Report from the U's Academy tournament in Germany

TOM Pell reports from the U's U10 trip to Germany

Another weekend in June, means another young U’s Academy squad are away on tour! Last it was a group of U10 players who took part in the Sportlife Cup, in Verl Germany!

The Sportlife Cup is one of the biggest and most prestigious in the whole of Germany. There are a total of 66 teams that take part in the U10 age category, where games take place over Saturday and Sunday.

Clubs from all across Europe take part in the tournament and some big names you may recognise would be FC Juventus, FC Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, Shalke 04, Werder Bremen, Hansa Rostock, Armenia Bielefeld, Borussia Dortmund, VFL Wolfsburg, SK Slavia Prague, Lokomotive Moscow, Hannover 96, Hamburg and many more!

On Friday the lads met at the Abbey Stadium mid morning to travel down to Gatwick where we caught our flight to Dusseldorf. Trying to get the kids to experience different things is a major part of the tours, so we decided to get the train from Dusseldorf to Gutersloh which took about an hour and a half. The double decker train was something the lads had never experienced before and seemed excited to get on! Needless to say they wanted to go on the top floor!

Upon arrival, we had a 5 minute walk to our Express Holiday Inn, where we checked in and went for a walk into Gutersloh for our evening meal. We found Pizza n Pasta Land, and the lads had many choices to pick from to get themselves the right type of food for the following day’s action! Pasta Carbonara seemed a favourite amongst the squad! A brief meeting followed and off the lads went to bed. 

The breakfast the following day, was excellent for the lads to ensure they did everything they could in terms of fuelling their bodies for the day ahead! You name it they had it! We tend to vary the type of accommodation we stay at whilst on tours with our young players, we wouldn’t stay in a hotel with them on their first tour away. Learning to deal with being in a foreign country, away from family etc and out of their comfort zone is something we try and do gradually. Their first few tours, is likely to be in a hostel, or sports complex where we are all together and the boys are taught about how to conduct themselves, what to eat, how to rest and recover, how to prepare, how to take responsibility for their belongings as well as having the opportunity to have free time to themselves.

However, this this group of players have been away 3 or 4 times on foreign soil with us at least and some even more. The life of a CUFC Academy player hey!  My point being is that by staying in this hotel, we know we can trust them to represent the football club and themselves really well, through the knowledge and experience they have gained on previous tours. Trying to treat the players like young pro’s is something we are always trying to achieve! The lads were roomed in 3’s, had their own en suite shower room, double/single beds. As is often the case, the duty manager commented how impressed his was with the boys manner and conduct throughout the two days!

Anyway, on to the football! Day 1, started with the Opening Ceremony which took around 40 minutes to parade all of the teams round the pitch and then watch their football freestyler!

The U’s were placed in a tough group, which is exactly what we wanted! How would we fair against Germans elite? 
Game 1 was a comfortable victory for the lads and we played some nice football, creating numerous chances and gave us a nice opportunity to go through some bits of play that we could try to do better in the next game should we get similar opportunities. 

The games were a straight 14 minutes straight through and not much of a wait in between games so the next game we played Borussia Monchengladbach. As we take the boys on endless amount of tours, you get to know the clubs that are very good and Monchengladbach are one of those.
A really disciplined and hardworking performance saw us draw 1-1 with the German side. We started the game brilliantly with some incisive play and carved them open on a couple of occasions. As the game wore on they ended have the majority of the ball but we defended well and looked a threat when breaking. A pleasing performance and a quick chat before our next match which was about half an hour later.

The third game saw us face Werder Bremen, another of the big guns! One of our best performances of the tour, but actually saw us lose the game 1-0. Having dominated possession and hit the wood work twice, the lads were obviously gutted when the final whistle went! Competitive matches where the result matters is something they are not used too when playing our weekly fixtures (and rightly so) so having to show that ruthless streak in tournament football is just one of many reasons why we also take the boys away! From our point of view as coaches, it was a brilliant game to watch and really pleasing to see so many aspects being carried out against top quality opposition.  Trying to get the lads to play the right way, and get the result is the balance that try and manage and we just fell short in terms of the latter on this occasion.
Our penultimate game in the initial group stages saw us face the group leaders Hansa Rostock. Not so big in terms of name but excellent in terms of quality! Something that we at CUFC can relate to. 

Having gone a goal down very early on the lads showed an excellent level of composure, continued to try and play through them and after a couple of good chances went begging, we scored late on after some magnificent individual brilliance from Jonah Jay to set up Saleem Akanbi who took the chance very well. Another 1-1 for the U’s which saw us go into our final game with 5 points out of 4 games.

The last game in the group was against Seigen IK, and the lads finished the days play with some terrific one touch passing and individual skill. Herbie Townsend with a Dennis Bergkamp like turn being a favourite of the watching spectators.  An early goal and another late on from Julinho Gomes saw the lads finish the day with a 2-0 victory, and points tally of 8. The result equalling the level of performance on this occasion which we fell a little short of earlier in the day!

With our games kicking off early in the afternoon, the boys cooled down, showered, ate, had a team discussion and then it was pretty much time for bed again! Some people often say to me ‘did you have a nice holiday away with the kids’. To which my reply, is always – it isn’t a holiday! Not because we don’t enjoy it, but more to the point that the tours are always that action packed that spare time is often a rarity for both the players and staff! So after the chat about the days play the lads went to bed and ready for another busy day 2! 

Unfortunately with the boys having a tally of 8 points, they lost out on qualification to the Cup competition on goal difference. Therefore, the lads were placed into a new section for teams that hadn’t qualified from the group stages! The Europa, as opposed to the Champions league as described by ourselves!
Another 5 games on day 2 saw us win our first 3 games quite comfortably albeit not easy, but games that we would expect the boys to win, given the quality in the squad. 

Our last game of the tournament saw our first game on grass (all others on 3G) where we faced Lokomotiv Moscow from Russia. What a brilliant game and other than our defeat to Werder Bremen was probably my personal highlight, with some excellent play. The balance between individual brilliance and being a risk taker as well as maintaining possession for long periods and working in a team is something I am always keen to see and it was a pleasure to sit back in the dugout and view what the lads were trying!

Although the football was over, the tour wasn’t and again if they wanted to be treated like young pro’s acting like them is a must, so a cool down, followed by food and a shower was next on the agenda!  Very soon after that we were back on our way to the airport, via our train journey and after a few treats at the airport we were back at Gatwick before we knew it!

Another successful tour, and for some players a great way to start their pre season and enhance their reputation as individuals within our Academy. 

We really look forward to seeing how these players use the experiences from the weekend towards their game over the coming months and I for one am very excited about the coming season for certain players within this group!
Squad: Spencer Sykes, Hayden Baker, Adam Brumby, Alex Stevens Lee, Jonah Jay, Harvey Beckett, Herbie Townsend, Saleem Akanbi, Julinho Gomes and Jayden Juettner. Staff: Tom Pell and Nigel Hurrell. 

If you like to keep up to date with the Academy at the Abbey then keep your eye on the website, over the coming couple of weeks to find out how our U12’s get on at the Rhedar Cup this coming weekend and how our U11’s do in Stuttgart in the first weekend of July!

Tom Pell - Academy Lead Foundation Coach 5-11