Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Tweak your tactics to make the most of your team’s possession

DCPlaying in a match at the weekend my U10s were having a problem with tactics. Even though we had a lot of the ball and were attacking all the time, we couldn’t turn all that possession into goals. To make matters worse we went 1-0 down totally against the run of play.

The problem was that the wingers were playing the ball around but not getting crosses in. My right winger was setting the left winger free but he wasn’t crossing it.

My left winger is right footed so although he had the beating of the defenders he couldn’t get the ball across into the penalty area.

So at half time I did a simple thing – I switched them and it worked.

The right winger was still playing it from midfield but this time to the right wing.

Same players but on different sides of the pitch so a subtle change in tactics had the right result for the team.

So when you think your players can’t turn possession into goals maybe you, like me, got the tactics round the wrong way!

Watch this video that tells you how tactics can win the game for any team even when the opposition are better than them.


Young players can learn from watching their heroes

One of the attackers in my U10s team has been having a tough time of it lately. Early on in the season he was getting a lot of the ball and scoring freely, averaging a goal every other game and getting three or four shots on target every week.

In the second half of the season the teams we have already played have marked him tightly. I’ve been trying to get him to move in different directions to lose his markers, but obviously in his young mind he can’t work out why he should when he’s been very successful without doing it in the past.

The problem is, his confidence has been hit. After a game where the defender was practically standing on his toes and he didn’t get a chance in front of goal the whole of the game, he came up and asked me if it was allowed that he was so tightly marked? He complained that the ball was intercepted before it got to him. “Look at my leg,” he remarked, “I’m bruised, I think he was cheating!”

It is difficult to explain to an eight year old that he will have to put up with defending like that for the rest of his career if he plays as well as he can. It was, of course, good defending, but that didn’t hold much water with my attacker.

So when he was around at my house with his parents I got him to watch some highlights of how the Barcelona players move to lose their markers when they are tightly marked. It helped him to realise that by moving the players were creating space for themselves and the markers were having to run quickly to get back and cover.

This is espcially true when the Barcelona team have a corner each player is tightly marked and must lose their marker to give themselves chance to shoot at goal. My attacker was impressed with all the movement and agreed he needed to do more of it. In the next game he was much more successful in front of goal and got his confidence back basking in the glory of being compared to Lionel Messi!

Watch the hightlights of Barcelona’s 5-0 win against Real Madrid last season and see how movement, support and passing took them past tight marking defenders.

Time to put a youth specialist in charge of the England kids

DCThe elimination of a poor England U21 side from the European Championships made me wonder whether it was time to put a specialist youth manager in charge. Where was the flair that was expected of a team that had qualified for the tournament when teams like Italy and Germany had not? And if that’s down to the manager why is it being rubber-stamped by the FA with another contract for Stuart Pearce to coach these young lads?

To see a team that could absorb pressure and hit on the break was a throw back to the senior team and very disappointing to watch.

Sir Trevor Brooking, reckoned England’s display exposed the flawed coaching system in England. “Before the tournament we said the challenge would be to score goals. Creativity and subtlety in the final third is probably something neglected in all the age groups. That is something we have to transform in academies.

“You have to be doing those things at 12-13 and one of the key areas is playing in-between opposing players, looking forward or diagonally. I think we look at the safety pass too early.”

Coaching is something the England hierarchy must look at. There are in the country a number of managers with excellent records of nurturing young talent like Tony Carr, Keith Boanas and Michael Beale. Perhaps the time has come to trust the kids to the youth specialists.

Join in the debate here

Watching the players in a training game perhaps it’s not the coaching but the way the manager set up the team and how the players responded to him. Watch the game for yourselves on my blog – some of you may recognise it from coaching courses you have been on.

Give your players a code of conduct


I’ve come away from a match this week with the behaviour of one of the opposition players bothering me. It bothers me because I know the manager of the team and he has put a lot of hard work into his coaching, but he allowed one player to ruin the game.

Putting aside the wild tackles, the constant whinging about my players and the tantrum when taken off, what was ringing in my ears as I drove away from the game was his last verbal tirade because one of my players chested the ball down and he was adamant it was a handball.

And the annoying thing is it was a good game, a close match with some good techniques shown by both teams… but that one player spoilt it.

Manager, parents and players all have to realise it spoils the game if you shout or contest decisions. No one wants to hear it and most parents just want to see their children enjoy the game. They won’t do so if bad bhaviour and lack of respect is allowed to continue.

A timely reminder then that a code of conduct for players is vital to your club.

Here are the main points you should base a code of conduct on:

  • A code of conduct is written to reflect the responsibilities players have to the game.

  • Young players should be made aware of this and be made aware of what is expected of them.

  • They should know that nobody wins all the time. You win some, you lose some and when they lose they should do so graciously.

  • They should congratulate the winners, not blame the referee or anyone else and be determined to do better next time.

  • Good losers earn more respect than bad winners.

Obligations towards the game – a player should:

  • Develop their sporting abilities in terms of skill, technique, tactics and stamina.

  • Give maximum effort even when the game is lost.

  • Set a positive example to younger players and supporters.

  • Never use inappropriate language.

  • Always keep within the laws of the sport and use fair play.

Obligations towards the team – a player should:

  • Know the laws, rules and spirit of the game and the competition rules.

  • Accept success and failure, victory and defeat, equally.

Respect towards opponents – a player should:

  • Treat opponents with due respect at all times.

  • Avoid violence, rough play and help injured players.

Respect towards officials – a player should:

  • Accept the decision of the match officials without protest, if a decision needs explaining the team captain should ask.

Watch this clip from the English FA about player respect:

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

If you don’t shoot you won’t score

DCLast weekend saw my one of the teams I coach take part in a 6-a-side tournament which was very competitive. There was a broad range of teams in both size and ability playing and we had been put in a very strong group.

There was some fabulous football played by all the teams in our group, and I couldn’t help but admire the amount of work that had been put in by all the coaches that were there.

It made me feel that the future of the game was in good hands when I saw a lot of clever one touch play – and there was a fair share of spectacular goals.

One thing about playing 6-a-side on small pitches is that there are lots of chances to shoot and this was something I tried to encourage my team to do. We scored two spectacular goals from outside the area but for most of the games we tried to walk the ball into the net – something that may have worked but the speed of the movement bamboozled even their own team mates and a couple of taps in sped by.

But it did prove exhilarating to watch and players, parents and coaches came away with a great feeling from the experience.

As a culmination of a fantastic season in both Youth Alliance and Academy Leagues, the League Football Education (LFE) is running a Youth Goal of the Season, you can see the top goals by following the link below, and you can vote for the one you like best.


Watch senior goalkeepers train to get ideas to use with youth stoppers

DCThere’s a lot to be said for watching others coach if only to get ideas for your own coaching. When I go to professional matches I always watch the teams warm-up and often come away with a good idea for an exercise or drill that I can use with my team.

Often it is the simple ideas you see players doing that work the best when I get back to my club and try them out with my team.

One of the hardest ones is working with my goalkeeper pre-match or warming them up in training. There are a great variety of ways to get goalkeepers to dive and to catch and generally get in the right frame of mind for the game ahead.

One of the best goalkeeping exercises I like to use before matches is one that Barcelona use to warm their goalkeeper up.

Click here to go to my blog and watch a video clip of the Barcelona goalkeeper warming up and one of the Chelsea goalkeepers before a match.