Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Match day and only 9 players turn up

davidscwnewAt the weekend everything was looking good – the weather had cleared up and our game was on. But then, as I was preparing to leave the house, I was informed that three players had gone away for the half-term holidays without bothering to tell me.

So I had a problem. And sure enough, within the hour I had only nine players present, and was being asked what time the others were turning up. “Well, this is it, lads, this is the team… we’ve been let down”, I replied.

We’d beaten our opponents 1-0 earlier in the season, but a repeat performance seemed unlikely… not that I told my players that.

We gathered for our team talk and I assured them that they could still perform with only nine men. It’s not the first time this sort of setback has happened, and in the past I’ve used different tactics – one being to tell them to pretend we’d had two players sent off. But nothing had worked because, simply, they wanted to be told that everything would be okay and they wouldn’t be easily beaten.

So this time I took a simple, honest approach, telling them that hard work would compensate for the loss of players, and how if everyone put in an extra bit of effort we could make up the difference.

The reality was that the three who had failed to show comprised two strong covering players and a speedy trickster. So how was I going to cover that tactically?

Well, the pitch seemed particularly narrow, so my first move was to sacrifice the left-back position and tell my defenders to cover left. The defenders were sure they could manage – great.

I wanted to leave my four-man midfield as it was, so that left a lone striker up front, but we’d give it a try. It was an exciting challenge.

And I’m pleased to say the formation worked well. The opposition didn’t really take advantage of our left defence problem – they had a fast winger but he continually attacked our right-back. The only thing that let us down was support in attack – we created more chances than them but couldn’t get shots away, and when we did, there was no-one to follow up.

The game finished 0-0 but the players were magnificent and it was a great lesson in how hard work can overcome a numerical disadvantage. In many ways, it was probably the best game we have played all season.

The moral is don’t be put off by what might appear to be a major setback. It’s from such events that we usually learn most about ourselves and our players


New recruits and new problems…

David ClarkeI always feel sorry for professional players when their teams announce they are on the lookout for someone new in their position. It must be almost heartbreaking when that happens.

As a coach, I have to realise that this crushing blow to a player’s confidence and ego doesn’t just happen in the professional ranks; it happens at all levels of the game.

At youth level players are not going to read in the papers that we’re looking for someone new, instead this threat will just appear at training.

At our club, we’ve recently run some trials for new players – some teams are going from 7-a-side to 11-a-side so we need to recruit.

On one of the trial days one of our coaches came to me and said there was a boy I must see because he was rather special in his position. He was a goalkeeper, and we all know how difficult it is to get good shot-stoppers.

There were a number of small-sided games going on and he was certainly impressing – diving at the feet of the attackers, calling defenders into position and commanding his box. However out of the corner of my eye I could see the dad of our current keeper, and he was taking note of my obvious enthusiasm for this potential intruder.

The parents of the new player came to talk to me about their son and the possibility of him playing for the team. ’He would want to play for the A team’, they told me, ‘and expects to play every week’. After the trial, myself and a few other coaches discussed the problem…

Was he a better goalkeeper? At this stage, probably, but in future, who knows? Would he fit into the team? Yes, he was a nice lad. Were his parents okay? Well, there was possible trouble if he was dropped for some games.

Our present keeper was popular, he never missed a game and was keen to learn and progress. His parents were very supportive and had been members of the club for a long time. There was no way we would make him move over for another keeper at this stage in his young life.

We told the parents of the trialist that we would love their son to join the club but we couldn’t guarantee he’d be club ‘number one’ – he would have to earn it. So he would start in one of the other teams but would still be guaranteed to play every week. This wasn’t enough for them so he didn’t join. In my view, we definitely made the right choice.

There is a lot to be said for loyalty and support, both from the side of the coach, and the player.

If only I could go out and buy young players like Manchester United do…

dave clarkeWouldn’t it be great if we could go out like Manchester United have done and buy the best young players for our teams!

Attracting players gets harder and harder as more teams than ever before set up to play the game. Players have a lot of clubs to chose from so coaches need to think about their set up so it is their club which gets the players and not another.

These are the issues you have to think about when you advertise for players.

Quality of coaching
Cost per player
Playing time
Attitude of the club

In the case of my club the important thing that attracts players is the set up of the club and the attitude of all the coaches – players come first – which means fun in a safe environment with all players getting equal rights on the pitch.

This message gets around and parents and players like the idea of joining a club with this philosophy – you will find that they don’t mind paying the fees if the set up is right.

Meanwhile, Adnan Januzaj from Belgium has joined Manchester united academy. He has signed a four-year deal for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, the right winger being brought to Ferguson’s attention after some brilliant displays in Anderlecht’s youth team.

Januzaj will get £120,000 a yearand becomes the highest paid academy player at Old Trafford. Manchester united will have to pay a training and development fee to Anderlecht.

Anderlecht manager Herman Van Holsbeeck said: “Interest in Adnan Januza is a great compliment to the youth of purple and white (Anderlecht). Adnan Januzaj has been at Anderlecht since he was 10 and has not played first team football yet.

Watch this clip of him and think about what he could do for your team!