We look back on what has been one of the busiest weekends of the season so far for The New Saints FC Academy, and a fantastic one at that, writes Jason Brindley.
On Friday evening our U-16s travelled to face Airbus UK at the Hollingsworth Group Stadium, in their latest FAW Academy Cup Super6 fixture. They were on fantastic form on the night and really controlled the game, especially in the first half.
What was most pleasing was seeing players put into practice what we had worked on the previous evening, as they fully understood our plan and executed it perfectly. It was really great to see from a coach perspective players executing and understanding tactical elements of the game with the learning process fully evident.
On Saturday we travelled to Liverpool with a Foundation Phase Group to take part in a Football Festival at their fantastic Academy facilities. It was great to be invited and our young players did very well on the day, playing some great football and really enjoying themselves.
It was also good to have an U-19 player, Callum Jones, assisting coach Ash on the day. Cal helps out coaching within the Academy and it’s great for our players as they look up to him as a Professional Phase player that has also been involved with our first team.
Back at Park Hall Stadium and on Saturday morning we welcomed Rhyl FC to face the remainder of our Foundation Phase groups. All age groups played really well. It was good again to see our U-7s who have played a few games recently, and have come on leaps and bounds, not just as individuals but as a group of players.
In the Foundation Phase it is all about the individual player, ensuring he is challenged in a fun and learning environment. We want them to appreciate the ball, to be comfortable on it and take risks without fear of failure. We certainly see that with our youngest age groups in the Academy. The older they get they start to learn to share the ball more. It’s brilliant to see them enjoying their football, which at a young age is ace. Football with a smile.
Following our Foundation Phase games, our Community Foundation U-15s were in JPL Cup action against Stoke RTC, in the National Cup quarter finals. Our U-15s have had a terrific season and are a very strong team. There is very much a group of togetherness that really fights together as a team, a proper team spirit. The game started edgy with both sides not wanting to make a mistake and it was evenly matched early on. Our U-15s were much better in the second half and scored a couple of really good goals to make it into the semi-finals.
Finishing the day was our U-14s, who welcomed Saughall Colts from Merseyside for a fixture. Our U-14s contained a few new players, so it was good for them to get an opportunity to represent the club. They also contained an U-13 player, Josh Evans, who was outstanding and he did not look out of place and actually added to the quality of the team.
Like the Foundation Phase, individual players need to be challenged. We are not 10 different teams or age groups but only one, all playing for the same club which is The New Saints. While players are categorised to an extent, we have 160 individual players and we must ensure that they are all challenged as individuals.
It helps that we have the TNS DNA, with all teams playing the same way throughout the club. Therefore we can expose players to different challenges that assist their individual development. Players have peaks at different stages though, so it’s about knowing the individual and making sure you know that the player can cope with it, through all the corners of development. Technically, tactically, physically but also really important mentally.
On Sunday we welcomed Newtown and Team Elite to face our Foundation Phase before a 16 team U-8s Football Festival. The event was organised by co-ordinator Kieran and was brilliant. It contained Academies, Development groups and local grassroots team, but more important than that it contained kids.
Seven-year-old kids who are at different levels of development but are starting their lifelong love of football. In total, more than 160 players enjoyed themselves on our first team Champions League pitch. We extended the tunnel and the players entered the field together to the sound of Champions League music and a round of applause from their parents and families.
They must have all felt so special and you could tell from their smiles when playing that they all had a great day. It was brilliant to see and we look forward to next weekend when we host an U-7s Festival.
Following the Festival, our U-12s faced Mold, our U-14s Chester and our U-16s took on Wrexham. It’s great that we are so fortunate to have our fantastic facilities at Park Hall Stadium and The Venue. The pitch was alive with football and we maximised that. From 9.00 a.m. until 8.00 p.m. it was in use. It is brilliant to have this facility available to players and we certainly made the most of it.
Away from Park Hall and our U-13s travelled to face Bangor, early on Sunday morning. They played very well too; another group which has really developed this season.
Finally, I would like to thank all our TNS football mothers for giving their day so their son could play football. We appreciate your support as always, a huge part of our TNS family that makes us special and unique as a football club.
If you would like to know more about our Academy, contact: email@example.com