Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

GUEST BLOG: Fighting back after serious injury
Manisha Tailor (photo: Kajal Nisha Patel)

Manisha Tailor (photo: Kajal Nisha Patel)

By Manisha Tailor

One tackle can cause loss of form, one tackle can lead to mental breakdown, and just one tackle can end the career of a professional footballer. Perhaps this was thought in November 2010 when one horrific tackle broke the leg of Arsenal and Welsh International, Aaron Ramsey, in a manner which caused onlookers to wince and look away in disgust. “The determination and professionalism that you need, it’s quite tough”.

A feeling shared by one former Arsenal player who has experienced various levels of the football pyramid after suffering two serious injuries which saw him drop down from the football league to non-league. A player who has most recently been compared to football greats such as ‘Pele’ and tipped as scoring the best FA Cup goal ever. That player is Rene Steer: Injury, setback, to current form that has attracted much interest across the globe.

Steer spent 6 years at Arsenal seeing him make numerous appearances for the reserves in addition to graduating to the first team in 2007 before departing on loan to Gillingham in 2009. Since then he has played for clubs including: Oldham Athletic, Staines Town and Woking, having left last season following a serious injury. “I personally believe that I’ve been unlucky with 2 serious injuries at the wrong time which has stopped me showing clubs what I’m all about”. He started this season with St. Neot’s Town but has most recently joined Boston United who play in the Conference North Premier League.

From the heights of the Arsenal to playing non-league, such difference can potentially impact players psychologically with a difference in status, money and fan base. Now to add injury, ruling a player out of something that he loves and has a passion for, ruling a player out of something he lives to do – playing the game. Steer, having experienced the two, illustrates that mental toughness is paramount to help overcome such challenging circumstances. It is his resilience, determination and focus that is admirable, and tells us much about his strong character. This season we see the form that saw him lauded so early in his career.
His left-footed 40-yard wonder goal in St Neot’s FA Cup game (see video clip below) has lead him to become an internet sensation with over 400,000 views and fans commenting: “it’s truly ridiculous”….. “goal of the season”. Manager Iain Parr is positive about Steer’s current form: “The last two or three games he’s showing what he’s all about defensively”.


Rene, Norwich City FC scout in addition to a highly regarded football coach at The Rachel Yankey Football Programme, has received words of support and encouragement from the most capped England International, Yankey, who stated in a tweet: “very proud of one of my coaches after coming back from injury. Step aside Leighton Baines!”

Steer’s journey through his injury was most certainly an emotional one hence why the ‘wonder goal’ is that much more special and significant. “When Rene scored that goal I was happy and emotional because I said to him that goal had a meaning, it was meant to be. The year he had out in football due to his injury was probably the worst thing that happened to him, and to watch him come back fighting and putting in so much work to get fit and reach his top form again has been inspirational to me and our friends. That goal made up that year of him missing football and now he’s reaping from it. I’ve watched him reach his all time low to picking himself up and reach is high, watching his journey has been amazing” (Ola Williams, Wingate and Finchley FC).

Having the courage and confidence to bounce back after a serious injury that takes you away from what you yearn to do is tough and without the will power and determination, along with a supportive network can be an extremely long road. Rene Steer is a real example of someone who has strength in mind, but most importantly a real willingness to want to do well. “My aim is to try to get back playing league football and for the rest of the season, to keep playing and maybe chip in with a few more goals.”

As stated by Williams, an inspiration to those who may also have suffered from a set back within the game. A humble, funny, down to earth, well grounded and genuinely lovely person. This combined with his strength in character is most certainly a recipe for success. Focus, and possibilities are endless. I look forward to seeing Steer playing in the Football League in the not so distant future.
Contact details:

Watch the goal below:

How to analyse youth players

davidscwnewI gave a talk last year about analysing players during the season – essentially when I do it and how I do it.

A lot of coaches were asking me about the system I use and wanted to try something similar themselves. They were keen to know how appropriate it was for assessing new players during pre-season or on trial days.

I use a system I call TIPS, which was introduced to me by a couple of youth coaches who worked at Dutch club Ajax.

Here’s what TIPS stands for:

T = Technique.
Can the player control the ball? What about his first touch, passing, shooting and tackling ability?

I = Intelligence.
Does the player make the right decisions? Can he think ahead?

P = Personality.
How does he communicate with others? What about leadership, creativity, receptivity to team mates and discipline?

S = Speed.
Is he quick off the mark, mobile, and can he maintain pace over long distance?I use it for players during the season to assess how they are progressing, but when I look at new players for my team it’s the IPS bit that I find most interesting.

That’s because if I feel a player is short on the ‘T = Technique’ part it is up to me to bring him up to a good level. It may not be his fault that his technique is not up to scratch so I look at the other things in which he may or may not excel.

Arsène Wenger said recently that when he assesses young players it is speed he looks for first and technique second which, coming from a coach who utlises a system where player technique is vital, it just goes to show that technique can be taught.

When you think about it, the level of technique for 99% of players in grass roots football can be taught – it is only that tiny percentage who go on to play in the academies and the professional game who need something extra. You can coach technique to your players so they are of a sufficient standard to play at grass roots level.

So on trial days I will give players marks out of 10 after observing them, and get my helpers and fellow coaches to do the same. This gives us a way of fairly analysing which players we feel would be a good fit with our teams.Why not apply this criteria to your players?

If it works for Ajax, it will hopefully work for you too!

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Creative attacking through tight defences

By David Clarke

David Clarke

Modern day football formations make it essential that midfielders and attackers become accustomed to playing in congested areas. If they can display the skills needed to produce short, sharp interchanges of play, the rewards in the final third can be impressive.

This session replicates the free-flowing passing football of Arsenal and Barcelona.

It will provide a platform to help your team find a way through opponents with flooded backlines, as well as those who attempt to break up play by deploying one or two holding midfield players.

Why this works

The session requires speedy and decisive passing over short distances. Opposition defenders are used as solid obstacles meaning attackers are encouraged to sidestep their man so as to find an angle for a pass.

The move should prove that the fewer touches each player takes, the quicker and more accurate the pass is likely to be, and with two attacking outlets, the last two defenders will need to make quick decisions as to which player to track.

Try to repeat this move until the attacking players can produce the quick interchanges using only one touch each.

Starting with an attacking triangle, you can adapt the attacking elements of this move to show the freedom of space that players can move into.

How to set it up

  • Four attackers and four defenders are required for the session to work – in the picture above, the attackers are labelled A, B, C and D.

  • The activity is carried out in the final third of the field using the goal and a goalkeeper in position.

  • Players A, B, C and D form a triangular shape.

  • The four defenders are positioned in the shape of an upside-down letter "Y", spread apart from each other but close to attacking players. They must hold shape and allow the attackers to work the angles.

Getting started

  • Player A starts with the ball. He must make an angle to evade the first defender and pass to player B, before making a run towards goal.

  • Player B lays a similar ball to player C, who after laying a pass to player D makes his own forward run.

  • Player D controls the ball and look for runs from A and C, then he lays a pass off to his chosen man.

  • In this instance, player A receives the pass. Making sure to stay onside, he fires at goal with a first-time shot.

  • Player C must continue his run in order to take advantage of any loose balls or rebounds.

  • Vary passing shapes but always ensure a centralised midfield move breaks out into a double-headed attack.

Giroud – the real deal in a striking role

David ClarkeDuring Euro 2012 the false or fake striker was a huge talking point for the top teams throughout the world and how tactics work around not having a traditional striker – but slipping under the radar at the same time was a proper striker who could take the Premier League in England by storm.

Olivier Giroud won a French League title with Montpelier in May then got drafted into the French squad for the Euros. But his rise has been far from spectacular he has learnt his trade – he started off at the boys’ team Olympique Club de Froges then Grenoble’s youth academy. It was here that he was spotted by Tours in France’s Ligue 2 and then to Montpelier. Now he plays for Arsenal in England.

“I can play as a lone forward, in partnership with a second forward, or in front of a No10,” he said. “I’ll adapt my game to different situations. That’s my job. I’ve worked hard to add some explosive power to the first few metres when I make a run with or without the ball.”

Giroud scored 21 league goals in his team’s league winning season. He is a striker who relies on stature and physical presence and with his aerial ability he should scare a lot of defences in the Premier League, but he is also a thinker and very quick with the ball at his feet.

I’m looking forward to seeing how he will adapt to playing outside of France, but most of all it will be refreshing to see a skilful centre forward giving defences a hard time in England.

Watch him in this video and see the range of skills he possesses…

My top six penalty misses

David ClarkeIt’ll sson be Euro 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine and that usually heralds a whole load of penalties – here’s my six top penalty misses in all competitions.

John Terry, CHELSEA v Manchester Utd (Champions League Final 2008)

After a 1-1 draw on the night, Cristiano Ronaldo missed his spot-kick to put Chelsea within touching distance of the trophy, but his crucial slip sent the ball crashing against the outside of the post, leaving the England international on the floor and in tears.

Lionel Messi, BARCELONA v Chelsea (Champions League Semi-Final 20120)

Barcelona started the second half 2-1 up but Chelsea were down to 10 men. Messi had the chance to gain the psychological advantage but hit the bar and Chelsea went on win the game.

Denis Bergkamp, ARSENAL v Manchester Utd (FA Cup Semi-Final replay 1999)

Bergkamp could have won the game with a last minute penalty. The match was notable for a disallowed Arsenal goal, the sending-off of Manchester Utd’s Roy Keane for a second bookable offence, a last-minute penalty save by Peter Schmeichel, and finally and most memorably a winning goal by Ryan Giggs, intercepting a pass near the half way line, before taking the ball past five Arsenal defenders and scoring past goalkeeper David Seaman.

Ruud van Nistelrooy MANCHESTER UNITED v Arsenal (Premier League 2003/04)

With the scores level at 0-0, United were given a controversial penalty in injury-time after Patrick Vieira had earlier seen red for a kick-out at Van Nistelrooy, but the Dutch striker made it three consecutive misses from the spot after he rattled the underside of the crossbar.

Gareth Southgate, ENGLAND v Germany (Semi-Final Euro’ 96)

After Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle failed at Italia ’90, it fell to Southgate to end the hopes of the Three Lions on home soil six years later, as football ‘came home’ but then swiftly left for Germany on penalties.

Roberto Baggio, Brazil v ITALY (World Cup Final 1994)

The first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, it was a moment that would define Baggio’s career despite some of the great things he achieved for both club and country.

Ramires v Barcelona: My top six goals scored from an angle

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Champions League Semi-Final 2012: Barcelona v Chelsea

Ramires is the king of technique. His goal for Chelsea against Barcelona when his team was 2-0 down with John Terry sent off was as good as you will see. An impossible situation, but the through ball to him from Frank Lampard just before half time putting him into the penalty area at an angle to the goal was perfect. His finish was sheer class.

Here’s my top six goals scored from tight angles:

Ramires, Barcelona v CHELSEA (2012)

Marco van Basten, HOLLAND v Russia (1988)

Gabriel Batistuta, FIORENTINA V Arsenal (1999)

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, CHELSEA v Manchester United (2001)

Ronaldo, REAL MADRID v LA Galaxy (2011)

Robin van Persie, ARSENAL v Barcelona (2011)

In praise of the players’ player

David ClarkeI hope you are all having awards events at your clubs as the season comes to a close. They’re a great way to wrap up the campaign and for the team as a whole to celebrate their achievements. And because this is done away from the football pitch, it puts an extra gloss on proceedings.

One of the end-of-season honours that I always keep a watch for at our club is that of Players’ Player of the Year.

To be the ‘players’ player’ is always a great honour. It tells a footballer they’ve won the respect of their team mates. And it’s usually won by that same player who has become regarded as the most consistent, trustworthy and level-headed.

Michael Owen revealed on Twitter that Robin van Persie of Arsenal should be PFS player of the year: “Player of the season so far? I went for Robin Van Persie. Stand out winner in my opinion.”

In my Under-10s group, they are now at the age where they have stopped voting for their best friend, and actually give credit to the player who they feel genuinely deserves the award.

And when it comes to writing down their favourite, the response is usually quick – it doesn’t take them long to work out who they think is the best in the team. It’s an exciting time and one that should be savoured. If you’re trying it for the first time this year, then be prepared for a couple of things.

Firstly, will the award be given to the leading goalscorer? Not always. I think some players feel that the strikers gain enough plaudits throughout the campaign! And secondly, the goalkeeper very often goes home empty-handed as well.
This was summed up one year when one of my players expressed surprise when I spoke to the squad about the award and how important it is. After outlining the process of how the players would vote, I added: “And don’t forget the goalkeeper.”A reply came from the back of the group: “Is he a player?”

Watch Robin van Persie scoring goals this season:

How do you cope with losing your best player?

DCThe loss of Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Tevez will be a big blow to Arsenal and Manchester City but they need to send out a message that the teams are moving on not looking back.

I think the history books will show that although a Fabregas driven Arsenal could compete with Barcelona and give them a good game, in the English Premier League Arsenal lost too many games because teams could soak up the pressure and hit them on the break – their style of play won’t win Arsenal the League.

Arsene Wenger can now revert to play 4-4-2 bringing back their own counter attacking prowess. 75% of their passes in the final third of the pitch were successful last season, yet they could not translate possession into goals. A fast breaking Arsenal will give them more space to take advantage.

At Manchester City losing the 25-goal a season Tevez is also seen as a blow. But City can buy in a replacement that will more than make up for the loss. Much as Liverpool did when they lost Fernando Torres and replaced him with Andy Carroll.

City have never lost when Tevez scores, but throughout last season he was constantly in the news for his arguments with the club – something they will be better off without. And there are good replacements out there like Sergio Aguero another Argentine playing at Atletico Madrid. He is a younger version of Tevez without the histrionics.

So don’t despair if you lose one of your best players – as we speak I am talking with parents who want to take their son out of the team because they are being wooed by another club. I’m not losing sleep over it, I’ve been looking at the squad to see who can be promoted from one of our other teams. Of course that causes problems for that team!

And so it goes…

Watch Fabregas give the ball away with a suicidal backheel against Barcelona, and Tevez having his penalty saved in the Copa America for Argentina

Running the game without the ball

I am always going on to other coaches about coaching teams to think about how they set up when they haven’t got the ball. I don’t mind the oppposition having the ball as long as my team are in control of the positions they are playing in.

If we can identify a player low on confidence on the opposition team then my players can position themselves so the ball goes to this player. IF that player has the ball they may be forced into an error that will benefit my team.

In the match between Manchester United and Chelsea that decided the Premier League Champions the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson always plays his left winger narrow when Chelsea play Branislav Ivanovic at right-back. Ivanovic was given all ;the time on the ball he wanted because the United coaches were sure he couldn’t harm them when he had the ball.

In this case it was Ji-Sung Park on the left and he created the opening goal after only 40 seconds by sitting narrow and catching Ivanovic off his guard. The pattern of the game was shaped here with Ji-Sung Park staying narrow allowing Ryan Giggs to run at Ivanovic.

It also gave Wayne Rooney space to work in, and the Chelsea midfield were overrun for much of the game.

Choosing the right pass

Dave Clarke

We’ve all witnessed a lot of passing in the past couple of months. Barcelona with short crisp flicks and tricks, Arsenal’s through passes, Manchester United defence splitting passes and Stoke City’s more direct exorcet missile passes.

They are all aimed at getting the ball into a position to score a goal – Barcelona take a lot more passes than Stoke to get the ball up the pitch.

And for all the clever passing that Barcelona can do sometimes getting one of your players to see a long pass will have much more effect than those short passes. If you can pass to a player further up the pitch why not do so? It isn’t a sin to play a long pass it’s just as skilfull and can be far more effective.

So what makes a player choose a pass? Communication from a team mate, space, time, vision and tactics. There is a lot going on in the mind of a young player when they have the ball at their feet.

They have to practice to give them the tools to deal with these situations and that come from you. Give them the tools show them how to use them then watch as they develop through games.

This is a nice easy drill to get them playing long passes.

Move the ball before you kick it

In a soccer match the ball is moving when you receive it, so when you practice your long kicking make sure you move the ball to make your kicking practice more match like.

The technique you need to teach your players for long kicking:

  • Push the ball to the side, slightly in front of the body.
  • Put the non-kicking foot next to the ball
  • Kick through the centre of the ball.

To kick it long along the floor, you don’t need to follow through after striking the ball. Instead, strike it sharply and stop your follow through just after hitting it.

Soccer passing drills and games


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