Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

I Love the Cup Final

I love the FA Cup Final. For me it is, and always will be, the most enjoyable day in the English soccer calendar. I fell in love with the game on Cup Final day in 1974 when Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3-0 at the old Wembley. I remember watching it on TV with my father and his friends. It was the first game I had watched all the way through as there was very little live soccer on TV in those days.

On Friday night I heard a radio pundit bemoan the lack of interest in the Cup Final. There’s little doubt that it no longer grips the nation in the way that it once did. In the old days it seemed as if the country came to a standstill on Cup Final day and everybody – men, women and children – set aside the day to watch it together.

It’s different now. There is so much live soccer on TV these days that it’s just less of a special event. Unless of course you are a Portsmouth or Cardiff City supporter. And for me, that is the true magic of the Cup.

I’m absolutely delighted that none of the Big 4 teams were involved. Manchester United and Chelsea would probably have cancelled each other out and the game would have dragged on for ages. What we got instead was a free-flowing, open and unpredictable game. I don’t care if the Big 4 don’t take it as seriously as they used to. There are over 100 other clubs who do and the FA Cup is as much about them as it is Arsenal and Liverpool. There wasn’t a lot of “beautiful” play but there was no lack of passion and commitment.

And what of the coaches? What do they bring to the party? Never having been in a competition final I can only guess. But I suspect you don’t need to do much in the way of motivating your players. What greater motivation is there than playing in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. Tactically, I guess Dave Jones, the Cardiff City manager, will have identified certain players and aspects of the Portsmouth play that he would look to have neutralised. Harry Redknapp, on the other hand, would probably have told his players just to play their own game.

The other major telling factor in these games is fitness. Cup Finals are notoriously hard work for players. I guess that’s a combination of the intensity of the situation, the determination to fight for every ball from kick-off, the size and nature of the Wembley playing surface, and the level of  professionalism of the players. I’ve seen every Cup Final since the age of 8 and what they all have in common is that one team will run out of energy towards the end of the game. If they’re trailing, they just can’t seem to get back into it (as was the case with Cardiff). If they’re winning, they run out of steam trying to protect their lead (West Ham United two seasons ago).

So that’s it for another season. I’m looking forward to the next Cup campaign already. Round 3 in January is where the fun really starts. Let’s see if Havant and Waterlooville can get drawn against Liverpool again and finish the job off this time.

Dwyer Scullion, Publisher, Better Soccer Coaching


Boring Premier League?

After spending weeks telling us how the end of this English Premier League season is the most exciting for years, the media is now full of stories about how boring it is. So which is it?


The boring argument is based around the idea that only four teams can win – Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool (indeed many would exclude Liverpool from that list, but not me). It’s certainly true that these teams have access to resources and players way beyond what the rest can manage.


Have you watched many games played by the Big 4 this season? Did you find Manchester United’s sweeping attack play boring? Or Arsenal’s clinical and incisive high-tempo passing? Or how about Fernando Torres in front of goal, feeding off the sublime passing of Steven Gerrard? Yes, really boring.


So, we know that these teams play some of the most exciting and attractive soccer in Europe. But yet it’s supposed to be a boring league? Why is that? Is a West Han United fan bored watching their team fight for a 2-2 draw against Newcastle United? Or were Fulham fans bored on the last day of the season as they battled to stay in the Premier League?


If your only interest in soccer is winning the league, yes, the dominance of the Big 4 might become a little boring. But that’s not how soccer fans see it. They don’t spend many hundreds of pounds each year on tickets thinking they’re going to be bored all season. They do it because they love their team and there are few things more exciting than watching your team competing in such an exciting league.


They also do it because there are great players throughout the Premier League – it’s not just about Ronaldo, Torres, Rooney etc. What about Dimitar Berbatov, Daniel Alves, David Bentley, Ashley Young, Obafemi Martens, Michael Owen, Dean Ashton, the list goes on.


And it’s not just season-ticket holders who get the excitement of the Premier League. Ever taken a child to a Premier League game? Try telling them it’s boring.


And was it ever really that different? West Ham United fans have never really held out too much hope of winning the league, but they know that they might be able to Manchester United or Liverpool on their day – indeed they’ve beaten both more than once in recent seasons. Now, that’s exciting.


So let’s just enjoy it and let it inspire the players we coach. And don’t forget, the season’s not quite over. If you want real excitement  check out the Football League play-offs.

Dwyer Scullion, Publisher, Better Soccer Coaching

Soccer players should never foul at throw-ins

I watched the Glasgow Rangers v Fiorentina semi-final of the Uefa cup and one of the Rangers players was twice penalized for foul throws. At this level I find it amazing that any player should be done for a foul throw. It is after all one of the most basic of all disciplines.

Here at Better Soccer Coaching we are always coming up with new ways to get young players throwing the ball properly.

For example, you can teach throw ins without a soccer ball. It’s all about balance.

To stop player’s feet leaving the ground make sure they drag the toes of their rear foot (usually their strongest foot) so hard they can hear it. Knees must be bent to do this.
When the ball goes behind the head the elbows should point out to the side for distance. Keep upright and follow through with a wrist flicking action.

I will be sending this Better Soccer Coaching advice to Walter Smith and Ally McCoist at Rangers because I get annoyed when my players throw badly in a Sunday match so they must have been livid when it happened twice in a Uefa Cup semi-final.

David Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching

Nike beats Pepsi 1-0 in soccer match

The latest Pepsi advert got me thinking this week. I’ve been watching a lot of great soccer with English clubs dominating the semi finals of the Champions League. And I guess Pepsi chose the players they thought would be dominating soccer over the next few months. But of the players in the advert only Messi and Lampard were actually playing in those matches.

Ronaldinho’s team Barcelona was in the semi finals but he wasn’t. Apparently he took his shirt off the other day and everyone was amazed by how flabby he was. He’s unfit, going out on the town at night and it isn’t Pepsi Cola that he’s drinking. How many times has he been player of the year? And look at him now, at 28 he’s unfit and sitting on the bench for club and country.

Then up pops Thierry Henry in the advert looking like James Bond. Unfortunately Henry has had a poor season at Barcelona. Rumours have it that he moans about coming too deep for the ball and that he is often isolated up front. Surely a forward like Henry must revel in the service he gets from some of the most gifted players in the game. Pepsi obviously think so, but Henry is not happy and is already talking about going back to Arsene Wenger.

Fabregas in the advert is shown, for some reason, playing the guitar . Well perhaps that’s because Arsenal got knocked out by Liverpool. He was having a great season until a couple of months ago when he and his attractive Arsenal team hit a bad patch and their season fizzled out.

Frank Lampard is in there and he, like Messi has had a good season. They are the two who stand out. But Messi has been injured and walked the last 10 minutes of the game when Barcelona were knocked out by Manchester United. In the advert Lampard volleys the ball onto a desert island, where all the players end up. And who gives them a bottle of Pepsi each? Well David Beckham of course, say no more.

On the other hand Nike have done a fantastic new advert, which lasted the whole of the advert break in the Manchester United-Barcelona game. It is shown through the eyes of a non-league player who scores a free kick for his local team and is then spotted by Arsene Wenger. What is great about this advert is that when he is put on his backside by Ronaldo he is shown going through a strict training régime and working very hard so next time Ronaldo will not be able to do it. Each time he achieves something by training and hard work.(Okay yes Roanldinho is in this as well but he is a Nike sponsored player.) Then our new superstar gets kissed by Fabregas after he scores for Arsenal in Europe and then by a succession of girlfriends – and finally he scores a free-kick for Holland.

My two sons were mesmerized by the Nike advert but they sniggered at the Pepsi one. Nike suggested that by training and effort you can become a better player which is what I am trying to get across in Better Soccer Coaching every week. Pepsi on the other hand suggests you have to drink Pepsi to make you a better player.

What young soccer players want to see is that by playing and training and by following training sessions like those in Better Soccer Coaching you can become better. They also want a bit of that vision and hope that one day they will be the player spotted playing for the local team and whisked away to fame and fortune. Surely as coaches the one thing that we can give our players is the means to live out those dreams… on the training pitch, on match days, lifting trophies… so thanks Nike, you’ve helped us out…

Maybe we could do a similar advert for Better Soccer Coaching. Now where did that publisher go…

David Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching