Another wintry weekend with lots of football falling foul to the weather, writes Jason Brindley.
On Sunday (March 18) we had to postpone our U-7s festival at Park Hall Stadium due to the snow on our first team pitch. Our U-12s/U-14s/U-16s games away to Llandudno were also cancelled.
We did manage to get a couple of good fixtures in on Saturday though, with our U-8s hosting AFC Telford and our U-10s welcoming Vauxhall Motors (lead photograph). Our U-12s faced Wirral Saints, whilst our U-13s travelled to face Shrewsbury Town at Lilleshall, the old home of the English FA. Unfortunately that was the only football of the weekend, with all other games off.
We did receive some fantastic news though, as we congratulate former Academy player, Jack Vale, on signing his first professional contract with Blackburn Rovers.
Jack was with our Academy from a young age, always showing his talent and able to glide past players. Sometimes it seemed he wasn’t even running at speed, yet he would go past players with ease.
I was fortunate to coach Jack for two years, in U-13s and U-14s, before he was spotted and signed by Blackburn Rovers. Jack used to ask constantly for feedback, how he could improve. I loved that. Good players take criticism/feedback. Great players crave it. They have a burning desire to succeed and I saw that in Jack.
Jack wasn’t always the most confident person, which was surprising for the talent he had. I remember at our U-13s end of season review meeting, asking Jack what was he doing at TNS. Jack seemed surprised, he didn’t know what I meant.
I said that, without disrespect to our football club, he could play at a much higher level if he believed it enough. I believed in him. We had a tournament in Berlin that summer. Jack really came out of his shell for the first and developed a great sense of self confidence.
He was constantly asking Mark and me questions, we couldn’t keep him quiet. Jack performed brilliantly in Germany, as did all the team, with TNS finishing 5th out of 55 sides and winning the Fair Play trophy. It was a great experience.
When we returned, Jack’s confidence wasn’t the only thing that grew; he continued to get better and better. He is a great advert for Academy players and I use him as an example all the time. Jack used to message me asking when the pitch was available so he could come down and do extra training with myself, working on things we had identified he could improve on.
Such was his hunger and attitude to get better and better. I’d go the extra mile for any of my players, if they want it enough and are willing to put the work in; what sort of coach would I be if I couldn’t match that. I want my players to succeed.
Jack had a fantastic season at U-14s, being instrumental in the age group reaching the FAW National Futsal finals, scoring a handful of goals in the northern area final. It’s funny, but Jack got noticed by Blackburn through the parent of another boy we brought in, who was a Blackburn scout.
A matter of coincidence indeed but one that has proved instrumental. Jack was also a standout at the Cymru Cup, a tournament where Welsh Academies are regionalised and face each other, as well as playing the Welsh national squad at that age group.
Jack gained a lot of interest on the back of that from a number of top clubs but it was Blackburn that he decided on. Since then, Jack has gone from strength to strength, playing for Blackburn’s U-23s at 16 years of age and being an ever-present in the Welsh national team.
We as an Academy and a football club are extremely proud of the achievements of one of our former players. To have even played just a small part in helping any player reach their potential and fulfil their dream is the best case of success. That is success to me as a football coach, to help a player go on to better things.
Hearing the news this weekend means more than any game I’ve won or cup I’ve lifted. I’m so proud of Jack. But I know Jack, and I know that he will work even harder to continue to improve; this will only fuel the fire to get better.
It’s great that our Academy is developing players to that standard. We have had numerous players move on from us this season to bigger clubs. We will then look to bring in new players that we can develop and help them reach their potential.
To find out more about our Academy, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org