Knowsley And St Helens, Llandudno, North Birmingham Celtic And Kidderminster Harriers Make Up This Week’s Academy Report

It was a beautiful weekend of football for The New Saints FC Academy, as the weather has been perfect, writes Jason Brindley.

It was fresh and nippy first thing in the morning but beautiful once the sun came out to brighten up the autumn day. It was perfect for youth development football.

On Friday evening, our U13s travelled to Liverpool Academy to face Knowsley and St Helens Schoolboys. Knowsley are a very strong schoolboys’ team, containing players from multiple CAT1 Academies including Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United.

We knew we would have our work cut out. The challenge was raised further by playing on a full-size pitch with full-size goals. This was the first time our U13s have played on a full-size pitch.

We play 18-18 at Park Hall, as we feel the pitch size can be a little false and can encourage kick and chase football. A full-size pitch is huge for a 12-year-old boy.

We want to develop technical players at TNS. We want players that can play in tight areas and to not over focus on the physical side, although that is always still a component that requires attention.

Despite the size of the pitch, Knowsley played some very good football and played through as opposed to kicking it long to chase. It was pleasing, but not surprising considering the level of players they had.

Our U13s, containing two U12 centre-backs, worked tirelessly for each other. They defended as if their lives depended on it at times.

We grew into the game and I think it took us a little period to get used to the size of the pitch. An extra 36 yards is quite a distance, especially when we have been working on patterns and movements based on distances and references.

This is just our belief as a football club developing youngsters and there is no right or wrong way. It’s all based on opinions and this is our blueprint for the stage. From u12s 9v9 to u14s full size 11v11, there’s already a lot more going on with 4 additional players on the pitch.

We go from 9v9 width or 18 yard to U13 11v11 full width and as they develop over the season we will slowly expand the pitch to get ready for U14.

I was really delighted with our U13s. I’ve had the privilege of leading them over the past few months and I’ve been astounded by the way they have come on as a group and as individuals within that.

I was proud of the way they conducted themselves on and off the pitch again and the feedback we received off Knowlsley was excellent. I thank them for inviting us to Liverpool Academy to play them and we look forward to hosting them again later this season.

On Saturday, all our Foundation Phase age groups travelled to the North Welsh coast to face Llandudno FC. Llandudno always have strong age groups, especially within their youngest age groups.

First up, in the warm autumn morning was our U7-9s. This was the first time our U7s have played 7v7 as we usually adapt the 4v4 format when we play at Park Hall Stadium.

Again, there is no right or wrong way, we have our beliefs and others theirs. It’s good to expose players to different scenarios and challenges.

Our U7s were ace and had so much energy. They were so delighted to be shooting into ‘Big Goals’. I love working with our youngest groups as they have so much innocence and fun.

It’s great seeing the way they celebrate goals with so much laughter. Despite all the seriousness in football, it’s important to strip all that back and remember that it’s a game, it must be fun.

Our U8s were again very impressive. They have a real togetherness about them and at a young age it’s good to see. We believe in the social corner and its importunateness, even at a young age it requires attention.

We make sure we develop that side, whether it be eating together off our healthy academy menu after games, arriving early before training or games or socialising in their changing rooms. There is a thought process behind everything we do at The New Saints Academy.

Our U9s-U11s played some evenly contested games. Like I mentioned, Llandudno always prove good opposition. They have a good little football town. We thank them for hosting us and look forward to hosting them in the near future.

Our U14s and U15s fixtures were both cancelled so we had a 14/15 mixed game against North Birmingham Celtic 15s, at Park Hall, playing Saturday evening. It was a really good contest.

Our opposition were very good, a good passing footballing team and proved a good test for our mixed age group team. We thank them for travelling and will be inviting them again in the near future.

On Sunday, the only game for our Academy was our U16s, welcoming Kidderminster Harriers to Park Hall Stadium. It was the first time our Development Phase have faced Kiddie, so we were unsure of the challenge they would provide.

Our U16s however had prepared right, with lead coach Rob doing a match prep session the day prior on how they would set up. It was a slow first-half, and both teams never really got out of second gear, with or without the ball.

The second-half was much better. Our Saints took on the coaching advise given to them at half-time and executed it better. What was also pleasing was seeing last week’s training topic come out in the game. To practice a technique or sequence of events and to see it put into practice in games is an evident of the learning process.

As we conclude a superb weekend, the thing that strikes me, and I’m delighted by it, is the word challenge. I’ve used it multiple times in this report, without realising.

When I started as the lead coach with U12s and U13s this season, I said to both groups I would challenge you this season, in multiple ways. I would challenge you tactically, technically but probably more importantly mentally.

How do you adapt to different situations and scenarios? How do you change when playing against different types of player or opposition? Teams that are technically very good? Teams that are going to get in your face? Everything is a different challenge and it’s great to see how players react to these.

It’s important that as an Academy developing young players, we challenge them in a variety of ways. It’s good that the coaching team we have are excellent in that department.

Next week we look forward to fixtures against Flint Town United, Airbus UK Broughton, Hull City and Manchester United.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Wood

Media. Contact: sam.wood@tnsfc.co.uk