In recent games we have had
to deal a depleted squad through injury and availability and that is on top of
the usual key challenges we have to face. So being faced with opposition in
good form and sitting well in the table should have meant this would be a
daunting task. But fear is something we don’t have now and knowing Hitchin can
benefit from sending match scouts to our games it proved they indeed take the
task seriously and also meant that those circumstances meant we had nothing to
lose. Nick Hayes was due back following his England training and with 3 Centre
Backs out we felt we had nothing to lose in fielding some fresh faces that have
impressed in training. Nik came into centre midfield, Stefan into centre
midfield and Eldon came into no10 role. Eldon Maquemba is a player of great
experience and genuine professional pedigree. He happens to be living in
Houghton Regis and had jogged to our stadium, paid to get into a game so that
he could approach us. He came training and looked terrific and showed the much
needed experience we are desperate for to help guide the young lads. He was
available for this game and I needed to pick him up. Our volunteer kit man has
also been on the unavailable list so it meant I had a car full of kit and
equipment as well as players. It did make me laugh when Eldon sat with kit and
drinks bottles on his lap and said in a respectful manner “Tony, can I ask you
a question? Is this the normal way you travel to away games? It is perhaps not
the best preparation” I told him I would
much rather the use of the lovely team bus our neighbours at Luton Town and most
others take for granted. That would be really helpful. But the club will not
spend money we don’t have on we don’t have so that also includes logistics.
However somehow these
challenges that we have might of somehow galvanise our squad and the clubs
committee and fans as a whole and it’s this togetherness that enables us to be
even anyway competitive in this league.
This was very well
acknowledged in Mark Burke’s program notes where he credits our ability to
compete in games due to good coaching, organisation and players willing to work
hard. Intelligent appreciation from a proper football man with vast experience
in this league. Someone I respect greatly.
We did well overall in the
first half and had to defend well and be well organised as Hitchin of course
wanted to put us to bed quickly. We mostly reduced them to shots from distance
and we showed what a fantastic counter attack team we are with pace and skill
going forward. The pace and transitions in this league can catch you out when
you have not been playing regular and two of the new signings showed some signs
of fatigue but they had worked very hard and they will get better and better.
The centre back pulled his hamstring before the half and forced us into an
early change and utility man Daniel Trif came on and was superb as always. This
lad epitomises the attitude of our players. If I asked him to balance on the
cross bar I am sure he would do it.
We made another change at
half time and we of course spoke about the expectation from Hitchin who will be
fired up and for sure will be getting a roasting from their manager. We started
the second half at the tempo we discussed and got on the front foot but in that
scenario their keeper was able to clear quickly and we found our selves
isolated 1v1 and their lad chopped inside and finished. That was of course a
huge blow. But we didn’t crumble and got our selves back into an even footing
in the game and we felt strongly that with 15 to go we had the ability on the
bench that find that killer pass into our wingers we know can out run
opposition. Johnny Barnett came in and the plan very nearly came off as we also
won several dangerous free kicks. Two massive chances that half with a header
from Peter and he was involved with Andrew superbly down the right that had
Eldon sliding in on an empty net like Gazza in the Golden Goal against Germany
in Euro 96. Except Eldon did get a slight touch but it whizzed last the post.
One thing for sure again,
that is another team that will be delighted to come away with 3 points and know
that we will be bang in games and as our players return from injury now,
suspensions over, some luck to even out, my word we are bang ready to take
advantage and points will come.
Keep the faith… it’s coming.
The story in now entering a new chapter and the winning will feel so much
sweeter on the back of what we have been through.
I applaud the people that constantly search for a better way
of developing players and ultimately aim to improve our national team’s results
in major tournaments. So I was very interested to see this latest FA 12 Rules
as a result of the youth review.
The overall objective of this review was outlined as
To make football ‘calmer and safer’. I don’t think
any person would argue with that being something that should be under constant
They want to create the ‘right environment for faster
development’. Ok, faster development
could accelerate learning and maybe have a better end product. Only thing I
would say is there isn’t a fast way to reach 21 years old. Ultimately, that
will take 21 years.
The rules will ‘encourage player to be more skilful’.
I’m happy with that. Provided we understand
and identify appropriate skill. For example, I love to see a player that can
pass the ball with amazing detail in what he or she can do with its movement,
like a golf or cue ball. Skill to me is much more ranging than simply 1v1 step
overs and flip flaps.
They want to make matches ‘more competitive’. Great news.
Always baffles me how we sanitise competition. Although government now has U
turned thankfully and encourages competition in school PE for example. I’m glad
about that because children are instinctively competitive. Anyone that has watched
their children playing Fifa on Playstation like me can vouch for that. They
want to win, then in sport we remove that edge, because the surrounding parents
can’t control themselves.
So the rules…
Calmer & Safer
Sidelines Rule:- There is nothing worse than hearing aggressive mums and
dads shouting out obscene language. Even recently in my academy role a keeper
made a really bad mistake. He’s U11. Several parents on the opposition hailed
out cackling laughing at his demise and their teams gain. I found that shocking
because do you need a rule to just make you a decent person? Having said that
is there anything wrong with people shouting “unlucky”, “go on”, “well played”,
“good tackle” etc.? It’s now the over sanitisation that does concerns me because
then later on when you can’t control the spectator output then the players
could freeze rather than learn to block it out and focus. Anyway, I guess its
thanks to the like of what I witnessed a couple of weeks ago that this has to
come in. I just wish we hit the problem head on, explain to them, “come on, if
that was your son in goal, subjected to that, crying on the way home with embarrassment,
how would you feel”? On that day there was circa 50 people there, 2 did that
horrible thoughtless stupid shouting and 48 more pay the price.
Tackle Rule:- My question here would be what medical grounds? Of course
there is a risk playing football as with any others. A sliding tackle isn’t exactly
encouraged and I’ve never heard a coach ask a player to do it. I think it’s an
instinctive reaction to needing to reach the ball when defending and something
that needs to be practiced to get right. It’s a form of tackling, maybe one
that sometimes goes wrong but in over a 1,000 youth games I’ve never seen a
significant injury from this. I’ve seen plenty of players left on the floor and
beat and also seen a few good tackles. In adult football of course I’ve seen
horror tackles. Just not sure if this is a rule for rules sake.
Rule:- I’m actually a big fan of the sin bin rule. But the rule could be
better in my view. I think in over 1,000 youth games I’ve only ever seen a
small handful of booking’s in youth foundation phase grass roots football. I think
that’s because the young people are on the whole not sinister in their actions.
What I don’t like though is the imitation of the top premier league players and
in particular arguing with the referee. We introduced a zero tolerance of even
disagreeing with the referee in our own game Fiitball and it worked. Players
leave the pitch for 2 minutes and it fixes the problem in a matter of minutes.
Teachers said to us that certain players completely changed their usual persona
in game situations. I think the sin bin rule for the current set of rules means
it will have little affect with the little ones only to actually encourage more
Marks Rule:- Why not? I don’t mind this and would only be an issue for
those not able to control their emotions I guess.
Line Rule:- I support this and where
I have seen it I think it works well to encourage players to get on the ball.
It needs more thought though and I’m shocked that it’s one of only two items to
make players more skilful. For example I’ve seen this where the centre back
gets it, then that player kicks it forward. So, it defeats the object. Also
players get better under pressure, so at some point it should be encouraged to
work on finding space and improving first touch under pressure. Plus if the
keeper never kicks it then he/she is not developing. For example to practice
chipping to pass to someone. That isn’t long ball to gain territory. Thinking completely off the cuff, there could
be more realistic ideas that actually help develop players to work off the ball
and develop with pressure. Could you mark the pitch into 3 zones? You get two
goals counted if you have a player in your team touch the ball in all three
zones and score before you lose possession. In an elite environment I would
certainly prefer that because I want my players to learn to deal with opposition.
Rule:- I agree and I have heard grass roots managers saying that it shouldn’t
apply. I think it’s better to get the children into good habits as early as
possible. I agree therefore that this helps the goalkeeper also. But I would take
this as a given as it’s consistent with the full rules and to not have it
included would not sit right with me. So, I’m not sure where the innovation is
Instructions Rule:- I do agree that players do learn better thinking for
themselves and coming up with answers to problems and challenges. I now have my
own private academy team playing in an U11 and we set them a challenge for each
player every week which is a progression of the training topic. The subs then
acknowledge every time they achieve that objective and it’s tallied up at the
end and openly recorded. We find that this is working and beats bellowing
instructions. We may occasionally ask them to think about possible different
outcomes or ask them to remember the challenge. That’s about it.
Playing Time Rule:- 100% Agree and we have always done this. There is
nothing worse than seeing players on the side-line freezing and its worth
remembering that players develop at different rates so you could be denying
time for a player that could end up being very strong and have further
potential. Added to this, recently I was working for a pro academy playing a
development centre against a grass roots team and we had 7 players on the side-line.
The other team also had a similar number. I said to the coaches, there is a
quarter of a pitch over there, spin the goals round and let the kids play on their
own. I think we over supervise the children and sometimes over coach. There’s
two goals, there is a ball, go and play. The pitch is fenced off. If someone
gets hurt they will call us and we can see them in the distance anyway. What
are the rules? Who is the ref? Who’s in goal? What is the formation? What
decisions do they make? Well do you supervise when they play the PlayStation?
No, and no one supervised them playing on the playground either. They sorted it
out themselves. For me, subs should be set up in a safe, small game. Much
better to play than stand around!
Rule:- I agree that players are ‘pigeon holed’ too quickly and it’s good to
try different roles and responsibilities. Even when they get older and certain
attributes lend themselves better to certain positions it can still be really
useful to try different positions to challenge them. Early on players should be
learning core aspects of the game with the ball in ongoing 1v1 situations all
over the pitch. Later on they can learn position specific attributes that
affect decisions and tactical methods.
Teams Rule:- Not wishing to just throw away an idea without rational
consideration, but I feel that this is just nonsense and I’ll try to explain
why. Well firstly with the work I do in schools there is an obvious gulf in
ability within most classrooms. An environment that puts different abilities in
core subjects on separate tables or even in different rooms to ensure they
share the similar level of development speed and so they can be suitably challenged
in order to maximise their potential in that subject. This is clearly evident
when you take a class to do PE and that includes football. There is an obvious gulf
in physical and technical ability and it makes it very difficult to effectively
coach where the lower ability pupils are gaining satisfaction and healthy participation
levels whilst the higher ability group are suitably challenged to help them
improve. For me this is a very similar situation in football and working as an
advisor at different clubs I have seen this first hand when the groups are
mixed together. You simply cannot achieve desired outcomes that is good for
either end of the scale. Your ability level of the group dictates the level of
the session and your set expectations. I think this can lead to disappointment for
the players that feel like they are not involved enough and don’t achieve the
expected outcome. Players refusing passes etc and them having little success in
possession because they are picked off too easily. There are different levels
of ability in sport just like there is in other core topics and this takes us
back years. It totally undermines the ‘faster development’ objective and more
importantly completely undermines the whole elite player performance plan. The
EPPP is set out to ensure stronger players get to the better equipped academies
and play with and against better opposition thus giving them a so called better
chance of success. Surely this applies further down the food chain. Better
players could just go stale and don’t have to put too much effort in or
challenge themselves greatly. That also makes it harder for scouts to identify
the true better talent because they will just be dominating games. Some clubs
may well have separate teams of equal ability and typically you see them called
reds/greens, tigers/panthers etc. But to make the mixed ability a ‘rule’
concerns me greatly and could end up benefiting neither player at either end of
Rule:- Another very concerning rule. This seems like another rule to
counter a bad one in the first place. What I mean by that is if you don’t put
competitive teams in similar levels in the same league and class everyone as
equal than this will happen and again holds back the advanced players. No one
wants teams getting beat 10 nil every week but it’s why teams have to be assessed,
graded and pitched together. Some managers could also get to 3 goals and then
encourage a striker not to score. Sounds ludicrous but I can see that happening
all day long. Having expressed concern over this I have actually done this of
my own accord. Our academy centre of excellent team went 4-0 up quickly against
a grass roots team and I just took one of my players off. Because I recognised
that as much as I don’t see the point of humiliating the opposition, my players
are getting absolutely nothing out of it. So I wanted to try and even up the
ability advantage. At least we may gain something. In another academy I also
played a grass roots team and quickly set playing rules for my players for the
same reason. So I’ve actually done this myself, however, making it a rule in
grass roots makes it open to being abused and become unrealistic. Much better
for me to pitch teams together than can compete and challenge each other.
Reality of football, reality of all sport and indeed life.
Rule:- Absolutely 100% To me is more a concern that it needs to be a ‘rule’
surely that’s decency and common sense?
Overall, I agree with some of the rules. Some I think are
more common sense and with the odd bit of nonsense chucked in for good measure.
Always the way though overall, the vast majority of decent people and parents
pay the price for the idiotic senseless minority. We don’t really tackle the
real issues head on, instead we change the rules for everyone.
I guess it keeps people in jobs as well though, so well done
the FA. I understand this is also being trialed in Manchester so I guess, lets see what the feedback is. Lets give change a chance.
To take to the field yesterday was a miracle and an example
of what can be achieved when you have got great people pulling together. We had
put together a squad over six weeks that could compete for Dunstable Town FC in
Step 3 of the football pyramid and of course they needed to fit a certain
profile. Young hungry players that want to move their career on and use our
club as a pathway to something great. But of course that means the players are
learning a lot as we go and they are not coming into training every day. So we
don’t have the readymade solutions that other clubs can benefit from. Of course
managers at the top clubs and all the way down to our level including our
league have the ability to offer players financial packages and when Manchester
United, Man City, Chelsea etc need a player in a certain position they go and
get the solution. They don’t start the league with their U23’s and look to
teach them under the spotlight in competition. Even at our level our
competitors yesterday in a ‘pro rata’ relative similar situation are able to
replace players with proven players and have the budget to support it. For
example Redditch had a centre midfielder that we recalled playing against our
coach Kevin Gallen and he shows the experience he has.
So on the pitch we are having to learn as we go. 2 months
ago we started recruiting and now we have the squad we believed showed that
hunger and desire together with attributes and ability we can work with. We are
delighted with the players whilst we will have difficult days we know they will
also produce great days. As we led up to our first week in this league we had a
player return to Portugal and a key defender on a pre-planned trip. We lost two
players who we had been sent to a professional trial in Germany. We have one
injured and one that decided to return to university. Suddenly we had some
concerns and we turned to some players that we had known previously. We
promoted a former Luton Town player that had been excellent in our development
squad and we signed two players that we had history with having worked with them
at QPR bringing the ex QPR number to 3. On the Friday night we found there was
a mistake in the registration and therefore our replacement we planned for was
out. So we went to Redditch with another replacement to our already young and
rapidly trimming squad but we did so proudly in our gleaning new training kit
and aboard our mini busses that have kindly been supplied and supported thanks
to excellent work from our chairman in building local community relationships.
As we arrived our physio who has been kindly supporting us
free of charge while we ensure our sustainable future asked “Has anyone seen
the 1st aid kit”? You see, whilst we have had to assemble all these
players from scratch we have also had to learn about a lot of things that
normally get taken for granted. We have now got another new volunteer kit man
who has great personality and also made for a supporting driver and even chips
in as a vocal fan from the stands. We had done a checklist but we tried to play
down any distraction like this as on and off the pitch we keep finding what we
are missing and just resolving it. However, he informed me that we couldn’t get
in our club to get it anyways because it was locked up. Oh well, looks a bit
tin pot but can we find a solution and Redditch United’s staff very kindly
helped him. Sign of a great club. Anyway, we were already secretly a bit
concerned. Our first game on this stage for these young players. We were a bit
depleted. We are on a 3G pitch which feels different fans are starting to click
through the turnstiles. A first for many of them and I did think maybe we would
have been more comfortable in this transition on our home grass. But the
baptism has to happen somewhere and in some ways, there is the theory of
learning to swim is best done when launched into the deep end. So as the lads
started to ask for tapes etc we just tried to play down the error and not lot
let it become a distraction.
5 Minutes to two pm we are ready to hand the teams in and
then came another punch. Our striker is not appearing on the registrations
website. If he plays were in trouble. Of course that was a big blow. How we
ended up in that situation is unknown but as bad as it feels, it’s thanks to
the diligence of our secretary to not cut corners and double checking. He certainly
prevented us being dunked in hot water, not for the first time. So, we need to
reshuffle. I speak to the player along with his replacement and we go through
some of the organisation that we had. It is what it is but again we tried to
play down this issue and the lads got on with the warm up. The lad who was now
out of the squad showed a great attitude where quite frankly he would have been
justified in being angry.
We spoke before the game about the significance of what we
are achieving against all odds. We spoke about who we are doing this for, maybe
family and loved ones. We spoke about where we want to go as a club and
individuals and we spoke about why we are doing it. It was a discussion to
remember for the whole season and how we then cope with the ups and downs that
would come and how we had become a new family.
Now, that’s the players off down the tunnel, now we have
another rule, there is bench wear required that if we don’t comply the club
gets a fine. The first I had heard about this was last week and the poor guys
behind the scenes had the blue lights on and got there extinguishers out to yet
again put out another fire. They acted on the news but the solution was not
there for our first fixture and we got changed into trousers, jumpers and
shirts for the bench and Kevin donned a casual jacket to cover up his kit. We
did think we might be able to simply cover the logos with tape, oh yeah, we
forgot the 1st aid kit. Plan C then.
I’m sure some people must have seen us come out and think
wow, these guys all think they are Jose Mourinho. We got to the pitch, oh
blast, another problem. Our host told us we are only allowed on the pitch without football boots. No shoes or trainers. The dugout is across the other side of
the pitch and I wasn’t great at long jump in my school days prime so I really
don’t fancy my chances of clearing the width of this pitch. Maybe the players
could give us a piggy back? We opted to walk around the pitch and I’m sure the
fans must have thought that we looked more like three guys walking to the pub
rather than a dugout.
The game got under way and things didn’t look to bad.
Ordinarily we can cope with conceding some pressure as we have incredible pace
on counter attacks. Suddenly out of the blue, whack, a penalty. My gut feeling was
it looked very harsh and on review of the video I said ………………………………… Anyway,8
minutes in and were one nil down. This is where experience is so important. We
speak about it, we practice it, but reality is only experience helps in the
heat of the moment. Nerves quickly set in and we did make a series of mistakes
which quickly led to a second goal. 10 minutes gone 2-0 down. Disaster. What
happened over the following 20 minutes is pretty much what you expect when
young inexperienced players are debuting at the highest level they’ve ever
played at against solid experienced paid players. It was the most uncomfortable
period of our whole coming together at Dunstable and it came in our first ever
competitive game together. They couldn’t cope with the disappointment and doubt
and confidence soon came into play. In that period Redditch scored two
excellent goals when we afforded them too much time and space. But, let’s be
fair, they have some excellent players. 4-0
A tactical switch and some other changes were needed to stop
this escalating into an embarrassment. I know these players are good enough so
I didn’t want to let this happen to them. Half time we explained the changes
and had to have some pretty tough words.
The second half they proved what they can do as they put
Redditch on the back foot and we created a number of chances. A special mention
perhaps for Brandy and Nimmy. They did everything we asked we also had put on
Aaron on who had a couple of really good runs and crosses. When he gets running
he’s terrifying. These three players are 18, 17 and 17!
We have a saying the players know…
“In football, when its going good, you find out about
players, when its going wrong you find out about people” So they will all
learn, they will act differently in future to mid match set backs.
Suddenly we had this team on the back foot and these young
raw lads along with the efforts of the rest of the team had showed and proved
they are more than capable of coping. As they threw themselves forward we took
some risks that exposed us more than usually and urgent defending resulted in
some corners from which they scored but overall, what was important was that we
had gone out to be in a football match, take the game to our opponent and that
will help with the belief and confidence. It might take a while for the lads to
believe in themselves as much as we do. That might happen in a few months, it
might happen in a few weeks. It might even happen Tuesday. One thing I know, is
someone is going to be in for a big shock. Guaranteed.
Thanks for supporting us
Come on you blues
Another fantastic evening for a club re-birthed and reconstructing
processes learning protocol to run football matches off the pitch whilst we
replicate that on the pitch.
So it started with a haircut…I thought, I’m looking a bit ‘Gordon
Strachan’ (in his heyday) or maybe Cilla Black here. Going to have to get the
groundsman on it if I don’t tackle it.
So I sat in the chair, who would have thought football
frustrations would come out here? “You’re the Dunstable Town manager now aren’t
you”? Yes I am. “I would love to be a football coach” he said. “Well why don’t you
then”? I replied. He said, “Well, I did my badges but I gave it up. I really
want to do the big stuff”. I responded again, “So….why don’t you then”? He said
“Well nothing came up. Really I would want to be the Luton Town manager”. At
that point a lot of frowns appeared on my head along with confused eyebrows and
shocked eyes. “Really, Luton Town? fair play mate, maybe I would suggest you
learn your trade for a few years, keep learning. Go and coach a kid’s team and
start learning”? He said, “Well I only want to coach at pro level and it’s hard
to get in so I left it”. I thought to myself, wow, I coached for years in grass
roots, I coached senior amateur teams and spent over a decade coaching in
academies as well as working in senior pro environments. This guy wants to bypass
all of that? I wanted to go from that shocked emoji to the one of the monkey
with its head in its hands, but I feared it could ruin my rapidly improving
appearance. Then he continued, “well I
also want to be a scout, that’s where I really see myself, scouting players”.
For a split second my ears pricked up, I actually could do with some help
scouting, this is a young keen guy maybe. So I asked, “oh, fair play. Do you go
to a lot of games?” He replied, no, I haven’t been to a game for years”. “Oh,
but you want to be Luton Town manager, when was the last time you watched them?”
He said “I can’t remember, years. The last actual game I went to was at craven
cottage, Fulham v Man Utd and Ryan Giggs scored with the outside of his foot
volley” I did another shocked face. Now in my head I’m thinking, that’s years
ago. I remember the goal. A quick check when I got home it's 10 years ago. I
rarely go 10 days without seeing a live game! So, my head went a bit “You do
know that the current Luton Town manager has done all the things you are refusing
to do, as well as played a lot of games”? I’ve also coached for 20 years and
been at several pro clubs and studied hard and now I’m at club 'beneath him'.
As I left I was thinking how that attitude was consistent with
a lot of footballers. They want all the lavish lifestyle and celebrity life,
but are not willing to do the hard part in between. Then they wonder why they
fail. Is this there fault or simply a culture of young people gaining celebrity
status on fast-tracked reality TV shows? Why go to acting school? Why bother?
Why write great comedy? Why bother? Why work on great presenter skills with
knowledge? Why train in professional entertainment? You don’t need to go through
all that, you can bypass it. I wonder if many young people now think football is
the same. Do they think there will be a reality TV show football club that
takes people out of there lazy lives and thrusts them into stardom and all they
need to do is act stupid, talk without any amount of respect and decency and
parade around half naked and be promiscuous. Bingo, I’m a footballer or a
Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) addresses show makers
I think this was brilliantly illustrated and so well written
in the series Extras by Ricky Gervais with the character Andy Millman having a
realisation of his life having been on celebrity Big Brother pointing at the
camera saying “f*ck you, the makers of this and you lot for watching” after
describing how desperate you must be to want to be famous so much you hand in
your dignity at the door.
I think this is one of my favourite speeches of all time Extras Speech It makes me think about football and how its changed with so many quitting after they don't 'make it'. So why did you play in the first place? Was it to be famous or becasue you loved football?
Anyway, the Football…
I must extend a huge thank you to the ground staff at Creasey
Park because the pitch is looking tremendous. Overall as we go through pre-season you can
see the new bunch of lads learning about each other. We are on a very steep
learning curve and I have to say a unique situation for me. But that is the challenge
I relished. Perspective is something we have to keep reminding ourselves of. We
are a very young team, they are impressionable. In some cases they are lacking
a bit of confidence and they don’t realise how good they are. But it will come.
Because we are not lacking ability.
Tyeeeq Bakinson along with Freddie Hinds now Bristol City
& Cameron McJannett now Stoke City
I had a very warm chat with Andy Awford as he shared some of
the work they do from a holistic view of player development at Luton Town. It
would be wrong to go into detail but I was really impressed with the approach
to ensure young chaps are afforded equal opportunity. He also spoke about the importance of creating good people with life skills. Well done Andy and thanks
for bringing them to Dunstable Town. Although it is a reality check to be
looking young men in the eye that I coached when they were 11/12/13/. It fills
me with personal pride to see them doing so well. I remember a young Arthur
Read and complimenting him only for my fellow coaches to remind me that I
always rate the ginger haired players. Well I don’t think anyone that was at
last night’s game would disagree that I think I have been proven right as he
pretty much dominated midfield with very clever movement and rotation and use
of good first touch and passing range. Good to also have Tyeeq Bakinson also come to me and say hi, such a nice humble well mannered young man. I recall his parents well and I know they will love to hear that. I wish him and all them other lads huge
success and nothing would fill me with more delight than to see one or two take
the field in the football league, let’s hope in a gleaming new stadium and
gleaming new era for our professional neighbours.
One of the challenges we face with our brand new crop of
players is self-belief and confidence. We have to remind ourselves that we also
were a very young team. Dare I say, not your typical Step 3 Southern league semi-professional
outfit currently. Added to to that we have had 9 training sessions, in our lives as a
team. In those 9 sessions we have had to fit in a recruitment program, followed
by a pre-season. When most of our competitors were starting pre-season games in
gleaming new kit, we were still drilling down on a new squad selection after rustling
together some footballs. So, this is very much a fledgling outfit. All things
considered then I feel we are in exciting times when you consider that against
two excellent similar level teams we have more than held our own and have put
fear into team’s defenses. These lads have got a load of work to do, but I’m so
proud of them already. We had two 17 year olds on the pitch yesterday. I’m so
confident in their ability, they are not filled with that confidence yet, but
they should be, they were terrific. When I see Aaron Hudson whipping down the
line, beating his opponent, showing great skill I couldn’t help but smile. The
score didn’t bother me one bit in moments like that. Brandy Makuendi in centre
midfield also, you wouldn’t believe he is just 18 as he demands the ball and
shows great ability to stay on it. That’s bravery. Nimmy up front, 17, hangs on
every word you tell him. I think if I asked him to make his runs from the
defending corner flag he would do it. These young men are learning fast and we
will watch them mature as young men as we go. In the next bracket we have a
group of 19-23 year olds desperate to learn and willing to work hard to
improve. That leaves some pressure on our experienced ‘old’ players, Scott Betts
(24) and Skipper John Sonuga (28). These chaps have shown great calmness.
Fantastic role models.
Overall Luton Town dominated this game. That statement is
not an embarrassing one to make. Tactically we needed to place ourselves in
better positions to be able to make contact and we know that now and will work
on it. A shift in shape helped with that and for the first time it allowed us
to get forward in a sustained attack. There keeper made a good save from
electric Ryan Young (he will terrify teams this season), that would have been
1-1. Instead a combination of errors from us allowed them to tap in a second.
Of course we still have a lot of questions to answer as to
who and where so from that point we had to remind ourselves that we are
preparing for a season and therefore we have to put preparation ahead of the
result as we moved personnel around and tried some different things.
So, full credit to Luton Town lads and another good work out
for our lads as we get nearer to the season.
We should give a mention to the guys off the pitch. The
people who volunteered to save this club and now work tirelessly to get the
club prepared for genuine football matches. We still have kit to sort out, we
are rustling together water bottles for the lads along with many other things which they are sorting and have sorted. But the ladies and gentlemen
behind the scenes are all on the same page in that we want to create a
togetherness and professional approach from here in. There is a real solution
and can do approach and it has created a buzz around the pitch and place. The
fans have been brilliant to the players, they understand the dynamics and there
patience and support is hugely appreciated. The amount of young children in
Dunstable Town and Luton Town kits enjoying a night out was also great to see.
Ive got to thank all the people that have stepped forward to
help me and the club already. Like my old colleague from west London Justin Lucas-Hill.
He has been provided professional medical support for us as well as helping
with staff recruitment. He hasn’t asked for one penny so I feel obliged to tell
people how wonderful he is and if you feel you need treatment please visit http://www.sportspt.co.uk/ He might even
be able to meet you at the club moving forward
DTFC - The Jackals - No Fear
When I look in the eyes of the people running the club I see
such decent transparent people, guys discussing ways to improve things for the
lads well post 10pm. I even got a nice bit of homemade cake. When I walked back
to the changing rooms I left a chairman sweeping it out in his suit. That is
the ego free football environment I’ve always striven to work in, all hands on deck. As
I walked back to my car with the stadium lights off and loaded with equipment I
reflected on what I had just seen and thought to myself…
This is going to be a long hard season, with many ups and
downs. But, one thing I know for sure, I want to do everything I can to give these
great lads, fans and people running the club a glorious football day they will
Well it’s been quite some time since I have been able to sit
down and type some thoughts. Its been an incredible year with Fiitball all over
the UK again and as I sift through the incredible feedback from the teachers
and pupils I’m left shocked but proud that I was part of making so many
children happy and getting them willingly running around.
As I finished this last week of schools I was asked to cover
Fiitball with some younger children, YR1 and reception and it was great to add
the reduced version of the game and with differentiation to achieve some really
positive outcomes. My favourite comment and reminder of what expectations to
set came when I asked a few how long they had been coming to school. One little
boy said “7 years”. “Ok cool, and how old are you”? “Im five” he said.
2Touch football is ploughing ahead with its free subs football
club. We desperately want to field 5 teams from u7 to U11 and are recruiting as
we speak. But the kit is ordered, some funds are in place and we have a pitch.
Much of this work has been done by Graham Cowley. He is truly one of them
genuine great community guys and added to that he’s a good open minded coach
and we need more of him. If you have a
child that’s wants to play, please get in touch. Also, if you have some spare
cash and would like to sponsor us to help keep this free, please drop us a line
Dunstable Town FC
So we started this project in the middle of June. To put
things in perspective, we had no players. We recruited quickly and
circumstances meant that players would be coming here for reasons other than
money. At this level that makes it very tough. But they know we would give them
good coaching and try to give them the tools to make them the best they can be.
We had to relabel the club. Know what we are and where we are. Were a pathway
club. A club where we have a great platform to showcase what you can do. As it transpired
loads of young guys turned up and we had to cut that number down quickly which
of course is never nice.
By the time we showed up with a squad to play well
established Marlow Town we had been together a few weeks and never played as a
team. The game proved we had chosen a really good hungry bunch of young men as
they took the lead quickly followed by a quick reminder that younger inexperienced
lads easily switch off as they conceded at the other end in that classic window
Skysports came to play us a real show of support and we
mixed it with a cardio vascular work out for players not playing to try and
create some fatigue although the sky lads weren’t convinced we worked them hard
enough. Actually the Skysports lads were excellent. Of course there was a
difference in overall fitness but they didn’t disgrace themselves one bit and
we also managed to get the lads on the pitch for only their second game ever.
Hendon were next up and as we walked in with the mixed
footballs and casual clothes as we await delivery of our new training and
coaches kit, Hendon looked every bit the part. They have a number of staff and
clearly everything is established and in place there. But I believe in these
young players. I’m confident they will be ok and can win games and step up. I
was delighted with the way they went about their business against a proper good
outfit in Hendon. This was a real test of what is to come and an example of why
the fans need to really support these young guys because they proved they can
not only defend stoutly in games but create countless chances and caused them a
lot of problems. In the second half we did concede more possession and the
changes perhaps showed greater strength in depth for Hendon. But the fact that
we had carved out several decent chances and maybe should have had a penalty it
was a really good run out again as we continue with the learning. This was
Hendons 4th competitive friendly. Marlow had already had 4 friendlies.
This was the second ‘competitive’ game of our lives, for a young team. All
things considered then, it makes for an exciting future. We’ve got good
balance, strong defenders, an excellent goal keeper, pace and power and players
that can terrify defenders. 5 weeks ago we didn’t even have a football!
If your local, please come and watch us!
We want to do something revolutionary. In every industry the price only ever goes up. But for young children who want to play football I want the price to come down to zero.
For next season we will launch a new football club on the Luton & Dunstable border's as a test. Can we do it? Can we deliver a 'higher end' brand of football. An almost professional approach with first class standards. Qualified coaches coaching with a one club ethos that is looking to develop players in a challenging, safe, fun environment where creativity and smiling is embraced not stifled. We will do this and the boldest thing is we will deliver this with no cost to parents.
New 3G pitch locked Saturday Mornings
Why would we want to do this? Is it important? Well in my view it is and i think I have enough experience to justify this. Ive coached Fiitball and Football now in over 100 schools and over 10,000 children all over England and in a wide range of communities. I have had the great pleasure of working in schools where there are children with all sorts of difficulties and challenges and there is a statement I have heard many times. On occasion you get the sense that a boy or girl is showing real talent with technique, understanding, enthusiasm and desire for sport and so I ask the question. "Do you play Football outside of school"? Many say they are with a club, that's great! Some say they are with an professional academy and I always follow that up with "How many times a week do you train"? Most say "once" on a rare occasion they say "three or four". I always say well done to both but in my own mind I'm simply gauging if they are in a next level development centre or actually an academy signed player. But there is a crucial answer that if I had heard once would be too many, but I've heard it several times. "I don't play for a team, we cant afford it". I know its hard for grass roots teams. They have to pay for kit, facilities, ref's, league fees, fines, FA admin, training, equipment etc. Nothing is free, so they try their best to gain sponsorship and the rest we all know as subs comes from the parents. To think that football has become a pay2play culture is simply outrageous and something we must address. The FA said it wanted more than 500 pitches by 2020 like that will cure grass roots football. I commend them for investment and who doesn't want better pitches? But some children simply cannot afford to play on them and some pitches remain locked in off peak times and empty with no concessions. Surely that means we might miss out on talent?
Lets look at Academy football and the investment required from parents.
If you have a child playing in 2nd tier level football, like a development centre. Then of course you will have transport cost but on top of that, some development centres actually charge for this. I know of fees ranging from £400 to £900 per year for the privilege of having your child in the 'system'. Now I've got no issue with any organisation providing a good service and someone paying for that service. That's reality. If I wanted my children to learn guitar, I would have to pay. If the product is good and my child enjoys it and their is clear signs of progression than I have no issue with paying the fee. My only point is, this certainly again prices out certain members of our society who simply would not be able to afford that fee. They cant afford to be recognised as talented and then invited to be developed.
But lets say that somehow they have leapfrogged grass roots and the host of development centres and they have been signed by an academy. Great news. Or is it? We all know the staggering statistics that are heavily stacked against the player making it all the way through to the first team so what would be the cost to the parents? Lets attempt some numbers.
Players are expected to train 3-4 times per week and then attend a game which could be at home or a long distance away. If the player is in foundation phase U9-U11 they could live an hour away from the training ground. Older children a bit further. Most people could do around 40 miles in an hour. On average fuel consumption figures I think £10 for a round trip is 'conservative'. Not taking into account a long away game drive, so that's circa £50 per week. So its reasonable and fair on that basis to assume that the financial commitment from the parents is around £200-£300 per month. That's without any loss of earnings for leaving work early and also assuming the parent has a car. I knew children that were travelling miles on public transport and in taxis. So actually, the celebration of signing full academy forms could be quickly dampened by the possibility that you may need to find over £2,000 per year to support that progress.
With this in mind I easily conclude that this wonderful game is pricing young talent out of football. Football talent cannot discriminate on any basis. We already know that the level of performance in international tournaments is not acceptable or even enjoyable. If you exclude talent based on money will we improve that in the long term? A game that has constantly thrown up world class players that have previously lived a life of poverty playing football in streets for free. Now I'm not suggesting that talented children cannot come from wealthy parents and can only exist from high rise council flats. Not for one second am I suggesting that. But what I am saying is that we are not putting them two children on the same pitch to give them equal opportunities. If we truly want the best players in world cups then we need to give everyone a chance to display there talents and widen the talent pool.
The Premier League Cash Cow
I don't believe in criticising footballers for what they earn. They have worked hard to get to where they are, well most have anyway. If somebody is willing to pay that, then fair play. I heard a lot of criticism after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been claimed in the press to be earning £367,000 a week plus a staggering £140k + goal bonus. But its difficult to criticise something we contribute to. I have got Skysports and BT Sport so I'm feeding this animal. Is it obscene? Yes of course? Do I think children's nurses and doctors wages in comparison is a disgrace. Yes! People do so many great life saving jobs for a fraction and I heard radio talk shows of people describing that, but I wanted to ask. "Have you got SkySports"? You see people worldwide are not tuning in to watch those fantastic public servants, they are paying and tuning into watch the Premier League and its superstars are now far removed from the reality we all live in. But I don't begrudge them. If someone offered me £20million a year to do something I loved, football, I wouldn't turn it down on morality and principle. I don't think any of you would either.
I'm also not one to say that these pay owe anyone. Its there money, if they give to charities and vulnerable, sick and desperate people, that's there choice. Some do, I'm sure most do and which is commendable because they don't have to and rightly so. It may also be worth considering that they also contribute to the public purse in a month what many of us would take a decades to contribute. So perhaps the cynics need a wider consideration when feeling a bit resentful.
What I will say though with passion is this. These guys are in England earning this money and the gulf between them and the grass roots game is widening with every new millionaire they make. These players will no doubt take there fortune back home eventually as circa two thirds are foreign players in the top clubs and I ask, what have they contributed to our game at the bottom? Yes we tuned into watch them and thanks for the entertainment. But you made that fortune in England and we should be taking action to insist they do because football is not a charity of choice. Its the game and the country that provided you with this huge earning spell so, I think its reasonable for a levy to be imposed to help get these young players in the window and back onto pitches at no cost. We could never make that happen though? Why not, if its in contracts from tomorrow lets say. There are few footballers contracts over five years in term so in five years I suggest they would all have the levy imposed. Now let me give you some examples and numbers.
Going on last years published figures 2016/2017
£1.38Bn Was spent on transfer fees
£174m was spent on agents fees
£1.933Bn was spent on players wages.
That's a staggering £3.487Bn spent by clubs
If the FA imposed a 1% Bottom up Grass Roots ring fenced fund and the tax office allowed this pre deductions that would create £34.8Million
Grass roots teams typically cost circa £3000 per year to run. So this fund would create a staggering £11,623 totally FREE football teams and these numbers are on the Premier League alone.
If you said to every player, the next contract you sign has got the new FA rule imposed. Of your 52 week salary, one week has to be given back to the game at grass roots. If you was a foreign player, you might begrudge this. But tough. Reality is, the club/agent will probably negotiate the extra to cover it anyway. If this was done five years ago all contract's would now include it and based on 2016-2017 £1.933Bn was spent on players wages in the premier league alone. My grass roots levy would raise £37million. That could fund over 12,000 grass roots football teams for FREE. Meaning more players can play without restrictions. Equal opportunity = more players = more realistic competition = better players in the system = better players coming through?
In the Meantime...
Between the Premier League, The FA and government its hard to know if anyone has enough minerals to tackle this and go for such a simple but challenging system of change so we have taken our own innovative steps. Our football club will be every bit professional and we will look to progress players. No parents will be the manager or coach. It will be our own people working on a syllabus and ethos we have created based on our experience of what works in terms of successful professional achievement but also what works in terms of creating an enjoyable environment for happy football memories. We have some innovative new ideas of ways we will fund this. It will require buy in from the pro clubs and we are also in talks with some key partners who want to help us achieve the impossible and provide Free extra curricular football including organised weekly competitive games.
Unfortunately mortgage companies are not great at listening to great stories of people trying to be community changers so of course the funds need to come from some-where. So if you think you can help, please get in touch and we will share the plan we have to make this happen. But one overriding position will not change. Parents will not be asked for subs.
Get on board at www.2touchfootball.co.uk and if your looking for a new team or have a child from any background who you think would like the opportunity to join please get in touch.
Already we have had a parent tell us that for reasons of course we wont share, her some has not been able to play in a team for three years. She was so happy to see our advert. He has began training with us and guess what. He was excellent! That's why we are doing this!
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.
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!