It’s been a half-term with a difference for The New Saints FC Academy, with some great fixtures and learning opportunities throughout, writes Jason Brindley.
Last Monday, we welcomed Leyton Orient to Park Hall Stadium to face our Under 12s. Leyton Orient are on a trip North to visit and play different football clubs.
We were delighted to have been given the opportunity to welcome them to our first team stadium. The game was fantastic, with both teams playing exciting free-flowing football. We thank them for their visit. They were a great group of players and staff.
On Wednesday, we travelled to PFA, a football coaching company based in Stockport, for a football tournament. The festival contained some excellent teams, including Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley, Accrington Stanley and our friends Leyton Orient, who were on their final day of their visit before travelling back on Thursday.
We travelled with teams from U8-16, with teams playing in the morning or afternoon. It was a good experience for our players to play against different opposition in a competitive nature. What I particularly enjoyed was the social nature of the day. You had players from various different groups mixing with each other, and it was really good to see that bond that we have in our football family.
I also enjoyed the fact that you didn’t need to see the TNS kit to know you were watching a TNS team, as you could tell a TNS team from the way we played. That wasn’t just the older groups either, but all of our teams. It was really, really pleasing to see that ‘TNS Identity’ more evident than ever, with players trusting themselves and their team mates to play our way.
It was a long day but enjoyable, and we thank PFA for inviting us to participate in their event and for parents for travelling midweek.
On Friday evening, we welcomed Allerton to Park Hall Stadium to face our U12s. It was another excellent game with Allerton containing some excellent players. The game was extremely competitive, with both teams counter-attacking at pace and creating great chances. We thank Allerton for travelling and look forward to facing them again in the near future.
On Saturday morning, our U16s welcomed Stoke RTC to the home of the Welsh Champions. It was a beautiful warm February morning, no better setting for a game of football. In terms of their individual and collective performances, our U16s have come on really well in recent months. Stoke have some good players and frustrated us for large spells by defending well and counter attacking. It was a good game overall and we thank them for travelling.
Also in action on Saturday were our U9s and 10s who hosted, while our U11s travelled to Colwyn Bay. We thank Colwyn for the games.
On Sunday morning, our U12s travelled to Prestatyn to face NFA. It was a good challenge for our players, playing on a grass pitch which was bumpy in areas. I think it’s good to play on grass pitches that aren’t pristine.
While we love to play on these carpets, real football isn’t always like that. Pitches aren’t always great and it’s how you deal with that. What I liked most was the fact that despite the pitch, we didn’t change or alter the way we played. Players still looked to drop into space to get on the ball in tight areas, when the temptation might have been there to go longer.
We also welcomed Chester FC to Park Hall Stadium to face our U9, 10 and 11 age groups. The games were all played in good nature, with some excellent football from all teams.
Our U9s game was extremely entertaining, with something like 18 goals scored between both teams. You could tell with the cheers from both sets of parents that the game was close and entertaining.
Our U13s and U15s also welcomed Chester. Our U13s were looking to build on recent impressive performances. They have come on a lot this season and despite only having bare numbers, including an under-12 who was superb, they played really well. They took on tactical info early on and showed very good understanding.
Our U15s welcomed back a couple of players and while controlling a lot of possession, they found a Chester team with a lot of pace and good counter-attacking forward players. It was yet another thoroughly enjoyable game.
We thank Chester for travelling to us and we look forward to playing them again in the future.
To finish what has been an excellent week, our U14s travelled to face Stoke City.
U14 coach Danny said of the experience:
“Our U14s travelled to Stoke City to have the fantastic opportunity to play on their pristine grass pitches against top quality opposition on Sunday.
“The players performed extremely well and scored some well worked goals which certainly caught the eye.
“I was very proud of the players who still played football through a very high and tough press by Stoke City at times, sticking to our principles.”
We also played competitive fixtures against Barnsley, Accrington Stanley & Pro Football Academy this week. They were also great opportunities for the boys, who are enjoying their football and playing some eye-catching stuff at the moment.”
As we conclude, it’s been a superb week of football for our young Saints. We feel that it’s important to play as many games as possible over the course of our programme to challenge our players. We have a detailed training programme to teach our ‘TNS DNA’, but it’s about executing it in games which shows learning understanding.
We have a vision of what we want a TNS player to look like, through the various phases of development, but our core values never change.