Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


David Clarke Interviews… PETER BEARDSLEY exclusive

David ClarkeMy series of interviews on influential figures in the world of coaching continues with this exclusive interview with Peter Beardsley.

I remember Peter as a very skillful player, slight of build, operating just behind the front strikers at Newcastle, Liverpool and of course England.

His skills have proved devastating for creating and scoring goals, netting over 230 in his career. He was a player with lovely ball skills and fantastic vision, as well as tremendous stamina, enthusiasm and work-rate.

He was also able to score long range shots, or clever placement using timing and dribbling skills.

As a youth player Peter was discovered at the famous Wallsend Boys Club on Tyneside in the 70s – 
the club has a pedigree of bringing through great players including Alan Shearer, Michael Carrick, Lee Clark and Steve Bruce.

He is now football development manager at Newcastle United helping to drive forward the recruitment of talented youngsters for the club’s Academy and Development Squad, so what better person to answer questions on how to coach youth skills.

I caught up with Peter at Newcastle where he was coaching with the world famous coach Alf Galustian and asked him about youth coaching and what a coach learns from watching someone as experienced as Alf.

1. We all have favourite areas of coaching – as a former attacker do you find it easy to coach defending as well as attacking exercises?

I think all coaches need to learn how to coach both topics: the modern player especially as a youth player has to be both attacker and when they lose the ball win it back by pressing deep – defending from the front. Messi is probably the best example.

2. As a skillful striker you must have had a few tricks you used, which were your favourite and how did you practice them.

I learnt mostly by playing – we didn’t have a programme like Alf’s Coerver Coaching, so most of what I did was learnt in games. If I had had a programme like Coerver to follow, I am sure it would have made me a better player, especially for scoring goals!

3. Messi and Ronaldo both use skill in their play but appear to have one or two clever moves that they use a lot. How many skills should a youth player work on to use in match play?

I think young players should learn as many skills can they can so they can use them to beat players in as many different ways as possible; it will help their future game and it’s great fun to learn new skills.

4. I think repetition is one of the most vital coaching tools. But players can find doing the same old thing boring. How do you hide repetition when coaching?

As you know I have been close to Alf for many years – once I was exposed to Coerver (over 20 years ago) I realised that repetition was crucial for perfecting skills.

I follow Alf’s view that for young players you can hide repetition by playing fun games – for example simple relays where repetition is included.

Watching Alf coach today I can see so many possibilities to coach young players in using skills to win 1v1s and 2v1s where the repetition is hidden by the actual game they play.

5. You played in youth teams at Wallsend Boys in the 70s, which one factor would you say is the most important change in the way kids are coached today?

The quality of facilities and the improvement in coaches knowledge and understanding of what is best for the players and not what is best for the coaches

6 Can you explain one specific exercise you have been using with your team that my coaches can go out and use with their players?

While Alf has been here at Newcastle we have been concentrating on attacking principles. This is one of the sessions I have seen Alf coach and I am now using to help my players in their attacking role.

SESSION: To improve Shooting under pressure

How to set it up

  • 10 players plus a server or the coach
  • A 40x25yd area with a goal and goalkeeper at each end.
  • Two teams of four players and a server
  • Each player has a ball lined up by each goal.
  • Two cones 5 yards either side of the server
  • The coach or a designated player is stationed in the middle of the field as a wall passer.

How to play it

  • The first player in TEAM A passes to the server in the centre, then takes the return pass and after controlling and dribbling the ball shoots on the opposite goal.
  • As he shoots the first player in TEAM B passes to the server and sprints to take a return pass and take at least one touch before shooting.
  • As soon as the TEAM A player shoots he sprints around the cone to try to stop TEAM B from scoring.
  • When TEAM B shoots he must recover around his marker cone to defend again the second player in TEAM A who’s repeats the sequence.

COACH’S TIPS

  • At first the recovering player going around the marker cone will be too far and he will not be able to apply much pressure on the shooter.
  • But gradually move the markers towards the Coach so the distances of recovery is less and less and there’s increasing pressure on the shooters.
  • Eventually allow the recovering players to use the WP as their marker to go around.

PLAYER TIP

  • Be sure the first pass to the server is firm so there’s no lag time waiting for the return pass and the defender to get close.
  • Take your first touch from the server away from the approaching defender to set up your shot.
  • Head up before shooting.
  • Aim low far post the GKs toughest shot.


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



Young players like attention – so make sure they get it

dave clarkeIsn’t it fantastic when you see young players come through the youth system and end up playing in the English Premier League? It’s getting less and less frequent that this happens at one of the ‘big’ clubs, but in April at Liverpool John Flanagan, 18, made a fabulous debut in the 3-0 win against Manchester City.

Academy director, Frank McParland, and the technical director, José Segura, have produced some good players at Liverpool who are now pushing for inclusion in the first team squad like Flanagan has done.

Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Jésus “Suso” Fernández, Michael Ngoo and Toni Silva are all home grown players keen to make it in the game. Flanagan reckons the appointment of Dalglish as temporary manager is key to the development of youth team players.

“Kenny has been a big help to me and the other young players. He’s been working at the club for the last two years and he was at the academy so he knows all of the youngsters well. He’s always a big help to us, telling us what to do. It helps us just the fact that we already know him well from the academy because it means that he knows us well too.

YOung players like the attention of the manager it gives them something to put in a good performance for. If you have players that are not in the first team or regularly get subbed make sure they know you are watching out for them so they try their best when they do get a chance on the pitch.

Young players should always be included in the team or you could dent their confidence and that would be to the detriment of your team.



Running without the ball to create space

dave clarkeI will often play with just one attacker up front and three midfielders controlling the middle of the pitch supported by two wide players.

The player up front is there to create space by running off the ball and dragging defenders away or getting beyond the opposition defenders to run onto through balls from midfield.

This works best when my team is counter-attacking – if we play short passes and build up to the penalty area the attacker is focused on movement to draw the defenders away rather than run onto the through ball. This means the attacker in this role has to be clued up when the team moves forward.

Compare this to Fernando Torres at Chelsea. He thrives on though balls and although Chelsea
can be devastating on the break and play some raking balls down the wings, the coach Carlo Ancelotti prefers short-passing build-ups. You often see a few quick interchanges outside the box before a quick release.

Torres is not at his best in close-range build-up. When he plays for Spain the coach Luis Aragones uses Torres’s acceleration and direct running as decoys, getting him to stretch defences and give the Spanish ball players more space to play.

Ancelotti recognises this: “He likes to receive the ball at a certain point, so we have to improve this. Sometimes he moves well on the wrong side of the centre-back and the ball does not arrive.”

When Torres played for Liverpool the majority of his goals came come from running into space, getting to loose balls first, catching defenders out and running on to through-passes.

So remember if you are coaching your team to play a formation with one player up front you have to play to their strengths and get them to exploit the space they create behind the defence.



Fernando Torres and 1v1 situations

At the weekend Liverpool played away at Everton, hoping to change their recent poor run.

Key this has been the form of their striker Fernando Torres. His loss of form has been one of the reasons the team has struggled. The Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson decided Torres should go up against Everton’s Sylvain Distin at centre-back rather than attack Phil Jagielka.

This was a key battle in the game – if Torres won most of these he was likely to score or create lots of chances.

However Torres won just four of the 14 head to heads he had in front of goal mostly with Distin. Distin won 10 of the 14. Torres and indeed Liverpool didn’t score or create many chances.

One of the key reasons that he didn’t win many of them was the poor service into him, balls in the air rather than into his feet or body. It is much easier for a big centre back to win crosses into Torres than trying to stop him with the ball at his feet.

But the other key reason is that when commentators say he is out of form what they actually me is he is no longer winning the 1v1 situations he is famous for.

Watch the two video clips below. In the first he scores in the final of Uefa Euro 2008 to beat Germany 1-0. The second is a compilation – watch the number of times Torres is 1v1 and the number of times he scores after beating a defender 1v1.



Berbatov uses his imagination

Watching the Manchester United versus Liverpool game I had to admire the moment of unforgettable imagination and technique from Dietmar Berbatov.

It was a moment that exploded into the imagination, and left me wondering what Berbatov had been doing during the two years of strolling and loitering which had United’s fans wondering if the £30m man would ever come good.

It’s the kind of thing I love to see in matches, an outrageous piece of skill that works – I could watch the clip over and over again. Hopefully a lot of kids will be trying to do it in their backgardens and we will see it attempted on the youth pitches we play on.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH BERBATOV\'S GOALS<

Follow my blueprint and get your players doing it.

This skill is all about timing – Get your players to:

  • Get into line with the flight of the ball, keep their eyes on it.

  • Kick the ball cleanly, not hard – the movement of their body will generate the power.

  • Jump up, leaving their kicking foot on the ground and use their other foot to propel them upwards.

  • Begin to fall backwards, keeping their eyes on the ball.

  • As their body sinks towards the ground, their non-kicking leg will go into the air. Kicking leg may still be on the ground.

  • When the ball is in ideal range, whip the kicking leg off the floor into the back of the ball, bringing your other leg back down quickly. The upper body should be almost horizontal.

  • As you fall, stretch out your hand to steady your impact with the ground. Twist your body to avoid landing on your back.



Why Gerrard is a good half-time team talk

dave clarkeI was reminded of how crucial a half-time team talk is this week… when I didn’t give one. It was a friendly match and at half time I was collared by a parent trying to sort out his child’s registration in the team.

By the time I had sorted him out half time was over and we were back on the pitch. I had done nothing with my team. This resulted in an early goal for the opposition and me trying to reorganise and get messages to my players – essentially the half-time team talk.

The half-time period in a match is not just about refuelling and physical therapy. It’s a crucial time for the coach and team to gather their thoughts and prepare mentally for the challenges of the second half.

Looking back to half-time in the 2005 European Champions League final, with Liverpool 3-0 down to AC Milan, according to his Liverpool colleagues, captain Steven Gerrard was distraught and was ready to concede defeat. Afterwards, all he could remember of half-time was the manager getting his pen out, writing down the changes he wanted on the board and telling the team to try and get an early goal, as that could make the opposition nervous. But Gerrard said he just couldn’t concentrate – but that one thought stuck in his mind.

And they got that early goal and Liverpool went on to draw the game and win on penalties.

Because you only get a very short amount of time tell your players one or two things that can help influence the second half – just like Gerrard and the early goal, and is the only direct opportunity the coach will have to speak to all the players and to influence the second-half performance and result.

What you tell them will, of course, depend on the score and the coach’s perspective of the match. You must also take in other factors, such as the context of the game – eg is it a cup match in which the loser gets knocked out? Is it a league game and what are the league positions of the teams contesting the game? Is one team an overwhelming favourite to win the game? Is the team winning but not performing well?

These will help you decide what to say to your team, just make sure it’s positive. A coach I know once said: “Don’t get too carried away, this lot you’re playing aren’t very good.” His team were winning 4-0 at half time and went on to lose!

Here’s the hightlights from the 2005 European final



How Brazilian underdogs beat Liverpool

Support in attack can bring out the best in a team and create openings in even the strongest defence. Youth teams can take inspiration from watching the Final of the Club World Cup in 2005 between Sao Paulo of Brazil and Liverpool of England.

On paper it should have been an easy victory for Liverpool, but the Brazilians won against the odds. After Sao Paulo took the lead they defended deep and hit Liverpool on the counter. But the Brazilians were more than that. In defence they marked well and showed good strength on the ball and in the air. In attack they were tactically superior to Liverpool using support from the wings and through the middle.

The goal they scored to win the game summed up their style of play. Watch the clip below and see how well positioned on the pitch they are. The wingers are pulling the defence wide and the midfield is moving to create space. As the fullbacks push up Liverpool go to meet them leaving Aloisio in space in a dangerous position.

As he flicks the ball through Mineiro ghosts through the defence leaving them flat footed appealing for offside. The team pulls the Liverpool defence apart in one flowing move.

The Sao Paulo players showed how to cover each other all over the pitch and Liverpool found it hard to get any momentum going.

It goes to show that however much of an underdog you feel when you take your youth team out on to the pitch as long as you are well organized and work hard for each other you have a chance to win the game.
Watch the highlights below.

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Have you got what it takes to be a good coach?

I remember being told before I started coaching that you have to want to coach to be a good coach -if you don’t want to do it, don’t bother trying.

One of the first things I look for in coaches I meet is passion. Not running up the touchline screaming at the players sort of passion, but a passion for coaching children how to play soccer.

If you haven’t got passion some where during your first season you will run in to trouble through either losing games and want to give it up or finding all the organizing that you have to do to run a successful team too much of a chore.

The team will suffer because the coach is not putting effort in and is merely going through the motions.

I was thinking about this during the week after reading about the ex England International John Barnes. What a player he was for his club Liverpool, although he never quite managed to bring that to the England team. He has also never managed to bring any of the success he had in his playing career to his management at Scottish giants Celtic and recently at Tranmere Rovers.

I looked in to what Barnes had to say about coaching when he was a player. There’s not a lot written, although there is one very telling interview with him by sports writer Pete Davies where he was asked if he could see himself in management.

“Not right now no. The closer you get to retiring then maybe you think, Ok I’d like to coach or whatever and some people may not have an option they can’t do anything else and they’re offered a coaching job so they do it. But at the moment I don’t think I would. I might play non-league or coach a school team or a little local side something like that.”

I was interested that he thought coaching a school team or a little local side is something you could take or leave, that it would be easy to do.

Then he said: “ I’m basically a very lazy person. If it came up then I’d do it, put it that way but it’s not something I’d like to do.”

When in 1999 he got a dream ticket to manage the Glasgow giants Celtic he must have wanted to do that I would imagine, but he suffered a series of very poor results one getting the famous headline “Super Cali go ballistic Celtic are atrocious”. He was sacked.

This year he managed Tranmere Rovers and won only two out of eleven games again he was sacked.

I think he’s missing the passion in his coaching that he had in his playing….

watch him as a player:

but he could rap!

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Passing exercises should be simple

DavidClarkeOne of the things that I am always telling coaches is to keep passing exercises simple.

Young players will learn far more from simple passing using the correct technique, than complicated drills that confuse them.

I was coaching U9s with two simple passing moves and when they played the match afterwards they were making some great moves, all the way up the pitch. I was pleased at their progress and some of the parents commented on how well they were passing. One of them said they hadn’t realised how direct quick passing could be.

They were just playing a practice game gearing up for the start of the season but were keen to score goals. Simple passing sequences give players confidence in their own ability making it more likely they will do it under pressure in matches.

Watch this session showing simple exercises for passing training.

 Soccer Skills and Drills




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