands. A perfect legitimate company. By now the English grammar mistakes in the emails are increasing as ts open conversation. They give us a new fake person to deliver to. Kenneth Smith.
5. The scammers attempt to arrange DHL collection from the haulage company and using further fake companies/emails they try to enlist the unwitting haulage company to hold onto their goods ready for DHL transfer. The fake person is also the person trying to set up the cross docking agreement. In this case. Kenneth Smith email@example.com (fake). He leads the haulage/warehouse company into thinking they could set up new long term business with them. At this point they would be shipped abroad.
6. All this takes place well within the 30 days credit afforded to the university for the supplier. They invoice the university which eventually comes back as unknown with no purchase order raised. The goods are long gone and the haulage company has provided services in good faith and is never paid.
Case Closed, if you need a blood pressure monitor ( I did this week), I've got a few for sale
*Update:- Just as we post this blog, we get an email. We had send that Jiffy Bag to try and keep the criminals hooked, thinking that would be good for the police. Well, the person pretending to be Irene Pacheco (ex Finance Employee of University of Greenwich) who is of course innocent has been online chatting to the courier we used. Little does he/she know, the courier has sent us the conversation on email. They still want the goods redirected to the company in Stourbridge which is bizarre, but some way pleasing to know they are chasing a Jiffy Bag, not £11k of Medical Equipment, but also, frustrating. This is a huge crime, ongoing. I have only described what I know, there must be much more to this and I believe this is preventable and investigable.
ActionFraud by definition:-
"The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim"
Goods ordered via our company www.coachandpeshop.com
People and businesses in the uk need to urgently make sure
they are aware of this scam doing the rounds. We discovered prior to actual
delivery of the goods that it was a scam so never actually lost the stock. But
this process caused us significant commercial and financial inconvenience and
as we are so frustrated at the police response to it, we feel that it’s vital
for companies to work together to at least make it difficult for these people
to gain more victims. In fact, we actually worked out the whole scam ourselves
and attempted to trap them, on our own. It could have been successful had we
received any amount of interest from the police who made the process arduous,
complicated and don’t seem to have the ability to get past red tape and out of
date computer systems to be able to go out and catch these people.
With what we now know it feels that the police services are
very reluctant or tied up with bureaucracy that would enable them to actually
do anything about some fraud. For me, £11,000 is £11,000. Whether that money
exits your bank account with a paper trail fraud or over the counter in an
armed robbery it’s still the same value of loss. So why is it treated on such a
low scale? The truth is it seems that it’s the perfect crime. Because the
police are mostly unable or unwilling to do anything about it. So perhaps the
only thing left is for the business community to work together to dismantle and
prevent these people as best we can. When I googled the fake email addresses
they used for example, nothing came up. We need to work together to help and
protect small companies. We are a small family business and this would equate
to major loss. Others are being caught out to.
Our delivery to the scammers
So what happened?
We received a request to quote from the ‘University of
Greenwich’. The quote is sent from email address that are created to pretend to
be real people from the university. V.firstname.lastname@example.org
is the email used. Vincent John is indeed a real person at the university. He
is completely innocent and also should receive more help from police to stop
his name being used in this way. The university are aware of this and informed
us that the scammers also use other fake email addresses. They use email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org These emails
are all fake. There is then communication from the ‘finance department’ of the
university who raise and 'official purchase order' from email@example.com
If you check these people out you will find that they are real and genuine and
this helps make the scam believable. As it transpires the latter finance lady
left the university at Christmas. People should also be aware of Telephone number's they use. +44 (7) 0319 83789 & +44 (7) 024089890 The products ordered also make it more believable.
In this case, blood pressure monitors. Quite a normal product for a university
to order and not typical multimedia devices stolen to resell in the back
streets. The quote also requires you to agree to net 30 day terms. Not unusual
in education. But an essential element to the scam.
What the scammers do then is chase a delivery address and in
particular a tracking number. Two things alerted us to an issue, one the
desperation to get a tracking number. I've dealt with universities for years and
this has never happened. Secondly, the delivery address was peculiar. The
address Greenwich Surrey Division Centre,
Access House, 141 Morden Road, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4DG. When we manually
checked this ourselves we could see it was serviced offices and storage center.
In the meantime the scammers chased a precise delivery time and we now had very
heightened concern. In our last process we would always do last checks to
prevent fraud. Our feeling was now that although we had these goods ready we
were not going to deliver until we were absolute confidence it was genuine and
also, we would not use any third party courier, instead we would deliver ourselves.
We then went online ourselves to get a genuine phone number for the university
and within five minutes we spoke to the procurement department who told us they
knew about this issue. They had previously reported it to police.
At this point we contacted the police. I felt that this was
a great opportunity to actually catch these people and stop them doing this to other
people. I was sure the scammers would need to go to the depot to meet the consignment
and could be caught. In total I made circa 15 phone calls to police on 101 and other
numbers. What I found was firstly, each force seem to not know who should deal
with it. We contacted the Metropolitan police thinking it was them as the
delivery address is London and its Greenwich University being targeted. The
first issue was the computer systems. They don’t seem to be able to easily find
linking crimes and University of Greenwich gave us a crime number they didn’t recognise.
This was last Thursday I was thinking we can catch them. I gave up and found a taskforce
team in the Met called The Falcon team. When you read what they do on the
website and under operation Sterling. "Preventing economic crime”.
Perfect, these will love this. My enthusiasm was soon dampened. The guy there didn’t
think we could do anything about this for a number of reasons. Time, paperwork,
authority, stepping on another officers toes, wrong county etc. Nice
understanding guy though, but another 45 minutes wasted. They also said that it maybe a waste of time becasue typically in cases like this, it wont be the actual fraudster at the receiving end. More likely a runner they can sacrifice and when stopped they don't get anywhere. But to me, i thought, well, don't approach him then, follow him? A runner starting at point A still needs to go to point B to make an onward delivery? I was told at this point about human rights and red tape restrictions. He said we should
contact Bedfordshire police and Action Fraud. I contacted Bedfordshire police
for a second time. They had a different view, they couldn’t do anything. Well
into the afternoon I finally got a call from Wimbledon Police station. A sergeant
there. Actually, he was great. He said things like, “I know, for a small family
business to be targeted like this is terrible and we should try to do something”.
I told him that I was in two minds to go to the delivery address myself to try
and meet these people. Of course he advised against that. As we now ran out of time I tried to delay the ‘customer/scammer’. I convinced them that we had
issues with the delivery and would deliver tomorrow (Friday). I wanted more
time to get the police to set something up. I then followed the advice given by
the met and Bedfordshire police to contact Action Fraud. They said that it could
then come back to them to deal with. I called them, spent another hour or so on
the phone for them to finish telling me that they are a civilian organisation
and actually, they can’t do anything. They just record it and pass it on.
Friday came and after more failed calls to action I decided
to go to the delivery address myself with the customer (scammer) thinking we
would indeed go ahead and that we were a courier. I got there at the agreed
time and went into the company reception at Access Storage Depot, Croydon. This was the delivery address on the purchase order. It
quickly was apparent that they are in no way in on this scam. They told me that
only that morning TNT had attempted another delivery for this fake company name
‘Greenwich Surrey Division Centre’ at that address that morning and he had refused it because they
have no storage or office customer of that name. That baffled me further until
the penny dropped and the scam process was completed in my mind. They know the
tracking number and are so keen to get it. Because they know the parcel will be refused and taken back to the courier depot. They simply go to the local depot when
they know the driver is due back. They show a fake photo ID with the fake
company name and collect the goods. The supplier invoices the University and
expects payment in 30 days. Which of course never arrives as the university
never ordered the goods in the first place.
This makes the lack of police
action even more frustrating, because me a civilian have managed to get to the
end game of this scam and could just as easy go to the parcel depot and trap and catch
them red handed collecting the parcel.
Today I decided to update ActionFraud and pass onto them my
sense of the police acceptance of this crime and my frustration at the ease of
which these people can operate without feeling the threat being caught due to the
broken systems and communication breakdowns between forces/taskforces and
ActionFraud. For me they should be called NoActionFraud.
In the end, I did send these people a delivery, I sent them
a box of broken polystyrene and a nice poem instead of the goods they tried to
steal. I hope they like it. In the meantime, keep your business safe and share
information like this to stop these scumbags taking from our hard working small
This blog is not for the upcoming
Euro Championship, or for the playoff games. There isn’t £200m at stake, no
press will be there and no TV. It’s for youth players. If I stopped 1000 people
in the city where it was held I would stake a large amount of money that 1,000 wouldn’t
know about it and wouldn’t care. However 999 will know about and 995 will care
about the 11th June when England play Russia.
With all the work and investment the FA have made in football
development education programs you would think the message would be getting through
to parents. I don’t know the exact statistics or even how they would measure
the success of this so I can only go on experience. On the whole there is clear
improvement to side-line behaviour, but problems still exist. This is based on
what I experience and the last week clearly shows there is still work to be
done. Personally I feel that a lot of parents and unruly coaches have simply
been ‘gagged’. So what we have done is make them feel tremendously guilty for
shouting and that ‘on the whole’ is not a bad thing. We’ve done that by means
of codes of conducts and parents courses which focus heavily on aggressive
touchline behaviour and its affects. Courses are hard to get people to attend,
that I know. But I feel maybe if someone went into a club and did a free
workshop but focus more on the football development side. Because what I have
seen and heard in the last weeks and consistently over the last 20 years is
comments from parents where they ‘know best’. That’s the problem with our great
sport and its popularity. Were all experts. So rather than just chucking guilt
at parents & volunteer unqualified coaches (and unruly qualified coaches),
we should maybe come at it more from a technical development perspective. Like
a dressed down youth module. Educate them!
For example. We do some work with a club/organisation. (I don’t want to
highlight the individuals for obvious reasons). We coach the children on a regular
basis once a week. They are U10/U11. As part of that we took them in a
tournament and recently they got knocked out of that tournament on penalties.
One lad missed. In the days that followed it was commented back to us that
parents had ‘complained’, albeit not directly to us, that it was the coaches
fault. Because? He had not practiced penalties with the lads the week before.
Now anyone that knows anything about football at any age know's this is outrageous.
In particular when it comes to children of this age. We of course feel that we
need address this but I’m sure it will be met with resistance. It takes me back
to my days when I helped out in grass roots football and constantly fighting
parents that know better and apparently know who the best players are and know
how to win football matches. They think then that because you place development
ahead of winning games that you’re a happy clapper and don’t care about
The truth is, we just don’t care about winning as much as they do. Do I
want the kids to lose? Of course not. Do I want them to win? Of course I do. I
made this clear in my previous blog http://tonymccool.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/WinVLose.html
Schools and Academies made mistakes in removing the intrinsic natural
winning motivation from children in PE and Games. But let’s be reminded why
they did. 99.9% of the issues were on the side-lines, not on the pitch. So, I
want to win and so does my colleague Kevin Gallen (the most competitive person
I know) But, I’m not prepared to sacrifice development to win at all cost and
nor will Kevin.
Regarding the penalty situation then. Why don’t we address it. Maybe
those individuals involved will read this and perhaps have a rethink about the
complaint. I just want them to think about it.
First and foremost, it’s our view that a penalty in a competitive
situation is much more a psychological challenge than it is technical. Hence why it’s
been proven over the years to be the case that many managers of some of the top
teams in the world have not even bothered to practice penalties prior to some of
the world’s biggest knock out football matches. Why? Because it’s pointless. If
you’re an international football player, hitting an 18m²
target from 12 yards should be pretty straight forward. On the training ground
they would hit it showboating. But put 60,000 people in a stadium, do press
conferences leading up to the game with journalist asking “what happens if you
lose”? Think about what happens if you hoof it over the bar and years of
teasing and torment. Think about all the back pages and the comments from
people in the street. Now let an eye drift into the stand and see the fans waving
and sticking their fingers up at you. All these dynamics are barriers and
obstacles that you zone out from. Top players can do this. Most then that I
have spoken to that took penalties in pro football have said to me. They pick a
spot before the game and never change their mind. This includes Kevin Gallen
who of course took many penalties and said: “on occasions, as a young player, of
course, sometimes you did notice the 5000 people behind the goal distracting
you with songs, verbal abuse and even miming ways they wanted to kill you”
So, how do you practice that? The only way
possible for let’s say elite players, is to go to tournaments that are competitive
knock out formats in stadiums that prepare you mentally for such situations. My
current academy club have been excellent at this and I even remember at my
previous club a great tournament in Oostende where we went on a regular basis
with the U14/U15 youth team. One year I recall we done really well. We were in
the knockout stages and we had one of the great Moscow teams. It went to penalties.
There lad strolled up, thumped the ball on to the spot, never looked anywhere
other than the target, steamed up, head down and blasted the ball into the roof
of the net. Our lad, looked so nervous I actually from the dugout wondered if
his legs would give way on the walk to the ball. It’s in a stadium, there is
maybe a thousand people watching. There is a stadium announcer, cameras,
cheering. He’s just a kid and it’s all new. Predictably, he missed. That player
is maybe the most technically gifted player I had. In training if I held an A4
piece of paper in the goal he would hit it from 25 yards not a problem. So, was
the issue, Technical (requires practice) or Psychological? But then that
requires practice surely? So, hang on, this event, the feeling, the anxiety,
the thoughts, the disappointment. That WAS the practice? Going to the
tournament? The experience. Eureka, that was it. We all know that England, let’s
say, have a bit of an issue with penalties, so the good thing is, the academies
know this and they want the teams to experience a proper competitive knock out
I think about other sports like Darts. There are
thousands of excellent ‘pub’ dart players so what the difference? Could it be,
elevated on a stage with 5000 people in the room singing and TV cameras could
be a distraction for many?
Going back to the original ‘complaint’. The only
way to practice this would be to ask every child in the school to come out on
to the pitch and stand around shouting and screaming. To perhaps create
pressure. In fact thinking about pressure. The very fact that there is a
complaint would suggest the pressure in the first place came from the parent.
If they are that devastated about losing you can only imagine the conversation
in the car on the way. The pressure didn’t come from us. Just the experience,
experience that makes you psychologically stronger and better. Experience that
made that player in Oostende better and stronger.
To finish, of course, there are technical aspects
to taking a penalty. Striking a ball in many different ways is covered by us.
If the children apply themselves to training they will get that. But we would not and would never
queue up 20 children to practice penalties in a pointless situation sacrificing
other learning. We have one hour a week to learn. So I would ask this. In the
week leading up to the tournament we had one hour of learning. How many hours that week
did the child spend on the PlayStation, in front of the TV or on the computer?
Those house could have spent in the garden or the park with two people a ball
and a goal practicing penalties.
As a parent, a youth football coach and school sport
provider, I am fully aware of the affects and influence gaming has on our children’s
As parents we
know that we have always been concerned about the time spent on computer games.
The effects it has on a child’s social skills, communications skills, the
detrimental effects it has on our child’s education as we battle time spent on
gaming or online versus homework or revising. The biggest concern of course is
the affects on physical wellbeing due to inactivity. As parents, like many we
questioned for years the effects on motor skills and the eyes looking at
screens for hours on end. Of course much of this is hard to prove but our gut
feeling is, it can’t be good for you. One thing that is perhaps more easy to
identify is weight gain and the visual effects on our children. We can easily
identify our children’s mood by their actions and we can see when they appear to
become overweight. Sometimes we even turn a blind eye to it.
The trouble is,
this phenomenon is getting harder to control. Without any question obesity in
the UK is an ever increasing concern with the government yet again committing
its £150m a year school sports fund to try and tackle this and push increased
activity across all children. So its clear activity has to be the primary
factor. Well, along with the ‘fuel’ we put in our body. So leading brands like
McDonalds bring so much to the country in terms of employment etc. But they are
equally having such an huge impact on health. Of course, I don’t want to bash
them. We have a choice. Why don’t we bash the grotty burger van or lesser
performing fast food brands. Only because McDonalds is hugely successful we
target them for criticism. So of course to tackle that McDonalds counter this
by promoting the integrity of their produce and also by giving us a healthy
option. Whether this sells or not in large volumes I don’t know, but at least
they promote. Either way, we can’t stop our children wanting to go to the restaurant
so for us it meant we just tried to reduce the volume and limit it to become a
treat. McDonalds also invests heavily into Football by backing community football,
providing kits for grass roots and supporting coaching. They also do work in
education providing business training and food production education. So in
fact, when you delve a bit, as well as the profit they take they do at least attempt
to give something back and I of course support the football projects because it
promotes burning off the fuel.
Trouble is, I don’t see this from the gaming community. If
they do, then I stand corrected but perhaps it isn’t well marketed. In
particular we are looking at Fifa here. As this is relevant to football which
is of course the most popular sport in the world and my trade. If you look at
the marketing and think about it. It typically uses the world’s most famous
footballers and then puts them in there club kits and sit them in front of a
screen playing Fifa. The messaging is almost like “play this and you could be
like me”. It’s like it has become part of the development pathway. I’m sure
those guys will produce some research figures showing how they increase
interest in football. I don’t disagree with that but what I ask is this. You
now have such an influence on the game through young children, teenagers and
now adults due to the era, what do you give back? So, you employ a lot of
people, you pay a lot of tax I’m sure. But two things have to happen for me.
Your ‘superstars’ have to be shown to mention the importance of real activity
and real practice if you want to be a footballer of any level and certainly if
you want to be healthy. Secondly you surely have some moral responsibility
considering the massive powerful influence you have on now a massive percentage
of the population. Bearing in mind the Fifa product is promoted and deemed
suitable to children aged 3+.
As parents we know that 3 hours could absolutely fly by for
a child playing Fifa and it would be hell to play to get them off. Could the
game or console manufactures create a parent area which gives parents the
ability to create a time-limit? With today’s modern technology why don’t you
give parents that control via an app? Parents sometimes lose track of the time
they are on it so why not be responsible and give them more direct control and
information. This would enable parents to even shut down the console remotely or
set times breaks. Use a tool to control homework etc. I think as a parent I
would buy that add on. Just a suggestion. If you make a gazillion dollars
perhaps you’ll remember who gave you the idea?
As a football coach I
have seen a complete change in culture as a result of this game. I’m of course
a traditionalist. I used to go to the park with a ball under my arm. I used to
be in the street playing football. But times have changed. Also there are so
many alarming stories and disgusting crimes against children that perhaps we
have also become so protective that in fact we take comfort that our child is
inside safe and sound.
But I can’t help fighting it. I said to a child recently “You
do know that you can’t get better at football by exercising your hands and
fingers? You would be better warming up with a rubiks cube than a ball”. I
recently had a full on debate about an Arsenal center back when a young Yr6 lad
was suggesting you don’t have to be quick or fit to be a footballer. I was
saying, I’ll think you will find that player is a lot quicker and fitter than
you perhaps think. He laughed, shrugged his head. He absolutely didn’t buy into
what I was telling him. I pressed further and then he told me. On Fifa he has
only got 29 for pace. So that is his gauge of the player. What Fifa says goes.
Not the coach!
I recently ran trials for teenagers. Now these were players
serious about wanting to still become footballers. Again it’s my view that the
culture has changed. When I was a teenager (I sound like uncle albert) we would
meet up for a kick around in the parks. I remember one Christmas we all met up
and played football in the snow. Loads of us. We needed to get out and play
because all our games were off. But snow wouldn’t stop us. Now, its changed.
Teenagers meet online. They play Fifa online. In fact, If, now as a parent of
teenagers we didn’t bang on the wall at 2am in the morning I think they would
play all through the night.
So, I went around these teenagers on trial and asked them
what position they played. The replies were “CDM, CAM, LAM, RAM” etc. I thought
to myself, wow, these guys all use “Fifa language” This is how they see the
game now. During one of the games we asked why a midfielder had not tracked
back with his runner and he replied “I’m not CDM, I’m CAM”. That was when it
hit me. Times have changed. I can’t fight this on my own. The trouble is, the
kids don’t believe me anyway. But I’m not going to concede to the challenge. I
can do one of two things. I can keep fighting this challenge or I can embrace
it and somehow use it.
There is of course benefits to the game. One of those being
knowledge. Whenever I hear a player’s name I haven’t heard of before I just ask
my teenage son. Now I work in professional football but my lad has got one up
on me. He can tell me stats and history of seemingly any player in the world.
Remarkable, how does he know that? Fifa. So to try to open my mind to change I
took a bold step. Of course I played Fifa over the years, less recently as I don’t
have time. So I know the basics. But I asked my son to show me all the new
training sessions and drills. I recall doing some as you would wait for the
game to load. I was shocked. Actually, some of these drills looked fantastic. Moreover
they looked fun. They also looked like drills I would love to try myself. So I
started jotting some down. Some also looked like a real good cardio exercise. Actually,
overall, to me, if someone was exceptional at these drills in real life I
suspect they would be absolutely fantastic! So, it was decided. I’m going to
bring these drills to life.
In the last few weeks whilst coaching in schools I have now
started to ask the question.
“How many of you play Fifa at home?” Nearly always all hands
“How many of you would like to try the training drills in
Fifa, in REAL LIFE?” The response was amazing, children jumping with their
hands up, “me me me, when is it”.
So, my organisation has ran football holiday courses for
years now. It’s always been structured within a learning syllabus typical of
academy football. It’s I know, It’s what I was trained for. But I’m going to do
something new. I’m going to completely change our approach. Try something
fresh. We are going to deliver Drills that look like the Fifa training games.
Including knocking down boxes and target rings for crossing. Shooting drills
with balls launched from machines and dribbling challenges. The full works.
We will arrange a points and a prize for leading players in
age range and maybe even talk to football club to see if they would like to
invite a player in on trial as a result. Because these drills are tough!
I think I would also consider a late teens/adult competition.
Purely because I think I would like to have a go myself!
Coming soon April
& 5th April
& 7th April
Details will be at:
Twitter: @2touchfootball @FifaRealDeal
Pre register or direct communication: FifaRealDeal@2touchfootball.co.uk
Could you be the #FifaRealDeal
So, with the reported sad departure of Steve Gallen it means that
he is the last person out the door from the days of Raheem Sterling and beyond.
Key people from those days like Terry O'sullivan, Paul Bruce & Fitzroy
Lewinson plus more have all gone and were important people that took part in
Raheem's and others recruitment and development. Good coaches, good scouts, good people,
Every season we will here of managers
getting sacked. That’s part of football but when it happens we often here and see many
people in the game and in the media showing great human sympathy for a man losing
his job and so we should. However, many that do are rewarded in a way far removed from
us mere mortals with contracts paid out in full resulting in many multi-millionaire
With this in mind I was truly shocked to
see Steve Gallen seemingly ushered out of the back door at QPR after it being
reported that he was removed from all duties at the club. QPR is a club that
publicly reports its family feeling, culture and togetherness but this to me
seems to be an action in contrast to that. Steve Gallen has been employed at
QPR in a multitude of coaching roles for around 18 years. Most of which were
working in the youth centre of excellence where he later became the head of
youth and Academy manager. He was then moved out of that role to coach the
U21's and later promoted to work with the first team. Of course things happen
in the first team and people get sacked with new people coming in and with the
introduction of Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink Steve has been deemed surplus to
requirements I guess. I don’t see issues with that and I’m sure if Steve was asked, he wouldn’t
either. That happens. However since the news broke I have seen lurching opinion
on the overall value of Steve to the club and also questions of his ability and results
working in the youth structure. This is such a shock to me and its when the 'only at
QPR' term came to me again. Why can’t this gentleman be given the just reward and
appreciation he so deserves? Instead it’s debated by certain quarters as to his
success. One comment I read was.
“It is an inconvenient
truth...however...Steve Gallen has been a fundamental part of a youth system
that has grossly failed for 20 years”
Being in football more than most industries
means that you are open to criticism and I can take that. Steve certainly can I’m
sure and he wouldn’t want to respond. However having worked for this guy and
seeing first-hand the challenges I felt I want to tribute him and show the
details of what he actually achieved. Knowing that if I was a chairman I would
be currently hunting him down to come to work at my club. Criticism is ok but I
think it’s fair if people know the details facts and truth as some either
comment without the depth of knowledge or else have hidden agenda's which is unacceptable, damaging and disrespectful to someone that has given so much to his role and i'm guessing, doesn't walk away a millionaire for his family.
Looking at the comment above I read the
words 'fundamental part' as being an overall decision maker. Or a key person at least. Let’s
put that in perspective. Steve was not in charge of the youth system for the
last 20 years. He was to the best of my knowledge in charge of the youth system
for 4-5 years up to 2012. Post 2012 was the era that Tony Fernandes came in as
did Mike Rigg and Steve was almost immediately stepped aside. Since that date a
further four people have been in charge of the academy and as many placed in the
role of Head of Coaching. Steve has had no decision making responsibility
during that period. I accept that Steve Gallen bleeding hoops doesn’t mean he
is owed anything or that he is owed a job. He would never want that either. Hes a proud hard working man. So let’s
examine the second part as indeed Steve was in charge of the Academy for the
period leading to the influx of investment.
If we firstly look at the numbers. Steve was in charge of a ‘center of excellence’ under owners that seemingly didn’t focus too much on the youth.
Investment was minimal and I estimate it to be around no more than £150k per
year. At that time it had 3 full-time staff. It’s not up for debate the major
influence Steve and coaches like Fitzroy Lewinson had on Raheem’s capture,
development and majorly, keeping him at the club as long as they did as he
gained approaches from the local ‘big guns’. Sterling’s recent move to Man City
netted QPR £9m in a payment clause. I’m sure it’s clear that I’m a fan of Steve
Gallen as a great coach and a great person. But were not debating his values,
kindness and integrity here, were debating what he did for QPR. If his
responsibility lasted 5 years that would equate to a circa cost of £750k. To
ease the argument lets round it up and stick another £250k to the cost and that
still leaves a profit to QPR of £8M for his term. I think that’s worth a thank
you. Since then the investment was massive and now the academy has around 20
full-time staff and a cost of circa £2M in my estimation. Around a third of
that could be recouped from the Premier League’s EPPP system but it still
leaves the club paying out an estimated 8-10 times the investment under Steve.
The same pro rata return would see the club profit circa £12M per year.
Considering all the challenges that were faced in these years and
low budget it’s a miracle that any players of any level were produced and it’s
that remarkable equation that always left me scratching my head as to why Steve
was never given the reigns when the investment arrived. admissions were made
about the many mistakes that were made and the ‘type’ of people that came in.
But with the message and focus returning to youth as a clear strategy I feel it’s
a huge mistake again to allow Steve to be pushed out in this way. If you went
on a recruitment drive you would have to break the bank to gain the incredible
capabilities of a Steve Gallen that produced players against the odds. Tony
Fernandes has one under his nose and surely must reverse this decision if taken
out of his hands.
"Steve [Gallen] was great. He always had such confidence in me and that gave me more confidence in myself"
Its been much reported as the chairman having the wool pulled over
his eyes and as part of that maybe he was told the same stories about what I read
and what’s implied. The club hasn’t produced players over Steve’s term. Well, Let’s
investigate that further. After some quick research of the football league and
beyond it became very apparent that I would be able to put together a very
decent team and squad from current players that all came through under Steve’s
guidance and responsibility. Here it is….
These players are a mix of current QPR players, players sold and
players released. The point is, they all make a reasonable living. Some higher,
some lower but it’s a great testimony to Steve’s work. Imagine if he had been
given the opportunity to drive the improved investment bus? This was on a
shoestring compared to now.
As well as these players, most of which are still young and developing with therefore a great chance of making a higher grade, Steve led the U18's to 3 x league titles in his term and 1 x national cup. He was runner up in the U21 final in more recent years. In a New York tournament QPR beat Inter Milan and Liverpool to win an international trophy. Against all odds they had reached a quarter final of the FA youth cup beating level one class leading Southampton on the way to losing at Newcastle at St James Park. Clubs that had been investing millions in their academies for years.
For an Academy to work properly there a simple equation in my
You cannot turn a bull dog into a greyhound derby winner. You
cannot turn a shire horse into a winner at Aintree. There is a starting point
of talent and it’s the most crucial part. The trouble with a club like QPR is
its competitive. When real talent presents itself you have to compete with
clubs around you. You walk the player around the facility. In the days of Steve
this was clearly tough to sell. Then it’s the people. You prove to the parents
that you actually care and have good morals and transparency. Then you show
them the proof of the pathway making it clear they have a chance. In the past
of course this was again tough to sell.
Of course development is vital. You don’t take your new Mercedes
to a back street garage. You want it cared for by the best. No doubt the coach
has more contact with the player than anyone and could truly break a player as
well as be pivotal in developing them. That’s also mentally as well as
technically. Coaches like Fitzroy were great examples of that. He cared, you
could feel his personality and he had the knowledge to back it up. In 20 years of being in professional clubs, Steve is the best coach I have seen and Ive worked with many high profile names.
Its home. It’s the place you spend most time. As well as the
bricks and mortar it’s the holistic science that now has been introduced to the
game. The support of medical teams to keep players fit and protect them as well
as pitches and equipment that gives the player the tools as well as the feel
All of it doesn’t matter if the club doesn’t have a strategy to
bring the players through. In the past its obvious that this was not happening.
Of course the players have to be good enough, but they also need a chance.
With those four pillars ticked you will then produce players for
the first team. Mr Fernandes, you are frighteningly close to getting it right this time. But you need the right people. If you don't reconsider than I'm sure Steve will be back in work soon and everyone moves on.
Knowing Steve he wont thank me for writing this, but its got to be said. I'm sure I speak for many when I say I thank you for all you did for the people you came into contact with and I'm sure fans that understand the depth of work, dedication, professionalism and value you brought to QPR they will also join me in showing their appreciation!