2018 In Review – Academy Report

As we reach the end of 2018, it’s time to reflect on the year past, but to also look ahead for new challenges and opportunities in 2019, writes Jason Brindley.

2018 has been a superb year for The New Saints FC Academy in terms of player development, opportunities experienced and also players progressing through our programme to bigger and better things.

We have been fortunate enough to play against some of the top teams in not only the UK, but also from around the World.

We have been invited to play tournaments abroad and have done exceptionally well in them. It is an honour and a privilege to have been invited and we are very proud of the way the boys have conducted themselves.

Last Easter, we travelled to France with two different age groups to compete in International tournaments. It was a great opportunity for our Young Saints, entering tournaments that contained teams like West Ham, Lille and Kent Schoolboys to name a few.

We participated in the U11 Loone-Plage and U15 Le Portel tournaments, with our respective 2017-18 age groups.
Both teams did really well. Our U11s striker, Callum Francis-Jones, was awarded the Golden Boot award, memorably scoring from the half-way line against LOSC Lille to knock them out in the quarter-finals.
Our U14s also entered a tournament just after Easter. With a lot of new players to the group, it was great to help build relationships and to see the social side develop further.
Our U13s entered the Bourbourg tournament for the third year on the bounce, and were fantastic in the way they applied themselves, on and off the pitch.To see the way the players have developed socially is very good and it’s important that this corner of development isn’t neglected, which it can easily be, or overlooked.
We use things like team presentations, where players discuss training topics or general principles or ideas, with the use of a tactics board, to develop the confidence to speak to a group but to also back up your point in a general discussion.

Tournaments are a good way of developing the psychological demands of football, with more of an emphasis on winning and the feeling of defeat, which is a powerful learning tool.

Obviously we want to win with a certain style, by playing our game, our way. This is really important. We can’t sacrifice learning in place of instant success, as players won’t progress if that is the case.

Our U14s and U16s qualified for the National Futsal Finals at The House Of Sport, Cardiff. We were very proud to have two age groups make the National Finals, with our U16s being crowned National Champions with some standout performances. Our U14s were unlucky and played fantastic throughout.

In the summer, we entered the Manchester International Super Cup, a four-day tournament. With lots of new players joining our football club, the tournament is a perfect way for players to get to know each other and it definitely helps to build relationships.

We also travelled to Boston to play in the Pilgrim Cup against a few CAT1 Academies. We were successful with a number of age groups and it was another good experience for our players.

Speaking of experiences, it doesn’t get much better than playing against arguably the best footballing club in the world. We were very fortunate and grateful to be again invited to participate in the Jamon Cup in Calamocha, Spain.

And in our ‘Group of Death’ we were drawn against non other than FC Barcelona. Barca have the best academy in the world ‘La Masia’ which is located next to their stadium, Camp Nou. It was a once in a lifetime experience for our players.

Experiences and opportunities are one of the best things we offer young aspiring players at The New Saints FC. Over the past 12 months we have travelled the UK to play some of the very best Academies.

Not only is it an opportunity to express yourself but also is a chance to get noticed. We are confident of competing against much bigger clubs due to the level of coaching we now provide, with a highly qualified coaching team that matches most English Cat 2 and Cat 3 Academies. And with that also developing players to play at a higher level.

We want to develop players to play for our first team, that is the whole idea of a youth system, but if we can develop players to play for a bigger club through being with ourselves, that is success to me.

We have had players move on this year to teams like Wolves, Everton, Wigan and Bury. To see that we are now helping players get to that level through our detailed training programme is something that we are very proud of.

We have also had boys on trial at Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool, so it shows that we are doing something right and giving players opportunities.

In the past 12 months we have played against just some of the following teams:

To conclude our last 12 months, seeing the continued growth of our Academy is really positive. We have added more full-time staff, got a superb Goalkeeper Coach in first team player Connor Roberts and the detail and level of training has increased.

We now have more A Licence and B Licence coaches than ever before. This can only benefit player development. Training has become more tailored to meet the demands of the individual player, as there is no one size fits all approach that will succeed.

Each player has their own needs which need to be focused on. It is a challenge as a coach but it gets us thinking of player development, which in turn can only be a good thing.

We have continued to grow in terms of awareness. To now get invited to participate in foreign tournaments on a regular basis is superb.

To expose our players to different types of challenges, to assist their development. And to see how they adapt to it, while also remaining true to our football principles.

It is important to reflect, so we can improve. Coaches reflect on sessions, what went well, what could have been better and how/why? It’s important that we do the same as an Academy.

We feel 2018 has been an amazing year for so many reasons, but the challenge is now 2019, how can we make it better? So we look back to learn but we also look forward, look forward to what the future might bring and how we can achieve this.

I am excited for the challenge and to continue good practice.

I’d like to finish by wishing all of our players, parents and staff a brilliant New Year and I’m already relishing getting the players back in and working hard toward individual and team goals set for 2019.