It was a superb weekend of development football for all involved at The New Saints FC Academy, with some amazing experiences along the way, writes Jason Brindley.
On Saturday morning, our U8s and U9s welcomed local side Cefn Druids to Park Hall Stadium. Football is at its purest and most innocent form at these young ages. It’s great to see players playing with freedom, no fear of failure, and with smiles.
Cefn Druids’ 8s were very good and the game was end to end, with both teams containing some excellent players. It was thoroughly entertaining.
Our U9’s game again was a good contest. Our 9s have really come on as a group this season and played some excellent football throughout.
Our U15s welcomed Hednesford in the afternoon and continued recent form with a good performance. We mixed the squad and included some U14s, challenging the players.
The younger players responded well and added to the quality of an already very good group.
On Sunday morning, our U13s and U15s travelled to Connah’s Quay Nomads to play on their Quay3G.
Both games were indeed a tale of two halves, with the strong wind playing a key factor. I wouldn’t say it ruined the games, as this is something that can and will prove an issue in games. Players must work out the solution to the additional problem, which were the conditions.
Both games were of good standard though and we look forward to playing Nomads again in the future.
Our U16s welcomed Bala Town to Park Hall Stadium for a friendly development fixture. Our 16s were looking to apply training outcomes from the week just past and showed clear signs of learning through practice throughout the game, which was pleasing.
We have a detailed curriculum that makes up our ‘TNS DNA’ in relation to playing styles linked into our game model. A lot of thought process goes behind designing the programme but the most important aspect is how you deliver that message on the field.
Players must understand how we want them to play in the four moments of the game. Training must be designed to help players to solve the problems they will face in a game.
Our U11s travelled to Sheffield United to play in their winter five-a-side tournament. It was fantastic to even be considered to participate. The tournament also contained Rotherham United and Notts County. The tournament was an indoor five-a-side, with walls on the side to bounce off. Coach Ash said of the experience:
“The U11’s participated in an enjoyable and well organised five-a-side tournament on Sunday, playing Sheffield United, Notts County and Rotherham.
Being a five-a-side tournament, with no outs and a net on the roof, the players had to get used to the high intensity 16 minute games in which there was no time to think or stop.
All 3 teams brought different problems in terms of their pressing and in possession playing styles, which led to our players making their own decisions to solve them, which was great to see.
All games were highly competitive, and I can’t thank Sheffield United for the invite. It was another fantastic opportunity for the boys.”
Our U12s and U14s completed their final group Futsal games with an aim to finish in the top four, thus qualifying for the semi-finals in a couple of weeks.
Both teams went into the day with a 100% record from the previous two contacts. While we don’t preach about results, as you can lose focus on the main objective which is developing players, we are very proud of both groups.
Our U12s faced some difficult opposition on the day, teams proving very different challenges as to how they set up, pressing higher or dropping off. Our players responded well though and continue to improve from an individual and collective point of view.
Our U14s again continued recent good form and faced some difficult opposition. They stuck to our principles throughout and played some excellent football at times.
Both age groups go into the final contact in a fortnight in the semi-finals. We wish them all the best and are very proud regardless of the outcome.
Our final game of a superb weekend of football was our U12s vs NFA, at Park Hall. It was a very good game, with NFA containing some excellent players. It was good to give the players that missed the Futsal a full game, to continue recent IDP points. We also got subs to lead the team talk in the intervals to give feedback and observations throughout. Some of their answers were excellent.
As we conclude the weekend and reflect, it was a really positive one I feel. There were some great experiences and different challenges for our youngsters, in various different ways.
I keep going on about challenging the players as individuals and seeing the benefits of that. We treat all the players as individuals as that’s what they are, and they all have their own unique areas for development, throughout the four corner model of development. We are really seeing the improvements and I am really delighted at current progress.
Next week we look forward to fixtures against North Shropshire, Stoke City, Flint, Bangor, Elite Player Development, U8 and U9 Futsal and Wrexham.