Academies Irish Grassroots Football World Football

COACHTALK: Anthony O’Neill

Anthony is a football coach back living in Ireland, having spent some time abroad. I caught up with him last weekend at the Multi directional Workshop with Mike Antoniades at the NDSL Development Centre. In this brilliant insight into the Ajax philosophy; Anthony talks about how they implement the methodology both in Holland and Ireland.

UntitledTCD: What got you into coaching and how long have you been doing it? 

AON: I initially got into coaching through a FAS football coaching course I attended in Galway 10 years ago. John Power, who operates a very successful soccer school of excellence called Power Soccer was my mentor on the course, and he asked if I’d like to assist with the weekly sessions in the school of excellence. One of my reasons for attending the course initially was to learn from someone like John and I’m thankful to him for introducing me to coaching. After a few weeks I began to lead sessions on my own and John then asked me to help out with the Galway Schoolboy League Kennedy Cup squad as an assistant coach. I spent 18 months with the team and to be involved with a Kennedy Cup squad as a young coach at 21 years old was a great learning experience for me personally. From that squad Daryl Horgan, Stephen Folan and Enda Curran are now playing in the League of Ireland Premier Division, several have represented Ireland at international level and Joe Shaughnessy is playing in Scotland for Aberdeen.

“Another interesting facet of the academy is that the coaches are only offered one year rolling contracts. This helps to prevent the coaches from ‘taking it easy’ and increases their work ethic, taking into account that every coach in Amsterdam has aspirations to be a coach at Ajax”

Since that initial involvement in coaching I continued to pursue further education which led me to a soccer scholarship in America. At the same time I began coaching youth soccer in the States and obtained my coaching badges alongside a degree in Sports Management. After graduating I spent 6 months coaching in Singapore before returning home to Ireland to work as the Head Coach for Coerver Coaching for almost 2 years. I spent the last year as Academy Director for Everton’s affiliation club Everton America in Connecticut and New York, where I was responsible for overseeing a development programme for Under 7s to Under 12s. In September I moved home again to start work on a new project with the Football Coaches Association of Ireland in partnership with Ajax.

TCD: What is your coaching philosophy? 

AON: My coaching philosophy is to develop confident, creative and skilful players who are encouraged to express themselves and play with a sense of freedom. For me personally, winning should not become important until senior football or at least until the latter stages of youth football. Having worked with players at the younger age of the spectrum for many years, I find that they naturally want to win games anyway, therefore my focus should be on developing the technical and tactical side of the individual player so that he has the necessary tools to perform to the best of his ability when he enters the environment of senior football. I’m not saying as coaches we should not attempt to win games, but I do believe that playing with a certain style of play that is beneficial to the long term development of the player is more important especially in youth football.

Enthusiasm is one of the most important characteristics to have as a coach when working with young players and it’s always good to offer encouragement. Using simple words like “well done” can have a big effect on a child’s confidence. It’s important to build a relationship with each individual and I try to do that with every player I coach.

ArenaTCD: You’re just back from the Ajax Academy, tell me about your trip? 

AON: First and foremost I’d have to say the best thing about the trip was having first class access to the academy. Myself and the other FCAI members who made the trip were not only allowed to watch academy training and games but also to interact with the coaching staff. We were given lectures on the Ajax vision, philosophy and style of play by Eddie van Schaick, as well as a discussion on the Ajax scouting methodology by Head Scout Ronald De Jong. Ronald explained that Ajax invests and networks with the amateur clubs within Amsterdam granting them access to the Ajax Online Academy training programme. The advantage of this is that all players are coached the same way as those in the academy, making talent easily identifiable and making the transition from amateur club to Ajax Academy an easy one, with very little difference in the style of play.

We were given little tasks to complete such as match analysis of the Under 13 & Under 15 games. We were asked to analyse the style of play as well as pick out 3 prospects on each team which we felt best fitted the profile of an Ajax player. These exercises helped with the learning process and to better understand what was discussed in the lectures.

“The youngest team at the academy is the Under 8s. They train 3 times per week with an emphasis on developing technique and game intelligence using small sided games. Initially I was a little surprised to learn that this age group play 7v7 on match day but having watched them play on the Saturday morning it soon became clear to me that they were capable of playing this format”

It was evident from viewing academy training and games and a 1st team game at the Amsterdam Arena on the Saturday night that there’s a philosophy and style of play evident throughout the club from the Under 8s right through to the 1st team. The Ajax style of play is based on playing attacking attractive football, dominance in possession and 1v1 situations, playing out from the back and full field pressure. Every team within the academy plays with this style in either a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 formation. Similar to Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Ajax play with one holding midfielder (6) and two attacking midfielders (8) & (10) within the 4-3-3 formation, which is slightly different to playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. Having watched numerous games at various different age groups in the academy it was great to see each team attempting to play the same and believing in ‘The Ajax Way’.

In relation to training, which is all conducted at De Toekomst (The Future) across the road from the Amsterdam Arena, which in turn acts as a motivational and aspirational tool to all the kids within the academy, the focus is primarily on developing the individual. The Ajax Academy is not concerned with winning trophies at youth level but moreover producing players for the 1st team. One of the objectives each year is to produce one or two Under 19 players to play in the 1st team and 70% of the 1st team need to be academy produced players. Ajax spend €6 million per year on their academy.

Ajax has a fantastic strength and conditioning programme which is also an important part of the training for the youngest age groups within the academy. Balance, coordination and footwork are enhanced as early as possible and the club even employee judo and gymnastic coaches to work with the players. It was fascinating to watch the judo coach work with the Under 8s on their core strength as well as developing football combat to prepare the players for the physical side of the game. Attention to detail is also paid to the growth spurt of players between the ages of 12 and 16 with the workload on individual players more relaxed. The club can determine when a player is going through a growth spurt thanks to cutting edge technology from the sports science department. As players begin to exit their growth spurts, coaches then look to re-engage the player technically, physically and mentally.

Another interesting facet of the academy is that the coaches are only offered one year rolling contracts. This helps to prevent the coaches from ‘taking it easy’ and increases their work ethic, taking into account that every coach in Amsterdam has aspirations to be a coach at Ajax. The club feels that if the players are under pressure to improve and maintain their position within the academy, then so should its coaches.

TrackTrainingI found the staff at the club to be very welcoming and it was evident from spending three days immersed in the academy that the club possesses a family environment with a relaxed atmosphere whilst at the same time maintaining a very professional outlook. The majority of the coaching staff consists of ex academy players and it’s easy to bump into some of the former greats of the club who often come to watch the academy games on a Saturday morning. Some of the names involved with the club on the coaching side include 1st team manager Frank De Boer and 1st team coach Dennis Bergkamp, as well as Marc Overmars, Jaap Stam, Wim Jonk and Bryan Roy. Edwin Van Der Saar is involved on the marketing side while one of the greatest players of all time Johan Cruyff is also a big figure within the club.

I had the privilege to meet with Arnold Muhren who scored in the FA Cup final for Manchester United as well as winning the Uefa Cup with Ipswich Town under Bobby Robson. He also won the Cup Winners Cup and European Cup with Ajax and crossed the ball for the famous Marco Van Basten goal at Euro 88 which Holland went on to win. Arnold is a former youth coach at Ajax and has been to Ireland to conduct coaching seminars in partnership with the Football Coaches Association of Ireland. I’m already looking forward to the next trip in April as well as welcoming Patrick Ladru (U13-U16 Technical Manager) to Limerick and Galway that same month to conduct  the first ever Ajax coaching workshop in the west of Ireland.

TCD: Tell me about their SSG pathway and how it differs to ours? 

AON: The youngest team at the academy is the Under 8s. They train 3 times per week with an emphasis on developing technique and game intelligence using small sided games. Initially I was a little surprised to learn that this age group play 7v7 on match day but having watched them play on the Saturday morning it soon became clear to me that they were capable of playing this format.

The players were comfortable in possession and attempted to play out from the back when possible and had plenty of success in doing so. The formation used at this age group is either a 3-3 or a 2-3-1 and as with the older teams the focus is on keeping possession and taking players on in 1v1 situations. My conclusion is that at the academy level players are capable of playing 7v7 at Under 8 but games of 4v4 for example are more suitable for players of this age at amateur grassroots clubs which is the format we are moving towards in Ireland because we don’t have professional academies. It’s worth nothing that at Ajax we are talking about the best selection of Under 8s in Amsterdam all playing on the same team and we don’t currently have that situation in Ireland. One of the aims of the FCAI Player Development Programme is to get the best young players in a region as young as Under 7 training together one night per week and playing against other regions four times per year in a non-competitive small-sided games format.

Ajax U8s Playing Out From The Back

(Watch how they can pass 15/20 yards with ease, playing with a lighter ball)

Under 8’s

Another point of note is that the Under 8s play with a size 5 football that is much lighter in weight to a standard football. Even players as young as 7 years old were able to play 20-25 yard passes with proper weight which was intriguing to watch. The lighter footballs if anything encourage young players to get their head up and play a pass over a longer distance i.e. switch play because the football allows the player to technically make the pass. The result is young players passing the ball and keeping possession way beyond their years and this is mainly due to the weight of the football. On the other hand you could argue that a size 5 football is more difficult to control technically but that was not apparent at this level and we will be using these lighter weighted footballs in the Player Development Programme which incidentally also come in a size 4 for the youngest age groups. The 7v7 field did not have a penalty area which helped with the keeper joining in the play as a sweeper because he was not mentally restricted by his area. Corner kicks were taken at least 5 yards in from the corner flag and this was the same in the 11v11 set up so that the players could reach the penalty area with the kick.

Corner KickTeams progress from 7v7 to 11v11 at Under 11s and again having watched games at this age group it was evident that the players were comfortable with this format. They spend 3 years (U11-U13) playing in a 3-4-3 formation with a midfield diamond which helps with the development of 1v1s both defensively and offensively. If both teams play with a 3-4-3 formation you will notice that players are matched up in 1v1 situations all over the field. Teams then progress to using a 4-3-3 formation at Under 14 with one holding midfielder (6) and two attacking midfielders(8) & (10), similar to the Ajax 1st team as well as the current Barcelona and Bayern Munich 1st team.

The term over coaching is being used a lot in relation to kids soccer and we always hear people say, ‘let the game be the teacher’, how do Ajax coaches, coach? 

 In particular with the younger age groups which begin at Under 8, the coaching incorporates teaching the fundamentals of dribbling, receiving & passing and finishing with a heavy emphasis placed on developing creativity in 1v1 situations and the use of overloads i.e. 2v1s and 3v2s. Small-sided games are also widely used within the training sessions to develop game intelligence.

A recurring theme is that regardless of the age group, coaches only offer gentle encouragement on the sideline. The focus on match day is not the result of the game but how well the individuals in the team apply the topic of the previous week’s training which can be anything from playing out from the back to forward runs without the ball. There seems to be a great understanding between the players and the coaches of the set objectives for each game which is most often determined by the Technical Manager for a specific age group i.e. U13-U16.

In a coaching environment that facilitates development over winning, coaches are required to be as efficient as possible, providing maximum playing time in training sessions where enjoyment is the main priority; ensuring players are open to learning, whilst simultaneously removing the players from their comfort zone in order to take calculated risks. To maximise each player’s development, positions are rotated from game to game, preventing players from becoming one dimensional and instead producing talent capable of playing multiple roles at the highest level. 1st team player Daley Blind, son of Danny Blind is a great example of this as he is equally inept at playing as a holding midfielder as a left back and he was particularly outstanding in the recent win against Barcelona when he had to play both positions.

TCD: If we class success as winning in the same way Barcelona have done for many years, why can’t the Ajax formula work for Ajax in the same way it has done for Barca?  

AON: The Ajax formula is the most successful in Europe in terms of producing young players although not as successful as Barcelona in terms of winning the Champions League in recent times. I read a report recently from the International Centre for Sport Studies (CIES) which conducted a survey of Europe’s most competitive 31 leagues last year and found 69 players who had been coached at Ajax. This placed Ajax in first place ahead of Barcelona who finished fourth.

The problem Ajax encounter on almost a yearly basis is that due to not playing in one of the biggest and most lucrative leagues in Europe they struggle to hold on to their best players. I watched Ajax beat Barcelona 2-1 recently playing attacking free flowing football very similar to what we have witnessed from Barcelona themselves over the past 5 years. The majority of the Ajax team consisted of academy graduates with the average age of the side in the early twenties. I believe that if Ajax could have held on to players like Luis Suarez, Gregory van der Viel, Jan Vertonghen and Christen Eriksen allied to the current crop of young players they would indeed be challenging for the Champions League. It remains to be seen if they can hold on to the current group but in any case they will continue to produce good young talent because that’s the Ajax way.

PlayerDProgrammeTCD: Tell me about Ajax’s involvement in Ireland and how you’re getting involved? 

AON: Ajax initially set up the Ajax Online Academy to assist amateur grassroots clubs in Amsterdam and the surrounding area. The system provides access to 32 weeks of age specific training sessions from Under 7s to Under 15s as well as a player tracking system to evaluate each player and provide feedback to parents as well as other coaches within the club. As Ajax recruit the majority of their academy players from within Amsterdam itself this programme makes sense in that the coaches within the amateur grassroots clubs are able to use the Ajax coaching methodology and have access to a curriculum that coincides with Ajax’s philosophy and style of play.

Now the Ajax Online Academy has become available worldwide and is the official education partner of the Football Coaches Association of Ireland (FCAI). Through the FCAI club partnership programme clubs in Ireland can from a partnership with Ajax which entitles that club to access the Ajax Online Academy curriculum and participate on twice yearly trips to Ajax to see at first-hand how the academy operates from top to bottom.

I’m involved with the FCAI Player Development Programme which is a new initiative aimed at the development of young players aged 6-12 years old. There are currently two programmes in Dublin with further programmes planned throughout Ireland in 2014.

The Player Development Programme will operate on a regional basis. The programme is step by step in format and is developed in a non-competitive environment, which allows kids to improve consistently through their own mental and physical growth patterns, while also, crucially, enjoying the beautiful game.

Children are encouraged to continue to play and train for their club sides as part of their development. The programme will organise quarterly tournaments internally with other provinces. The tournaments are designed to give players the opportunity to play games across Ireland against those who are receiving the same footballing education.

From my experience teaching good habits and developing technique and game intelligence is best taught to players aged 8-12 years old which in Japan is called the ‘Golden Years of Learning’. Players at this age are most receptive to learning technique and gaining an insight into the game which relates to the Ajax TIPS model of recruiting players based on technique, insight, personality and speed.

The key for us is to make sure that players in these younger age groups are receiving quality age specific technical and tactical coaching similar to that at professional clubs on the continent.

TCD: How many clubs are using this method in Ireland? 

AON: Hartstown Huntstown and Cabinteely FC are the two clubs in Dublin currently using the Ajax Online Academy. Hartstown Hunstown has been using the programme for just over a year now and they had 15 coaches on the recent FCAI trip to Ajax where they learned about the Ajax vison, philosophy and style of play. The Ajax Head Scout also spoke in detail about the Ajax TIPS Model and the process involved in recruiting players for the academy.

Cabinteely FC are the latest club to become a partner of the Ajax Online Academy and the FCAI are currently speaking to numerous clubs up and down the country about potential new partnerships in 2014. I believe that this is the best education programme for amateur grassroots clubs on the market and clubs are aware of this when they see the FCAI presentation.  Not only can coaches attend Ajax coaching workshops in Ireland and travel to the Ajax Academy in Amsterdam, they also have full access to a complete age appropriate online curriculum developed by Ajax which they can use on a weekly basis at their club. This in turn will only benefit the long term development of the players.









TCD would like to thank Anthony for this brilliant insight into the ‘Ajax Way’. If you wish to get in touch with Anthony, you can email him at


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

World Football

Cristiano Ronaldo, true friendship that changed his life, amazing!

This is a pretty amazing story about Ronaldo, I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Cristiano Ronaldo –

“I have to thank my friend Albert Fantrau for my success. We played together for a youth club. When people from sporting arrived, they told us that whoever scored more goals would be be accepted to their Academy”

“You’re better than me.”

“We won that game 3-0, I scored the first goal, then Albert scored a header, and the third was a goal that impressed everyone. Albert went on one on one with the goal keeper. I was running next to him, he went round the keeper, all he needed to do was just to get the ball into the empty net. But, he passed it to me and I scored. I was accepted to the Academy. After the match, I approached him and asked him “why” and he answered; “You’re better than me”.

Several years after, journalist went to Albert’s house, and asked whether the story was true. He confirmed. He also said that his career as a football player finished after that match and he is now unemployed. “But where did you get such a gorgeous house, a car? You seemed to be a rich person. You also maintain your family…… where is all from? Albert proudly replied; its from Cristiano.


If it’s for real, amazing gesture by both men.


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

World Football

Messi with 27, Ronaldo with 24..

So you are probably wondering what I’m taking about: Hatricks by two of the world greatest players and so far this year Ronaldo has scored 6 and Messi has 4. No doubt, Ronaldo’s arrival at Madrid in 2009, has been the makings of Messi sensational scoring and since then the two have, without doubt been the world GREATEST players.

We have witnessed an incredible pattern merge over the years and once Ronaldo settled in Madrid the two have gong toe to toe in the scoring stakes.

On the 20th November 2010, Ronaldo scored 3 against At.Bilbao and Messi scored 3 against Almeria. Almost a year later on the 24th September 2011, Messi scored 3 against At.Madrid and CR7 scored 3 against Rayo Vallecano. This year, on the 27th of January 2013, CR7 scored 3 against Getafe and Messi answered with 4 against Osasuna. Finally on the 18th September 2013, Messi score 3 v Ajax and Ronaldo 3 v Galatasaray, both in the Champions League

This is what has happened since 2007, Messi first full season at FCB (Messi established himself as a first team player 06-07 season).

Messi’s, 27 Hat-tricks  


  • Liga: Barcelona-Real Madrid 3-3


  •  Spanish Cup: Atlético Madrid-Barcelona, 1-3


  •  Liga: Tenerife-Barcelona 0-5


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Valência, 3-0


  •  Liga: Saragoça-Barcelona, 2-4


  •  Champions League: Barcelona-Arsenal, 4-1* (*4 goals)


  •  Supercup: Barcelona-Sevilha, 4-0


  •  Liga: Almería-Barcelona, 0-8


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Bétis, 5-0


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Atlético Madrid, 3-0


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Osasuna, 8-0


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Atlético Madrid, 5-0


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Majorca, 5-0


  •  Champions League: Viktoria Plzen-Barcelona, 0-4


  •  Liga: Málaga-Barcelona, 1-4


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Valência, 5-1* (*4 golos)


  •  Friendly: Argentina-Switzerland, 3-1


  •  Champions League: Barcelona-Bayer Leverkusen, 7-1** (**5 goals)


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Granada, 5-3


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Málaga, 4-1


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Espanyol, 4-0* (*4 goals)


Friendly: Argentina-Brazil, 4-3


  •  Liga: Deportivo-Barcelona, 4-5


  •  Liga: Barcelona-Osasuna 5-1* (*4 golos)


  •  Friendly: Argentina-Guatemala, 4-0


  •  Liga: Valência-Barcelona, 2-3


  •  Champions League: Barcelona, Ajax, 4-0

 Total: Barcelona, 24; Argentina, 3

 Messi By the Year

  • 2007: =1
  • 2009: =1
  • 2010: =6
  • 2011: =6
  • 2012: =9
  • 2013: =4


Blatter prefers ‘good boy’ Messi to ‘hairdresser fan’ Ronaldo

And now onto Ronaldo’s, 25 Hat-tricks


  • Premier League: Manchester United-Newcastle, 6-0


  •  Liga: Majorca-Real Madrid, 1-4


  •  Liga: Real Madrid-Racing, 6-1* (* 4 goals)


  • Liga: Real Madrid-Ath Bilbao, 5-1


  •  Spanish Cup: Real Madrid-Levante, 8-0


  • Liga: Real Madrid-Villarreal, 4-2


  • Liga: Real Madrid-Malaga, 7-0


  • Liga: Sevilha-Real Madrid, 2-6* (* 4 goals)


  • Liga: Real Madrid-Getafe 4-0


  •  Liga: Saragoça-Real Madrid, 0-6


  •  Liga: Real Madrid-R. Vallecano, 6-2


  •  Liga: Málaga-Real Madrid, 0-4


  •  Liga: Real Madrid-Osasuna, 7-1


  •  Liga: Sevilha-Real Madrid, 2-6


  •  Liga: Real Madrid-Levante, 4-2


  •  Liga: Atl Madrid-Real Madrid, 1-4


  •  Liga: Real Madrid-Deportivo, 5-1


  • Champions League: Ajax-Real Madrid, 1-4


  •  Spanish Cup: Real Madrid-Celta de Vigo 4-0


  •  Liga: Real Madrid-Getafe, 4-0


  •  Liga: Real Madrid-Sevilha, 4-1


  •  WC Qualifier Brazil 2014: Irlanda do Norte-Portugal, 2-4


  • Champions League: Galatasaray-Real Madrid, 1-6


Liga: Real Madrid-Sevilha, 7-3

 Ronaldo’s Total: Man. United, 1; Real Madrid, 22; Portugal, 1

Ronaldo By The Year

  • 2008: 1 (Messi =0)
  • 2010: 4 (Messi =6)
  • 2011: 9 (Messi =6)
  • 2012: 4 (Messi =12)
  • 2013: 6 (Messi =4)

Messi and Ronaldo are natural rivals with their obvious dichotomies. Messi’s good v Ronaldo’s evil; the finesse and humility of the Argentine v the power and arrogance of the Portuguese; Messi and Ronaldo are still special; phenomenons even, the subject of reminiscences over the next half-century and long may it continue.

Thanks to MaisFutebol Portugal for the content. 


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

World Football

How The German Machine Was Built From The Bottom Up…

Germany impressed everyone with their attacking displays en route to the semi-finals of the last World Cup, they performed so well at the Euros in Poland, losing to Italy 2-1 in the semi finals and we all saw how they ripped Ireland apart last month at the Aviva.

But it is only 8 years ago that, like Ireland at the recent Euros, they were returning home early from a major tournament and wondering what the future held. In an interview in 2010 with the BBC, Jurgen Klinsmann spoke how he had to chang things from the bottom up.

Germany had to rebuild..

after the disaster of the 2004 European Championship in Portugal. We did not win a game and failed to get out of our group. I got the chance to decide on the direction we took when I agreed to take over as Germany coach that summer, with current manager Joachim Loew as my assistant. 

‘Jogi’ and I began the whole regeneration process by trying to give our national team an identity.

We eventually decided to go down an attack-minded route, passing the ball on the ground from the back to the front line as quickly as possible using dynamic football. Klinsmann and Loew designed a new blueprint for German football from that, we created a style of play that this Germany team in South Africa now really lives and breathes. Since 2004, we have reached two World Cup semi-finals and the final of Euro 2008.

You need your own style

Can England recover from their poor showing in South Africa as quickly as Germany did six years ago? Yes, but they cannot just copy the German style and expect that to succeed for them. Every nation has its own culture and specific environment as well as its own footballing identity.

“England have to develop their own vision and decide how they should play”

As I found, making that vision work is not an easy process. It will take time and England’s results might not be positive while it takes effect. England will also need the help of the Premier League. Every club coach will have their own philosophy but I tried to work with those in the Bundesliga to build something together. 

There are a lot of foreign players and managers in England but that should not make a difference. You simply have to explain to them what the style of play is that you want to develop and be prepared to persevere. When Jogi and I took over the German side, we made our plans very public and made it clear that we were trying to rebuild from the bottom up. 

The German association fully backed the plan..

The German Football Association (DFB) helped us by putting a lot of pressure on all the first and second division teams in the Bundesliga to build academy programmes and ensure talented young players were coming through but we still had to decide on our playing style.

“Whatever approach the England team decides on, everybody in the English game needs to sign up to it”, 

Jurgen Klinsmann 

To do that, we quizzed everyone we could. We held workshops with German coaches and players, asking them to write down on flip charts three things: how they wanted to play, how they wanted to be seen to be playing by the rest of the world and how the German public wanted to see us playing

If we could define all of that, we thought we could lay out how we wanted to work and then, from there, sort out the training and paperwork behind the scenes. What we ended up with amounted to 10 or 12 bullet points laying out our proposals. We then announced that it was our intention to play a fast-paced game, an attacking game and a proactive game. 

That last term was something the Germans did not really like because they did not really understand what proactive meant. We just told them it meant we did not react to what our opponents did, we played the way that was right for us. Once we had done all that, we created a curriculum for German football and presented it to the Bundesliga and DFB boards.

At that point, I told them I did not have the time to implement the strategy at all levels because I only had two years to prepare for the World Cup, so I asked for Germany’s Under-21 team to adopt it and that was it. I brought in a former international team-mate of mine, Dieter Eilts, to run the under-21s and said they had to play the same way as the senior team because they would be a feeder for it. I was always looking long-term but I knew our plans would be measured by our success at the 2006 World Cup. 

Negative Media

There was a lot of negative media at the start. Everybody agreed German football had to change after 2004 but nobody actually wanted to adopt our proposals. 

For example, we told the Bundesliga teams and coaches that their players needed to be fitter to play the kind of football we wanted to play.

The change

That meant carrying out fitness tests every three months, which did not go down well with some clubs because I was able to prove that some of them were training their players properly and others were not. I was basically doubted for the two years I was the coach – and when we lost 4-1 to Italy in a friendly game three months before the 2006 World Cup, everybody wanted my blood! We had another game three weeks later against the United States and we won that one 4-1. That victory saved my job and kept me in charge for the World Cup because the DFB had been ready to make a change.

They wanted the conservative approach again, not the revolution. But I kept on being positive, explaining that this was how I wanted us to play. I did not know if we would master it in time for the 2006 World Cup but we would give it a shot. We had the players for four solid weeks before the tournament began and were able to get our thoughts across. They agreed to train the way we wanted them to and do extra work. Soon they started to believe in the system.

Germany will prove to be the most influential team at this World Cup, that was crucial because, no matter what your job is, you need to identify yourself with the work that you are doing and be happy. I was happy because, as a former striker, I liked the style we intended to play. I could never coach a team that played defensive-minded football. I also think the players understood that I was the one taking the risk and that if it did not work out the DFB would send me packing back to California! 

2006 World cup

We started well at the 2006 World Cup and the public began to feel that something special was going to happen. In the second game, when we beat Poland with a last-minute goal, the whole nation embraced us and said “yeah, that’s our team and that’s how we want them to play”. We lost in the semi-final against Italy but I was still very proud. 

After that World Cup, I was burned out after two years of banging my head against a wall but I made it clear to the DFB that Jogi had to take over after me to continue the job we had started. He has continued to develop that initial style of play and is enjoying success. It has taken Germany six years to learn to play it properly – and it has developed along the way – but the players are completely comfortable with it now. Germany’s style of play might work for England because, in a way, Germany now play a lot like a typical Premier League team, with the emphasis on pacy attacks. But whatever approach the England team decides on – whether it is attacking or defensive, patient or high tempo – everybody in the English game needs to sign up to it. After all, it is the players, coaches and clubs who will help to make it work. 

Jurgen Klinsmann was speaking to Chris Bevan in Cape Town back in 2010

World Football

What a Player. Del Piero’s Open Letter To Juve Fans..

The 37 year old is no longer a Juve player and penned this letter to Juventus fans in Corriere Dello Sport.

“It’s not news, but knowing it is ‘official’ still has an effect on me. It is not a sad moment for me, there are no regrets or nostalgia. Not anymore. That’s because I’ve had time to think back over everything that happened in my last Bianconeri season, going further back and reliving the greatest dream I could’ve dreamed.

“All the memories, the joys, the triumphs and – to be honest – a few recent moments of bitterness… Today all these images flash in front of my eyes and at a certain point blur into one marvellous embrace of my final game in Turin.

“That is the photograph that encapsulates everything, the instant I want to bring with me always, the one that since May 13 has been printed on my heart. It cannot be cancelled.

“A while ago, before going on vacation, I emptied out my locker at Vinovo and walking out of the training ground I stopped where for many months you waited for me hoping for a photo, an autograph or just a hello… under the snow, the ice, the rain, the burning sun. But this time I am the one saluting and thanking you, just as you did with me.

“The players pass by, but Juventus remains. My teammates remain, who I wish the best and will always cheer them on.

“Above all what remains is the fans, you who are Juventus. That jersey that I loved and will always love, that I desired and respected, without breaks or discounts. I am happy that others after me can wear the shirt and above all the ‘10’ that has always had my name on it since they started printing names on the Bianconeri jerseys.

“I am happy for whoever will wear it next year and happy that somewhere – in Italy and all over the world – someone is dreaming of wearing it.

“I would be proud of someone wanting to follow my path, just as I dreamed of doing so with other champions, other examples, other legends.

“From tomorrow I will no longer be a Juventus player, but I will always be one of you.

“Now a new adventure begins and I am as fired up as I was 19 summers ago.

World Football

Eduardo Valcarcel, con el pie derecho

Eduardo Valcarcel is a true inspiration, he is a fantastic coach who inspires everyone around him. I met Eduardo last year in Poland and as well as being an amazing person, he is also a very funny and charismatic man.

Pic: Eduardo at the Football Conference in Poland 2011

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Eduardo Valcárcel impresses the cracks

The boys are amazed by the skills of Eduardo on Football Cracks. He shows his elegance with the ball and even challenges Zidane.

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World Football

Pep leaves way for Tito

Pep Guardiola leaves FCB at the end of the season with 13 trophies in 4 years. Don’t believe there is a manager that has achieved so much in such a short space of time. A truly remarkable feat for any person and particularly to do it with the little coaching/managing experience at the top level.

“I want to thank Pep with all my heart for the huge amount he has contributed to my career, both professionally and personally,” Messi said in a statement on his Facebook page.

The 24-year-old added that he had preferred not to attend Guardiola’s farewell news conference as he was feeling too emotional.

What next for Pep?

Possibly the Spanish national job, although I think its a bit soon for that. I’m thinking more on the lines that he will take for from Sir Alex at United or go to Italy possibly AC or Inter…

The world will wait for one of the greatest managers of our time to return and show his class again.Guardiola hinted he would be taking a break from the game but a host of suitors will be queuing up to persuade him to return.

Even the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea are among the clubs to have been linked with the sharp-suited Catalan while national team jobs with England and Qatar (He is not motivated by money) have been mentioned in other media reports.

Reaction to his impending departure poured in from across world football….

“I would have loved him, even going through a disappointing year, to stay and come back and insist on this philosophy at the club because that would be interesting as well,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, once linked with Barca given his love of the ‘beautiful game’, told a news conference.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters that he hoped Guardiola brought “his fantastic idea of football” to Serie A, where he played for Brescia and AS Roma.

President Sandro Rosell

introduced the conference by saying: “We have called you today to announce that Pep Guardiola will not continue in charge of the team next season.

“Thank you, Pep, for all the happiness you have brought us and for bringing a model of football that can never be questioned. The thanks from everybody at Barcelona will be eternal for the best manager in the history of the club.”

Rosell hailed Guardiola’s contribution and backed Vilanova to continue Barca’s success.

“Pep always takes the best decision for this club,” Rosell said. “It was his decision and it’s a personal one and an understandable one. We hope to follow the inheritance that Pep leaves us with the best we can. He has made us proud.

“Now we can confirm that Tito Vilanova will be our new coach. This was a decision taken by Andoni Zubizarreta and it has been ratified today by our executive committee.

“Tito and Andoni will now work on next season’s planning and I am sure they will do a good job.”

Barca have successfully promoted several players from the B team during the Guardiola reign, and sporting director Zubizarreta said the appointment of Vilanova was a continuation of that approach.

“Tito represents the philosophy of the club,” Zubizarreta said. “We’ve always said that if the team needs players, we look at home first. Who do we have here at home? Tito.”

Guardiola on Tito

Guardiola believes Vilanova will prove a successful appointment.

“I think the club has taken the best decision possible,” Guardiola said. “He is more than capable. The players know him. He will make few changes. He will give the club and these players something that I thought I could no longer give.

“I could have continued but it is not what Barca would have deserved.

Guardiola said:

“I would like you to understand that this is not an easy decision for me, but I would like to explain my reasons for this decision,” he said. “I have always wanted short-term contracts. Four years is an eternity as Barca coach.

“In the month of October I announced to the president and to the sporting director that I thought my spell was coming to an end. The main reason I have taken this decision is because four years is many years.

“I have given everything and I have nothing left and need to recharge my batteries. The demands have been great and I have not been able to rest much. I have to recover and the only way I can do that is by distancing myself. Otherwise, we would have ended up damaging each other.

“I know that I’m leaving the best place to work in. I am very satisfied with the result we have achieved. I have had the great privilege of coaching fantastic players. I want to thank them.”


We wish him well and look forward to his return in the near future….Thank you for 4 amazing years of outstanding football!

Quotes: ES & ESPN