It was another busy weekend for The New Saints FC Academy, with some exciting fixtures and learning opportunities, writes Jason Brindley.
We have now officially started the 2019/20 season and are in the process of confirming final squads, so having games alongside our training gives us the perfect opportunity to watch players play in their natural positions.
We have numerous new players coming in throughout different age groups so it’s good to start creating that link and bond between teammates, but also with their relevant coach.
On Saturday morning, we welcomed Stoke RTC to Park Hall Stadium, home of the Welsh double winners. First up were our U9s and U10s. With our 11s travelling back from Holland late on the Friday, and facing Manchester City on Sunday, they had the day off.
Our 9s game was evenly contested, with both teams playing some excellent football and scoring some special goals.
Our U10s have brought in a few new players and they are a really exciting group of players. They were excellent from the off.
Our U12s move into 9v9, width and length of the 18 yard areas this new season. They produced one of the standout performances of the day. Some of the football they played was incredible. They are a very close group and I think their trip away at the end of last season definitely helped this. It’s good to take the boys away, in a similar fashion to last season’s 10s that went to Holland a few days ago. The bond and friendship that they create is really beneficial. It assists the togetherness of the group.
Our U13s followed. Our 13s are now being introduced to 11v11 football, with a bigger pitch. It is a big transition year for the players, where tactical info will start becoming more relevant and we look to develop their understanding of roles and responsibilities of not just themselves, but also their teammates, through the four moments of the game. Our 13s are an exciting group and we look forward to seeing their development this coming season.
Our U14s have recruited really well over the trial period, adding to what was already becoming a strong group. They played some really good football and it looks like they have really started to understand how we want to play as a team, with positional awareness and understanding, after the transition year last season. I’m very pleased with their performance and how they look going forward into the new season.
Our U15s rounded off Saturday, with the 16s game being cancelled. The 15s were missing a couple of players and had a few newer boys in, which showed to an extent. There was a small lack of understanding of others, but that is natural at this stage, and that’s why we like getting the boys in through this off-season period so we can create relationships.
On Sunday morning, we travelled to the state of the art Etihad Training Complex to face English Premier League Champions Manchester City. Man City have arguably one of the best Academies in the world, let alone the UK. Their facilities are extremely impressive and we were delighted to have been invited in for fixtures.
We travelled with our U11s, not a bad way to complete an impressive week for them, and our U12s. Both fixtures were played in 7v7 format, which is great to give players more opportunities to get on or effect the ball.
I was really proud of how both of our age groups continued to look to play our way, against extremely good opposition. I’d like to think of ourselves as a smaller scaled version of Manchester City, in the way we coach and develop our players, having that clear identity.
They looked like a mini version of their first team, the way they moved the ball. That’s exactly what we look to achieve here at The New Saints Academy. We want to play our way, being brave in sticking to our principles. We will make mistakes, and these mistakes can be punished, but we need to look at them as learning opportunities. More importantly we need to let the player know. Trust yourself, trust your teammates and be brave to play. Both age groups were superb throughout and we are delighted with how they performed and how hard they worked.
As we conclude and reflect on an amazing week for The New Saints FC Academy, it brought nothing but positives. It’s great to see the new players start integrating with existing ones and brilliant to get the players in and to get back to delivering sessions in line with our DNA and Philosophy.
I’m really excited for an exciting pre-season. Next weekend we travel to France with two age groups and another to Arsenal Academy for tournaments.