Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Cream of English U17s well beaten by Qatar academy

Watching the Qatar Aspire Academy U17s playing in the Milk Cup youth tournament in Northern Ireland its hard not to be very impressed. The players are individually very skilfull and Qatar is developing a wonderful team.
They won the final against Manchester Utd U17s 5-1. Utd are known for having a very strong team but had nothing to give against these boys.

Qatar also beat a Brazilian youth team 6-1 and a Dutch youth team 7-1… watch this space.

Here they are beating Manchester Utd with some fabulous play.

A defender in the United tradition

Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United has signed the Blackburn defender Phil Jones. It brings to four the number of United players in Stuart Pearce’s U21 England squad, emphasising the importance Sir Alex Ferguson is placing on youth as he rebuilds his squad in the wake of last month’s Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.

Jones is a classy defender who has already linked up with United’s Chris Smalling in in the England U21 squad – they could be a central defensive partnership for years to come. He has shown his versatility as a player with some excellent displays in the Blackburn midfield this season – and sir Alex likes that.

A lot of his players are able to fill more than one role – so Jones is following a trend. With Rio Ferdinand’s injury record he should get a lot of chances in the season to come and should be ready to snatch them.

And Wayne Rooney gave Jones’ move the thumbs up, tweeting: “He’s one of the toughest defenders I played against last season.”

Watch the England U21 squad training

And in the U21 European Championships

Paul Scholes: fantastic player, but what kind of coach?

DCI first saw Paul Scholes play for Manchester United in the final of the Youth Cup against Leeds United in 1993. Man Utd’s team included David Beckham, Scholes, and both Nevilles as well as Ryan Giggs and even Robbie Savage.

The game remains memorable for being live on the new satellite channel Sky Sports, for a crowd at Elland Road of 31,307 and the emergence of several players that were to go on and play for England.

A strong, physical Leeds side easily dominated what were to become the basis of Sir Alex Ferguson’s team for years – they lost 4-1 on aggregate but the one goal came from a 5ft 7 scrawny youth… Scholes.

Scholes was turning out for underdogs everywhere – this small midfielder had the nimbleness and timing to confound a beefy defence and score goals from all over the pitch. All in all he has scored 150 of them.

What is great for coaches everywhere is that a youngster with asthma can become a such a huge player. Scholes moved people with the height of his achievements as much as the impact of his play – how could someone like him be first choice attacking midfielder?

He was a clever player which was as much part of his game as was his technique. There was quick-witted vision to the best of his passes and goals. He could see the opening and the perfect way to exploit it.

Zinedine Zidane has called him “the greatest of his generation”. Xavi hailed him as “the best central midfielder of the past 15 or 20 years”.

Now he has retired Scholes is taking up coaching, and it will be interesting to see the type of players he turns out.

Watch highlights of his career below and you can also watch a clip of the best goal from the Youth Cup Final in 1993 scored by Jamie Forrester with an overhead kick to rival Wayne Rooney:

Why Rooney is the best defender

There is no better proponent of the art of defending from the front than Wayne Rooney of Manchester United and England. His defensive qualities set him apart from the other best attackers in the world – think of Cristiano Ronaldo or Francesco Totti neither would be seen charging the defenders high up the pitch where his bubbling enthusiasm can often see him win the ball back in his opponents half.

His movement when Manchester Utd lose the ball means that as the full backs advance Rooney can fill in as a third defensive midfielder blocking the attacking runs of the defenders.By forcing the play back he creates space in the centre of the pitch for Manchester’s more creative players like Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher to flourish.

These creative players then use the space to slip balls behind the opposing backline for Rooney or his striking partner to run on to making it hard to defend against.

This idea is something I like to make use of during my coaching sessions. If I can get the attackers in my teams to push high up the pitch to close the opposition defenders down before they are out of their own half it can force a mistake which opens up huge opportunities for my team to attack the space behind the defence.

One of the great FA Cup goals started with an interception

By David Clarke

Ryan Giggs has been a prolific goal scoring attacker for Manchester United. One of the goals he is remembered for is the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal.

It was a game that had everything, a great Arsenal goal by Dennis Bergkamp, a disallowed Arsenal goal, Roy Keane sent off for a second bookable offence, a last minute penalty save by Peter Schmeichel and a fantastic goal by Ryan Giggs to win the game.

But what is often overlooked is that Giggs won the ball by intercepting a pass before running from the half-way line, beating five defenders and scoring past Schmeichel.

An interception is as good as, and sometimes better, than winning the ball in the tackle. In youth soccer an interception can catch the whole team out and create space for goal scoring opportunities.

You can get your players to try and intercept the ball by reacting to it quicker than the opposition. A lot of junior players will wait for the ball to come to them from a pass which gives the defenders chance to step in and take the ball before it gets to them.

Get your players to think about:

  • Read what the opposition midfield and strikers like to do.
  • Keep an eye out for players waiting for passes to come to them.
  • Be ready to block through balls from midfield to attack.
  • Interceptions give good opportunities to pass or run with the ball into space so don’t waste them.

Counter attacking as a tactic

dave clarkeHitting teams on the break is a good tactic to use when your team is playing away from home against a team they know nothing about. Fast counter-attacks can take advantage of players being out of position.
Players need to be aware and alert to their team-mates and react quickly when the ball is turned over.

It relies on accurate passing and having the ability to hold off retreating defenders. You can watch the best counter attacks in the video below and play this exercise to help your players get used to running with the ball and holding the defenders off.

How to play it

  • Mark out an area 40 yards x 20 yards – you can make it smaller for younger players.
  • In one of the corners, mark out a 10 yards square with a small, coned goal in it.
  • In this soccer drill the ball is passed so the attacker can run onto it.
  • The attacker must take full control of the ball at this point. The defender starts his run as soon as the pass is made and his first action is to hold up the attacker. The attacker should change his pace to fool the defender.
  • The defender cannot tackle until they get into the marked-off zone.
  • Once they get into the marked-off zone, the attacker must try to lose the defender with a turn – for instance, a stop turn, then try to put the ball between the two cones.
  • The defender must stick close to the attacker and try to get a tackle in to win the ball.

How to do an overhead kick like Rooney

dave clarkeWayne Rooney has been in disappointing form so far this season but on Saturday 12th February the England international showed just how good he can be using the perfect technique and body shape while hanging in the air – pure genius. The match was in the English Premier League, the Manchester derby between United and City at Old Trafford – boring game lit up by this goal that was also the winner.

Nani put in a cross from the right flank which clipped Pablo Zabaleta, but Rooney was there to think instinctively and went for a spectacular overhead kick that flew past England goalkeeper Joe Hart and into the City net.

After the game, Rooney said that it was the best goal he has ever scored, and enthused: “I saw the ball come in the box and I thought ‘Why not?’ I tried to get in a good position from when Nani crossed it. Nine times out of 10 they go over the crossbar or wide. I tried it and thankfully it’s gone in the top corner.

“You don’t have time to think about what you’re going to do. It’s the first one since I started playing professionally so I’m delighted, especially as it has given us three points.”

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was impressed: “He is a fantastic player who has done a fantastic thing. It was genius.”

Former Manchester City player Mike Summerbe said: “Pele did something similar in Escape To Victory. It took a goal like that to beat us – a moment of Rooney magnificence to do it.”


And here’s Pele’s overhead kick in Escape to Victory:

How to do the overhead kick

This skill is all about balance and technique. Get those right and you may have a chance of kicking the ball cleanly. It’s not an easy skill to perfect but your players will have a great deal of fun trying to do it. Practice it on soft ground to prevent your players injuring their backs, but don’t let them overdo it.

How to practice it

  • Players throw a ball in the air.
  • Jump up using the kicking foot as a spring.
  • Then bring the kicking foot up and hands down to break fall.
  • Twist your body so you don’t land on your back and use your arms to cushion your landing.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Reactive soccer can stifle stronger opponents

dave clarkeNext week we play the team at the top of the table. Played 10, won 10, goals for 65, goals against 2. So what do we do?

Anyone in my situation can look at the example of Rangers in the Champions League this season and how their manager Walter Smith planned to contain teams like Manchester United.

Smith’s tactics back up the growing feeling that five-man defences can be useful at stifling stronger opponents and reactive counter attacking can win the game.

Rangers’ plan for achieving in the Champions League was rooted in a back five which has been set up primarily to contain. At its centre is the experienced and commanding David Weir. They faced a big task in needing to win against Manchester United or go out.

What they couldn’t do was let United score early making it much harder to win – manager Walter Smith thought his own brand of reactive soccer could possibly give the team a 1-0 win.

The other factor in the game was that United didn’t really need to win it, and so were hardly going gung ho in their search for goals. Sir Alex Ferguson went for a 4-4-2 and the relaunch of Wayne Rooney on the back of it.

The Rangers players had their jobs marked out, wide midfielders picked up full-backs, central midfielders picked up central midfielders, full-backs tracked wingers and two centre-backs had a man each, with a spare man at the back.

Manchester United struggled to break down the system and indeed it was a full-back that lured Rangers into giving away the crucial penalty, and Rooney converted from the spot.

So perhaps next week I will set my team up to play this way, and get my team to play reactive soccer.

Watch the highlights of Rangers v Manchester United below:


Even the professionals make mistakes

dave clarkeWatching Leeds United play Cardiff City in the English Championship last month what stood out was the mix up between the sons of two Manchester United greats managed between them to gift a goal to Cardiff.

The sons of Peter Schmeichel and Steve Bruce both play for Leeds. Kasper Schmeichel in goal and Alex Bruce at centre-back much like their fathers. Between they they let the Cardiff centre forward Jay Boothroyd take the ball when the two Leeds players should between them have easily cleared it – no communication and yet they played together in the changing rooms at Old Trafford while waiting for their dads – you can see a clip of them playing together aged 6 below.

But there are always mistakes during the course of a season in every division in every league. I’m sure you see them all the time in youth matches – it’s something that happens.

So next time your players make a mistake don’t let them dwell on it and don’t dwell on it your self because someone somewhere will be making a mistake too.

And the mistakes by their fathers in this clip below:

Clever positioning makes Gareth Bale predictable

davidscwnewAfter his hat-trick against Inter Milan in the San Siro, Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale has been the name on everyone’s lips. I’m sure Sir Alex Ferguson has noticed and I’m sure he had a wry chuckle to himself when he watched his team cleverly nullify Bale’s threat.

I remember some years ago when Manchester United were playing Chelsea the team forced Chelsea to play the ball through Michael Duberry by clever positioning of their midfielders. United won 1-0 after a mistake by Duberry.

At the end of last month when Gareth Bale was threatening the goal at Old Trafford in the second half the United manager introduced Paul Scholes to cut down space in midfield and got Wes Brown to show the Spurs star inside into the middle where there was no where to go.

A game that had been much more open, with the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric, Berbatov and Nani enjoying the space between the backlines and front became tighter and that left Bale, alone to pose a real threat on the counter-attack. Brown, introduced as United tightened, had clear orders to make play predictable for the United players by showing Bale infield, blocking his sprint on the outside.

Working on positioning with your players can make play predictable so your team can deal with the threat the opposition poses.

Watch the clip below of Bale’s hat-trick against Inter Milan:


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