Match reports – Mini Soccer U7-U10 – Archive

03/03/2019 – Wickford Town Lions vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Danny, Charlie, Archie, Henley, Callum, William, Georgie and Bobbie

So the first round of the cup, suddenly the result does matter but the challenge to the adults is to treat the kids in the same way – still make sure everyone gets game time, don’t go mental at them if something they try doesn’t come off. Our approach? We talked to the team before about the fact that it’s a cup match and so if you lose you go out of the cup, other than that we talked about the same things as previous weeks; get your shot away when there’s an opportunity, follow up when team mates shoot, but still make sure decisions are good in all areas of the pitch.

No video this week so the match report is from memory, please don’t feel you need to pick up if I missed something or recall something wrong.

We started with 1 at the back today and Georgie playing an attacking role just off Bobbie, brave to only have one at the back but we have the hardest working midfield in the league, and probably the most intelligent players in the world so I was happy to go with that.
Very quickly from kick off both teams put some good passing moves together, I was pleased to see that the one player that misplaced nearly every pass while warming up hit two really good early passes, that seemed to give confidence to the whole team. We were kicking up hill in the first half and it really was difficult for the boys to get up and down in the way that they normally do, didn’t stop them trying though and it was really pleasing to see the way they filled in for each other at times ensuring nails wasn’t completely outnumbered at the back.
Early on we put a good passing move together through the middle and final 3rd of the pitch resulting in a shot at goal from Henley which a defender blocked, the ball bounced around just in front of goal and despite having good numbers in the box we were unable to get the decisive contact that was needed. The ball was cleared and Wickford had a good opportunity to counter attack. Nails dealt with the first wave really well but was then unable to find a teammate with his pass out. Wickford quickly played it through the middle to their attacker but Will had seen the danger and got back really well to cover before Callum picked up the ball to start another attack for us.
Every single players was really putting a shift in, putting pressure on the ball when Wickford had it and playing really creatively when we were in possession. As was the case when William won a tackle in our half before playing it infield to Henley who quickly switched the play to the right where Callum was overlapping Bobbie. Cal made good progress down the right and fired the ball goalwards, a defender blocked it but Bob had followed in, took a touch around the defender and slammed the ball home. A very good team goal and the finish was exactly what we’d been working on.
Wickford were also playing some good football and creating some chances, at one stage their main attacker picked the ball up and fired in an excellent shot that looked to be flying into the roof of the goal, until Nail jumped and got his head to it to put the ball over/wide for a corner. An excellent header that was worth a goal to us.
The corner needed more good defending but I can’t remember the specifics!

We were playing well and creating lots of chances but it felt like the ball just wasn’t quite dropping for us, there were a number of times when we got forward well, hit a shot or cross but they were either blocked or just missed our attacking runs.
Nails played an outstanding pass out of the back to Bobbie who controlled it, turned his man then instead of running at the defenders he slid a ball wide for Callum to run onto. Cal crashed an excellent shot in which the keeper done well to save and the ball just evaded Georgie who had followed it in before the defender cleared.
We created another really good chance when Archie made a really good tackle and carried the ball away before playing it forward to Bob. Bobbie out-ran the defender and rather than taking on the second defender he rolled the ball across the face to Georgie who had made a good supporting run. Georgie’s first touch was good and he moved the ball onto his right foot before tucking it past the keeper into the far corner of the net.

We were well in control and had started really limiting the amount of possession Wickford were getting. Danny made a good save down to his near post from a strong shot.
Then things started to go a bit wrong. We completely switched off, players decided that the game was going to be easy and so started trying to do everything themselves, we weren’t defending in the numbers we had been and the movement up front slowed right down.
As a result, we started giving up possession and chances, Wickford created a couple of chances and won a couple of corners before they scored. They hit us on the break and whereas earlier in the game our midfield got back in numbers to support our defence, this time we were completely out-numbered.
Then came possibly the weakest goal we’ve conceded, there was a freekick just outside the area, Henley was having a conversation with the ref about if it was direct or indirect – I don’t think the ref handled that very well at all but he will learn from that and mentioned it himself after the game. Wickford had 4 players standing in the box un-marked when the free-kick was taken, the ball was played to one of those and he had time to control the ball, knock it out of his feet and fire home giving Danny no chance.
Frustratingly we went in all square at half-time.

The key message from Aus and I at half time was to get back to playing as a team the way we had for most of the first half. Find space, chose good options and cover for each other. We also made the point that if they listen to us and do that they will still be in the cup at the end of the day.

The boys went back out looking a bit more fired up, we went with 2 at the back for the start of the half but were expecting to be changing that as the half wore on.

Wickford were also clearly fired up which made for a really good half of football, both teams putting everything into it, and both teams looking to play football.

There were no goals for most of the second half and few really clear cut opportunities despite both teams pushing hard. We were looking strong defensively but defending really deep, meaning there was a lot of space to cover before we created a goalscoring opportunity. Sometimes that’s perfect for Bobbie in particular but the Wickford defence were very quick and covered each other well. That said, we did create chances, Nails at one stage playing a really good long pass into Bobbie who took his man on before laying the ball back to Henley to strike.
Due to the way the game was going and the substitutions we made we had Archie at the back on his own and pushed Nails further forward onto the right; “don’t forget to get back and defend as well” I heard his dad say at one point, never thought I’d hear that said about Nails!

We did though break their resistance again, this time Archie won the ball in a defensive position and carried it forward before he played it forward to Henley. Henley broke through from the middle of the park beating his man and running at the heart of the defence, he played a lovely ball through two defenders and into Bobbie’s path, Bob got the ball under control with his first touch and finished with his second. Another really good goal.

Now the game really opened up, Wickford were pushing hard for an equaliser and that left some big spaces for us to counter attack. Classic tactical football that you don’t expect to see from this age group.
We created a number of chances and half chances from these breakaways and it was one of them that led to our final goal of the game. Callum doing a really solid defensive job and Will now playing in centre of midfield combined well on the edge of our area before Will played the ball forward to Bob who hadn’t stopped running all game. Bob played it early, wide to Georgie who had plenty of time and space to take control of the situation and slide the ball back into Bob’s path. Bobbie finished confidently past the keeper for his hat-trick.

When recalling a game from memory there are loads of small pieces of play that I remember, but I don’t know where they fit into the game, the goals are easier to retell although I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve got some of them wrong! But, it’s really important that everyone understands that the defensive side of the game is just as important as the attacking. Danny flying to his left to tip a shot round the post, Nails’ two headers off the line, Archie’s last ditch tackle equal to goals at the other end. The midfield three getting through obscene amounts of work to give us the platform to play from. Then the work off the ball of the two up top, tracking back and constantly finding supporting positions to be in.
All in all a very good team performance.
Wickford really played their part in an entertaining game, they played some excellent football, battled really well and forced us to earn a place in the next round.

Well done to both teams.

Danny – Not a massive amount to do but when he was called upon he done a good job, one lovely flying save and distribution was good, I even gave Danny the freedom to kick if he wanted to this week when he had the ball – he didn’t kick once! DEVELOPMENT – try to stay involved in the game, talking to team mates will help you stay focussed even when you’re not under pressure

Nails – A very good game today from Nails, looked awful in the warm up which was a concern but settled straight into the game. Read the game excellently, distribution was very good and mixed it up which was great to see DEVELOPMENT – be positive when in possession, don’t take too long to make decisions (want to leave this one for another week)

Archie – a really good game for Archie, defended really strongly, putting in some outstanding tackles. Read the game better than I’ve previously seen and used it well when in possession, sometimes running with the ball and sometimes passing but generally making a good choice. DEVELOPMENT – confidence, time to start believing in yourself because you’re a good player.

Will – A good game from William again, relied on his size and speed particularly in the first half defensively, covered across when Wickford broke through on more than one occasion. Some very strong running on the ball when he got wide and very solid when playing centre mid. DEVELOPMENT – when playing wide midfield all of your best attacking play comes when you get the ball in wide areas, sometime just be a little bit more patient rather than coming into the middle looking for the ball.

Georgie – Best performance for us, particularly in the first half, playing against school mates really gave Georgie the desire to want the ball and to be on the ball when it came to him. Tracked well a few times to get back into position and took his goal well – a well deserved goal. DEVELOPMENT – ran out of steam massively in the second half, can we work on that?

Henley – Full of running as always, looked to move the ball quicker this week particularly to the wider areas when the pass was on. Positioning was excellent however lost out to stronger and quicker kids a few times. DEVELOPMENT – How to challenge players when they’re bigger and stronger, don’t show them to the space as that’s when they out run you, make the tackle early, low and hard.

Callum – Another good game, read the game superbly to ensure he covered defensively at the right times. Worked as hard as anyone to get forward and back, made some excellent overlapping runs that lead to either a good shot or a ball across the box. DEVELOPMENT – use your left foot (keeping this one in)

Bobbie – All action again, really caused the Wickford defence problems all the way through the match. Excellent movement off the ball to provide options for team mates, lots of good decisions when on the ball and outstanding tenacity out of possession. Bagged the hattrick he promised me! DEVELOPMENT – Sometimes look to spread the ball into the wide areas quickly and spin off to get yourself in the box.

Thanks as always for your support and on to the next round of the cup.

24/02/2019 – Concord Rangers vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Danny, Charlie, Henley, Callum, William, Georgie and Bobbie

So my first game back for a couple of weeks and I missed the lads massively.  The coaching course was good and hopefully the team will benefit from some new ideas and my development in coaching our outstanding young players – time will tell on that front!

Concord were moved into our group at Christmas and have been struggling against the quality of opposition we see every week.  They put in a good battling performance against us but our football on the day was excellent, we were moving the ball quickly and had far more possession and territory throughout the game.

With Archie unavailable this weekend we were down to the bare-bones again this week, it’s never easy when we don’t have a sub as it means the boys are asked to work even harder than usual without the opportunity for a break when they need it – although some of them prefer it that way.  With a delayed kick off we had to make sure the team didn’t start tiring themselves out before the game whilst still warming up with the right intensity, a tough balancing act.

The game got underway in the fog and very quickly we moved the ball quickly and attacked down our right before winning a corner, the corner was cleared but we again picked up the pieces and following more good passing created an opportunity for Bob to get a shot away.  It was from outside the box but we have been asking the boys to get more shots away so I was happy with that.

Concord were playing a formation that left three players in defence at all times, highlighting how difficult they had found recent weeks.  Their tactics were to get the ball forward as quickly as possible from the back and hope that their two lads that played in the attacking roles could create a chance.  The keeper kicked long every time he got the ball but Nails and Henley particularly read that very quickly and got themselves into the right position to deal with that pretty easily every time, on some occasions the touch to bring the ball under control was outstanding.

William chased a ball down into the left wing position, out muscled the defender and played the ball backwards to Georgie, George ensure we kept the ball by again playing it backwards, this time to Nails.  He got his head up and switched play to the right where Henley was supporting, inside it went to Bob who played a lovely ball between 2 defenders into the path of Callums excellent run.  He put a really good ball into the box where Georgie and Will were waiting, unfortunately the ball went just over both of them and the defender hooked it away.  We got players back in greater numbers than they got forward and quickly regained possession.

Bob chased down a pass back to the defender by Concord, terrified the defender and took the ball off him easily, two defenders then combined to try and kick him off the ball but Bob still managed to play it through to Georgie, who was just unable to get on the end of his through-ball.

Another period of good football again moving right through the team from Will on the left, across the pitch through Nails and Bobbie onto Callum wide on the right resulted in a good ball in to Henley, his first touch was good but the defenders quickly closed down any space and the ball just failed to drop in a position where we could get a shot away.

Concord managed to create a break away and the attacker just beat Nails to the ball and got his first time shot away.  Danny’s first action of the game and he was easily equal to it.  Getting the ball off Danny, Nails set us up for another attack playing the ball forward and wide to Callum.  Forward down the line for Bobbie who turned his man and slid a ball through for Georgie.  George hit it first time and the keeper done well to get down at his near post and turn the ball away for a corner.  Nails was first to the corner and sent his volley just wide of the near post.

Some of the football we were playing in this first half was sublime, quick passing, strong dribbling, some outstanding first touches and excellent work rate to win the ball back when we did lose it.

Henley played a really good incisive pass through to Bobbie who should quick feet to beat the defender and slide another ball through to Georgie, he was caught a bit flat footed on this occasion and the ball got away from him and ran through to the keeper.

We were getting in so many good positions that the goals were bound to come.

William found some space right on the left touch line, turned the first defender superbly and started running powerfully down the line, he knocked the ball past the next defender and looked to be away and clear, unfortunately the defender managed to get enough of Will’s leg to knock him flying.  The freekick strangely wasn’t given and that attack fizzled out, it was another sign of just how well we were able to take them apart when we upped the pace.

Shortly after, Henley did win a freekick midway between the Concord area and the halfway line.  He decided to shoot and the keeper failed to deal with it but the ball just wouldn’t quite drop for Bob before it was hacked away by a defender.

I mentioned on my course that we tend to start the second half really slowly and asked for suggestions to help deal with that.  One thing that came back was not sitting down during the teamtalk so we not only got the lads to stand around us while we were talking to them but we also kept a ball moving between us all.  It remains to be seen if that will make any difference but we’ll keep trying for a few weeks.

There were a couple of key messages at half time.  The first was that we were really pleased with the boys, the football in the first half had been outstanding.  I had also set a couple of the boys individual  challenges before the game, those challenges were taking more focus than they were intended to so I suggested that they forget about them and just play their game.

The final thing I suggested for the second half was that I wanted players to swap positions at times during the second half but that it was up to them to do it and they had to make sure the person they swapped with knew and understood where their new position was.

Some good work from Callum down the right at the start of the second half put Bobbie in near the corner flag, he looked to pull it back to where Henley was calling for the ball but it was cut out by the defender.

Concord broke away and won a corner, our marking was non-existant and the ball beat our defenders and fell to a completely free attacker at the back of the area.  Fortunately Will reacted really quickly to shut him down and block the shot.

From the resulting throw-in, Concord found half a yard and swung a shot in from outside the area.  It was creeping into the far corner but for a flying save from Danny – I think the dive was more for the camera judging by his smile when he stood up!

We were finding it much more difficult to move the ball as well in the second half, watching it back it appears to me that we weren’t finding the spaces on the pitch when team mates had the ball, everything was being squashed into one area of the pitch.  Most of the boys were still working really hard but the intelligence to find the right areas of the pitch had dropped a little bit meaning when we had possession we didn’t have the options we should have had.

As a result of that we were giving space and ball to Concord, at one stage they hit a long hopeful ball forward that we struggled to deal with (3 players around the ball wasn’t helpful) before Henley knocked it out for a corner.

From the resulting corner Callum at the near post managed to get his head to it but was really unlucky to see it fly past Danny.  Callum done well to get something on it at all.

At that point I called the boys in and reiterated the need to spread out and start trusting each other again, I told the boys that they needed to start doing what they had been doing in the first half.

William picked up the ball on the half way line and ran strongly at the heart of the Concord defence, he was tackled but the ball broke to Henley who hit it first time, he’d beat the keeper but the ball sailed just wide of the post.

Moments later, Bob was put through, under pressure from the defender and the keeper came out really well to smother Bob’s shot.

From a throw-in, Bob showed quick feet and excellent control again before getting another shot away, this one again flying wide of the far post.

Chance after chance we were creating which was exactly what we’d asked for – next week we’ll work on finishing those chances!!!

Another chance, this time some good play from William down the left before taking a quick throw to get Bobbie away, Bob again beat the defender but again the keeper stood up well to turn his shot around the post.

William read the ball well on the edge of our area and ran the ball out through the middle of the pitch and towards the right edge of the Concord area before being really crudely taken out by the Concord line-backer!  We did get the freekick and Will got him to take it himself.  He played the ball in to the mixer and for once it dropped kindly for us, right in front of Bob who made no mistake in slamming the ball home from only a few yards out.

The ref quickly called an end to the game after that.

A very good performance from our team, particularly first half but not far short in the second half.  If we’d converted half of the chances we’d created it would have been an enormous and fair scoreline.

There was a scout watching at the weekend and he said after the game that he’ll be watching us a few more times before the season is out.  Up to parents if they want to mention that but if you do or not, the kids should be proud of the way they’re playing.

Danny – Not a massive amount to do but when he was called upon he done a good job, one lovely flying save and distribution was good.  DEVELOPMENT – try to stay involved in the game, talking to team mates will help you stay focussed even when you’re not under pressure

Nails – A good solid game, saw plenty of ball without being under too much pressure which made a nice change and allowed Nails to focus more on being creative.  Dealt really well with the keepers long, high kicks.  DEVELOPMENT – be positive when in possession, don’t take too long to make decisions

Will – An excellent first half, constantly in the right position, made good decisions both in and out of possession and was very unfortunate not to get on the end of a few chances.  Both halves created lots of good opportunities and defended well.  DEVELOPMENT – 2nd half, don’t get desperate to do everything, keep trusting team mates

Georgie – Wasn’t able to influence the game at all today.

Henley – A good game, controlled play for us from the middle of the pitch, offered good support to Nails when Concord did look to attack but was creative when in possession, organised and talked to team mates all the way through the game.  DEVELOPMENT – when it’s tight in the middle look to hit the wide areas with quick passes

Callum – A really solid and controlled performance from Callum, added more defensive balance to the team this week allowing other players to push forward more.  Did also get forward plenty of times and put in a number of really good crosses.  DEVELOPMENT – use your left foot!

Bobbie – A very good performance, worked his socks off to create chances for himself and others.  How he didn’t have a hatful of goals is beyond me.  Took on a lot of responsibility in this game to cover team mates and got frustrated towards the end as a result.  DEVELOPMENT – think about your all round game and not the result or goal count, be proud of yourself for the way you play.

It’s good to be back!

Thanks as always for your support.

17/02/2019 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Southendian Manor Lions

Team: Frankie, Charlie, Henley, Callum, William, Georgie and Bobbie

My second game in charge and this week Jacko and I felt a little more confident due to a good training session the previous morning. That said we had a few late concerns due to Archie and Danny not being available but luckily for us Frankie from the Lions helped us out and took a turn between the sticks…..thanks Frankie.

For this game we continued to ask the boys to enjoy and express themselves and don’t be afraid to make mistakes but also learning from the previous game we also asked them to still try and make the right decision and work as hard in both directions.

Due to our absentees we had to move Henley back in to defence but as we still wanted to give Manor things to worry about we kept Bobbie up top as planned and gave Will a shot at centre midfield knowing that he would be really up for this game!

Manor are a team of big strong boys but throughout this game they looked to get the ball down and play nice passing football. Unsurprisingly this led to a physical start to the game with good passing moves from both teams that resulted in 2 early shots at our goal that were confidently dealt with by Frankie. Our first effort at goal came from a nice counter attack that broke down only for Henley to collect the loose ball and play an early pass in to Bobbie, Bobbie then took a player on and played a perfectly weighted blind pass to Georgie who confidently stroked the ball pass the keeper and in to the bottom corner. The next 5 to 6 minutes we had a number of miss placed passes that gave Manor a few chance but we will continue to encourage this as the boys need to have the confidence to play along the defence and from the defence. Our next attack resulted in Bobbie making his way in to the corner and laying the ball back to George who again struck the ball with his first touch and tested the Manor keeper. The boys had really taken onboard our messages and were busting their guts to get back and defend as well as joining our attacks. They were also trying to shoot early and playing passes in front of their team mate to enable the early shot. Our next effort came from yet another mazy run from Bobbie that was met with a huge crunching tackle that luckily resulted in the ball rolling nicely in front of Georgie for him to curl a shot in to the top corner with his first touch. The first half then became a bit end to end with Frankie pulling off a few good saves and Will testing the keeper at the other end with two well struck shots. Will obviously had the taste for a goal and his next attacking run was stopped by a last ditch tackle that kindly rolled straight to Bobbie who struck the ball fiercely with his first touch and just had too much on it for the keeper to prevent another goal. The last few chances of the half fell to Manor but with Frankie in goal and our defensive effort from the entire team the possibility of a clean sheet remained.

Our half time talk consisted of praising the immense effort from the boys and to persevere with the passing even though there had been some mistakes in the first half. We also outlined the fact that all our goals came from first time strikes and not dribbling the ball in to crowds of players as we had worked on in training. More of the same was the key message.

Unfortunately the second half didn’t start so well and Manor scored early and had a few more good chances as too many of our players were getting caught too far up the pitch. Our turn came eventually and Will hit a couple of good strikes that were really well saved only for manor to go up the other end and score goal number two. Huge credit to the boys for the next period of the game as they regrouped defensively and saw out a few waves of pressure from Manor who were now desperate to level the game. That said we did manage a few good attacks, both with Bobbie putting in great crosses from the right hand side but Callum and then Will were unable to get on the end of them. One of the Manor attacks resulted in the rare opportunity of one of their players not getting closed down quick enough so he smashed a shot from distance that Frankie somehow tipped over the bar. From the resulting corner Will tackled and won the ball deep in our half, sprinted past one and continued to run at speed at the final defender who continued to back off making an easy decision for Will who hit a fine strike in to the back of the net. There were a few more chances before the final whistle was blown with Manor hitting the bar and Frankie coming off his line well to clear and then Georgie hitting a low shot just wide of the near post.

A great result against a very physical team that played good football. There Manager complimented the fact that we always try and play nice possession football unlike a number of other teams in the group.

Frankie – Thanks so much and congratulations on a great performance

Development – I was going to say louder and more commanding communication but as you did us a huge favour, were feeling under the weather and don’t know our team that well you can ignore!

Nails – A tough game against some very physical players which is normally exactly what you like. Worked well on positioning and communication with Henley allowing you to add an attacking element to the defensive partnership. Effort unquestionable as always.

Development – Don’t be put off by the occasional pass going to the opposition, it is the right decision most of the time and you are more than capable. Watch and judge the bounce of the ball, this is normally one of your strengths so no real concern.

Will – A strong game in the centre of midfield especially in the first half where you were in the right position whether attacking or defending and a well-deserved goal in the second half.

Development – Your positioning was spot on in the first half but got a little carried away second half which also resulted in you holding on to the ball too long at times.

Georgie – A great first half with two well taken goals and another strike that could have easily given you a hat trick! Me and Paul were talking to you a lot throughout the game and were really pleased with your effort in the first half.

Development – Started to lose your position in the second half and were being drawn towards the ball. If you are starting to feel tired then try and get your breathe back in a defensive position and not up front.

Henley  – First game at the back for a while but picked up your partnership with Nails immediately allowing you to get involved in attacks. Your positioning and tenacity was great as always and greatly assisted to keep their chances to what they were.

Development – A rare off game with the accuracy of your passes but as with Nails they were more often than not the right decision so just be a little more careful with the execution.

Callum – Very similar to last week with good positioning and effort at both ends of the pitch. Communication is good and like the way you keep making the right run time and time again even if you don’t always get the ball.

Development – Still need to stop panicking on the ball and this week you were also taking your eye off the ball resulting in numerous sliced kicks and miss controlling.

Bobbie – Another great performance with bags of effort as always that was capped off with a well struck goal, a couple of good layoffs for teammates to shoot/score and some great crosses.

Development – I still think you could get more shots away if you just get that half a yard of space and then strike.

Thanks as always for your support and thanks again to Frankie for helping us out.

10/02/2019 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Leigh Ramblers Lions

Team: Daniel, Liam, William, Georgie, Henley, Bobbie, Charlie, Archie, Callum

My first game in sole charge (with my beautiful assistant Mr Jackson of course) of the team for some time and another game that seemed to split opinions!

My opinion straight after the game was that the boys played the better football with some nice phases of play, the problem was that the phases of play were not consistent enough and either failed to materialise into efforts on goal or if we did get a shot on goal it failed to trouble their goalkeeper. That said they do have a good goalkeeper that is both strong at shop stopping and also quick and brave off his line. These development points are no surprise to Mark or I and Mark has already stated in the previous match report that we plan to reduce the focus on tactical issues and the strengths of the opposition and just ask the boys to play to their strengths, express themselves without the worry of making a mistakes and most importantly to enjoy themselves. I still think this is the correct approach for the near future at least but need to also explain to the boys that although we want them to try things we are also looking for them to make the right decisions and continue to put in 100% effort in both directions.

We also received feedback from the referee post-match who thought that we were the better footballing team with the better players but simply got out muscled…..comments I agreed to. The opposition Manager even took the time to message Mark after the game to state that he loves the way we try and play football and look to pass our way out of trouble and in to goal scoring opportunities.

Enough with the opinions and feedback and on with the game.

We play the Lions regularly at training and although they play nice passing football at training we know that they often revert to playing narrow, long balls and physical strength in a match. That said the game started with their kick off and some nice passes by the Lions until Praise was knocked to the floor by a fair ‘welcome to the game’ tackle from Nails! We enjoyed at least 4 good phases of play with at least 4 passes exchanged but were struggling to create chances until Bobby put Georgie through only for him to be quickly closed down and the chance was gone. It was a tight first half with few opportunities at either end from open play with our boys putting in some great blocks and our final ball just eluding us at the other end. From one of the many long clearances from the Lions keeper Bobby showed good control resulting in the ball sitting up nicely for Bobby to volley at goal…..unfortunately the shot went wide but a good effort. We were awarded an indirect free kick due to a back pass but Jacko quickly advised the ref to give the ball to their keeper and treat that as a warning. It was a game of numerous corners and after a good delivery from Callum that sailed past everyone it was well recovered by Bobby who played a neat triangle with Henley before swinging in a very dangerous cross that yet again went begging. Nearing the end of the half Praise managed to finally get a yard of space and made us pay with a fine strike in to the top corner that Danny had no chance of saving. We finished the half with another good opportunity with the same pairing of Bobby feeding the ball nicely in to the path of Georgie, this time Georgie got away from the nearest defender but didn’t make great contact on his strike and their goalie collected easily.

We started the second half a little messy with a number of miss placed passes one of which fell to Praise on the edge of the area, he immediately released a shot that was well saved by Danny. A few minutes later we conceded yet another corner but this one somehow managed to squeeze in at the near post. We were struggling to stamp any authority on the second half until George put in a good solo run taking on 3 players, unfortunately he was a little off balance when he went to shoot and the ball was easily scooped up by the keeper. Then it was the Lions chance again for another shot from distance but this time it bounced awkwardly just in front of Danny and slipped in to the net. We immediately responded with an attack of our own but their keeper was quick to react and dived at Bobbys feet to prevent a shot. By this stage we had finally started to find a few passes and some space and this resulted in a quick through to George who turned and shot but the keeper saved. From this the Lions quickly counter attacked and forced another good save from Danny. We then put together our best phase of play in the second half with 4 good passes down the right from Cal to Henley, on to George and then to Bobby who tried to put Will in but pushed his pass a little too close to the goalie that was again quick off his line. We then had another quick throw that this time found Henley advanced and in space but his connection wasn’t as he wanted and the ball sailed wide. After yet another Lions corner we attacked quickly with Bobby again being the provider with a pass to Will who picked up the ball on the half way line and drove at the Lions goal but again the Lions keeper came out well and saved with his feet. There was just enough time for one more attack and this time it was Bobbys chance to charge half the length of the pitch with the ball at his feet only for Faith to pull out an amazing last ditch tackle just as Bobby was going to pull the trigger.

Watching the entire game back the Lions had a lot more opportunities than us in a second half that took us over ten minutes to get going. In my attempt to keep the boys warm and interested I probably did too many substitutions in hindsight and this may have caused the slow start to the second half and definitely had a part in the Lions third goal…….not just the boys that are learning out there.

Danny – Very little to do in the first half apart from their first goal that was well struck and in the top corner so you had very little chance of stopping that. Pulled off 2/3 good saves in the second half and distribution was good throughout.

DEVELOPMENT – Try and stay involved in the game even when the ball is at the other end, you have the best view of the pitch so should be barking out instructions to the team. You will also find that this involvement will help you in other areas such as coming off your line, quicker distribution and hopefully less shots to save as you would have organised the team to defend better.

Liam – Struggled to get in to the game due to the physicality of the opposition and possibly the positions I played him in but showed some nice touches in stages.

DEVELOPMENT – Going to hold back on particular development points as feel the main ask is to continue to integrate in to the team. They may look a little weird but they are a great bunch of boys.

George – A noticeable improvement in his effort to push forward, find good positions and communication but still space for improvement. Again some nice touches at times but need to get more involved in the game in general but in particular from a defensive perspective.

DEVELOPMENT – CONFIDENCE, you are a big strong lad so should be bullying the opposition instead of the other way round. Once you gain in confidence, there has already been a vast improvement, then we can start to identify the more granular development points.

Nails – As always our rock at the back and started the game with a tackle on Praise that actually made me laugh out loud and replay a number of times. In the second half in particular you started to have the confidence to pass the ball around at the back which is something we encourage but need to make sure that the pass is accurate and firm to ensure it makes its desired recipient.

DEVELOPMENT – When bringing the ball out of the defence with a pass or by dribbling try and do this with pace and accuracy as you have the ability to start an attack from the back.

Bobby – One of our few players that stood up to the physicality of our Lions and made sure he caused problems for them all game. Unselfishly played team mates in with well-paced passes in the first half but started to hold on to the ball a little too much in the second half. Had the confidence to control a goal kick and attempt a shot on the buddy from distance that unfortunately sailed wide of the goal but this is exactly what we mean by expressing yourself and trying things.

DEVELOPMENT – When the result isn’t going our way try not to change your play, I know you are trying to help the team but you won’t do this single-handedly at this level

Callum – Hate commenting on my own boy! I thought your positioning and effort was good as always especially when trying to match their physicality. Panicked at times when in possession which is a little out of character and resulted in passes being easily intercepted. Yes I did notice you did a few headers and that is good to see that a long standing development point is being addressed.

DEVELOPMENT – If you look up before you receive the ball then you will know what your options are before receiving the ball and this should enable you to not panic and make the next decision positively whether that is to pass, take a player on or shoot.

Henley – Another player that stood up to the physical battle and often against more than one of the opposition due to how narrow they like to play. Typical nice control and great first touches to get you away from the first player and worked tirelessly for the team.

DEVELOPMENT – Especially in games like this try and release the ball as early as possible as the numerous players surrounding you are taken out of the game with one accurate pass.

Archie – Not the biggest player in the team but loves a tackle and grew in confidence with the ball at his feet as on a few occasions burst through the first line of opposition to give himself more options.

DEVELOPMENT – Try and stay more involved in the game even when the ball isn’t coming your way, this could be movement or simply communication to the players in front of you. Also, once you beat that first line of opposition look for your best option early and if it’s a pass the fire it off quickly.

William – Played in the position you have been requesting but saw little of the ball in the first half, when you did get the ball you immediately looked to stretch your legs but although this is something we are encouraging you to do it needs to be the correct decision. Made some great runs forward and was found in the second half but the goalie came out quickly and smothered it.

DEVELOPMENT – Still look to make the correct decision even though we have told you to express yourself and listen to the advice given to you from the side as we are only trying to help. Remember your defensive responsibilities, this is a previous development point so just a gentle reminder.

Thanks as always for your support and already looking forward to next weekend.

03/02/2019 – Ecko Whitecaps Pumas vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Daniel (sub), Henley, Charlie, William, Callum, Bobbie, Georgie

Until I watched the game back I was a bit disappointed with the boys, then I watched it back and I’m totally proud of them, in awful conditions they played some good football, they created some really good chances and they consistently made good decisions.  Some of the passing didn’t come off as we would expect but that was because they’re not used to playing in those conditions, I like the fact that they were still trying to play.  Defensively we were really strong , working hard from midfield to support Nails and putting in some amazing tackles.

I’ll say it early in the hope that most of you see it.  I’ve got a bit hung up on the tactical side of the game in recent weeks and in talking to Aus it’s become obvious that has taken something away from the boys.  I’ve been worrying too much about what the opposition might do and asking our lads to play differently as a result.  Our boys are quality and I need to let them go and show that, let the other teams worry about us.  They boys have understood and delivered what we’ve been asking of them really well but it’s stunted their natural game which isn’t what they need at this stage in their development so expect to see a bit more freedom for the rest of the season.  Onwards and Upwards from here.

Right from the off we had some good possession, starting on the left then building again down our right hand side.  That period of pressure resulted in Bob putting an excellent ball across the face of goal, Georgie just unable to make the connection that was required just in front of goal.  Callum had been supporting at the far post and he managed to win the ball under pressure.  He turned his man and played it back across to Georgie, this time just unable to sort his feet out to finish the chance.

Without really creating anything a long ball from the halfway line landed at the Whitecaps striker but Daniel and Henley were on him quickly with Daniel turning the snapshot around the post for a corner.  A good first save for our stand-in keeper.

Whitecaps came onto us and crossed the ball from our left, William had moved into the centre to cover and was well positioned to win the ball before it broke to Henley who played a good ball forward to Bob.  Bobbie making it his just inside our half, he spun his defender and was away, our midfield desperately trying to get forward to support but Bobbies cross just eluded Will and Henley.

From another attack the Whitecaps keeper dropped kicked the ball, that was won in the middle of the park by William who fed the ball to Bobbie in a wide position.  Bob turned two players and fired in a shot that was well saved by the keeper.

Whitecaps came forward and won a corner, a good ball was put in and somehow Leandro manage to volley it over his own head and looping over Daniel in goal.  I’ll assume he meant it, in which case it was an outstanding finish.

Best skill of the day? The ball was whacked high and far to the edge of our box, Nails with one touch pulled it out of the air and cushioned his pass straight to Henley whilst under pressure from the attacker.  What made it so special was that he made the pass with his chest.  Superb skill and awareness.

Some good defending by Will and Callum led to Will playing the ball forward into the left channel for Bob to run onto, he again turned his defender and was away.  Unfortunately a heavy touch saw the keeper come out quickly and take the ball.  We were getting lots of joy with that though with Bob having the speed to get in behind the Whitecaps defence time and again.

That was it for the first half.

We talked about the fact that Nails was finding himself 2v1 at the back a number of times and asked Will and Callum to make sure they were aware of the danger behind them.  Ahead of that we switch Bobbie and Georgie so Georgie was playing the more advanced role, the thinking was that there was a big space that Bob could operate in and hopefully give us a more creativity in the final third.

The second half started pretty much as the first half had played out, we were trying to pass the ball well but with the pitch getting heavier that was proving difficult.  It was also noticeable at half time and the start of the second half that the boys were getting very tired and finding it hard to move around the pitch, with no subs to call on we really needed to dig deep.

Bobbie and William combined well down the right before William put a cross over, it was a little short and the keeper cut it out which was a shame as we had Georgie in the middle, Henley just on the edge of the box and Callum pushing in from the left.  That attack though left us short at the back and the keeper kicked it long.  Fortunately for us although Leandro’s touch was good Callum and Henley had retreated quickly and between them they won the second ball.

Leandro’s touch on getting on the end of the keepers kicks was pretty good all day but Nails was always right on him to prevent the next phase of their attack.  Our midfield three in particular though were busting a gut to cover the ground but as the half wore on that started to take its toll.  The result was that we were sitting deeper and deeper and finding it difficult to get support up the pitch to Georgie and Bob.

There’s not a great deal to report in the second half, the game was very scrappy, tired legs and the boggy pitch preventing us from playing our football more than the opposition did.  We started dropping deeper and were struggling to get out of our half, although Whitecaps still weren’t creating chances.  Daniel in goal was picking up through-balls rather than having to make saves.

Following our most sustained period of pressure we had the ball down the right midway inside the Whitecaps half, Bob was on the ball but with a defender battling, he intelligently played it back to Nails on the halfway line.  Nails played a first time pass forward to Will who played a one-two with Georgie and was now running into the box.  The ball stuck in the mud though meaning he couldn’t get any power in the shot and the keeper made the save.

Following a Whitecaps attack, Daniel fed a good ball wide to William who played it first time down the line where Bob had made his run.  Bob managed to hold off the defender as he made a powerful run towards the box, he cut inside and hit a good shot across the keeper toward the far post.  The keeper saved and done really well to hold the ball and prevent it dropping at Georgie’s foot for what would have been an easy tap-in.

We had a throw-in on the left, Cal threw it back to Nails but Leandro was on him in an instant and nicked the ball away.  Henley won it back, carried it forward and hit a shot from outside the area, again the mud helped them rather than us as the ball slowed right down before the keeper saved it.  It was good to see though as we’ve been asking the boys to get more shots away.

Daniel – Daniel played in goal for us this week and done really well.  Didn’t have too many saves to make but was well positioned to cut out the long through balls that were played.  Commanded his area really well and wasn’t afraid to hold onto the ball when there was no outlet to pass it to.  DEVELOPMENT – it’s hard because he doesn’t know the boys yet but the first thing would be to be louder, talk to your team mates and let them know what you expect of them. (we’ll help you with that and I get the impression you’ll pick it up quickly)

Charlie “Nails” – Continues to develop into a defensive leader, giving good advice and information to team mates.  Solid in the tackle and looked to use the ball well when in possession.  Struggled with the conditions but didn’t allow that to stop him trying to do the right thing.  Development – Where can you be and how can you use the ball from our keeper having possession.

Silks – Looked like he enjoyed the conditions although said different.  Battled really hard in a congested midfield area, covered well defensively and got a couple of good shots away.  Passing as usual was good and tried to be creative.  Made two really good clearances off the line.  DEVELOPMENT – start a bit higher up the pitch to put us on the attack rather than always on the back foot.

William – An excellent first half but found the conditions really frustrating.  Done an excellent job defensively and tried desperately to support the attack.  Second half the conditions got the better of William a bit, still looked to do the right thing, always available for team mates but found that things weren’t coming off as the usually do.  DEVELOPMENT – show us how good you are, we’re giving you licence to go out and play your game but can you combine that with positional sense and good decisions on and off the ball?

Callum – Worked really hard through the mud, made some excellent covering tackles and still found the energy to get forward and support the attack.  Ran the line well but the football that he likes to play was really tough in those conditions, good decisions all the way through the game.  DEVELOPMENT – open your body when you control the ball, it gets away from you when you try to control it with your laces so try adjusting your shape to give a bigger contact surface.

Bobbie – Ran as hard as anyone, really caused problems particularly in the first half playing on the last defender, was really unlucky not to score – a couple of excellent saves preventing him.  Second half dropped back a little bit and gave us some needed bite in that area of the pitch but then we missed him further up.  DEVELOPMENT – grab me some goals again, make that your focus for the next few weeks.

Georgie – Got into some really good positions and could have had a couple of early goals in the first half.  Like many others, struggled with the conditions, found it difficult to get moving and to put the right amount on the ball.  DEVELOPMENT – reactions, you have to want the ball and react to it, even if you knock your own player out of the way its fine, just get on the ball quickly.

Thank you all for your support as always.  Thanks for the video.

Over to you Aus.

13/01/2019 – Leighwood Lions vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Alfie, Charlie, Archie, Henley, William, Callum, Bobbie, Georgie

Sorry I forgot to write the match report last week!

A tough start to the year with back to back games against Leighwood (at our level it doesn’t get any tougher than that).  We decided that we would change our system to try and deal with Leighwood better than we had last time.  We decided that at the back we would go man for man on their attacking three, in front of them our centre midfield would play a more defensive role, then we’d have two attacking players.  It’s too much to expect one striker to cause problems against their three defenders.

Our kick off and we started the game with 9 passes and an attack putting us in a really good position before the ball ran out for a goal-kick, a nice confident passing move.

Alfie (our stand-in keeper for the day) came out quickly to clear the first Leighwood attack, we quickly went up the other end of the pitch and almost latched onto a back pass.  Didn’t quite happen!

Leighwood had an attack down our right and put in a cross which Alfie claimed easily, Nails wanted the ball just at the edge of the area.  He was very quickly put under pressure by the centre forward, to lose the ball there would present a very good opportunity.  Nails didn’t lose it though, he sold the attacker an outrageous dummy and turned away carrying the ball forward confidently to Bobbie.  Bob ran with the ball before playing it through to Georgie, proving that two up top was the right thing to do.  Unfortunately Georgie’s touch just got away from him and the keeper was able to clear.

Charlie cleared a ball from a Leighwood attack, playing it wide to Georgie, who had been dropping off Bobbie really well into the gap in the middle of the pitch.  George played it first time infield to Henley who done similar in knocking it on to Bobbie.  Henley continued his run looking for the return ball.  Annoyingly the defender got an important toe in before stabbing the ball forward.  For the first time Henley was caught in advance of the ball, the attacker managed to get the better of Nails and finish smartly.

We carried on though and were looking confident against a very good side, we were defending solidly and playing really good balls out from the back.  Georgie was filling in the gaps and Bob as always was putting pressure on the ball every opportunity and was looking menacing when in possession.

Will decided to try and knock one of the Leighwood players head off by smashing the ball into his face.  The little sod just got on with the game though!

We had a spell of good possession where we were attacking and trying to create that space for a shot, it didn’t quite come and they cleared it, hitting us on the break in doing so.  The ball fell to the centre forward and Nails was quickly facing up to him,  Will tracked back to double up the pressure on him and he played it wide to the left sided attacker.  Will reacted really well to put in a last ditch sliding tackle that put the ball out for a throw.  It was an excellent tackle but was only required because Will didn’t trust Nails to deal with the player on the ball, he should have marked his player and covered Nails if he needed to.  Great tackle though!

One of the things we’d worked on in training was playing out from the back when the keeper has the ball, Callum and Will every time were taking up exactly the right starting positions, that worked really well ensuring that we started moves with the time on the ball we needed to be in control.

Bob was almost in again, this time the Leighwood keeper played it out from a goal-kick, Georgie and Bobbie put very quick pressure on, Georgie going to the man with the ball and forcing him into a rushed pass that Bobbie cut out easily, his touch was a little bit heavy and the keeper reclaimed the ball.  We were giving them problems though which is what we wanted to be doing.

Will was the next one to put good pressure on the ball and won it back again from the keepers pass and right on the edge of the area, this time the Leighwood defence was to dive on the ball any time Will looked like getting round him.  I don’t criticise refs but if ever I was going to!!!!

Leighwood returned that, Alfie rolled it to Nails who controlled it on the turn, he didn’t realise how quickly the attacker was closing in on him.  They won the ball and hit an early shot.  Alfie was equal to it though diving to his right to palm the ball away superbly.  Will reacted first and picked the ball up from the save and played it down the line to Bob.  Bobbie ran strongly with the ball against two defenders and didn’t let up when it looked like they’d won the ball off him.  His pressure caused them to snatch at the clearance which fell to Henley for a first time shot that the keeper saved.

The attacker ran at Nails and again he stepped in, took the ball and left the attacker on the deck.  The ball broke in Henley’s direction and his superb first touch took it round the lunging defender.  He played a through ball to Georgie who stepped back inside his man and hit a shot that the keeper took more than one attempt to hold, just avoiding Bob when he spilled it.

Then came my favourite moment of the match, right in front of the coaches and even got a clap from the Leighwood coach!  Archie won the ball wide on the left and played it on to Georgie, he played it just inside to Henley before making his run down the line.  Henley beat his man taking the ball back to the wide area then played a lob pass over two defender and onto Georgie who headed it down for Bob to run onto.  That’s where it ended but, that pass!

And that was it for probably my favourite half of football this season.  Leighwood had done exactly what we thought they would, they’re a very good side and they set-up as we expected.  As for us, defensively we were excellent, man for man some of the tackles were incredible, the positioning and covering outstanding, we got caught once and Alfie had one good save to make.  Offensively the boys worked so hard and smart, we were far more direct in our attacks and tried to get the emphasis on attacking the goal when we got the ball whereas usually we try to keep the ball more and build up slower.  That said we still played some really good football to create our chances.

So to the second half. The team talk was very similar to the first half, we felt it was important not to be to desperate for the goal, we needed to stay tight at the back.   We talked about the role of the wide players as the game wore on but really asked for more of the same.

Very early in the second half we created a really good chance; Bob put their defence under excellent pressure forcing them to go back to the keeper, he played it out and under pressure from Callum the ball was played quickly into the centre of the pitch.  Henley reacted quickest and his first touch took him around the defender.  Will had made the run forward to his left and Henley slipped him in, a good first touch giving Will the space to hit a left footed shot which went just wide of the post.

Will was now playing an attacking role, playing off Bobbie, that slight changed gave us more opportunity to pressure Leighwood higher up the pitch.  Behind them the defensive unit were still playing superbly.  At the start of the second half Leighwood had more of the ball than in the first but to this stage hadn’t created anything.  A number of players putting in some great blocks to prevent the attacker getting a shot on goal.

Some good defensive work by Henley and William saw us turn over the ball on the edge of our box, Will then played it wide for Callum to run onto.  He ran strongly before the defender won the ball back on the half way line before playing it forward into the space vacated by Cal.  Nails came across to clean up as he had done some many times during the game, this time though the ball got stuck under his feet and the attacker came away with the ball, he drove into the area and fired a shot off that managed to get through Alfie in goal.

From here we started to lose a bit of shape as we started looking for a goal.  An injury to Henley meant we lost that defensive screen in front of the defence while he was off the pitch.  Leighwood though continued to press us back and some really good defending from both Archie and Will saw the ball at Will’s feet on the edge of the area, he played it out to Georgie but the Leighwood player reacted quicker than George did, taking the ball off him and hitting a shot from outside the area.  It went through a crowd of players and ended up in the back of the net.

Will had an excellent solo break forward, knocking the ball around the defender and picking it up the other side before hitting a good shot that the keeper done well to turn round the post.  From the resulting corner Callum put a great ball into the area that Bobbie done really well to get a good head onto, again well saved by the keeper.

A long boot from the keeper caught us out and they scored on the break.  Not what we deserved but understandable due to the fact that we were now chasing a goal.

We were given the option to put an extra player on the pitch but decided not to, we were still giving them a good game, and we’re set up to play 7 aside, I don’t think it would have helped us to play an 8th player at that stage.

The game petered out from there and we were left with the feeling that the scoreline didn’t reflect the game, we were massively proud of the boys and one or two things could have changed the game massively.  We need a bit more luck against teams as good as Leighwood and we certainly didn’t get that on the day.  The boys though really did understand and deliver most of what we asked of them proving again that their understanding of the game is way ahead of their age.

Alfie – Done a really good job standing in for Danny, came off his line quickly at times and distribution was good all the way through.

Nails – Excellent performance from Nails, really good tackles, talked superbly to team mates to organise the defence.  Was confident in possession, often driving forward out of the back line and rarely losing the ball, a very good captains performance from Nails.  DEVELOPMENT – Don’t over commit, shut down the space but then jockey, don’t let them step around you

Archie – Fantastic performance from Archie, the rate of development is really pleasing.  Always totally committed to defending and shut players down really well.  Had the game intelligence to ensure his player was kept away from the danger areas.  The only negative was the swipe at the attacker when he got past Archie, got to control that.  DEVELOPMENT – self-belief, you’re a good player and getting better all the time.  You have to start to believe in yourself

Silkz – An all action performance from Henley, played a really clever role in front of the defence adding further stability to our defending.  Also looked to break forward really well both with the ball and supporting team mates.  Won some big tackles and organised team mates well.  DEVELOPMENT – in tight areas can you spread the ball into the areas where there is more space.

William – Another excellent game from William, so quick and strong be on the ball and out of possession, had a couple of really good chances today and was unlucky not to see one of them hit the back of the net.  Played most of the second half in a more advanced position and I really liked him there.  DEVELOPMENT – positioning, the recovery tackles are great but they shouldn’t be because you’re out of position.  When defending be goalside of your attacker and start to read the runs they’re going to make.

Callum – Worked tirelessly up and down the flanks, took up some really good positions particularly in the first half and covered across a couple of times to make excellent and important last ditch tackles/interceptions.  Drove on from wide positions in the second half to try and move us up the pitch.  DEVELOPMENT – don’t always look to run straight up the line when you get the ball, mix it up sometimes play quicker passes, sometimes inside.  Consider the options.

Bobbie – A top top game from Bob, the amount of effort he put in was phenomenal, constantly pressuring the Leighwood defence and was very unlucky for that pressure not to pay off a couple of times.  Constantly involved in the game which is something you can’t always say about a striker.  DEVELOPMENT – we asked you to not play it through your legs every time and we saw that this week, mixed it up really well.  I want that to still be the focus this week.

Georgie – Particularly in the first half Georgies effort was way above the normal, intelligent enough to realise that he needed to drop off and add to the midfield when we were defending, then linking the play when we were in possession.  Tailed off in the second half but proved he’s got it in him.  DEVELOPMENT – balance when on the ball, you can hit a ball but in matches you look scared to be in possession, that causes you to rush when you’re striking the ball meaning it often falls short of its target.

Thanks for the video Nick.

Thanks for all your support as always, it’s nice to have a group of parents that appreciate and understand the difference between kids football and the adult game.  The way you are from the side lines makes it much easier for the kids to love the game.  Also your appreciation of good football from both teams is a really important lesson for the kids (and for some other parents watching!).

02/12/2018 – Leigh Ramblers Lions vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Danny, Charlie, Archie, Henley, William, Callum, Bobbie, Georgie

First things first, we lost.  We can get over that quickly because quite frankly it doesn’t matter.  We didn’t play well; the boys are 8 and 9 years old, inconsistency will happen.  But I do think we can look at what didn’t go well, Aus and I will work on things with the boys but to summarise I would say;  1) At the back good decisions were made but poor execution led to far too many chances being given away.  2) In attack, poor decisions were made, people running into defenders rather than passing the ball and shooting where an extra pass or another touch would have been a better decision.  3) The boys were not as “up for it” as they were the previous week – not sure why that is but something for everyone to think about.

It was clear very early that there was a clash of styles, the Lions team use their physicality and look to get the ball forward quickly, they play very much through the middle of the pitch, whereas we are much slower in possession, looking to knock the ball about patiently (note for me and Aus, we need to have a point to the possession). 

Quite early on, Will won the ball in our half, turned his man and played it through the middle to Silkz.  Henley played it wide to Bobbie who’d made a good run away from the centre of the pitch which created a big space in the Lions defence.  He played the ball first time back to Silkz who’d continued his run – an excellent 1-2 between them.  Silkz drove towards goal before trying to lob the keeper, he was under pressure from 2 defenders and as a result couldn’t quite get control on the finish and it went wide.  Excellent build up though and a really good demonstration of how to turn defence into attack quickly.

Georgie won a corner after a good threatening attack that the defender covered well, the first two attempts were both cut out at the near post but straight out for another corner each time.  The third, Will made an excellent run to give an option for the short corner, good imagination.  Callum elected not to use him which is something I was quite happy with as Will’s run took to defenders out of the middle to cover him.  Callums ball went over the top for those defenders and should have been attacked by one of our players, as it was it was half cleared back to Will whose cross found Bobbie, his header going just wide.

From a Lions attack, the ball was prodded through and Danny claimed it, slowing the game right back down before releasing it to Nails.  From there we pushed forward down the right through William and Bobbie, before Bob played it in field, Henley chanllenged the defender and the ball broke to Georgie, if anything he was a bit too close to the keeper who dived on the shot almost before Georgie had time to spin and get his shot away.

It was an interesting game up to this point, we know the Lions well and so shouldn’t have been surprised by anything we saw from them.  We defended well when they attacked and we looked to move the ball when we were in possession but the passes were too often going astray. And we struggled to cope with their size, power and directness

The Lions defended well and hit us on the counter attack but Archie reacted really well and won the ball back just inside our half, he took the ball and turned running with it towards the left touch-line before playing it forwards to Bobbie.  Archie continued his run into the box and got himself on the end of Bobbies cross with a header that went just wide.

From the Lions goalkick, the ball was played to Praise who went to hit it long but Bob put him under pressure instantly and won the ball just outside the area, between the two defenders Bob was completely upended and we were given a free-kick.  As you probably know my rule is that whoever wins the kick is in charge of what happens with it, usually that player will take the kick themselves.  On this occasion Bob asked Callum to take it, Callum felt that Henley would be better placed and so passed it on.  Henley was only too happy to take it.  The Lions put 4 men in the wall and the ref moved them forward to the 5 yards they’re allowed.  Henley went for goal with the kick and hit a great shot into the back of the net just under the bar.

That pretty much took us up to half time.

I had asked the boys at the start of the game what formation they wanted to go with, 1 or 2 up top and thinking back I don’t think it done us any favours, what we said for the second half was that we would mix it depending on who we had on the pitch at the time.  We spoke to all the boys about the 2 jobs they would potentially have to do, they’re a clever bunch!

One thing that was evident a number of times and there was an example right at the start of the second half is our talking.  Danny had the ball and told Nails where he should be, Nails in turn was telling Danny to take his time.  Once Nails had the ball, he had calls telling him that he had time from at least two other players.  He had team mates giving him calls about the options he had on.  This level of understanding of the game at their age is outstanding and one other reason why I’m convinced the way we’re coaching them is working.  There are things that they will need to work on particularly around decision making, but to know what options they have and to be able to communicate that to each other is brilliant.

The lions attacked and won a corner, disappointingly for coaches of both teams the ball bounced right through the middle of the box, eventually we did clear it and the ball fell to Bobbie who turned his defender well.  He had one defender in front of him and support both sides.  The defender won the battle on this occasion.

Another attack started from Danny’s goal kick, this time Nails received it, drew the defender in before playing it across to Henley.  His first time pass found Callum in right midfield, Cal turned on it and under pressure from Praise (as most of our boys were for the entire game!) knocked if forward for Bob to run onto.  Bobbie now was out wide and had a defender with him but he created the space for a cross and put a good ball in.  Archie had made another break into the box but couldn’t quite get the right connection on the ball.

From the resulting corner Henley ran in and put his volley just over the bar.

The Lions came forward when they won a good ball back in the middle of the pitch, Archie had carried it forward confidently but in turning the ball over it meant they were 3 against 1.  They worked it well to create the space for a shot but Danny was up to it and saved well at his near post putting the ball out for a corner.

In playing the ball out from the back we made a wayward pass that went straight to Praise, the Lions came forward in numbers again but this time we had men back with them, they did manage to create the space to get a snap-shot away but again Danny was equal to it, diving bravely to make his “Epic” save.

There was time for us to have one more really good attack after that,  Archie winning a good tackle deep in our own half and playing it forwards on the left to William, he ran with the ball before playing it through to Henley in the centre of the pitch just inside our attacking half.  Silkz played a first time pass out to Georgie who’d pulled wide – as usual we had options both sides with Callum taking up a good position as usual on the other side of the pitch.  Georgie took a touch and fired in a decent shot that the keeper dived to save.  Georgie had another chance from the resulting corner but opted out of the header and couldn’t quite swivel enough to get the volley on target.

And that was the end of that.

There was rightly some negativity about the performance but I have elected to draw mainly on the positives in our play.  It should be pleasing to everyone that in a game where we haven’t played well at all that we have still managed to have a huge share of the game and create a number of chances.

There are lessons to learn without a doubt but that’s always the case with this age group and with this group of kids we can be confident that they’ll continue to learn lessons quickly.

A challenge for the parents, can you try to get the kids as up for the next game as they were for the Manor game?

A quick word on the Lions, they played a really good game, they’d worked on corners in training and that paid off for them.  They used the pace and power that they have in their team to good effect and they didn’t allow us to play our football.  Well done to all the kids that played.

Danny – Lots of positives for Dan this week, there was the “epic” save, there were a number of other good stops.  He was patient in possession, talking a bit this week.  Utterly frustrated to concede, which is a good thing for a keeper.  DEVELOPMENT – lots but he’s making really good progress

Nails – Really strong defensvely, putting in some really big tackles, taking up some excellent positions to cover when players got through other players.  A couple of really outstanding headers that only an adult should make.  And the organisation, really seems to thrive on the responsibility we’re giving him as a talker.  DEVELOPMENT – development so far has been outstanding, can get back to using the ball better but we know he can do that and will continue to.

Archie – Keeps improving and looking like he’s enjoying himself on the pitch, always totally brave in the challenge, now willing to run at the opposition confidently before laying the ball off to team mates.  DEVELOPMENT – it’s impressive how much Archie has progressed in a short space of time, needs to keep listening and keep focussing, in training what we do will make him even better on the pitch.

Silkz – Really tried to drive the team forward this week, was brave in challenges against kids twice his size, good feet, took on a few shots this week as well. Another good step in his development this week.  DEVELOPMENT – I’m enjoying watching the development, keep learning the game and thinking about decisions as that will become your biggest asset.

William – Just keeps going, it was a really tough game this week and for once Will wasn’t the stongest player on the pitch he didn’t let that stop him, his effort and battling qualities really came out this week, always a willing outlet for team mates, and that is invaluable.  DEVELOPMENT – William is an excellent natural footballer but his maturity has been really impressive recently, don’t lose the willingness to listen and learn because it’s an excellent quality and you have it.

Callum – Really battled hard this week and earned the chance to play his football.  Some of the biggest tackles we’ve seen from Cal this week and against very big and strong opposition.  Got forward in support of the attack time and again and still managed to work back.  DEVELOPMENT – I was cocerned about Cal’s bottle for a couple of weeks, but got taken out this week and got up and carried on battling, when you do that you then get the opportunity to show your ability.

Bobbie – Ability and tennacity.  Tried to really drag us through the game in the attacking third, always brave and tough and really decided that kids being bigger and stronger than him was going to present a good opportunity to prove himself this week.  DEVELOPMENT – a superstar who has learned to channel his determination with the need to play proper football at the right times, getting those two things right as often as possible will make an awesome player.

Georgie – We asked for determination and effort from Georgie and there were two examples of Georgie playing up front and tracking all the way back to our penalty area to put in a challenge, then in the attacking third, shrugged off a strong challenge and unleashed a defence splitting pass.  He’s got all that!  DEVELOPMENT – Is understanding and responding to Aus and I better every week, as we get to know him and he gets to know us, he’ll keep improving.  Use your strengths as much as you can on the pitch they’re what make you stand out.

Thanks for the video Nick.

Thanks for all your support as always, it’s nice to have a group of parents that appreciate and understand the difference between kids football and the adult game.  The way you are from the side lines makes it much easier for the kids to love the game.

25/11/2018 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Southendian Manor Lions

Team: Danny, Charlie, Henley, William, Callum, Bobbie, Leandro, Adrian

Always going to be a tough game against Manor, in particular some of the personal rivalries out there, Pele coming back to face his old club was going to be well up for it.  William and Bobbie know a number of the Manor team.  And with a number of players ill in the build up.  Georgie and Archie were unable to play and Henley and Bobbie both missed training due to illness, we did though welcome Adrian to the team for the day.  A tall attacking player with bags of banter that’s hoping to join us.

As it turned out we were up for it, the boys looked ready in the warm up, touches were good, body language was good.

We had a bit of a surprise for the boys before kick off, after discussion midweek between the management team we decided to play 2 up front – Leandro and Bobbie, Nails started at the back on his own, but with the wide players; Callum and William asked to play closer to him than usual, and the big hole in the middle of the park to be filled by Henley.  The thinking was that, we backed Nails to put Pele in his pocket and limit his scoring opportunities (not an easy job but this is Nails!), we knew Manor would play very much through the middle of the pitch.  Also we felt it would give us more options in attack, we’ve created loads of chances recently but not been taking them and having two up top would reduce the burden on a single player.

The concern was that if Will and Cal didn’t drop back into good defensive positions when Manor had the ball we could get caught, and I was expecting an awful lot of the 3 midfielders to add to the attack and help give us the defensive solidity.

Tactics at u9’s football – this is just ridiculous.  I talked a lot and the kids just went out and played!!!

So the game got underway, within 20 seconds we had a triangle of possession at the back, Nails, Henley and William passing the ball to each other.  All of them wanting the ball regardless of where they were on the pitch. 25 seconds and Pele had taken the ball of Nails and had the first effort of the day which went just wide.  The important thing, Nails and the others still wanted to play at the back. 

In a similar position a couple of minutes later we saw Dan play the ball out to Will, across to Henley, back to Charlie, Will again then forward down the line to Bob.  We were now on the attack with runners towards the far post and support through the middle.

That’s how kids develop.

Our first chance came when Pele was crowded out on the edge of our box, by three defenders.  Will carried the ball out and again Bobbie was the outlet down the right.  He ran at the defender who done a good job of keeping Bob wide, Bob though played it infield to Silkz who’s first touch took him past the defender and the shot was on.  He pulled it a bit and it went just wide.  A good break though.

Manor are a good side and in the early exchanges they were trying to play their football, our two up front though prevented them from being able to play out from the back, the pressure from the two of them was instant.  That resulted quite early in Manor trying to play long balls.

We won good possession in the middle of the pitch, Leandro stabbed the ball forward into Bobbies path and he was running at the last defender.  The defender done superbly well to force Bob wide, but Bobbie played an awesome cut back across the face of goal completely taking out both the defender and the goal-keeper.  Leandro and Callum had both made good runs into the box and it was Callum at the back post that the ball fell to.  He made no mistake with a comfortable side-foot into the empty goal.

Leandro put in an excellent corner which Bobbie got a really good head to, unfortunately the ball flew past the front post, something that has been practiced so brilliant to see on the pitch.  Next week we’ll practice getting them on target!

Manor were attacking quickly when they got the chance, Pele up top and the lad playing off him were clearly dangerous players.  However nearly everytime they got into the final third our defenders were right on top of them, Nails clearing things up and the three just in front tracking back and defending superbly.  On one occasion Pele did manage to get a good shot away but Danny was on his toes and dived to his left to save smartly.  Then with ball in hand he was already looking to slow the game down, he was assisted by some good leadership from Nails calling when to slow it down.  Great work from both of them.

There was a brilliant passage of play that lead to our next opportunity, on the right side of the pitch half way line, Leandro won the battle for the ball, showed quick feet before playing a square ball to Callum.  Silkz made a run round the outside of Callum, who controlled the ball from Leo, held off the defender and played it wide for Henley’s overlap.  From there Silkz drove into the centre of the box, out muscled the defender and prodded the ball through to Bobbie who beat the goal-keeper from close range.

As the half was coming to an end we created a couple more chances, these both coming from William pushing forward a bit more on the right, the second of those found Callum free at the back post again, it was unfortunate that he couldn’t finish this time.  Another good attack though.

Half time arrived and we’d had an excellent half of football, makes the half time team talk difficult when the boys are playing like that; “keep it up lads!”

We had expected to change formation part way through the first half but didn’t, so we reiterated the position that the boys would play if we changed formation.  8 and 9 year olds taking two positions onto the pitch!

We started playing our football straight away in the second half, if anything it felt like the intensity had gone up a notch, when Manor had the ball we were all over them.  When we had the ball the boys were all making themselves available for it. 

Manor conceded a corner when Bob tried to put the ball across just inside the area.  Callum took the corner and it fell to Bobbie on the edge of the area, he took a touch then volleyed it left footed and it sneaked just inside the near post.  Reward for taking it on with his left foot.

It was feeling now like we’d played Manor into submission, they had stopped playing their football and the players were blaming each other for everything that went wrong.  If every you get a team to that stage, especially a good team you know you’ve played really well and done a fantastic job.  It gave us the opportunity to mix things up a bit.  Nails came out of defence and played on the right, he had an excellent run forward putting in a cross field pass that should have resulted in a chance.  Various players filled in at the back.

It was Leandro’s last game for us and everyone wanted him to score so he stayed up front for all of the second half, he had another really good game but didn’t quite manage to get himself in the right position to finish a chance off – was very close about 3 times though.

We kept playing our football and so it was when Manor played a ball over the top for their striker to chase down.  William reacted quickly though and got to the ball first, turning with it and running down the right with it before Henley took over.  He turned inside his player and laid it off to Adrian, with one touch he turned it on to Bobbie.  Bobbie turned on it, ran at the heart of the defence before sliding the ball to the left where Callum was steaming forward in support.  It was a bit ahead of Callum who slid to reach it and cut it back across the face of goal.  William and Adrian were both coming in at the far post and it was William who got there first to drive it home.  Queue the greatest leap of celebration we’ve seen from the stands!!!

From there the game ran out, we had been brilliant.  We’d had pace both on the ball and off it, we’d defended superbly well, we’d been willing to pass in the final third where at times we might have held it too long.  We played one of the top teams in the league off the pitch.

Really well done to the boys.   

Danny – A good solid game from Danny, slowed the ball down really well when he had possession, making sure teammates were in the right position to receive before releasing it.  Had a few saves to make and done them well, getting good hands on the ball as early as possible.  Highlight for me was that there wasn’t one occassion where I looked at Dan and he wasn’t concentrating on the game.  Really well done.  DEVELOPMENT – same again next week please.

Nails – Played at the back on his own and I asked two key things of him; 1) stop Pele from scoring  2) Organise teammates and get them into the right position to provide support.  He done both of those things so well done Nails.  Was a little erratic with the ball this week but possibly down to his focus on the two main targets.  DEVELOPMENT – Still about being positive with decisions, if you’re going to pass it do it early, if you’re going to travel with the ball be totally committed.

Silkz – Was ill leading up to the game but played really well, battled superbly in the middle against their centre mid and against Pele who dropped deep a lot to help defend.  Was asked to do an awful lot in that centre mid role today and provided good attacking impetus whenever the chance arose.  DEVELOPMENT – keep finding those opportunities to shoot in and around the edge of the box

William – Another excellent game from Will, really understood the need to play a little bit deeper in this formation than previously but still managed to get himself forward to suppport and help build the attacks, scored an awesome team goal.  Defensively was superb, constantly really strong and used the ball to move the team forward.  DEVELOPMENT – keep trying to recieve the ball in front of you to run on to

Callum – Was a good performance from Cal, the role was slightly different with 2 up top, Cal got forward really well to help the attacks and was rewarded getting on the end of a great cut back for his goal – could have had more on the day.  Worked hard to cover defensively when Manor attacked.  DEVELOPMENT – I’m going to keep bravery in there for now, it’s the biggest thing that will take you up a level.

Rich – Incredible athleticism, to leap that high from a standing start was great to see!  DEVELOPMENT – I don’t think this lad is good enough for our team.

Bobbie – Bob played really well, seemed to enjoy being one of a front two but also realised that he needed to make up the numbers in midfield.  Played a really intelligent game, lots of efffort but at the right times.  Played part of the game in midfield but really excelled up top.  Highligh was the pull back for the opening goal, selfless and perfect technique.  DEVELOPMENT – play the way your facing then spin off the defender for the return pass rather than always turning into the defender

Leandro – Last game – sad times!  I wish I’d tried this formation sooner as it suited Leo, another strong performance, really good at working back to help midfield but always a huge threat going forwards.  DEVELOPMENT – to enjoy yourself playing for your new team, keep being a superstar

Adrian – A trialist, done really well for someone that hasn’t played with the team before, was intelligent in his use of the ball and really enthusiastic.

Thanks for the video Nick.

Thanks for all your support as always, it was a great way to bounce back from last weeks disappointing score-line.  The parents had clearly done a terrific job of getting the boys ready for the game.

18/11/2018 – Leighwood Lions vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Danny, Charlie, Archie, Henley, William, Callum, Bobbie, Georgie, Leandro

A big game, there was no doubt before the game that people were feeling that we were coming up against probably the best team in the area (apart from us!).  We spoke before the game about the need to be switched on from the first whistle this week – rather than giving the opposition a head start.  We talked about the need to defend as a compact unit and to attack quickly.  Every time we’ve played Leighwood in the past we’ve had really close games with them and I expected that to be the case again.

The game got underway at it was obvious very quickly that Leighwood would put us under pressure at the back much more quickly than we usually see.  They were playing with 3 up front, their wide players pushed right on and quite a gap to their single midfielder who played close to their 2 defenders.  An interesting formation and something for Aus and I to think about.

The early exchanges were very much end to end without either team really creating a chance, Danny showed good hands to cut out a cross, at the other end we ran up blind alleys into their defensive wall a few times.  A different option in the final third might have found some good support play from our midfield.

It took a long time but finally the deadlock was broken, Leighwood had a throw in their own half and threw it long down the line, a one touch knock through the middle and their striker was quicker and stronger than we were.  He got to the ball first, held our defenders off and finished past Dan who’d come out bravely but then turned his back at the last minute.  Disappointing but we’d matched them up to that point and we always concede first (a problem Aus and I need to work to address).

Immediately after the goal we were pushing forward with more purpose and building some good pressure, we’d reacted in the right way.

It was a shame then that we were undone by another ball through the middle, this time the striker picked it up just inside our half but was too quick for our defenders to catch him before he finished beyond Dan.

From there things went downhill, Leighwoods tails were well and truly up and we were struggling to cope with their constant pressing.  We were trying to play but finding that the space we were used to was being closed down too quickly.  The rest of the half was a tough watch and at half time the boys were looking completely defeated, some of them in tears!

The most disappointing thing about that was Aus and I knew that for the first half of that period we’d played well and caused them as many problems as they caused us.  But there were things we needed to do better.

We asked the boys to be brave enough to hold their positions when we had the ball, we needed to be able to use the space to support each other.  When we were out of possession we asked the boys to drop back quicker, midfielders were told not to go chasing the ball but to get back and defend as a compact unit – this time they understood better what we meant.  We also asked them to make the passing quicker and firmer so that they didn’t have time to cut the passes out.

The final thing – give them a game, start again at 0-0 and see what they can do.

So out they went for the second half, Aus and I knew that the intensity of Leighwood would drop in the early stages and that we had to capitalize on that.

Our boys are troopers and within seconds of the restart we’d had a good attack ending with a shot that the keeper turned around the post.  We were absolutely at it, we were the ones putting the pressure on now, and we were passing it much more confidently.

Will playing at the back for the start of the second half broke confidently, Callum running down the wing and playing the ball inside to William, he beat the first defender but couldn’t get much on his shot.  It was another good sign of our growing confidence.

Leandro found the ball just outside the Leighwood area, he tried to turn his man but was fouled in doing so.  Leo got up and took the freekick himself.  The keeper saved Leo’s shot, but Bob was there to pick up the pieces and stab it home.

Soon after that we were on the attack again, William threw the ball to Bob who out-muscled his man and put the ball across the face of goal, the keeper was the first to it, but Bob was fired up by now and he reacted first to win it back.  Roles were reversed as this time Bob played the ball across the face and Leo was there to tuck the ball smartly under the keeper with his left foot.

Leighwood were still trying to hit us quickly on the counter and we had an unusual pairing at the back of Archie and William, they were doing an excellent job in the early stages of the half.  Archie totally solid and clearing up anything that came his way, William providing the platform for getting attacks started from defensive positions either running with the ball or playing it out.

We made some changes but kept up the pressure going forward and the defensive quality.  Some good work in the wide area from Georgie led to another chance, he won the ball and played it inside to Bobbie.  Bob had spotted William wide and played him in quickly, Will took a touch then finished well.

We created a number of other good chances when we moved the ball quickly, one good passing move led to Bob laying the ball on for Callum who couldn’t quite get hold of his shot.

William and Bobbie taking it in turns to create chances for each other.  Leandro got on the end of a great cross from William but was unable to get the right connection.

Georgie was in the right place a couple of times, one of them he pulled his shot just wide of the post from just outside the area. 

We had some luck but couldn’t make the most of it.  Leighwood broke on us, the lad hit and excellent shot that Danny could only watch, the luck.  It hit the post and bounced straight back into Danny’s hands.  Annoyingly Leighwood quickly won the ball back and fired their shot home.

We were up against a team where a number of players could really hit a ball and we went on to concede to a couple of absolute rockets, sadly if we give people time to get a shot away, when they can strike a ball like that it doesn’t give Danny much chance. 

We went through spells in this game where we were excellent, watching it back surprised me just how much that was the case.  But, there were also a lot of lessons we can learn.  We know we’re a good footballing team and the boys are developing at a fantastic rate, however this game showed that we need to be able to do something a little bit different when the game requires it.  If we’re being pressured man for man in our defensive areas we need to make forward passes more quickly rather than trying to play square and backwards.

One of the highlights of the second half was seeing the bravery of the boys to spread out and really move the ball quickly.  Disappointingly there were a large number of times where our attackers making one more quick pass would have created a goalscoring chance, when our wide players get forward into good supporting positions we need to use them.

Overall, despite the disappointing score-line there were so many positives.  We’ll learn our lessons but can also be so proud of this group of lads.

Onwards and upwards.

Danny – Danny came out really confidently a couple of times while it was still 0-0, distribution was a bit of a problem this week but probably some of that was because of the pressure we were being put under.  Some of the goals were outstanding strikes that Danny had no chance with.  DEVELOPMENT – distribution is so important, if there’s not a good opportunity for a quick break be happy to slow the game right down.

Nails – A good performance from Nails, got better and better as the game went on.  Was a tough game for Charlie but he stood up to the challenge and the pressure really well.  It was noticeable in the second half that when Charlies plays from the back it gives players in front of him the confidence to play their football as well, well done Nails.  DEVELOPMENT – move that ball quickly when the pressure is on and look to be available for the next ball.

Archie – One of the real highlights in the first half, Archie is showing himself to be a really solid defender and even in a game like that at times Archie got on the ball and went past players to start an attack.  He was really disappointed to be taken off but soon realised that everyone was taking a second turn as sub, got his head up and went back on and carried on putting in a solid performance.  A good addition to the squad.  DEVELOPMENT – Play a bit higher up the pitch, has a tendency to drop deeper than he needs to.

Silkz – A decent game from Silkz, played most of the game centre midfield which was really tough as at times it was very congested in there but he done well, always battles hard.  Gave the ball away cheaply a few times in the first half but kept playing his game.  DEVELOPMENT – a little bit more composure when the pressure is really on, can you do something different to keep the ball

William – An excellent performance, particularly the second half, really good attitude all day, was saying really good supportive things when on the side-line, was positive at half time and ran the opposition ragged in the second half.  On the pitch, the effort was there, working really hard at both ends of the pitch including when he had a stint in defence.  A really positive performance.  DEVELOPMENT – keep holding the right position, the whole team will learn with you that the option is to play the ball wide.

Callum – Probably Callum’s best performance of the season, tackled much better today, stood up to some strong attacks.  Covered intelligently at the back to make sure he was in a good position to clear up when the opposition broke through.  Ran hard when playing in midfield.  DEVELOPMENT – keep thinking about the bravery, it was much better this week so keep it up next week

Bobbie – Another good performance from Bob, put loads of pressure on the Leighwood defence at every opportunity in the first half, could have laid the ball off a bit more in the first half.  Second half was a really good performance, started moving the ball more quickly and got his rewards, created a number of good chances for teammates as well as getting on the end of some himself.  DEVELOPMENT – we create more chances when we play each other in, keep mixing it up.

Georgie – Good effort again from Georgie, within minutes of being on he’d tracked back going past a number of players to put a last-ditch tackle in on the striker – that’s the desire he needs.  It was a tough game for Georgie because of the speed they put pressure on the ball, but he was willing to get on the ball, wanted it off teammates and used it well when he had it, all the things we keep asking for.  DEVELOPMENT – it’s still that desire, keep working on that and the rest will be there

Leandro – Worked his socks off as always and was involved in loads of our best passing moves in the second half.  First half he supported really well going forward and got into some good positions, should have been played in a couple of times.  I was impressed with Leo’s attitude and application again in this game.  DEVELOPMENT – don’t put pressure on yourself to score, enjoy the game and let the goals come to you

Thanks for the video Nick.

Thanks for all your support as always, it was really important this week that so many parents left the game understanding the positives regardless of a negative score-line.

11/11/2018 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Junior Red Star Tigers

Team: Danny, Charlie, Archie, Henley, William, Callum, Bobbie, Georgie, Leandro

Possibly the nicest grassroots game of football ever, similar views and mutual respect between the coaches, positivity from the stands, friendly but determined kids on the pitch.  A good platform for all the players to be able to develop and enjoy playing the game.

The game got underway with out kick off and as usual we looked to get everyone an early touch by knocking the ball about, we actually gave the ball away needlessly within about 3 seconds.  That summed up our start to the game, we were lethargic and not on it at all.  Aus called it to the boys at half time, they weren’t listening or focussed before the game and they took that onto the pitch.

We’d mixed things up a bit from the start, Henley covering in goal as he’d played there again in training.  Leandro at the back – the thinking here was that we wanted to give Leo a bit more time on the ball to get his head up and make things happen.

Early on from a Red Star goalkick, they played the ball down the line, Nails for the only time in this game missed his tackle and their striker tucked the ball neatly past Henley in goal.  A decent goal from Red Star’s perspective but we were disappointed to concede it.

Georgie, starting up front after a good performance last week had an opportunity to equalise when he lifted a volley with the outside of his boot over the keeper (same technique as he used last week when he hit the bar), the ball dropped but hit the post and went back to the keeper.

The game was shaping up to be a very even one, both teams were looking to move the ball about and the Red Star striker was always a problem for us, though we were creating the better chances.  The Red Star keeper making a few decent saves.

It was time to make our first subs of the day and Danny took over from Henley in goal, we put Henley centre mid and Bob up front.  That seemed to give the team a lift, whereas up to that point we’d been quite sluggish, the changes for once had a really positive impact on the team.  We started to take a bit more control of the game.

I ought to mention some of the defending because it doesn’t get highlighted often enough; Nails on the front post for a corner, read the flight of the ball superbly and cushioned a side-foot volley out for Bob to turn on, not only clearing the danger but setting up a counter attack.  Archie, sensing the danger and cutting across to make a massive tackle on the striker, staying on his feet and bringing the ball away.  Both William and Callum tracking back from the wide areas and winning covering tackles when Red Star had worked past our defensive pairing.  Some excellent work from all the team defensively.

We created an excellent chance when Archie cut out a through ball, he turned the striker and played it forward to Will in the middle of the pitch who then laid it off first time to Henley – excellent awareness.  Henley’s first touch completely took his defender out of the game, he carried it forward before hitting a reverse ball across to Georgie just inside the box.  Unfortunately Georgie couldn’t keep his shot down and the ball went over.

From a Red Star throw, Henley won the ball and played a 1:2 with Will before giving the ball back to him in a bit more space.  Another 1:2 this time with Bob and Will was baring down on goal, he got his shot away but the keeper saved it.  Bob had followed in though and had an easy tap in when the keeper failed to hold onto the ball.  A really good team goal.

By now we were well in control, a cracking ball out from Archie set up another attack, this one ended with Henley’s left foot effort hitting the cross bar.  That’s about 30 times in 2 weeks we’ve hit the woodwork!!!

We gifted Red Star one more chance before half-time, Archie turning himself into trouble inside his own area and giving the ball away to their most dangerous player, he hit a decent shot which beat Danny but Henley had read the danger well to clear off the line.  And on we went to half time.

The second half started and was being played exclusively in the oppositions half, when they won the ball they played it forward quickly and our defenders took control to start another attack.  We were popping it about with more purpose at the start of the second half, decisions were being made more quickly and we were being positive.  The moment off the ball was excellent, with players constantly picking up good positions to receive the ball.

After some excellent work by Leandro on the left he crossed the ball, it was partially cleared by the Red Star defence but Will won it back, worked the ball wide inside the penalty area where he hit a cross/shot that bounced back off the woodwork……..again!

From there the ball broke free to a defender in the left back position, Cal closed him down quickly but didn’t really make the challenge.  He played the ball into the centre of the pitch where their main man turned Henley to create a yard of space, he had a wide player overlapping him and found him with a really good pass.  2 touches and the ball was played back across field to the wide player the other side of the pitch.  He fired in and the ball ricocheted off one of our defenders and into the back of the net.  It was the sort of team goal that I’d be purring over if we’d scored it, it was good football but there were opportunities to stop it; 1) Cal’s initial challenge, or lack of.  2) Henley should have stood up a bit more to not get turned.  3) Georgie had covered Will to track the wide runner but then stopped, if either one of them had kept going with the runner they could have put a challenge in. 4) the runner on the other side of the pitch was totally free.  Ooh ain’t I getting tough on the boys!!!!

As we lined up for the re-start one of our on pitch leaders was heard shouting, “come on lads, heads up, keep playing”  that pleases me so much as it’s another vital part of a players development.

We did that, we kept playing our football, we created more chances, we kept possession and the boys were alert to the dangers of Red Stars attacks.

Our next goal game from a throw-in inside our own half.  William received the ball from Henners, he controlled it, turned and played a ball through between two defenders for Bob to run onto.  We all know that this is where Bob is really strong, he took the ball in his stride and carried it away from the 2 defenders that were putting him under pressure.  With the keeper rushing out, Bob played a left-footed reverse pass into the far corner.  The keeper was helpless and couldn’t get anywhere near it.  A really good incisive piece of play to bring us level again.

An awesome 1:2 between Bobbie and Leandro lead to another excellent chance that the keeper saved well.

At the other end, Danny was only really called upon to make one save and he done that confidently.

Nails and Archie at the back in particular done a terrific job of keeping us very much in control of the match, taking charge everytime Red Star tried to mount an attack.  The wide midfielders worked really hard to provide cover at both ends of the pitch.  In the centre of midfield we were looking to drive forward and play really creatively.  In attack we were so lively, the movement was exceptional.

Red Star were a good team and played good football, it was an excellent match and one in which our boys gave us more of what we were asking for – passing and quick decision making.  Well done everyone.

Danny – Took a turn as sub for the first time in this game, wanted to play on pitch again.  Didn’t have much to do in this game, despite it being an even game, saw enough of the ball but only one real save of note which he made well.  Distribution was good – DEVELOPMENT – stay involved in the game even when you’re not, often when the other team break you’re not watching the game

Nails – A slow start for Nails but then an excellent game, was really dominant at the back.  I wanted to move him out of defence today but the way he played forced me to keep him there (next week though).  Spent a lot of the game organising team mates which was excellent to see.  DEVELOPMENT – keep being positive when you carry the ball out, the only time you ever get caught is when you stop moving the ball, either pass it or run with it.

Archie – Another good game in Archie’s development, he’s really understanding that when he wins the ball we want him to do more with it.  Has some great skills and is using them more and more.  Tackling is always brave and wholehearted.  DEVELOPMENT – keep thinking about when to do the skills and when to play really positively

Silks – A really important game for the team, came out of goal when the team was fairly sluggish and lifted them well.  When we went 2-1 down was calling to the team to get their heads up.  Good leadership.  DEVELOPMENT – can you be more positive in possession, I always bang on about looking after the ball but sometimes take a risk to really make something happen.

William – Another good performance for Will, worked really hard on the right to provide the right defensive cover as well as giving us options going forward.  Needs to keep thinking about holding the wide area where he can cause the most damage, had a great run at the defence in the second half.  DEVELOPMENT – look for the ball to run onto rather than being stationary when you recieve the ball then starting to move.

Callum – Fantastic effort from Callum, worked the wide area really well and was energetic in both directions.  Some really strong running with the ball to get past the defender.  Won an outstanding header in training which will do the world of good.  DEVELOPMENT – be braver, in all aspects of the game; choice of which foot to use, the bouncing ball and in physical challenges.

Bobbie – At the start of the season Bob only wanted to play centre midfield the last couple of games he’s really come alive up front and not in the middle.  Always causes so many problems for the opposition and constantly puts the defenders under pressure.  Two really well taken goals, one with the left!  DEVELOPMENT – don’t always try to play the ball through your legs and turn onto it, mix things up, consider the options.

Georgie – I asked Georgie to carry on from last week’s performance, he didn’t manage to produce the same, was very sluggish and slow to react.  When he wanted it he always won the ball, just didn’t want it enough today.  DEVELOPMENT – desire, I don’t care what you do when you get the ball I just want to see you on the ball more.

Leandro – We started Leo at the back then played him wide right before he got a run up front and he done all three jobs superbly, was really disciplined at the back, thought about the game and considered his options in the deeper position.  Second half was more attacking and he created problems, was really unlucky not to score.  DEVELOPMENT – don’t be desperate to score, that’s not what you should judge your performance on, goals will come as long as the performances are good.

Thanks for the video Nick.

Thanks for all your support as always.

03/11/2018 – Ecko Whitecaps Lions vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Danny, Henley, Charlie, William, Callum, Bobbie, Leandro, Archie, Georgie

Wow what a game that was, I’m going to start with the summary this week.

The boys were outstanding, they stood up to the challenge in front of them, they battled, they showed effort in every aspect of the game, they played some outstanding football and they showed immense self-control.  As coaches we are hugely proud of the boys and the way they are developing as footballers, as a team and as a group of individuals.  (I’m nearly in tears)

Almost directly from Whitecaps’ kick off we won possession and put together a passage of play that included 4 players making one touch passes and resulted in us winning a corner from a really good attack.  A marker had been put down!

Annoyingly, Whitecaps hit us on the break and won a corner of their own.  Bob won the header in the box but it ran out to an attacker outside the box who hit it first time and it ricochet in past Dan who had no chance.   Frustrating but as a team we don’t let our heads go down easily and at the re-start I heard Will shouting for the lads to keep playing their football.

It was all us, we were passing the ball confidently and every time Whitecaps got the ball we very quickly turned it over and started another period of pressure.  We might have been a goal down but we were totally in control.

We’d created chances; a wild swing in the area where a bit of control would have seen the keeper tested, a couple of efforts from outside the box that weren’t quite struck properly and a cross that the defender managed to cut out just in time.  Things were good.

Whitecaps when they got the ball were playing very direct but our defence were really strong and out midfield were working really hard to cover the runners.  From one of their direct attacks Whitecaps won another corner, this time we did manage to win the ball and play it out.  Callum was first to the ball and ran it out from the edge of our area into a wide position, he played it to Leo who cut inside with it, Callum continued his overlap but wasn’t used, instead Leo played the ball infield to Bob who drove at the heart of the Whitecaps defence.  The keeper was out quickly and Bob calmly lifted the ball over him and into the net.  A fantastic finish to a really good team goal.

We were making changes but it wasn’t having a negative impact on the way we were playing, those coming on always slotted in well and showed the right ability and desire – sometimes making subs is hard because it upsets the flow of the game, this week it didn’t seem to be.

Some more highlight from the first half; Archie racing across to cover Nails after the attacker got free, he not only won the ball but stayed on his feet and showed the confidence to play and excellent pass out to Will which started another attack, William we alone this time, the pitch opening up for him, unfortunately he got under his shot a bit and it went over.

Then from a corner, Leandro put an excellent ball in, Henley had made his run from the edge of the box and hit a volley from just behind him which the keeper done well to save.

A very simple pass, weighted perfectly for Leandro to run onto, that passage of play led to an excellent ball across the face of goal and then eventually to a shot from Georgie that the keeper saved.

Half time came and Whitecaps made a game changing substitution when they swapped the ref for their coach!

Anyway, enough about that, we started the half the way we’d played most of the first with an excellent end-to-end move.  Danny to Archie, Archie played it square to Henners.  All this time further up the pitch the movement was excellent.  Callum had made a run forward down the line and Bob started moving into the space he’d vacated, Henley played a good long pass down the line that Bob touched on to Callum.  Cal cut inside and laid it off, the defender cut it out but Bob and Leandro were quickly on him to win it back for us.  Bob ran with the ball before playing it just inside to Leandro who shot from the edge of the area.  A goal from that would have been incredible but the ball flew just wide.

Archie made a most fantastic sliding tackle right on the edge of our area to prevent a good opportunity.

Some good battling and passing movement between Georgie, Leandro and Bob saw Georgie send a looping volley just onto the top of the bar.  Some of the build up play particularly transitioning defence into attack was outstanding, Henley was carrying the ball confidently out of the back to link up with the midfield.

Then one of the strangest passages of play I’ve ever seen on a football pitch occurred.  Leo was almost body slammed to the floor, everyone stopped, I was on the pitch checking on Leo, the ref stopped and came over to us, the only person that didn’t stop was the Whitecaps forward who went on to score.  The goal counted!

Going forward Georgie was having his most influential game yet, battling for every ball and showing excellent skill and composure, the midfield were overlapping and linking at every opportunity.  We again created loads of chances but missed an awful lot of them.

Whitecaps won a corner from a long ball forward, we dealt with the corner and Charlie played a good ball forward to Leandro, he was faced with two defenders and they managed to dispose him, the came forward again and had a good shoot from the left of the goal towards the far corner.  Danny made an excellent diving save but was really unlucky that an attacker was first to the ball and tucked away the chance.

A good attack resulted in a corner for us when the defender cleared the ball away from Leo who was ready to pull the trigger.  Leo put in a good ball from the corner, Charlie took a knock challenging at the front post and the ball dropped to Henley in the middle of the box.  His first effort came back off the defender but he reacted well to tuck home the follow up.

From a Whitecaps goal kick, they played it long and Leandro picked up the ball, he ran at the defence, in a challenge from the defender the ball broke to Bobbie.  He went around two defenders showing great ability and a killer turn of pace, he moved into the area and unleashed a vicious shot that the keeper had no chance with.  A great solo goal.

And that was pretty much that.  Another excellent performance by a group of lads that play football well beyond their years.

Danny – Made an outstanding flying save and was very unlucky that the attacker got to the rebound before any defenders. Generally played well, was more involved this week which helped a lot, seemed to enjoy the game this week which was really important.  DEVELOPMENT – keep making good decisions – do you hold the ball or distribute it quickly, do you come out quickly or stay on your line, can you help your defenders by giving them information???

Silks – Another good, all action performance for Henley.  Loves his role in the team and is totally confident in his team mates, made some really good attacking passes and battled well to win possession back, was unfortunate with his volley from the keeper.  DEVELOPMENT – Through balls.  Plays some lovely football but can you now start seeing and playing those cutting, defence splitting through balls

William – A great performance, worked really hard up and down making a couple of really important last man challenges at the back.  Going forward, looked more confident to run with the ball and shoot, but importantly didn’t do that all the time – mixed it up well.  Even won some important headers.  DEVELOPMENT – when we don’t have the ball try to make sure you’re always goal side of the player you’re marking.

Callum – One of Cullum’s best games so far this season, worked really hard and battled well.  Positioning was the best it’s been and he should have been played in my teammates inside the box a few times.  DEVELOPMENT – keep trying to improve with that left foot control, it will open the game up so much if you can control it with both feet.

Bobbie – Two excellent finishes for his goals, lots of really good stuff from Bob but doesn’t look fit at the moment.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t put the work in or that he wasn’t key to lots of our good play but he’s not looking quite as explosive at the moment, might be a result of the problems he’s had with his leg.  DEVELOPMENT – mix things up a bit more, at the moment every time the ball comes to him he’s looking to play it through his legs and turn onto it, defenders are blocking that 9 times out of 10

Archie – Played really well in this one, some important tackles and blocks, played much closer to the action this week which meant his reading of the game was tested, he passed that test really well.  We’re seeing a much more confident Archie at the moment and he’s learning how to play the ball out from the back.  I like it!  DEVELOPMENT – when playing close to the goal be positive with the ball, how can we play it safely to a teammate, or carried forward quickly and securely

Leandro – A really good display, all action, played some excellent one, twos particularly with Henley – they seem to have a really good understanding.  Was very unlucky not to score, getting in  some really good positions.  DEVELOPMENT – start making better decisions at the crucial moment; if you pass does it give someone else in the team a better chance to score?

Charlie “Nails” – A very solid performance from Charlie, covered at the back superbly, always willing to receive a pass which for a defender at this age is unusual, played some excellent balls out of the back and looked confident.  DEVELOPMENT – swung a boot a few too many times this week, let see that confidence and control all the way through

Georgie – Best game yet for Georgie, was slow to get started which is often the case when he doesn’t get the warm up, but once he did get going he showed good and improving desire to get on the ball, he battled really well against their defenders, showed good strength a number of times and as always has excellent feet.  Had a couple of good efforts but also played teammates in a number of times.  A good all-round performance from Georgie.  DEVELOPMENT – keep showing that desire, and do it for the entire game, chances and goals will come with that

Thank you all for your support as always.  Thanks for the video and the pictures.

28/10/2018 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Ecko Whitecaps Lions

Team: Danny, Henley, Charlie, William, Callum, Bobbie, Leandro, Archie, Georgie

A beautiful day for a game of football, freezing cold and lashing rain.  Welcome to winter!

We had a full squad available this week and started with Bob and Leandro in the wide positions with Georgie through the middle.  The thinking was that we would get a lot of attack and over-lap from the two wide players while knowing that they would have the energy to win the ball back when we were out of possession.  Georgie we know has the ability to hold the ball up and bring other players into the game – it would give our attacks a different feel but something we wanted to try.

As the game got underway, we were getting what we’d expected, we had loads of attacking intent almost playing with a front 3, with Henley directing play from the middle of the park.  Charlie and Archie who started at the back were taking it in turns to push forward and support the attack – excellent communication between the two to ensure we always had someone back.  We had a couple of good attacks and lots of possession before suddenly falling a goal behind.  An individual mistake right in the heart of our defence, followed by a lack of support to prevent the shot.  Not what we’d deserved at all to this point, but it’s becoming customary to give the opposition a headstart!

Some really good defending by first Nails to nick the ball off the attacker, run wide with it then play a good forward ball down the line to Bob, was soon followed by his partner at the back, Archie who read the play well to intercept an attempted through ball.  He done well to spot Georgie in space and played the ball through to him, Georgie was 1 on 1 with the keeper and tried to slot it through his legs but the keeper made a really good save.

Following our first substitutions, Will played a ball through for Bob to run onto, he beat the defender and was 1 on 1, a fantastic little dink over the keeper……hit the post!!!  He followed it up though and was being supported by Will who’d got himself into the box, Bob crossed it in but Will was just unable to find the finishing touch.  Another golden chance gone begging.

Henley scored our first goal, and it was superb football in the build up – sadly there’s no video evidence of this one so I can’t tell you who was involved in the build up.  But it was an excellent passing move, started and finished by Henley, the finish being a volley as he ran into the box.

Henley won the ball wide on the left just inside our half, played it forwards to Will who opened his legs and ran at the Whitecaps defence, he skinned the defender before lifting his shot over the keeper, post again!  This time though the ball bounced back into his path and Will made no mistake with this chance.

Then we conceded again.  We’d had all the possession but for a change we didn’t defend properly, one of their three really big lads got the ball in the middle of the park, Archie shut him down quickly but didn’t win the ball, Will put in a half challenge but failed to win the ball, Henley was there but didn’t put in a challenge, and Nails stood off.  Any other day I’d put money on any one of those players taking the ball in that situation, it wasn’t to be and the striker played the ball square for his teammate to shoot, it somehow squirmed past Danny in goal.

Another chance came after some excellent tracking back from Leandro, he won the ball and played it forward.  Will spun and shot but the keeper saved really well, the ball breaking back to Leo.  His volley smashed against the bar.

And that was pretty much the end of the 1st half, we’d been much the better team but again failed to make our supremacy count.  I felt like we weren’t quite on it, things we were trying weren’t quite coming off, but if we played the same in the second half we’d be okay.

We did criticise the effort of some of the boys, that had been the main thing we’d asked for in this game.

So the second half kicked off,  Whitecaps had clearly been told at half time that their physically big and strong players should look to get the ball forward as quickly as possible.  Frustratingly that caused us problems whereas usually we’d eat that up.

So it was when a long punt forward, it was going wide but bounced of Dan’s head as he went to see it out of play.  A poor corner managed to roll through everyone on both teams till a Whitecaps player made a run at the back of the box and fired home unopposed.  It was a good finish but there’s a lot we can do to prevent both the ball getting through to him and also sticking with our man so that they’re under pressure when they shoot.

One of our best moves of the game; the Whitecaps keeper pinged the ball over the half-way line to their right midfielder (as he did constantly), he attempted to cross it but Henley intercepted.  Georgie turned the ball forward to Bob who played a first time pass into the path of Henley, he drove towards the centre of the Whitecaps area before laying it wide to Callum.  Callum whipped a first time ball into the box to Henley who’d continued his run, his left foot volley hit the bar.  The woodwork was not our friend today!

Whitecaps came forward again, this time Henley and William between them won the ball, Will drove forward out of defence and played a ball forward for Georgie to run onto.  He carried the ball forward into the box and slotted home past the on-rushing keeper.

Whitecaps scored from the kick-off – not quite the England DNA but they all count.  Something for us to be aware of next week.

There followed an own goal, another long ball forward but this time we had three players busting a gut to get back and defend, it was one of those defenders that unfortunately knocked the ball into their own net.  Can’t criticise that level of effort though and we remain proud of the three of them for getting there.

Another excellent passing move from us resulted in Bob turning his man and driving at the heart of the Whitecaps defence, he played a little ball inside where Leandro and Henley had made excellent runs.  Once again the finish wasn’t quite there.

And that was that.

Overall, watching the game back I was surprised how dominant we’d been, at the time (and I still feel this) I didn’t feel we played well enough, too many of our players weren’t quite on their game.  When we passed and moved we carved them open but we didn’t do that often enough.  If our finishing had been better we would have scored a lot more, but that means our build up play was good enough to create loads of chances.

Defensively we stood off a bit too much and actually took the wrong risks at the back, I’m a big fan of us being confident on the ball in all areas of the pitch but we have to do that and be positive, not just do it for the sake of it.

We play them again next week, roll on Sunday.  It’s really important that we (coaches and parents) don’t get too caught up in results, if the boys keep enjoying their football they’ll keep progressing at the rate they have so far, and that is phenomenal.

Danny – Danny really struggled to cope with the conditions, it’s really hard for a goalkeeper when it’s cold but he has to keep moving and keep watching the game – shouting will help stay involved and feel warmer.  Has been asking to play on pitch recently which we just can’t do.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it

Silks – Worked really hard to make things happen, ran at people confidently and looked to keep the ball when in possession.  Defended intelligently most of the time.  Needs to learn when not to keep hold of the ball, got cuaght in possession too close to our goal a couple of times.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it

William – A game of two halves, at half time I accused Will of being lazy and not working hard defensively, going forward he’d been doing fine.  Second half was all action and discipline from William, holding his position much better than I had expected and understanding that he could still drive forward at times.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it

Callum – Can’t fault his effort out there, worked really hard to support at both ends of the pitch, was involved in some good passing moves and got on the end of a few attacks really well. Needs to be braver, both physically and in wanting the ball. DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it.

Bobbie – An unusually quiet game from Bob, struggled to get things going either for himslef or the team this week.  That said he was involved in every good attack we had, made one break through the middle and dinked his chance over the keeper, was very unlucky to see it come out from the post.  Got very frustrated towards the end when teammates lost the ball or failed to get a decent shot away.  Kept doing the right things though.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it.

Archie – Still improving week on week.  I asked Archie to get himself more involved this week by staying closer to the game and he done that.  Got caught in possession a couple of times but that shows that he’s growing in confidence which he needed.  Keep doing that, we’ll tell you when it’s time to reign it in.  Determined in the tackle and tried to use the ball more.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play because we love it

Leandro – Another tireless performance from Leandro, worked really hard without his game really clicking.  Always offers us a good outlet to build attacks and will chase and battle for everything.  Needs to slow his game down a little bit to get the control back in his play.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it

Charlie “Nails” – Back after missing a week and looked bang up for it, started really well but then made some really strange decisions turning into the opposition rather than playing the ball (or running with it), made some good passes out from the back but not his usual self.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it

Georgie – What can we say about Georgie, brilliant and frustrating!  There was one moment when the ball came to him in the attacking third, controlled it superbly, held off the defender and played a reverse pass of absolute quality.  He’s got that we just now need him to show that more and more throughout the game. Took his goal really well.  DEVELOPMENT – keep enjoying the game, we play it because we love it

Thank you all for your support as always.

21/10/2018 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Hullbridge Lions

Team: Danny, Henley, William, Callum, Bobbie, Leandro, Archie

A game this week against a Hullbridge side that seemed to be putting in some excellent performances so far this season, we were expecting another tough game (as they all should be).

Charlie was away this weekend and Georgie unavailable on the day meaning we were down to the bare-bones with Henley still struggling with his arm and Bob unable to train because of his persistent leg problems.

Anyway the game got underway with Callum starting at the back with Henley and Archie on the left of midfield.  As usual we quickly took a hold of the game but not for the first time a few of the players touch was letting them down a little bit at the start of the game.  Our willingness to keep trying to do the right thing is always pleasing though and will see us through when things don’t quite click.

Very early on in this game, Henley intercepted an attempted through ball and found Bobbie toward the right wing.  Bob rolled a lovely ball into the area where we had both Will and Leo coming in, Leandro took control of the situation but didn’t quite connect properly and the keeper managed to pull of a decent save.  From there Hullbridge had a quick break that we defended pretty well to see the ball roll back through to Danny.  A mix up between him and Henley in the area led to Hullbridge taking a very easy lead.  The real shame is that Danny’s distribution has been much better the last couple of weeks and although I love the confidence of Henley to accept the ball in any area of the pitch he probably needed to give Danny a bit more time to settle rather than calling from it there.  A mistake that came about from trying to do the right things!

From there we kept the pressure on Hullbridge, creating shooting opportunities, we had one slight problem in attack in the early stages – Leo was reluctant to play the ball the way he was facing and held onto it a bit to long, turning into trouble a number of times, and both Bobbie and Will were getting far too close to him and shutting down any space that may have been available to turn into.

At this stage of the game, Bob was terrifying the Hullbridge defence every time he got the ball but had been unable (or unwilling) to find the killer pass to really create an opportunity for a team mate.

Up to this point we had been totally dominant yet we found ourselves a goal down, Hullbridge had defended well and tried to break on us a couple of times but Danny and the defence dealt with anything that came their way.  It was even more frustrating then when just after another good passage of play for us Hullbridge hit us on the break, an excellent ball down the line and a cut back across the face of goal that was tapped home by their striker.  A good goal for them but we had bodies that got back well but just couldn’t manage to get that decisive touch to keep the ball out.

Fortunately from the restart Henley drove forward through the middle of the pitch, played a 1-2 with Leo before feeding the ball out to William.  From the wide position he beat his man and cut inside before bringing the ball back onto his right foot and shooting from just outside the area.

As the clock ran down on the first half we had a corner, from which the keeper saved Bob’s spinning shot and quickly booted it upfield.  William was completely out numbered but done an excellent defensive job before playing a left footed ball down the line to Bob on the half-way line.  Bob turned the defender and played a lovely through-ball into the path of Leandro who’d made another excellent run, this time he got his reward taking the ball past the keeper and firing home.

At half time we asked the boys to do two things in the second half, we wanted them to make their decisions quicker, we felt we’d been too slow and predictable in possession.  We also asked them to work harder out of possession – wide players needed to offer an outlet in the wide areas and as a team we needed to get closer to Hullbridge when they had the ball.

We changed a few positions to give us a bit more emphasis going forward, we moved Leandro to left midfield knowing that from there he would pick up the ball, drive at the defence and cut inside.  Bob was to lead the line and Henley moved forward into centre mid.  We knew Archie would be disciplined at the back and Callum would look to support forward without neglecting his defensive duties.

Very quickly the boys showed what their intentions were, they carved Hullbridge up a couple of times right at the start of the half playing some excellent incisive football.  It didn’t take long for our improved football to result in a goal but wasn’t quite how I would have expected us to score.

Hullbridge played the ball forward and Archie was quick to challenge, putting his foot through the ball before the attacker could get it under control.  The ball looped up and almost bounced straight in, instead it hit the frame of the goal and came back out.  Bob had followed up and had an easy tap in.

Another long hopeful ball forward (that’s two in this game which doesn’t please me) was chased down by Bobbie, the keeper didn’t have the confidence/bravery to pick it up under pressure and Bob took it off him for another easy finish.  Really good persistence from Bob.

Shortly after Leo took a throw-in to Bob, he made no mistake in turning his defender and racing for the line before putting in a left footed cross, the cross didn’t beat the keeper at his near post but again Bob wasn’t prepared to give it up.  He tackled the keeper and was put under good pressure by 2 of the Hullbridge defenders, he had support though and laid the ball back for the onrushing Henley to step onto.  His strike was emphatic and smashed into the top corner from the edge of the box – lay off to supporting midfielders, exactly what we worked on in training!

Hullbridge were still managing to attack us and it shouldn’t be over-looked the defence if work that was put in during the second half.  We were almost playing a 2-1-3 formation with Henley supporting both ways and Archie and Callum keeping things really strong at the back, then ensuring we kept the ball to transition into attack.

Another corner for us, this one taken by Leandro, an excellent ball into the box but well won by the defender.  Will won the ball back from him and played it back to Leo who turned his man superbly before crossing left footed into the box.  Bob was there with a diving header.  What a goal.  What a team!

By now we were really flying, Dan made a really good save to end a rare Hullbridge attack, and we were knocking the ball about confidently.  From our goal kick, Dan played it forward to Callum who played a good long pass along the deck to Bob.  His first touch wasn’t quite on the money but he kept hold of the ball before feeding William, who was overlapping looking for just that lay-off.  Will drove powerfully into the box, leaving the defender in his wake and finished low past the keeper.

That was it for the key action, another really impressive performance from the boys.  What I will say about the lads is that they are delivering on specific things that we’re asking of them at the moment, sometimes it will look like they’re making bad decisions but more often that not they’re looking for the option we’ve asked them to look for (Leo shooting from further out this week being a good example, Will passing rather than running with the ball being another).  We’ll ask them to do these things before then reigning them back in and making them realise that what they were doing originally is one option, and now they have another option to consider.  Then everything will click for them and we’ll win the FA Cup!

Danny – Kept up the recent improvement, and is becoming more and more a part of the group, is understanding more and more his role in the team and how what he does can impact the rest of the players in the team.  Came out really well to deny the oposition in the first half, really brave, really quick decision.  Started making his own decisions on when it was right to release the ball quickly and when it was right to slow play down – that’s exactly what we need from him.  He’s really responding well to the training and coaching at the moment.  DEVELOPMENT – to get out and call for the ball to feet when his defenders need him to, join in the passing when its the right time.

Silks – Struggled with his arm again this week, still had a good game.  I need to mix his positions about again but is doing a really good job in defence or centre midfield.  Read the game really well to stop attacks and carried the ball forward confidently, always offerring himself for a pass when team mates have the ball and quick to look for a pass. DEVELOPMENT – vary your runs when you go forward, sometimes hang back on the edge of the area, sometimes go for the near post and sometimes far, at the moment it often the same run into the middle of the area at one pace.

William – Started slowly this week with the ball getting caught under his feet a few times early on, had the confidence and strength of character hough to quickly get over that and done it through upping his work rate which was really pleasing.  Second half in particular was strong, worked really hard to cover defensively while not losing the natural desire to get forward.  Even offered to play at the back which was great to hear.  I want to see Will starting a bit wider at times to run with the ball but he’ll get back to that, he’s looking for passes which is great.  DEVELOPMENT – stay on your feet if you can sometimes you need to go to ground or you get knocked to the ground, when that happens bounce straight back up as quickly as possible, you’re no good to us when you’re on the floor.

Callum – Played most of the game at the back which is not his preferred position but played it really well, was much more solid this week breaking up attacks well and playing good balls forward to start attacks.  In the second half realised that there was a bit more freedom to push on down the right from defence and done that really well, driving forward and creating from deep.  DEVELOPMENT – see the benefit of playing at the back sometimes, this was probably Cals best performance of the season so far, being at the back provides so many opportunities to be on the ball.

Bobbie – A really good game from Bob, wasn’t quite moving freely in the warm up but seemed to forget any problems with his leg as soon as the first whistle went.  Terrified the opposition every time he got the ball with his strength and desire and his ability to run wtih the ball.  In the first half particulalry picked out some excellent passes to team mates – got a bit frustrated when the attack broke down after he’d given the ball but needs to keep making the right decisions.  Second half we put him up front for a while to mix things up.  HIs brute force and persistence lead to 3 goals and his all round play was really good.  DEVELOPMENT – don’t stop doing the right thing even when you feel like a team mate might lose the ball, trust will make you a better player and make us a better team.

Archie – A really interesting one for Archie this week, is very happy for the game to be going on wihtout being involved but then when called upon does a good job.  Likes to show his skills which is good to see, if he got more involved in the game he could do that more often.  Played at the back in the second half and done a very good job of snuffing out any attacks, but again could have done that higher up the pitch to still be involved in the rest of our play – we need to attack and defend as a team.  DEVELOPMENT – stay close to the action, want to be involved, we’re different to your previous team we want everyone to be involved in all aspects of the game.

Leandro – Another good performance from Leandro, I hope everyone else sees and appreciates the work Leo does up front, even if the goals don’t come as often as he deserves.  Works tirelessly, great first touch and holds the ball up well.  Was brave to take more shots this week from a bit further out, at this stage in his development that’s not a bad thing.  DEVELOPMENT – make decisions a little bit quicker, if you know what your options are and what you want to do before the ball gets to you your first touch can start that next phase of play (we’ll do some training on this)

Thank you all for your support as always.

14/10/2018 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Ecko Whitecaps Pumas

Team: Danny, Charlie, Henley, William, Callum, Bobbie, Leandro, Georgie

An opportunity this week to put the record straight after our worst performance against Ecko Pumas only a couple of weeks ago.  We spoke before the game about what a good team they are and the need for us to play properly and intelligently whilst keeping the effort there in order to show how good we can be.  The warm-up gave us a few concerns, the boys sounded up for the challenge yet their touch seemed off when we started warming up.  By the time kick off came round they were ready though.

One of my favourite things about our team is the way they react to kick off.  From Whitecaps kick off we quickly won the ball and immediately passed it around, through the defensive players and then forwards, everyone being given an early touch of the ball and everyone showing the confidence to be on the ball.

As expected it shaped up to be a tough game, Whitecaps have good players throughout their team with a couple of stand out players, and they know their jobs well.  It makes for a very entertaining game.  We started with Leandro up front and his work-rate was phenomenal, giving their defenders no time on the ball and constantly providing an outlet for our defence and midfield.  Early in the game we work the ball out from the back and Bobbie put an excellent ball through the middle for Leandro to run onto, Leo turned back away from the defender before laying off a good ball which Bob just missed the target with.

We were having to defend and done so well, Henley and Charlie showing ridiculous confidence and maturity to pass their way out of trouble time and again, then setting us on the attack.  At times we were being over run through the middle as Whitecaps pushed players through the middle of the pitch when they attacked.  We were dealing with it though and Dan only had one save to make which he made really well.

From one of Whitecaps attacks, Callum won the ball near the corner flag, well supported by Bob who had made it his mission to cover every blade of grass despite his knee hurting!  Callum, played it forward along the line to Bob, who fed Leo with another good through ball.  Leo showed great skill and strength to hold off the defender getting into an excellent shooting position inside the box, the ball was on his left but Leo tried to shift his body position to shoot with his right, that just about gave the keeper time to get across and make the save.

On another occasion, Will had played Leo in.  At the end of last weeks game we talked about the fact that the boys can shoot from a little bit further out, Leo opted to do that on this occasion (might have had a better option to his right but we’re happy for him to take the shot on from there), he didn’t quite get enough on it and the keeper again saved.  He did spill it though so it was frustrating not to have anyone following up.

And so the first half came to an end with both teams still searching for a breakthrough goal.  We’d had the better chances but it was a good game, we were playing better than last time the two teams met but needed to take our chances.

At half time we talked about the need for the wide midfielders to stay wide and for us to look to build our attacks from there where there was mores pace – the middle of the park had become very congested.  We also reiterated the need to support the defence, as Aus keeps reminding me I ask for an awful lot of the midfield (everyone one really but particularly the midfield) to get up and down the pitch supporting both ends.  That’s the beauty of rolling subs though!

Second half was somewhat impacted by a big drunken thumb over the lense!!!!

In the second half it became more apparent that Whitecaps were having more of the ball but we were creating better chances, as a result Danny was seeing more of it but that tended to be a result of the ball rolling through to him rather than shots that needed saving.  It’s worth mentioning his distribution though, much slower than usual giving team mates time to get into really good positions before Dan gave really good balls out either from his feet or his hands.  Really nice to see because that is where lots of our attacks start.

At the other end we were causing lots of problems still, still just struggling to find that finishing touch.

That was until the ball came out from our defence into the centre of the pitch where Will rolled his man superbly before playing a ball through the middle for Bob to run onto.  Bob had the strength and pace necessary to hold of the defender and get away from him before toe-poking it past the on-rushing keeper – we all love that toe of Bob’s.

Almost immediately after that Bob was at it again, this time winning the ball in midfield and seeing the keeper off his line, Bob tried to lob the keeper and it was a great effort that unfortunately crashed back off the bar.

That was the end of the major incidents for this game, there was plenty more good moments from both teams but none of them resulted in much.

Overall there was really impressive defending, modern defending that does look like defending; reading the play, intercepting and passing or dribbling out from the back.  Further forwards there was some really good penetrating play but not quite the fluidity going forward that we like to see.  The game was quite congested at times and we struggled to get the ball wide often enough.  A pleasing performance though and an exciting and enjoyable game to watch.

How much better are kids these days than when we played?????

Danny – A massive improvement this week (in just a week!), Dan seemed more focussed and concentrated this week, came out and used his hands well.  The most pleasing thing for me was Danny’s control of the game by having the ball in hand, not rushing to get rid of it and choosing really good options when giving the ball.  Well done!  DEVELOPMENT – use your hands, as a goalkeeper everything should go forwards through the hands, once the ball is in your hands it’s safe and we can build again (I want to keep the focus on this for a bit long – but keep doing what you done this week).

Silks – Amazes me at times with the confidence to step in front of the attacker and use the ball like a flair player would.  Struggled with his arm but that didn’t stop his performance, along with Nails and Bob won all of the long kicks that the keeper punted forward. Good runs and good passing.  DEVELOPMENT – Striking the ball cleanly, has had opportunities to shoot from distance, willing to take it on but not connecting cleanly with the ball.

Nails – A more traditional type of defender in as much as Nails really likes a tackle, but then he gets the ball at his feet and this week used it better than previously this season, picking out some outstanding longer passes as well as the short ones.  Along with Silks and Bob, won all the headers in the middle of the pitch.  Going to be missed next week.  DEVELOPMENT – You make good early decisions but if the play changes before you’ve done it can you change your mind?

William – Coming off the back of a fantastic 3v3 regional win, Wil was buzzing for the game this week.  Played his favoured wide midfield role and his work-rate is improving weekly which is really pleasing.  Created some excellent chances with some good through balls.  Worked really well particularly in the second half to help in defence.  Got frustrated with he ball not being played out wide quickly enough and ended up coming infield to join the attacks.  Had one great strike blocked by Bobbies head!  DEVELOPMENT – I feel like we’ve opened Will’s eyes to the options that are available to him, now I’d like to see him taking the braver option a little bit more – running with the ball and getting a shot away (I’m well aware that we’re confusing him with mixed messages but only by doing both extremes will he start to really mix his decisions up during a game).

Callum – Worked really hard this week, had the same problem as Will with he ball not coming out early enough for him despite being in good positions, took the option to keep holding the wide position and being in the right place – that was pleasing for me.  Defensively got through loads of work particularly in the second half.  DEVELOPMENT – running with the ball, as a right footer on the left I’d like to see you cut inside the defender sometimes – I know it closes the game up but sometimes that will open things for you rather than the team.

Bobbie – Another stunning week for Bob, played most of the game in centre midfield although also done a job for us up front and at the back.  Worked tirelessly up and down the pitch and is starting to show himself as a leader on the pitch as well, not just with actions but with words.  Took his goal superbly and hit the bar with a great effort, set Leo up with some good through balls as well.  Could have spread the ball wide quicker a number of times when players were in better positions but an all round impressive display, running the ball, passing, tackling and finishing.  DEVELOPMENT – pick out those times when giving an early ball wide will spread the play and create more space through the middle.

Georgie – A really good promising first half from Georgie, started on the left where he’d put himself in his team and done a good job, tracked back well when defending even though it’s not an aspect of the game he likes.  As always can really spot a pass, doesn’t always get there but that’s the next step, seeing it is more important and impressive.  Second half Georgie went missing up front when we needed him in centre mid.  When he was there he battled really well which is why it was so noticeable when he stayed forward.  Development – All about effort for Georgie, great on the ball when he has time but needs that desire as well, showed it in stages this week we now need consistency.

Leandro – A really good game for Leo, was really tough for him this week.  We asked him to work hard putting the defence under pressure and making runs off the ball when we had possession, he done both of those things superbly well (I’m still knackered from watching his runs off the ball, there were lots of times he didn’t get the ball but was always available).  There were times when a lay-off was on but Leo took the shot, no problem with that as last week we talked about shooting from further out, so well done on that.  Development – remember that giving the ball to a teammate will often lead to another chance for you, or a scoring chance for the team – but shoot when there’s an opportunity! (Keeping this one as he could still move the ball a bit quicker)

Jacko – brilliant reffing, thanks

Thanks for all your support as always.

07/10/2018 – Leigh Ramblers Leopards vs Red Star Lions

Team: Danny, Charlie, Henley, Archie, William, Callum, Bobbie, Leandro, Georgie

A challenge writing the match report this week with no Match of the Day highlights to use.

Training this week was outstanding and ended with a game against our lions team, with only 6 players for that the boys were outstanding.  Positive going into what was likely to be a very tough game.

A beautiful day for football and we had a full squad back and available for this game.

We started with the 6 that had been at training – Danny, Charlie and Henley, Callum, Bobbie and William with Archie making up the 7 (a reward for last weeks performance).  From the very first minute we looked like we were up for this game, confidently knocking the ball around, plenty of touches for every player.  It didn’t take long for us to create our first good opportunity of the half, after a good amount of possession, Henley drove through the middle before passing the ball wide to Callum who played a nice ball through to William, he layed it off with his first touch for Bobbie to run on to.  Bob’s shot went just wide but it was a clear indication of our intentions.

One of the things we talked about last week was the need for players to play their positions and keep the pitch big, the wide players in particular were asked to put in a huge amount of work getting up and down the pitch.  They done that superbly this week, all of the players that were playing in those positions.

As the half wore on we created a large number of good chances but didn’t quite manage to find the net.  Our defence was really quick to break up any attack and confidently playing the ball out from the back, Dan in goal was showing more confidence than last week and called well to join in the play as well as making a couple of good saves.  On a number of occasions our defenders pushed forward to support the attack.  Despite the chances we created I felt the football didn’t quite click (I could be wrong have talked to some of you after the game!), there were passes that just went astray, or dribbles where we didn’t quite beat our man.  Remembering that we were playing one of the leagues stronger teams that’s perhaps not surprising.

We’d changed players and positions in the first half but came in at the break happy and confident.  At half time we asked the boys to improve 2 areas of their game; 1)  to move the ball a little bit quicker and more deliberately.  2) to make sure we didn’t get caught at the back, Red Star when they attacked were playing everything through the middle and at times we weren’t getting over run.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first, we created a couple of good early chances but couldn’t quite put them away.  As this half wore on some of our players started looking a little bit more desperate for the goal, we started holding onto the ball a bit longer and inevitably getting caught in possession.  With that Red Star started coming into the game a bit more, they were winning the ball higher up the pitch and taking more shots – generally from a fair distance from goal but some good shots from them that Dan dealt with.

We showed a number of times that when we kept the pitch big and passed the ball we were capable of opening Red Star up, it was one of those attacks that led to an excellent goal.  An interception in defence, and some quick passes led to the ball being fed out wide to Georgie, he showed good strength in the right hand corner to get to the ball first and put in a good cross.  The keeper palmed it out and it fell to Leandro, he held off a defender and laid the ball off for Callum to run onto.  From outside the left corner of the box Callum struck the ball first time and lashed it into the far top corner.  A sweet strike topping off a sweet team goal.

Another really good save from Dan and some excellent, strong defending saw the game finish with both teams happy that they’d contributed to another impressive under 9’s match.

A highlight for Aus and I this week was the way the boys individually listened to specific requests from them and clearly thought about trying to deliver them on the pitch.

Danny – A few really good saves from Dan and lots more confidence to join in the play and be available for passes back from the defenders.  DEVELOPMENT – use your hands, as a goalkeeper everything should go forwards through the hands, once the ball is in your hands it’s safe and we can build again (keeping this from last week).

Silks – Building an excellent partnership with Nails, always confident on the ball and started some good attacks from defensive positions.  Developing his ability to talk to teammates during the game which is an excellent skill at this age.  DEVELOPMENT – Striking the ball cleanly, has had opportunities to shoot from distance, willing to take it on but not connecting cleanly with the ball.

Nails – The other half of the defensive partnership and another player that is developing a really impressive ability to talk throughout the match, organising and encouraging teammates – impressive stuff.  Was much better in possession this week spraying some excellent passes and always willing to receive the ball.  DEVELOPMENT – Give me the same next week, I can’t think of anything specific this week!!!

Archie – Played a few different roles this week and done well in each, is learning that the way we play means every player on the pitch is allowed, encouraged and expected to show their ability and to make decisions.  It’s really hard coming into a new team and being asked to play a different way but Archie is learning that quickly.  DEVELOPMENT – picking the times to show skills off and when to make earlier passes – both are good to do (this will be an ongoing thing for Archie this season).

William – Started up front for us and was excited to do so, asked to go back into midfield pretty quickly though.  William played his usual game in both positions, really strong in possession and running with the ball but most impressive this week was the defensive work William got through.  DEVELOPMENT – Decisions are getting better already but I want the focus to stay with that, it’s good that you know there are options, keep thinking about that.

Callum – a much better game this week, held his position and defended as well as he attacked, linking the two superbly.  Has started really demanding the ball from teammates which is good to see (hear) as he’s always in good positions and willing to receive the ball.  The goal was a highlight, two things we’ve asked of Callum – calling for the ball and running onto it to strike it cleanly – Excellent.  DEVELOPMENT – needed to be stronger in the tackle, use the whole body in challenges to win the ball or keep the ball (keeping this one alive as well).

Bobbie – after an outstanding training session Bob was well up for this game and happy to be starting in midfield.  Moved the ball much more quickly this week, determined when defending and refuses to let anyone get the better of him.  Created and got on the end of some really good chances, which on another day will go in.  DEVELOPMENT – finishing, think a little bit more about placing the ball when shooting, goalkeepers are making it more difficult to score this year so we need to be a bit more careful of placing the ball.

Leandro – Good to have Leo back this week as I like what he brings to the team, determined and aggressive.  Constantly gave us a good option going forward, taking up some intelligent positions that create chances for himself and others.  An excellent lay-off for Callums goal!  Development – remember that giving the ball to a teammate will often lead to another chance for you, or a scoring chance for the team (but shoot when there’s an opportunity!!!).

Georgie – Keeps progressing, Georgie came on in centre midfield and instantly won a really good challenged and played and outstanding pass.  That set the standard for Georgie on the day, strong in the challenge and in possession.  Got in good positions to get chances to score.  Development – keep showing that desire to have the ball, to win it back or to receive a pass from a teammate.

Thanks for all your support as always, the cheer that accompanied the goal was excellent, here’s to next week.

30/09/2018 – Ecko Whitecaps Pumas vs Leigh Ramblers Leopards

Team: Danny, Charlie, Henley, Archie, William, Callum, Bobbie

No subs this week with Leandro and Georgie both unavailable.

The preparation for this game wasn’t the best, training on Saturday had been the worst session we’ve ever had, a lack of concentration, effort and focus.  On top of that we seemed to arrive at a pitch that hadn’t been booked, there was no pitch available for us, no ref and no proper goals.  Anyway it’s kids football and they don’t care about that sort of thing so we marked out a pitch, got a ref and away we went.

The game started pretty well, we were looking to pass the ball around and keep possession, as always the area of the pitch that we do that in doesn’t matter, the boys confident in themselves and each other to want the ball in all areas of the pitch.  Whitecaps by comparison were looking to get the ball forward quickly and ensure that possession resulted in a shot at goal.  Contrasting styles made for an interesting watch.

There were some big positives and some glaring negatives on the day.  Some of the football we played was as good as it ever is, triangles, through balls and individual skill.  We showed it all.  Unfortunately at the other end of the spectrum we had players not playing their position and not doing the job that they needed to do in that position, we also had players at key times switching off completely.

The goals we conceded were soft, very soft.

The second half saw Bob up front becoming more isolated as our players visibly tired, Whitecaps played well and put us under pressure at times and in the second half we were too willing to stand off them rather than closing down quickly as we had done in the first half and as we usually do.

Our first goal came following a fantastic interchange of passing right from defence, Charlie across the defensive line to Henley who played it wide to Callum, he beat his man before playing it into midfield to Archie.  He played an exquisite first time pass out wide to bring Bob into the attack, Bob held the ball up before playing a cross-field pass to William.  From there William ran towards the corner of the area and fired in a low shot, Bob ran through, couldn’t quite make contact but the ball beat the keeper at his near post.

We conceded a goal that came about from a mistake at the back, Henley and Charlie trying to play it out from the back as they nearly always do, showing the trust to bring Danny into it.  A wry pass and the striker was in for an easy finish.  It’s really important at this age that the boys learn from that.  Keep playing that football, keep trusting each other but lets work on making sure the passes are good – that’s a lesson for all over the pitch but it’s highlighted when it results in a goal.  We have no problem with conceding goals like that, we can and will work on passing the ball properly and the kids will keep improving in that area.  What’s more difficult to learn is having the bravery and trust to make the right decisions – the boys done that.

William turned provider for Bob, reading where the opposition pass was going and reacting much quicker than the intended recipient.  He intercepted the ball and threaded a pass through for Bob to run onto in-front of goal.  Bob in that position rarely misses and even an excellent last ditch tackle couldn’t prevent him from finishing.

We got a little luck for our 3rd goal, some good play from Archie in the right back position, saw him play the ball forward to Will who cut inside.  Will tried to release Bob but the defender cut the ball out, luckily for us Archie had continued his run and was in the right position to block the intended clearance, playing a great through-ball to Bob with his stomach!!! The ball ran into Bob’s path and he finished really well to beat the keeper.

I want to mention one other goal that we conceded as it sums up our defending on the day and not something we usually see from this group.  It was a corner to Whitecaps on our left side, out players were all dragged across meaning we were light in the middle and Whitecaps had a man over at the back of the area.  The ball predictably fizzed across the area, the striker got a touch which just slowed the ball down allowing the player at the back to step forward and drill the ball home.  A cracking finish, but highlighted one of our biggest defensive problems on the day.

Watching the video back we were again the better team, we passed the ball and looked to play football.  The boys are 8 and 9 so they will have weeks when things don’t quite click.  I was wrong to be quite so disappointed after the game.  Our lads talk on the pitch better than most teenagers!  Whitecaps have got a decent team.  If the boys want to be as good as they can be they need to train well.

Overall, they’re streets ahead of where kids their age should be, lets keep that going!

Danny – Some good distribution and a couple of really nice saves.  Needs to be aware of where he’s standing in relation to the goal and be willing to join in the play with the defenders.  DEVELOPMENT – use your hands, as a goalkeeper everything should go forwards through the hands, once the ball is in your hands it’s safe and we can build again.

Silks – A decent game, read the game amazingly well to intercept and carry the ball forward, some excellent passing and always available for teammates.  DEVELOPMENT – caught up field a couple of times, just be aware of other players positions.

Nails – Really solid defensively, intercepts, tackles and heads superbly.  Developing a really good understanding with Henley and talking a lot between the two.  Carried the ball forward confidently.  DEVELOPMENT – Passing, make it really deliberate and give it a bit more welly, no more swinging boots.

Archie – a new position for Archie and he seemed to really enjoy it, we saw much more of his ability on the ball, running with the ball.  These are all things that I want Archie to have the confidence to do even when playing at the back.  Really good game but ran out of energy towards the end (to be expected with no subs) DEVELOPMENT – picking the times to show skills off and when to make earlier passes – both are good to do.

William – offers us so much with his ability to run with the ball, always powerful on the ball and was looking for the pass far more today, it’s okay to open your legs and run, deciding when it’s right and when it’s not is the big issue.  Struggled to hold his position at times today, moving into centre midfield too often when closed up the space and meant our wide outlet wasn’t available. Showed some excellent desire to get back and defend.  DEVELOPMENT – listen to the coaches during the game, we’ll try not to make decisions for you but will talk to you about positioning during the game.

Callum – some really strong running with the ball, beating his man countless times, look up and used teammates well throughout the game.  This week didn’t hold the position, stayed wide really well but seemed determined to play an attacking role, usually a strength of Callum’s.  Was rightly frustrated not to be played in by teammates when breaking forward a number of times.  DEVELOPMENT – needed to be stronger in the tackle, use the whole body in challenges to win the ball or keep the ball.

Bobbie – has tonnes of ability and as always puts everything into the game constantly giving us a threatening outlet to turn defence into attack.  This week he held onto the ball too long a number of times where recently he’s been playing teammates in to create chances.  Always dangerous in front of goal.  DEVELOPMENT – keep using teammates, all of them, trust, trust, trust.  It’s put you a step above others recently.

Thanks for all your support as always, thanks for the video and here’s to next week.

26th November 2017 – Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards vs Leighwood Lions
John-Paul, Callum, Thomas, Henley, Charlie “Pele”, Bobby, Charlie “Nails”,
The Game
The game started with Pele in goal for us and both teams looking up for it from the off, right from the first whistle both teams were passing the ball confidently and creating chances. Offensively Henley up front was picking up some good positions and turned the defender a few times leading to good chances. Defensively we were looking strong, there was no doubt Leighwood could create chances but our desire and ability to win the ball back and turn defence into attack was clear from the early exchanges.
Eventually the breakthrough came and it was us that scored, some excellent defending from Nails, bringing the ball out when he had no right to, before the ball found it’s way to JP, a pass forward to Henley who took a good first tough and held off the defender before leaving the ball to Bobby who’d made a good run forward in support. Bob struck it well and the ball went over the keeper and into the back of the net.
The first half finished in much the same way, both teams playing some really good football, creating good chances and both teams defending strongly. We conceded a couple of soft goals, but it was a really good first half.

Second half, Pele came out on pitch and Bob-star who’d had a really good first half took the gloves. We started slowly in the second half, Leighwood came out quickly but our decisions were slow, our movement off the ball was slow and our decision making was slow. Bob in goal was our best player in the early stages of the second half! The half progressed in the same pattern, Leighwood were having good possession, they didn’t manage to create too many clear cut chances. For our part we did manage to create a few chances but they came about by individual determination rather than good football.
Pele had a really good chance when he knocked the ball past the defender then went round to collect it the other side, through on goal and his finish went just wide.
Just before the end Pele got his reward for his excellent attitude and determination when he fought his way through and finished well.

I thought all of the boys done really well against a very good side, it wasn’t a vintage performance but it showed how dogged and determined they can be, they showed good maturity in the way they played. Despite there being 7 goals watching back there didn’t seem to be a great deal that happened during the game – some top performances.
Well done.

Proud of the boys today, I thought on the whole we played really well, the score line was harsh in terms of numbers but not the result. We desperately need to find a keeper though as it’s not fair on our players having to keep going in goal – as a team we miss them too much on pitch.
First half I thought we were excellent, we moved the ball quickly and created a number of chances as a result. Defensively I asked the team not to worry so much about following their player but for the defensive three to get back into a defensive shape – zonal rather than man for man. The instructions involved the wide players quickly getting back to create a defensive wall and playing close to Charlie in the middle. The thinking was that if Leighwood scored from a long way out or from a silly angel then so be it, but I didn’t want them creating chances right in front of goal by passing through the middle. Although there was some confusion at times I thought the boys done a good job of carrying out the instruction in the main. The front player was being asked to be the one that chased and harried Leighwood when they had the ball in deep areas.
In the second half we lost our shape completely for a while, we can’t work out why that happened, players that are usually very good at playing positions were not where they should be. I did get some insight from Henley in the evening when he said two things of interest; 1) I told him to play right midfield, usually I just say on the right. A lesson for me and Aus. 2) he was being told to do different things from the supporters, he was already slightly unsure so that seemed to completely baffle him for a period. I don’t know if those 2 things caused the entire lack of shape but they definitely contributed – please let Aus and I do the coaching, it’s not fair on the boys if they’re getting different instructions from parents and coaches and learning to make their own decisions is vitally important especially while they’re young.
We did get our shape back though and continued to play some good stuff, we were a bit more open defensively but equally we were doing some good stuff going forward.
A good performance and some good lessons learnt in this game.

Red & White – As we knew Leighwood were a good side, every player is very good, they have a settled keeper (and a good one) and a large squad. It will be interesting to see how they cope with losing so many players to Academies next season – though I’m sure they will cope. Their strongest players are centre half, striker and wide left (that’s over half the team) but all of them can play. They play good football but very much focussed on creating and taking chances, they don’t just play for the sake of it. Not afraid to go long when it’s the right thing to do but they do it deliberately. Management seem good but very driven to deliver results making some over the top appeals but that’s competitive football so no real problem with that.

I’m glad Oscar didn’t score from that free kick!

The players
Charlie Pele – Goalkeeper, Striker
PoTW – First half in goal and done a good job, came out well a few times and made some important saves. Second half played up front, was a really interesting performance because the start of the second half was excellent, putting good pressure on the Leighwood defence, being available for teammates and linking the play really well. Then there was a dip which resulted in me bringing you off for a couple of minutes but went back on and took on board what we said superbly< grabbed a goal and the Player of the Week trophy. It’s important to know that not only on one performance but for the way you’ve slotted into the team and effort and willingness to learn at training that’s well deserved. Development – Play with your head up, when you get the ball know that if you give it and move you’ll get it back in a better position, don’t just try to bulldoze through defences.

Bobby – Right midfield, Goalkeeper;
Training wasn’t good this week but on Sunday it was obvious for the minute he arrived that Bob was going to be good. Played the first half mainly on the Right and was excellent, worked really hard to get forward and support but without neglecting his defensive duties, he’s got the physical attributes to do that really well for us. Played a really important team role and was rewarded with a goal as well. Second half in goal and again done really well there, pulled off a few excellent saves, that job is done for another few weeks! Development – as previous weeks, keep thinking about the team and make good decisions.

Callum – Left midfield, Right midfield;
Callum got off to a flier today, was playing really well and I think I got it wrong making him our first substitution (I didn’t want to take anyone off at that stage because we’d started so well but I have to get other players on), went back on and continued where he left off, then came off again (not my call this time!) and struggled to get back to the same level after that. That said Callum still played really well, more than anyone Callum understands what I’m asking for when I change the shape of the team and played the role I asked of him. Still managed to drive forward a number of times to help create chances. Development – bouncing balls again.

Charlie “Nails” – Centre;
Outstanding, the first half was the best defensive display I’ve seen at this age, totally commanding, carried the ball forward when the opportunity was there to do so. Excellent positioning (particularly in the first half), was unlucky to have his little mate Henners get in his way when he strode forward confidently on one occasion. Development – believe in yourself, I’d like to see you sometimes when you stride forward finish it with an effort on goal, and if a teammate gets in your way, tell them! Brilliant performance though.

Thomas – Right midfield, Left midfield;
A really difficult day for Thomas, didn’t get as much game time as he would have liked and as we would like him to get, this really is the top end of grassroots football at this age and his lack of match experience made it difficult. When he did play he done well, paid attention to the job we asked him to do, was dogged and determined off the ball and made some really important interceptions. Development – keep practicing quick passing, get the ball out of your feet and get a strong pass away (find a wall).

John-Paul – Left midfield;
Mr consistent this season, really strong in the tackle and probably done his best work defensively this week, always reacts to danger really quickly and is quick enough and strong enough to really get us out of trouble. On the ball, made some really good decisions that helped to create some good attacking opportunities. Got a little bit lost with the change in the way we were defending but plays his best when he’s playing naturally anyway. Development – still turning your back in challenges, you’re so strong you don’t need to.

Henley – Striker, Centre;
A good game again today, wasn’t thrilled to be played up front but done the job really well, worked really hard to put the Leighwood defence under pressure when they had the ball and picked up some good positions to be a good outlet for teammates. Did manage to get in Nails’ way twice when he was carrying the ball forward. Some good work resulting in Bob’s goal and unlucky not to score himself. 2nd half changed position a bit and for the first time this season looked really assured when playing at the back. Part of the confusion in the second half with dodgy positioning (sorry for that). Development – have the confidence to carry the ball forward when running through on goal, shot from too far out a couple of times when you didn’t need to.

Well done boys, thanks to all those that support the team – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!

19th November 2017 – Benfleet Villa vs Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards
Callum, Thomas, Henley, Charlie “Pele”, Bobby, John-Paul
The Game
Things that make me proud…….right at the start of the game we had possession and I heard a call of “switch it JP”, shortly after that, JP played a ball back to Callum, a simple pass but so much better an option than turning into trouble and that pass was played with a call of “time Cal”. Small things but things that show me how well these boys are learning the game. Reading the game, giving good options to each other and talking – Aus and I are lucky to have this group.
Early doors JP picked the ball up from Thomas in goal, skipped past his man and played the ball down the line to Bob. Bob showed good awareness to take a touch then swing the ball across field into the path of Henley who drove into the box before finishing low into the far corner. Simple stuff, leading to an excellent team goal.
We were applying pressure straight from the kick off and quickly forced a corner, Callum had taken up a good position just outside the box and sure enough the ball broke to him, side foot into the far corner, the keeper got a hand on it but there was too much on it from Cal.
We were cruising and playing well, Benfleet broke through a couple of times but weren’t really causing us problems. Pele was now playing at the back and he cut out a potential through ball, holding off the attacker well. He elected to pass the ball back to Thomas which was absolutely the right thing to do, unfortunately Thomas stumbled and the ball ended up in our net. It’s really important that the boys know conceding a goal when you’re doing the right thing is okay, we can work on the execution but they have to keep taking the right options.
The first half continued in similar fashion, we looked like when we wanted to we could open them up and were creating good chances, Benfleet though were a threat on the break, Callum, JP and Henley were providing good support to Pele at the back.
We scored again, this time some strong running from Bob before he released it through to JP, he had the opportunity to take it on himself but elected to play it first time back to Bob – so nearly coming of for what would have been a great one-two, the defender got in the way though but his block fell to Pele who fired home from outside the area, again finding that far corner.
Benfleet continued to catch us on the break, its a difficult lesson to realise that defence is just as important when you’re on top in a game but the boys do need to get better at that side of it (maybe we were missing Nails!). However, on one particular break the striker was through on goal and Thomas was really quickly off his line and diving at the strikers feet forcing him to put the ball wide – excellent goalkeeping.
By now the ref had resorted to giving us nothing and so it was when first Henley was blatantly booted the Pele was hacked, that didn’t do us any harm though as from the same passage of play, JP supported and rolled the ball to Pele who’d got up quickly, he fired home. Great desire from our lads.
After a good tackle and clearance from one of the Benfleet team, Henley took a quick throw to Pele, he turned on it and put a lovely ball inside to Henley who’d made a good run after taking the throw. Pele was pretty crudely taken out and the ref unbelieveably blew for the foul, by that time though Henley was through one on one with the keeper and lobbed the ball over him superbly. Play was brought back for the freekick but both the ref and the Benfleet coach seemed to count the goal so I’ll follow suit and give Sliks that one.
There was some really good defending, particularly at this stage from JP who from the wide area always seemed to be there with Henley at the back when Benfleet did break.
Another goal for Bob, this time he won the ball back himselft before turning the defender inside out and chipping past the keeper.
Henley’s turn again, firstly he was on the line blocking a shot and injuring Callum in the process – Cal had to go off as a result and JP took the gloves for the final 5 minutes. He knocked the ball short to Henners who played it out from the back, right on our box to Pele, looking for a one two, Pele though ran with the ball before playing it inside the last defender for Henley to run onto, the keeper was out quickly though and booted the ball – straight into Henley’s stomach only to bounce back into the goal, credit for the effort to keep running though.
Another excellent crossfield pass from Pele saw Bob in acres of space right in front of goal, the outcome was inevitable! That goal confimed my feeling that we could create chances everytime we played football, too often though we had players trying to go on their own and find a way through 3 defenders.
A very good convincing win though and nice for the boys to show off a bit.

We played some excellent football in this game, passing and moving, some excellent one-twos and some brillinat first time balls to really open Benfleet ups. We also defended really well, wide players covering for the ddefender when he went forward, some excellent tracking back when we needed it. An interesting and in my mind accurate comment from one of the spectators after the game, was that it’s a shame we always rely on the same players to do the tracking back, it stops them from being as adventurous as they might to be (and are capable of being).
The boys are still very young to be playing the way they are and with the understanding they’re showing so we should all be massivly proud of each one of them. It’s obvious they’re going to have different stregths and weaknesses and it’s totally natural that they see and play the game differently. That team ethic and defensive side is though something we need to keep working on, I really like to have players that can play anywhere on the pitch but at the moment I feel that I’m playing to the individual’s strenghts rather than mixing them about as much as I’d like, probably because it’s such a tough division this year but I will be looking to mix things up to help players develop different aspects of their game (maybe not next week!).
Well done today, the boys continue to impress and it’s brilliant when they deliver what we’ve worked on or talked about.

Benfleet Villa
White & Blue – probably the weakest team in the division, did have some good players but they looked terrified to really play which was sad.
Sad when a ref and the coaches between them have such a negative impact on a game but that’s the game and they’re all volunteers so not much we can do about that.

The players
PotW – John-Paul – Left midfield
A cracking game from JP this week, strong all the way through. Some great skill on the ball at times but coupled with really good awareness, beat the player then get your head up. Defensively totally committed, worked so hard when Villa broke forward and was generally the player making the challenge to prevent a goal scoring chance. Even done really well when in goal for the last five minutes. Really well done today. Development – Don’t turn your back in challenges, you need to be aware of where the ball is and your big enough and strong enough to not need to put your back into it.
Bobby – Striker, eft midfield;
Much better this week, created a couple of excellent chances for teammates playing early balls inside from wide positions. Particularly in the first half Bob played with his head up this week we keep asking him to do, on top of that he still get’s himself in the right place to get on the end of chances or to create them for himself. Played a fair bit of the game from a wide position and done well there, has the legs and desire to be important at both ends of the pitch. Development – Keep working on the team play, it was brilliant at times today.

Callum – Centre, Goal keeper;
A really good first half from Cal, scored a good goal that will hopefully remind him how well he can strike the ball when he relaxes. As always his position was superb, covering teammates at the back and using his energy to get in some really good attacking positions. Went in goal for the second half and will be glad it’s over for another few weeks. Used his feet well but reluctant to use his hands. Development – got your goal but I want you to keep that up, a nice strong sidefoot into the corner of the goal.

Charlie “Pele” – Striker, Right midfield;
Some brilliant and some not so brilliant. Created about 4 goal scoring chances with really good defence splitting passes, ran strongly with the ball and always talks really well. I got the impression felt that he could bulldoze his way through the entire Villa team and tried to do that on too many occasions (he did get through at times but that won’t help his development). Also needs to be more aware of the need to do the defensive side of the game, winning the ball back when we don’t have it is as important as creating when we do have it – always in the right areas though! Development – show the desire to win the ball back when we don’t have it – trust your teammates but make sure you’re helping them.

Henley – Right midfield, Centre;
A good game this week, at times looked like the real Henley was back. Had to play a lot of the game at the back as without Nails and with Callum in goal we lacked the discipline to play that role without him there. Got on the scoresheet though, picked good moments to get forward but was aware of the danger Benfleet would cause on the break. Development – think about body positioning in the tackle, a lot of players are stronger so you need to get your body in the right shape (I’ll help with that).

Thomas – Goal keeper, Right midfield;
First half in goal and had a little wobble at the start but then done really well, coming out bravely and distribution was much better this week. Second half on pitch, again a big improvement, some really good tackling and looked to pass the ball well when you had the chance. Development – be confident in yourself, you’re coming on well so don’t let teammates take the ball of you.

Well done boys, thanks to all those that support the team.
Jon thanks for the video as always it’s much appreciated and makes the write up so much easier

Come on you Ramblers!

12th November 2017 – Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards vs Southendian Manor Lions
Callum, Thomas, Henley, Charlie “Pele”, Bobby, Charlie “Nails”,
The Game
Both teams started the game confidently, passing the ball well and looking to use the whole pitch to create space, there was some good football on show in the early exchanges and both teams created chances, for us Pele hit a good shot after a nice interchange of passes that resulted in a good save from their keeper. We were expecting Southedian to hit long balls at us and so asked Henley and Calllum in the wide areas to tuck in a play close to Nails when we didn’t have the ball. Southendian surprised us from the start though by passing the ball around well. That did though mean that our wide players had a bit more space and freedom to support Pele up front. Quite early on we were putting them under really good pressure and forced them to play it back to their keeper, Henley put him under pressure which caused a rushed kick out and Pele was on the defender quickly to keep the pressure up. It worked as a ricochet between their keeper, defender and Pele fell to Henley in the middle of the box and he smashed into an empty net. For once we’d not only started well but scored the first goal of the game!
We kept the momentum up and it wasn’t long before we scored again. The Southendian keeper opting to kick it long but that just fell to Nails – as it seemed to most of the day! he took the ball down with a really good first touch before playing it through for Pele to run on to. Pele held the defender off and drove the ball into the corner past the keeper with an excellent strike.
By now thier keeper was drop-kicking everytime he got the ball, Nails was a rock at the back and won probably 80% of those kicks, sometimes bringing the ball down and sometimes heading it back the way it had come. We were creating chance after chance and dominating play, just didn’t quite manage to take our chances.
Southendian by the end of the first half were looking beaten, highlighted by the fact that they were not only playing it long from the keeper every time he got the ball (despite having some really good players) but the keeper, having the best kick in the team was sent forward to take a couple of freekicks in our half.
John-Paul dealt confidently with anything Southendian did manage to create, most of those chances came from us being a bit slow in possession.
For the second half Henley was back in goal with JP out on the pitch.
As is becoming a custom, we allowed the opposition to start much better than us, we weren’t passing the ball at all at the start of the second half. Henley had already made 2 pretty good saves when they scored their first goal. Some good feet by their attacker before finishing with a good shot. They scored again soon after when we didn’t deal with a hopeful throw forward, allowing the ball to bounce through to their striker who finished really well.
Finally the game settled into more of a rythm, Southendian created chances when they decided to play football, Henley saving one with his face and Callum making a goal line block. But we had woken up again and were passing the ball and creating chances of our own, Pele putting a really good header just wide from a corner amongst them.
We scored again when Bobby recieved a throw in, turned, beat his man running across the edge of the box and tucked the ball home with a good left foot strike.
We could have had another when Callum burst forward through the middle, he done a good job of holding off the defender and a teammate that also wanted the ball (!) before unfortunately pulling his shot just wide.
Another good performance apart from the first 5 minutes of the second half, against an interesting team who looked better when they tried to pass the ball around.

Some really good play today by the boys in what proved to be a difficult game. The tactics of Southendian causing us to play very narrow at times, when we spread out we looked excellent with some good passing moves getting us into really good positions. Unfortunately towards the end the trust went from the team a little bit again, which was frustrating but gives us something to work on!
Whilst we saw the same good football that we always play we also saw some really good solid defending and covering of teammates which was excellent. There are a few areas that we need to work on that have become evident in the last few weeks;
1) turning our back in challenges, it looks like if a challenge is tough we turn our back to the other player. It’s not everyone that does this but it is becoming more noticeable.
2) Trust – I expect to see that from the start to the finish of a game and not just when the game is easy or before we get towards the end of the game.
3) Finishing – so far this season we’ve been the better team in most games but we’ve missed an massive number of chances, it’s good to be creating them but as a team we need to do something other than just boot the ball when we get a sight on goal.

Southendian Manor
(yellow & black) – started the game really well and playing some good football, clearly had some good players and they understood how to spread the play. Sadly they soon started hitting long balls, the keeper either drop kicking or just punting it forward. They are a good side though and caused us problems at times but defensively we can certainly create plenty of chances against them.

The players
PotW – Henley – Left midfield, Goal Keeper
A strong first half from Henley this week, makes really intelligent runs and passes to create opportunities, needs to be a bit stronger at times but continued to get back to himself this week, it would be nice if more of his runs off the ball were rewarded by a pass from teammates. Took the gloves in the second half and made some really good saves, distribution was good. Development – Be stronger to make sure you stay in the area you need to be on the pitch when running with the ball.

Bobby – Centre, Right midfield;
Bob played in a couple of less familiar positions this week, primarily to get him back to trusting and working with his teammates. His attitude was spot on and he took the challenge as we hoped he would. He’s a very good player and very strong in the challenge so we know that he has no problem winning tackles and being first to the numerous long balls that Southendian threw at us. He scored a very good goal, and to take the ball past the defender was absolutely the right option. The first half for Bob was really strong and he played with his head up when in possession, towards the end that changed a bit as we see with a lot of the kids towards the end they decide that they should try to score themselves so it was with Bob but he was much better this week. Well done. Development – to keep being a team player and trusting those around you.

Callum – Left midfield, Right midfield;
Possibly Callum’s quietest game of the season so far (heavy birthday weekend?), he probably found himself covering more than he would ideally like to at the back, he very naturally fills in there when he needs to and that was key a couple of times with one particularly good goal-line block. Drove forward well at times often with the ball at his feet, sometimes passing and moving off to get into a better position. Was unlucky not to score the winner late on when he burst through midfield and shot just wide. Development – dealing with a bouncing ball, not just heading but moving onto it and taking control of it.

Charlie “Nails” – Centre, right midfield;
This game was made for Nails, Southendian were throwing balls forward that Nails was eating up, either winning headers or bringing the ball under control and passing forward. Played some of the game on the right and helped push us forward with some good runs but his best work was undoubtedly his defending, takes up good positions and looks to play the forward into good areas when he can. Another solid game. Development – found himself on the edge of the box a number of times recently and not quite connected with the shots, practice coming onto a ball that’s rolling back to you, keep over it and strike cleanly through the middle of the ball.

Charlie “Pele” – Striker;
What a first half! Loads and loads of pressure on the Southend defence, showing for the ball when we were in possession and played some lovely balls through to supporting teammates. Was bang up for the game today and it showed. I’m not sure if towards the end Charlie was so desperate for the win that he just wanted to take the responsibility himself or if he was so knackered that he stopped seeing the options that were available. A very good game though, excellent touch on the ball all the way through. Development – be aware of the job your teammates need you to do. Attacking, find those positions so that they can get the ball to you. Defending, we have to defend from the front (as you did in the first half), if teammates have come forward to help you attack you can help to cover them defensively at times.

John-Paul – Goal Keeper, Left midfield;
Was in goal for the first half and done a really good job, made some good saves and set-up some good attacks with good distribution. Played most of the second half on the left and worked really hard, not as effective as recent weeks but still done a very good job, works really hard when we don’t have possession and generally makes good decisions when he has the ball. Load of energy and determination from JP this week as we have come to expect from him. Development – has started turning his back in tackles (a few of the boys have), stand up and face the challenge that way you’re in the right position to take advantage while the opponent is laying on the floor wondering what happened.

Well done boys, thanks to all those that support the team – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!

5th November 2017 – Mornington Lions vs Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards
Callum, Thomas, John-Paul, Henley, Charlie “Pele”, Bobby, Charlie “Nails”,
The Game
Another really good performance from the boys this week. The conditions were horrendous and the opposition a decent team. Again we looked really good in possession, every single player is capable of going past a player, every single player is capable of picking a really good pass. Most pleasingly the boys play as a team, so much so that it’s really noticeable when poor decisions are made by any of the team. Defensively we have players with really big hearts and strong determination, we defended from the front really well, putting Mornington under pressure high up the pitch. Unlike almost every other team we come up against we play the ball out from defence, at times running it out and at others passing out but either way it looks bloody impressive.
So the game started and as usual we were generous in giving Mornington a 2 goal head start, they scored really early when it looked like we hadn’t even started, there was some poor defending before the ball bounced in off our defender. Very unfortunate but as a team we don’t let that get to us. Some very good individual skill from one of the Mornington players saw them score again.
It’s at this stage where the management need to earn their money – fortunately for us the boys don’t need much managing and they turned the game around on their own.
We opened our account with an excellent volley by Bob following Henley’s corner, a really good goal following a good breakaway by us. The rest of the half was played out in an absolute downpour but both teams continued to contribute to a really good half of football. Pele in goal was doing a really good job, coming out to clear any through balls and controlling his area well. Nails and Callum were doing an excellent job defensively, Thomas, JP and Henley covering the ground, supporting defensively and adding a lot of creativity going forwards. Bob up front was constantly putting the Mornington defence under pressure and causing problems when in possession.
For the second half Nails was in goal. The second half started as quickly for us as the first half started for them, Pele making an instant impact on the pitch as he beat his man and got a shot away, that was well saved but Henley followed in to tuck it home.
Then the moment of the match, Nail made a good save from Callum who was tracking back on a long ball forward. He quickly through the ball to JP, just inside his own half, he took the ball past the first defender and made good progress down the line before cutting inside Morningtons last defender, knocked the ball out of his feet and bent a shot from outside the area into the top far corner. A real headline grabbing moment from JP, summed up by the commentator; “what a goal, what a goal……oi JP!!!!!”
A bit of excitement followed, a good save by Nails, not textbook using that to save the ball with but they all count! He had to take a few minutes off the pitch and Henley volunteered to take over the gloves while he was off. Wasn’t for long though and Nails was soon back in goal.
Soon after some good pressure just inside our half saw Pele dispossessed before Henley came across to sweep up the danger and run the ball into the wide position, Pele hadn’t stood still though and was in a great position for Henley to roll the ball inside to, Pele then carried the ball forward strongly before finishing confidently.
Next it was Bob’s turn, again an early throw from Nails and Bob was away down the wing, he beat the defender and started to cut in, everyone was expecting the pull back to an unmarked Pele but Bob took it on himself and finished at the near post.
A very satisfying game from us, and credit to Mornington who also played some excellent football in what was a very close game.
Onwards and upwards for us.

All in all an excellent game, still lots to work on, still need to improve the trust at times, it’s really important that the boys keep playing like kids (without the pressure of being results driven) and not like an adult team, to my mind that will allow them to develop as well as they can and learn to make the best options without fear of something not coming off. Defensively too many players have started turning their backs in challenges.
Overall, we’re a very good side, the boys do things every week that make us smile, that impress us and that show how good they are. Long may it continue.

(blue) – A good side, 2 particularly good players often in the two wide positions. They are relied on heavily to make the side tick. Defensively strong, their main man at the back is a tough tackler, happy to play the ball safe and get back into position, holds his position without looking to move forward. A good game and well played, competitive but played in a really good spirit.

The players
PotW – none given this week, everyone deserved it and we didn’t have the trophy.

Bobby – Striker, Right midfield;
Bob is without doubt a very talented player and an absolute menace in front of goal, our player of the year last year and largely for the way he listened and expanded his style of play. I’m concerned that as well as Bob is playing he’s not playing as part of the team. Loads of goals but he’s stopped looking to play teammates in when they’re often the better option and not trusting teammates to do their jobs. Development – A cracking player but needs to also appreciate those around him.

Callum – Right midfield, Centre;
Once again Mr dependable, covered in the central role when Charlie went in goal, that position is really key to the way we play and although it doesn’t play to Callum’s ability to get up and down the pitch constantly and consistently he has shown incredible maturity and positional sense. He’s added to that a steal and determination that sees him win battles that previously he might have lost. Another really good game. Development – finishing, try picking a spot and passing the ball into that spot, don’t consider it shooting consider it passing.

Charlie “Nails” – Centre, Goal keeper;
I always worry about Nails the weeks he has to go in goal and he started the game like he had something else on his mind. That said after a couple of minutes on the sidelines he was back to his usual self. A couple of things that Nails is doing really well at the moment were shown in this game, 1) his game awareness – he understands really well what the best outcome for the team is in most situations, should he let the ball run out of play, should he turn the player, should he put the ball out of play. 2) taking responsibility, Nails is enjoying going forward at times during a game but he still takes responsibility for defending, he does that very naturally and it’s as important as being the name on the scoresheet – well done Nails. Development – accept that sometimes things don’t go as you want on the pitch – keep your head up and don’t let it affect you (talking mainly about taking his turn in goal!).

Charlie “Pele” – Goal keeper, Striker;
In goal for the first half and done a really good job, was confident to come out and defend his area, gave the ball out to teammates feet well to set us up for attacks. 2nd half played most of it up front, continued his ongoing improvements. It was quite a physical game and that seemed to suit Charlie, more willing this week to pressure the defence when they had possession and forced them into some mistakes to give us good ball in the attacking third. Strong running with the ball but pleasingly for me some really good movement off the ball, I asked Pele to make sure he didn’t give up on a ball if the opposition beat him at first, there were a few occasions when he worked really hard to get back and make a good tackle. Development – continue working on the movement, if a team mate has the ball where can you be to be the best outlet option.

Henley – Right midfield, Left midfield;
A better game this week, I deliberately didn’t play Henley at the back this week as I felt he needed to get some confidence back, delivered on the areas of the game I asked him to concentrate on. Much better passing and movement this week than last, some excellent defensive work including another clearance of the line. Well done. Development – continue thinking about the best option when in possession, should you run with it or shift it and go for the return?

John-Paul – Left midfield;
Another good all round performance from JP capped by an absolute wonder goal. Worked really hard to ensure he done a really good job, not allowing Mornington and time or space when they were in possession and getting us moving forward with purpose when we were in possession. As always JP plays with passion and determination but importantly also works hard on weaker areas, he never shirks from using his left foot when he needs to and the result is that his left foot is already looking natural, it’s small things like that which remind me that at this end we’re developing players for the future, JP is putting in place skills that will make him a really good footballer. Some of the things he does are already years ahead of where most players this age are at. Development – being more vocal when you’re in good positions will ensure you’re a key attacking player for longer periods of the game, let’s hear you more.

Thomas – Left midfield, Right midfield;
Some really good stuff from Thomas again this week. Always gets in good positions to receive the ball from team mates and works really hard defensively. Development – I want to string the good things together, if you win a good tackle, what can you do next with the ball? If you make a good pass, can you then get into position to get the ball back from a team mate? Start trying to thing of the next thing and not just the immediate.

Well done boys, thanks to all those that support the team – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!

29th October 2017 – Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards vs Leighwood Tigers
Callum, Thomas, Henley, Charlie “Pele”, Bobby, Charlie “Nails”,
The Game
A very good performance from the boys this week, some excellent football played right from the first minute. Some excellent individual performances with a number of players having their best game of the season so far. Watching the video back this week was a pleasure. Another very tough team proved what a good standard we’re playing and to again be easily a match for them continues to highlight the abilitiy and development the boys are showing.
Both teams made a good start, looking to get the ball down and pass it around, we looked more threatening when in possession but it was a good open start. It was though Leighwood that had the first clear cut chance when the ball looped over Bobby in goal from a wide position, fortuantely Bob was able to get back and claw it away before it crossed the line.
After training on Saturday I told Nails that I had a fiver on him to score the first goal, he didn’t belive me but he did have the confidence to push forward for our first corner of the game. Henley played the ball back to him on the edge of the box, Charlie beat the defence before smashing the ball into the bottom corner – we even celebrated it a little bit!
The first half played out in a similar fashion, both teams knocked the ball about well and defended really well. Bobby in goal came out to defend his area, that along with the defensive performance meant that Leighwood failed to really create any clear cut chances. Going forward we looked very threatening, some of the football we played carved Leighwood open and it was a shame we didn’t convert more of the chances we made – but making those chances in the way we did is key to us at this stage of our development.
For the second half Thomas took the gloves meaning we had Bobby back outfield. At half time we told the boys that Leighwood would start really quickly in the second half, we would need to be solid and move the ball quickly before the game would settle into it’s rythm again.
That’s pretty much how it went, Leighwood were really fired up for the start of the second half. We were a bit slow in possession and as a resutl failed to keep hold of the ball long enough to really use it. We paid heavily for that allowing Leighwood to score a few early goals. On top of that we were relying on Thomas to come out and make some excellent saves to deny them any more goals. (Nails started the second half as sub, that might not have been our greatest decision!)
As the half wore on we settled back into the game and again started gaining more of the ball and creating more chances, it was certainly a half for the attackers rather than the defenders! Pele got a great goal after an excellent header from JP to put him through. Bob scored an outstanding solo goal. We missed a penalty which was outstandingly saved by the keeper. Then we committed defensive suicide with three goals coming from our own mistakes.
Overall there were loads of positives with us being the better team for two thirds of the game and Leighwood dominating us for the other third.
Highlights –
Nails opening the scoring for us – he doesn’t get many but he’s more than capable.
JP’s header for Pele’s goal.
Some of the talking from a number of the boys.
Thomas’ bravery in a couple of saves he made.
Bob chaging our of goal in the first half to deny the opposition any time or space.
Callum deciding that he wasn’t going to get pushed off the ball and really giving it to the Leighwood player that tried to out-muscle him.
WIth the exception of the first half of the second half our performance was the biggest highlight of the day for me, I thought we played really well again.

We were excellent again today. Good decisions being made all over the pitch by the boys, Commitment and awareness when defending, imagination and pace when attacking – it was good to see. A couple of things were particularly pleasing, things where we’ve asked for specifics; one is communication, it’s unusual for kids this age to talk during a game, so to hear them giving instructions to each other “man on”, “run with it”, “pick him up” etc was really good – we’ve got an intelligent team who’s understanding of the game is developing at a tremendous rate (I’m talking football intelligence, I wouldn’t want to comment on their academic abilities!). Another specific was the way we line up for goal kicks and kick-off – both ours and the other teams, we spent about 3 minutes on that at training on Saturday which was no-where near long enough yet the boys were aware of what they should be doing right the way through the game. As individuals the boys are showing really well this season, there were a few that fell away slightly towards the end of last season but all of them are looking very good this year. It’s pleasing that despite not getting the results we’ve deserved this season the boys are playing with loads of confidence. Credit to all the adults involved for that it means we’re focussing on the performance and not the result which is the right thing at this age.

red & white – Leighwood have a very good team, they moved the ball about confidently. They suffer from the same problem we have in that they don’t have a keeper, their best player had to go in goal for the second half. Strong defensively both in terms of their shape and their individual players, very quick in the wide areas.

The players
PotW – Thomas – left midfield, Goalkeeper
PotW this week and deservedly so. Progress has been really good, particularly in terms of learning about how the game is played, his pitch awareness is better and better every gamme and training with us now is really helping him get to know the other lads. Volunteered to go in goal again in the second half and is doing well there. Comes out bravely and is willing to dive at peoples feet to win the ball, a physically strong and determined lad both in goal and on pitch. Development – distribution, both with hands and feet, make it quick, firm and along the floor where possible.

Bobby – Goalkeeper, Right midfield;
Started in goal and was excellent, willing to come out of his area to clear any danger and prevent any through balls, made some good saves. Second half Bob played most of it on the right, some excellent ability on the ball and the same determination to win the ball that we’ve come to expect from Bob. Seemed to have gone back some months in terms of playing with his brain – chasing the ball all over the pitch and reluctant to pass. Scored a brilliant solo goal but passed up the opportunity to set up teammates a number of times. Development – team work, lets get back to what made you player of the year last year.

Callum – Left midfield, Right midfield;
Superb, another really really strong performance from Cal, patrols the wide midfield area incredibly well, knows when to cover teammates and when to push on, is developing a little bit more of a selfish streak which he needed – not to the detriment of the team just showing the confidence to take charge of the ball and the situation. Development – don’t dive in when you shut players down, get there then jockey.

Charlie “Nails” – Centre;
Excellent again, rock solid defensively, carried the ball out confidently when the time was right to, keeps the ball moving really well when in possession weather that’s with a pass or running with the ball. Our ball playing centre half at the moment almost reminds me of Frank LeBeouf at times. Development – a minor point but try to be aware of what’s around you when the ball is coming to you, a couple of times you booted it first time when you could have controlled it.

Charlie “Pele” – Striker;
His best game yet for us, put good pressure on the Leighwood defense, held the ball up well and linked up really well with supporting players – a few really good one-twos. After taking a fould mouthed ear-bashing from the coach really ran strongly with the ball and chose the right times to shoot. Always talks well to teammates giving excellent encouragement. Development – be aware of where teammates are, if one is out of position you sometimes need to cover in for them to win the ball back.

John-Paul – Right midfield, Left midfield;
A good comeback for JP after a couple of weeks off. Worked really hard to win the ball back when we weren’t in possession, played some fantastic passes going forward – more importantly even if the pass didn’t come off he saw the right option and attempted it, a very good all round game. Development – check your shoulder so that you’re aware of where the opposition and teammates are, that will allow you to make an even better first touch or take up a better position.

Henley – Right midfield, Centre;
What to say, my little man has lost his mojo a bit in recent weeks, he seems to be a bit confused all of a sudden and the result is that he’s not playing his usual game. We’ll get it back soon enough I’m confident of that. Development – Start moving the ball quickly again so that you don’t get caught in possession – and enjoy the game!

Well done boys, thanks to all those that support the team – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!

22nd October 2017 – Forest Glade Lions vs Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards
Callum, Thomas, Henley, Charlie “Pele”, Bobby, Charlie “Nails”,
The Game
A disappointing performance today from the boys, the first half especially wasn’t at the standard the boys have set themselves – although saying that watching the video was better than I remembered the performance being!
We started really quickly, from kick off we saw some good movement, a good ball into Bobby who beat one defender and held off a second before smashing the ball home 1 up in the first minute and a good goal it was.. I’m worried that we don’t celebrate goals any more though.
Even after the goal we were playing pretty well, Nails is back to his solid best at the back and the wide players were defending well as a tight 3, in possession we were getting good movement up front and moving the ball well. We created a couple more good chances before Forest Glade really got a hold of the ball. During the first half of the first half (!!!) we were making really good decisions in the final third of the pitch, some excellent passes across the box from the bye-line, we were really unlucky not to convert them but at least we were making the right choices. It’s really important that we keep doing that and trusting that our teammates will get it right and we don’t start trying to do too much as individuals.
As we missed a few good chances our defensive shape started to go a bit, at times everyone trying to push forward leaving us exposed at the back. Add to that Forest Glade have really good movement off the ball, they were regularly getting in behind us. Callum was in goal in the first half and done a good job making some important saves but was asked to do a bit too much for my liking. Things were getting worse as the half wore on, there was some lazy play both deffensively – not tracking runners or forgetting that we have a position on the pitch and offensively not making the right runs off the ball and not releasing the ball quickly enough. Football is all about decisions and generally I think as a team we play really intelligently making good decisions, for a large part of the first half we weren’t doing that.
It was Bobby’s turn in goal in the second half but the feeling from both coaches and players was that we were capable of putting in a really good second half performance and that Bob would be important in that. The result was that I asked if anyone else wanted to take the gloves – huge credit to Thomas who volunteered and done an excellent job as well. So we went out for the second half, we’d been honest with the boys and they were up for the battle.
We started the second half in much the same fashion as the first, pushing forward, playing some good football and importantly making really good decisions that led to some good chances. Unfortunately we didn’t seem to have our shooting boots on, whereas Forest Glade did.
Similar to the first half, when we weren’t getting the rewards we probably deserved, the decision making, trust and football went down-hill – it took a lot longer in the second half for that to happen that it did in the first but it still happened.
Callum did get his first goal of the season in the second half and right up to the end we were creating good chances. Thomas played well in goal making some really good saves.
Highlights –
Nails at the back playing confidently as though he believes how good he is, carrying the ball out when it was the right thing to do.
The speed and decisiveness of the first attack that led to Bob’s goal, they didn’t know what had hit them.
The impact Callum had in the second half and being rewarded with a goal.
Henley turning their best player inside out in our defensive half before releasing Pele.
Pele’s last ditch tackle in the first half, the effort to get back into position and to prevent the player getting his shot away.
Thomas in general, started and played well in the first half but then to take the gloves for the second half and to put in such a good performance

My least favourite performance for a long time, but that view isn’t backed up by the video which showed that we had stacks of possession and created lots of good chances. The poor play/decisions coming without doubt from the frustration of missed chances.
I don’t know what to say about this game, maybe I sometimes expect too much.
On top of that the conditions were very harsh on the boys and to try and pass the ball in those conditions is a very good thing and something I’m proud of each player for because they all contributed to that

Forest Glade
(Yellow/Blue) – Forest Glade merged with Red Wing during the summer and that made two already good teams even stronger, they have good players in every position and mixing their players up doesn’t alter hwo strong they are. Willing to stand up to challenges (apart from the 2 that dared to team up on Nails – They’re both okay by the way), good movement and playing some good football. A team I like playing!

The players
Bobby – Striker, Right midfield;
Another good performance from Bob, a constant threat to the Forest Glade defence and tracked back really well particularly when playing in midfield. Got frustrated by teammates missing chances after a really good set-up but needs to keep doing the right things and not worry about other players that might make mistakes. Development – trust, do the right thing and let other players do their thing, you’ll save energy to be even more explosive when it the right time for you to do your stuff.

Callum – Callum, Right midfield;
Done really well in goal, coming out strongly and making some good saves. 2nd half was very good, strong in possession – demanding that teammates moved out of the way at one point which was excellent. As always defending and awareness was excellent. Development – keep trying to talk to teammates, you’ve started doing it and the things you say are right, just be a bit louder.

Charlie “Nails” – Centre, Right midfield;
A very good game again, back to being a rock in defence and now really making good decisions on when to carry the ball out and when to pass it forwards, rarely gives the ball away even in really tight spaces. Development – don’t turn away from the challenge when you’re tackling, face the way you’re playing.

Charlie “Pele” – Striker, Centre;
Showed falshes of brilliance this week, always does well but there were moments that happened in this game that really showed what Pele is going to bring to the team. Strong in the tackle and running with the ball. Development – mobility, look for the spaces to get into, defenders are getting better and smarter, we have to do the same thing.

Henley – Left midfield, Centre;
A better game again this week for Henley, showing real character at the moment to keep trying to do the right things, makes good decisions regularly. Battled really hard defensively and played some good football to turn defence into attack. Development – Keep enjoying the game and trying the right things the rest will happen.

Thomas – Right midfield, Goal keeper;
Started the game on the right and was completley committed, never let’s anyone get the better of him no matter how good a player he’s up against, continues to learn match awareness. Massive credit due for going in goal for the second half and done a really good job in goal. Development – distribution, practice moving the ball quickly and firmly to teammates.

Well done boys, thanks to all those that support the team – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!


15th October 2017 – Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards vs Junior Red Star Lions
Thomas, Henley, Charlie “Pele”, Bobby, Callum, Charlie “Nails”,
The Game
A really really good performance against a very good team that everyone expects to roll over all opposition this season.
I changed the way we set up this week to counter what I knew would be a strong team, our wide players were asked to play much closer to the central defender with the attacker being asked to pressure Red Star on his own until they got into dangerous positions. I was happy to concede possession to make us more difficult to break down in dangerous areas. The boys carried out those instructions really well and once again i’m left with the feeling that having a goalkeeper could have had a massive impact and not because of the goalkeepers we used but because they weren’t on the pitch.
The attacking role was switched between Charlie Pele and Bob-Star, both providing a really good outlet for the defenders, holding the ball up and bringing other into the game. I don’t think either of them believed me when I told them how hard they would need to work but both done superbly. Behind them Nails played most of the game centrally and was immense, not only solid but his talking and organising had a massive impact on the way we defended as a team. Callum, Henley and Thomas in the wider areas were the key, could they understand and remember the role i asked them to play? They did without any shadow of doubt. All three of them played an excellent game, giving support going forwards at the right times and holding position when they needed to. The tackling and tracking was top notch and when we were in possession all of the boys used it properly, not rushing or panicking but bringing the ball out and setting us up with good chances.
Highlights –
The maturity of the boys to be able to set up in a different way and match a team like Red Star was excellent. One of the other team during the second half commenting to his coach that; “this is a well tough game”.
Thomas getting the better of his man – faced with one of the best opponents we’ve faced Thomas wouldn’t let him go, eventually not only taking the ball off him but turning away and putting a really good ball in-field to Pele. Quick development!
Nails’ assist – in his own area, the first to a loose ball, puts an outside of the foot pass into Callum’s pass, his perfectly weighted through ball and Bob finished confidently. An excellent goal started by a magic ball out from defence.
Pele – calling for the ball into space when Callum had it, he ran a long way to give a good option, told Cal exactly what he wanted from him and ran onto the ball – a highlight because it’s one of the things we’ve been working on with Pele.
Bob terrorising anyone that’s put in front of him – on the day it happened to be Red Star and on one occasion he chased the ball down from the left to the right then back towards our goal, he won the ball skinned the defender and hit a good shot.
Callum’s strength – all day long but in one particular battle he found himself the wrong side of the attacker but fought his way back into the tussle, the look on his face told me he wasn’t going to lose out and the other lad was left whining on the floor!
Silks flying save – some brilliant football from Red Start opened us up and their forward took aim from the left side of the pitch, he connected perfectly with the shot and had pretty much scored a goal of the season contender. That was until Henley flew through the air like a salmon and turned it round the post – he’s not a keeper!
Jacko’s disbelief – on at least 3 occasions I heard the ref say to the players; “oh leave it out….” such was the level of skill on display.

An excellent team effort.
A very different sort of game from us, one that saw us playing far more conservatively than usual deliberately to deny chances to the opposition.
This was not tactics that I really like for kids this age, I think it’s important that they learn to be expressive in their football but it was a really good lesson for the boys, think about the other side of the game, can we work as a solid unit, can we sacrifice chasing an individual goal for the good of the team. There were loads of good lessons from the game yesterday and a number of them that we should be using every week, just blending them in with our usual game – that’s both for individuals and as a team.
I was very proud of that performance and look forward to taking the confidence it gave us into the next game against another good side.

Junior Red Star
(White) – as expected Red Star are an excellent team, each of their players very capable in their own right but also all understood their role within the team. They passed the ball about confidently and seemed to really enjoy the battle we gave them.

The players
Player of the week: Callum
Callum – Left midfield;
PotW – Callum has been excellent all season and that continued this week. Training was spot on, listening when we were talking and putting effort into every part of the session. During the game Callum worked really well with Nails and Henley to limit the chances Red Star could create. Defensively he was excellent, really strong, intelligent positioning. Most importantly though when we had the ball, we couldn’t afford to be giving it away cheaply and Callum looked after the ball really well, never waisting possession. Excellent performance. Development – still that bouncing ball, it caught you out a couple of times.
Bobby – Striker, Right midfield;
Superb from Bob today, played most of the game up front and was asked to work really hard pretty much on his own, he done that really well constantly putting pressure on the Red Star defence. Caused them problems when we were in possession, either running at them and creating chances for himself or holding the ball up strongly waiting for support from teammates. Second half Bob took some time on the right, that was to use his energy and give us some more support when we attacked, he done that well but made sure he was aware of his defensive duties as well. A very good performance after a disappointing training session. Development – training has to happen to ensure we keep improving in the right areas, embrace it and keep improving, you’re going to be some player but you’ve got to work and keep learning.
Charlie “Nails” – Centre;
What a game! Another one that was excellent in training, really paying attention and delivered a top top performance on the pitch. Everything from organising teammates, big tackles, excellent positioning and some awesome decisions to move the ball from defence to attack, including that outside of the boot pass and a couple of really powerful runs with the ball. Well done. Development – always train like you did this week and keep up the volume on the pitch it was really important to have you talking to teammates.

Charlie “Pele” – Striker, Centre;
Another improvement for Pele, played up top and at the back and done both jobs really well. Going forward there were times when he held the ball and kept defenders at bay in a way you’d expect someone much older to play, strong and clever. Defensively, he did and can do really well in that central role with two supporting closely. Very good in the tackle and read the play really well. Movement and running without the ball were much better this week. Development – keep working on what to do off the ball, get into the right positions to be available for the pass from teammates.

Henley – Right midfield, Goal keeper;
A really good first half, played a clever role making sure he was doing the defensive work that was so important but tried to support and create when in possession. I asked Henley to make sure he wasn’t getting caught in possession this week – make decisions a bit quicker and he done that, still trying to beat his man at times but the right times. Played some great passes into the forward and moved to support. 2nd half in goal and made a few really good saves, came out quickly but distribution wasn’t as good as it could have been. Development – keep working on making the right decision when in possession.

Thomas – Goal keeper, Left Midfield;
Another really good development game for Thomas. Took his turn in goal in the first half which he didn’t enjoy, done well though and it was good to see the boys so supportive at half time. Came out well a few times and distribution was good. 2nd hafl, didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of the quality of the opposition but came on and done a really good job on the left. As always really tenacious when defending and covers the ground well to support in attack. Is really learning the flow of the game. Development – keep working on moving that ball out of your feet to deliver a good strong pass.

Well done boys, thanks to Paul for do a fantastic job as ref and thanks to all those that support the team – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!

8th October 2017 – Canvey Island Lions vs Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards
Charlie “Pele”, John-Paul, Bobby, Callum, Charlie “Nails”, Henley, John-Paul, Thomas
The Game
What a game! As the Canvey manager said, it had everything; really good football, plenty of mistakes to learn from (more from them than us!), goals, saves, tackles, passes. Top entertainment.
We finally got the win we deserved and scored a bucket full of goals in the process – slightly concerning was the number of goals we conceded but we’ll work on those parts of the game.
It was a surprise the game ended so close as I felt we were considerably better than Canvey on the day, they had a very good keeper who made a number of good saves desipite us scoring 10.
Although we had the better of the game there were good battles being had all over the pitch, some we had the better of others we didn’t. Against a team that Canvey have put together to be the showpiece of their new-look youth section, they would have exepcted to beat us so that makes the win and the performance even better. In terms of progress for us it was another step forward in performances with us improving each game this season.
The boys rightly looked like they enjoyed the game from start to finish – it was strange not to see the goals celebrated more by the lads – maybe they new how many we would score.
Highlights –
our first goal, great break from defence by Henley, two on one, Henley plays it past the defender for Bob to run onto who takes a touch before smashing it past the keeper.
Calumn’s lung busting run forward after a strong tackle on the edge of our box, culminating in a rolled ball across the face of goal for Henley to tap home.
JP turning defence to attack – chasing back almost the length of the pitch to put in a strong tackle before an excellent turn leaves the Canvey player for dead, a few strides forward then a good cross field ball.
Charlie Pele – flying across to his right to pull off a one handed save.
The 2 Charlies combining to create a goal – Nails with a strong tackle and a really good through ball, Pele batters his way through 3 defenders and finishes really well.
Charlie Nails – covering at the back then striding confidently forward into a wide position before hitting a cross field pass.
Thomas’s drag back – irritating the attacker into submission to dispossess him, before dragging the ball back and into space for the pass.
Keepers – both keepers playing on the edge of the box to prevent the attacker from having time to shoot, then passing confidently to start an attack.

Improvement again this week, new players looking more at home every week. Both goalkeepers done a really good job, both coming out quickly to clear danger often before the strikers got their shots away.
Going forward we played some excellent football, there were times when the boys could have created more by making their decisions a little bit quicker but generally speaking the right decision was made far more often than not – a special mention here to Bobby, scored 6 goals but still brought teammates into the game a lot more which is what we asked for.
Defensively, we looked solid for large parts of the game – a few of the goals were balls rolled or kicked out directly to the striker (or the striker reacted quickest!), there’s not much the defensive unti can do about that. Where we can improve is to make sure 1 player covers all the time, it doesn’t have to be the central player but one off the boys needs to cover. We’re pretty good at that but the boys can lose their way a little bit as they go in search of a goal (usually in the second half).
Every single player today showed good intelligence when in possession, everyone showed the skills and confidence to beat a player and the ability to pick a pass. Every single player also showed a willingness and desire to work really hard to win the ball back.
Well done today boys.

Canvey Island
(yellow) – a good team with good individual players, they’re a new team and that showed in patches but their manager is doing all the right things and getting them to play the right way. They put pressure on high up the pitch and were willing to take a shot on rather than try to walk the ball in. The Canvey goalkeeper was excellent making loads of really good saves despite conceding 10 goals, the fact that he started drop kicking the ball every time he got it in the second half shows how dominant we were despite the close score line. I’ll look forward to playing them again.

The players
Player of the week: John-Paul

John-Paul – Striker, Goal keeper;
POTW – JP was excellent today, delivered what we asked for, determined both on and off the ball. We talked to JP about the need to move the game from defence to attack quickly, making decisions really quickly when in possession. He was really good with that today. Some excellent tracking, stong running with the ball and picked up some really good positions. As always a spot on attitude from JP which is a good example to everyone around him – supportive of teammates and plays for the team rather than himself. Development – believe in yourself, don’t stand off if you know it should be your ball, take charge and be vocal.

Bobby – Striker, Right midfield;
Another really good performance from Bobby, lethal in front of goal, playing with his head up more than the first game and bringing others into the game when he was up front. In midfield he worked really hard to keep his position particularly when we didn’t have the ball, covered and tackled well. It’s not very often players can say they scored 6 in a game! Development – Needs to keep working on trust and using teammates, was good today but still room for improvement.

Callum – Right Midfield, Centre;
Another solid performance from Callum, seems to be really growing in confidence with every tackle he makes, every time he muscles an opponent off the ball he grows in stature. Plays really well wide or at the back and makes good decisions all over the pitch – never does too much on the ball though is getting more confident at running at people. Development – 2 things this week – 1) face-on challenges, don’t turn away. 2) believe in yourself in and around the other teams penalty area – you can hit a ball really well, let it happen.

Charlie “Nails” – Centre, Right Midfield;
Strangely I actually thought Charlie played better on the right, only strange because he was so strong in the central role. Back to his solid best in the tackle, carried the ball out of danger really well a number of times and played some excellent forward passes to set teammates away. Development – be louder when you’re in a good position, you’re good enough to command the ball, the only person that struggles to belive that is you!

Charlie “Pele” – Goal keeper, Striker;
Started in goal and done really well there, cleared the danger a few times coming out and making a really good pass to turn defence to attack. 2nd half Charlie played upfront and wide, doing both jobs really well. We had a glimps of what I imagine was last seasons Charlie when he just bulldozed his way through the Canvey defence to score – grabbing his first 2 league goals for us. Makes good decisions on the ball when we’re attacking. Development – still need more workrate, particularly when he’s out of possession.

Henley – Left midfield, Striker;
A good game from Henley, as always looking to create when in possession – picks up intelligent positions both defensively and offensively. Showed good leadership both in organising teammates and leading by example. Caught in possession a few times, possibly trying to do too much. Development – Decision making – started holding on to the ball too long on occasions, it’s good to be able to run with the ball but decide when it’s right too and when to make a good pass.

Thomas – Left Midfield, Right midfield;
Thomas continued his progression well today, really tenacious when defending and showed some good ability to create space for himself after winning the ball before making good passes. Always thinks about his position and is finding the right areas to be in with increasing frequency. Development – passing, long and short passing to find his target.

Well done boys and thanks to all those that support them – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!

1st October 2017 – Leigh Ramblers U8’s Leopards vs Ashingdon Youth Lions
Charlie “Nails”, Bobby, Callum, Charlie “Pele”, Henley, John-Paul, Thomas
The Game
The final result as with last week was a bit of a mystery, but as we always say; as long as the boys are trying to do the right thing we’ll be happy.
The first half saw Charlie in goal and to be fair he really wasn’t well, that said I thought he done really well, coming out quickly a couple of times to prevent chances. We started the game far the better side, we were passing the ball well, looking strong in possession and defensively. Pretty quickly it was evident that we would have a lot of the play but Ashingdon looked strong and dangerous on the break. That was pretty much the story of the first half. They managed to grab a couple of goals, one of them due to niaive defending – something that we haven’t worked on with the boys yet is passing the player on and holding a covering positions – sounds too advanced for 8 year olds but ours will get it! During our good spells of possession there were lots of chances for us, good crosses that were just out of reach of teammates, shots just wide, and balls that wouldn’t quite drop. As well as Ashingdon’s keeper making a few decent blocks. Things were tight at half time, Bob had grabbed a couple of good goals for us.
Unfortunately it was Bobby that had to go in goal for the second half (unfortunate because he was playing so well out on pitch and not because he does anything wrong in goal). Sure enough he played well in goal – and seemed to quite enjoy it at times. We continued to have the majority of possession in the second half, we’d lost a little bit of cutting edge that Bob’s work-rate off the ball had given us but the football continued to be a high quality. Callum had to come off midway through the second half and with Charlie “Nails” not well enough to play we found ourselves down to the bare-bones. On top of that Thomas was making his league debut, he done a really good job for his first game and we’re looking forward to him developing quickly once he starts training with the boys.
In that second half we had a penalty well saved, hit the cross-bar and the post and just couldn’t quite force the ball home, pleasingly though we continued to do the right thing. Not the result we’d have liked but a better team performance.

Better this week, we played the football that we played better football and for the whole game. Moving the ball well, regularly making the right decision and not trying to do it on our own.
There are still things to work on, we need to improve our mobilitiy around the pitch and being in the right place to recieve the ball and to really help the player in possession.
Defensively the covering of the central player when he went forward was really good, we just need to make sure the wide players are picking up the right attacker when the other team come forward.
We need to be quicker, we need to move the ball much quicker, too many players want to stand still with the ball and that makes us easy to defend against.
We need to learn to deal better with teams that press quickly, we know how to do it we just need to be a little bit more confident, everyone of the boys is more than capable and shows it often enough, but in this game we got caught a few times.
We were hurt today again by having to put a good outfield player in goal but also by the number of players that for one reason or another weren’t quite with it.
Overall well done to the boys, we looked like a good team again this week and created loads of chances particularly in the first half – lots to work on but lots of positives.

(yellow and blue) – a decent team with a few good players, didn’t play football the right way though. Very conservative; put the ball out when defending, play it long and every throw-in goes down the line.
Big lad at the back was a decent player as was the centre forward, other than that strong players that could crack a ball. The keeper was decent.
Manager argued about every decision.
As a team they pressed the ball really quickly which makes them difficult to play against.

The players:
Player of the week: Bob-Star

Bobby – Striker, Goal Keeper;
POTW – excellent today, we’ve spoken to Bob about his attitude a bit recently and had a really good chat at training about what he needs to be doing on the pitch. He delivered superbly – running with the ball when it was the right option, shooting when that was right and passing when that was right. Done well in goal in the second half but we missed him on pitch. Development – I just want to see today’s Bob back on a consistent basis.

Callum – Right Midfield, Centre;
Continued his excellent start to the season, full of intelligent running till he had to come off late on. Great running with the ball, showed excellent strength and determination defensively and covered really well when Henley moved out of defence. Another really good game. Development – getting enough control on the ball when running with it to deliver a strong pass.

Charlie “Nails” – Goal Keeper;
Bless him! Really not well but still managed to do a really good job in goal.

Charlie “Pele” – Right midfield, Striker;
Working really hard to get used to the way we play, always upbeat and positive which is having a massive effect on his teammates. Good determination both forwards and defensively and was unlucky not to score after getting in some good positions. Developement – movement off the ball, especially up front we need Charlie to hit the chanels to give a good option for the player in possession.

Henley – Centre, Right midfield;
A better game this week than last, started at the back and was tough in the tackle and carried the ball forward well when the opportunity arose. Got caught in possession a few times – partly due to a lack of options. Wants to play further forward but still smart enough to play the role we asked of him. Development – good players will put you under pressure quicker, make decisions a bit quicker so that you don’t get caught in possession.

John-Paul – Left midfield;
JP was knackered, he looked like a zombie when he got there (family things happen though so if someone’s out the night before we just have to deal with it), that said in patches he was very good and done some really good things, just struggled to sustain it throughout the game. Development – got to be quicker on the ball, don’t stand still it makes it too easy to defend against, even if you beat your man the rest of the other team have got back in position to cover.

Thomas – Right midfield
Thomas’ first proper game for us, well done. It’s clear that Thomas hasn’t played the football that the rest of them have but he’s determined, willing to listen and learn and enthusiastic, the rest he’ll learn. Development – passing, practice getting the ball out of your feet and giving a strong pass.

Well done boys and thanks to all those that support them – keep the pictures and video coming, it’s much appreciated.
Come on you Ramblers!

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