Sunday, 13 January 2019

Statement re resignation

It is with regret and a heavy heart that I will be resigning from my role at Dunstable Town Football Club. I have had to make this tough decision due to a number of reasons which I believe its only fair to explain.
Before that, I want to thank the committee. In truth I think they are battling a thankless task and working so hard, but without question there is a toxic undercurrent trying to destabilise the club and that is not fair considering if it wasn’t for their hard work and for some, personal investment there would have been no football club.
Recently I have had to listen to ridiculous unrealistic comments and views where people consider the club to be like it was, and don’t understand how close to the brink it was/is and the long term strategy along with the short term challenges. The club is too small and in too much danger for all people not to be pulling in the same direction and I personally don’t deserve to be treated like that when things are so glaringly obvious and my family certainly don’t deserve to receive cheap childish na├»ve underhanded threats.
My wife was critically ill and is still in recovery. Next week we are back in London for more surgery and she needs me to be fully happy and supportive in order to focus on helping her fully recover. I can only do that if I’m well as well.

When we recently won two games back to back against all odds we didn’t hear from anyone. But, on days like yesterday it seems there are people ready to jump on it as part of some ulterior motive, which is outrageously unfair to the players and the staff considering what we all put in. It’s vital, everyone sticks together now. Take this as a lesson if you want your club to exist moving forward.

Late on Thursday night before training I received a call that West Ham would like to take our goalkeeper for a game on Saturday. Of course we embrace this and it’s what we are about. Plus, we don’t have ANY contracted players anyway. After then desperate attempts to get cover we had no time to get one sorted although West Ham did then try to assist, but we did not have enough time to get the keeper signed on. I’m left then with taking our only other keeper, who’s 16. Considering some of the violence I’ve witnessed on the pitch (not yesterday) I was not willing to subject the kid to that potential as goalkeepers have to stand there and get hit. So, our striker Charlie Black went in goal. On the pitch, we are ravaged by injury and fatigue after a gruelling Xmas period. Our fantastic new physio has been working fantastically to get the lads patched up and out there but in truth, we couldn’t field a fit 11 players. Unfortunately, added to that we cannot simply go and recruit players of experience and known quality for this level because we don’t have the resource available. So, with an outfield player in goal we had our right back Joe, injured ankle, swollen to twice the size, playing. Kyle, limping through a groin strain. Hassan has a sprained ankle, playing. Arel injured, playing. Saul hip injury, came on, playing. Marius Patru out with a hamstring tear. So we ended up with a makeshift striker to buy us some time to try and manage those injuries. The rest of the lads are also exhausted! Added to that, two of the best performing midfielders for this level Rio (broken leg) and Ethan (near hip dislocation from horrific tackle) are both out injured, long term. This was just one game. In many games this season we have had 9 players injured and have used 11 goalkeepers. Yesterday, on a dreadful pitch our opposing (decent) manager and coach, who know football properly, Humbly commended us for not giving up and still trying to dominate possession and our style of play.

Despite the lack of resource we have shown many of the top leagues that we can play the game in an attractive way and that helps us develop players. We also don’t have the players to go back to front and play percentage football. I have found it very frustrating that we have not been better protected by officials and the injuries sustained are in some cases really violent old school attempts to destruct our young players physically and mentally. It’s a shame more teams are not braver and try to play decent football, as overall I believe that would showcase more players with true ability that should be playing higher. But we had to accept this was going to happen in many cases and that added to our injury list, whilst officials focused more on sock tape and removing breast cancer awareness wrist bands. Non league football would be a more pleasant watch if leagues and officials decided to stamp out violent play. Maybe more people would come and watch and then clubs would rely less on wealthy benefactors.

I also firmly believe that all non league football should be guided by financial fair play and ensure that they pay players within their means to avoid running out of money and players leaving on mass. This has a real negative affect on the sporting integrity. Just thought I would get that in!

When we played away, it was great to see the other clubs that have clear resource, Sports science, coaches, goalie coaches, 3G pitches, bars and cafes to generate income. We don’t have that at Dunstable. Pretty much all the clubs assets resided in the boot of my car. It has no stadium. To the councils credit it looks after the pitch but all the takings over the bar and for food go to the council. The football club doesn’t receive a penny. There is a lack of branding and images to make it feel like home. It feels like renting a pitch at a leisure centre. I tried to change the whole culture of the club and I hope they address this for the players sake because its not an enjoyable place to play football. The council need to recognise that without Dunstable Town FC it will leave a huge hole in the balance sheet, they need to work on making that the home of the football club who is its biggest customer.
Being the manager of a club in this situation is very unusual. It meant we had to focus heavily on development and young players and creating a culture and ethos. We were getting there. We have used over 15 players from our development squad and yesterday again have 5 players in the first team squad that had played for them. A couple of weeks ago we had 10. That is very rare. It also means it takes time for them to learn and improve. We have had 3 players now go full time and the latest to the championship. Soon I hope to be 4 with that one being the Premier League. This endorses the pathway ethos. We broke down the ‘them and us’ mentality that many non league clubs have and worked closely with the development squad who in turn then worked with the U16 and U18s so we were building true succession planning all the way down. We were building an almost professional type structure and with no money. We did that in 18 months, and I hope they all recognise the benefits of that and continue in that way which I started. It will bare fruit!
I also hope you get a manger now that understands that money cannot be the solution to problems at Dunstable Town until the whole structure is fundamentally changed. Therefore, winning games will be tough, give them time and don’t abuse them. Because, if you do, I really fear for the clubs future and a lot of endless and tiring hard work to get this club back on its feet and survive will have been in vain.
Thanks to the genuine people that clapped us off the pitch when we were struggling so bad, the players needed you. Thanks to everyone on the committee. A truly lovely genuine group of people and I feel desperately sad for you. I hope this pays off and everyone drops the nonsense and sticks together. Thanks to Gareth, we’ve been through a lot together and I’ve gained a great friend. But mostly, thanks to the players. You have been awesome. Some of you I’m sure will work with me again and I’m sure will be back in professional football. Thanks for never ever giving up, sorry I couldn’t see it through, but I need to put my health and family first.

Good luck.

Tony McCool

Thursday, 15 February 2018

400 mile Away Days in non-league on a shoe string budget of £0 per week

14 players were able to make the long trip to Wales to face Merthyr Town on a freezing February day to play in the re-arranged fixture after the original Saturday was called off. The trip will rack up nearly 400 miles. So it will need some planning.
I collected the mini-bus on the Friday before the weekend as its half term and the school Weatherfield Academy kindly lend this to us and its half term. So transport is sorted. We don't pay the lads a penny but on a long trip like this we want to at least feed them. So, we were working out the cost and what to buy when the development squad manager Colin offered to cook a large pasta for the lads. Well I think he had offered on behalf of his wife Nikki, but either way we quickly accepted as it beats the hell out of a meal deal sandwich. Thanks Nikki! (& you Colin of course)!
10am: Started the day in hospital, on the phone
On the morning of the game I had to nip to hospital with my wife for two appointments and as always the organising was in full swing. I still had players to confirm, I had injuries to decide on and some logistics to think about. Assistant manager Gareth didn't have a great night either with his partner rushed to hospital over night but thankfully she was home and stable enough for Gareth to come. On top of that I was aware that I had not written up my match prep properly although had the outline in my mind.
11.30 am: Quick bit of work in the office
We dashed back from hospital and instead of now completing the match prep with the team confirmed I was forced into doing some work, that actually pays me. A couple of orders on our shop had to be processed and now I was at my desk in the home office rushing through that. Running out of time I decided to print blanks and maybe we can do it on the way. I think I forgot I was driving!

1.15pm: Any room for players?
I got everything out into the car and my wife had made me beans on toast "You cant go without eating". Yep, correct, so I stood in the kitchen and scoffed it down quick and headed off. We got to the mini-bus and I needed to still pick the kit up. its a mile away at Treasurer Dudley's house. His wife Katrina has been washing the kit to save us money. I dashed round in the mini-bus to collect it, whizzed into the petrol station to fill up then back to the stadium. Still on time. We collected all our equipment from our locker inside Creasey Park and we headed off at half one.

4.30 pm: Dinner is served lads
We made good time and stopped for our pre-match meal. Not at the Hilton, in a Starbucks car park. The lads stretched their legs and we dished up dinner on paper plates in the back. But we couldn't sit on the bus to eat it as we couldn't stand in the isles. It looked like we were going on a camping holiday. So the lads took turns standing outside and eating but it was below freezing so then dashed to the bus for some respite.
4.30pm: Queue for food is freezing!
4.30pm: Share it out Keiran!
On we went and we looked at a huge mountain ahead of us as we got deeper into Wales. We joked about climbing it. The smile was wiped off our faces as the sat nav indicated left and all the equipment slid to the back doors and we indeed would be climbing this mounting. The road actually resembled those on the original Italian Job film but soon we were level with our ears popping. This really felt like a top gear challenge with Jeremy Clarkson. The next part being, what goes up, must come down. We did say that perhaps we would be hurtling into the stadium wall if the brakes fail.

Gareth looked pale but ready for action
We arrived at the impressive stadium in good time and got all our equipment inside. Gareth and I found a quiet room to finish our match prep and we got on with fitness testing one of the players.
We were delighted with our start and showed what a threat we are going forward and took the lead through Ethan Lamptey. At half time we talked about what would happen and of course Merthyr came out all guns blazing. We conceded from a corner which we strongly felt was a foul and later we conceded a goal through an error. Late on another error gifted them a third and we were beat. Terrific effort again from the lads though. Grit and determination with flashes of brilliance. These young players can truly compete.

7.15pm: Warm up on crispy freezing 3G
On reflection that error was a combination of players switching off and when you consider the affect fatigue has on players focus maybe its not surprising. Added to that being crammed up in a phone box on wheels for 4 hours certainly doesn't help physically either.
Ethan scored then stretchered off
As I sat in the players lounge afterwards contemplating and coming down from the energy of the game Ryan approached me and said he was going to get a lift back. Ok, I didn't really think about it.

We jumped back on board the bus and headed back to England. Cans of red bull kept me sharp as I drove back with most of the lads kipping in the back. Around 1.30 am we got a call. Ryan is at the gates of creasey park and cannot get his car out. Oh no, it didn't even occur to me. that when ryan said he got a lift, he meant back to Creasey Park the stadium. Thankfully Ryan is one of the incredible's and managed to get to his car and get inside and sleep till we got there with the gate key so he could get home. Home being another 45 minutes for him into London.
10.30pm: Interview done, time for home
3am we arrived and unloaded the bus and everyone got their cars running to clear the ice. One of the players got inside my car to kick the door open from the inside as it was frozen solid.
One of the poor lads also had the inside of his car frozen as his window was broke and would not go up. I wasn't sure the laughing was sympathy.

3am: below freezing,
I walked in at 3.30am and my wife greeted me in the hallway with a hug, "why are you up"? I asked. She said she was worried and dare not text becasue I was driving. She said "I'm gutted for you with the result". I said "I'm gutted as well, but for the lads, you should see what they have been through today yet tried so hard and performed so well" As I lay in bed at 4am I now realised the benefits of Red Bull getting us all home safely would come at a price. I was wired and re lived the whole day back to back before eventually riding out the caffeine fix. I know some thing really good things will happen for these players. Such an honest bunch. This year has of course been tough and we've got our toughest battles still to come. But every game we try and never ever give up. They learn and have evolved. They are young & their are some good stories coming.
3am: Home & frozen cars
2am: MK Drop off, frozen cars

Next day I took the mini bus back to the school with Andrew our secretary and apart from that I could barley raise a conversation. I was physically and mentally exhausted. By the evening, I was good to go again, ready for another battle, ready to surprise people. When these lads do something amazing, they also will surprise a few people, it wont surprise me though.

We go again.

 Tony McCool

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Hitchin Town 1 Dunstable Town 0

In recent games we have had to deal a depleted squad through injury and availability and that is on top of the usual key challenges we have to face. So being faced with opposition in good form and sitting well in the table should have meant this would be a daunting task. But fear is something we don’t have now and knowing Hitchin can benefit from sending match scouts to our games it proved they indeed take the task seriously and also meant that those circumstances meant we had nothing to lose. Nick Hayes was due back following his England training and with 3 Centre Backs out we felt we had nothing to lose in fielding some fresh faces that have impressed in training. Nik came into centre midfield, Stefan into centre midfield and Eldon came into no10 role. Eldon Maquemba is a player of great experience and genuine professional pedigree. He happens to be living in Houghton Regis and had jogged to our stadium, paid to get into a game so that he could approach us. He came training and looked terrific and showed the much needed experience we are desperate for to help guide the young lads. He was available for this game and I needed to pick him up. Our volunteer kit man has also been on the unavailable list so it meant I had a car full of kit and equipment as well as players. It did make me laugh when Eldon sat with kit and drinks bottles on his lap and said in a respectful manner “Tony, can I ask you a question? Is this the normal way you travel to away games? It is perhaps not the best preparation”  I told him I would much rather the use of the lovely team bus our neighbours at Luton Town and most others take for granted. That would be really helpful. But the club will not spend money we don’t have on we don’t have so that also includes logistics.
However somehow these challenges that we have might of somehow galvanise our squad and the clubs committee and fans as a whole and it’s this togetherness that enables us to be even anyway competitive in this league.
This was very well acknowledged in Mark Burke’s program notes where he credits our ability to compete in games due to good coaching, organisation and players willing to work hard. Intelligent appreciation from a proper football man with vast experience in this league. Someone I respect greatly.
We did well overall in the first half and had to defend well and be well organised as Hitchin of course wanted to put us to bed quickly. We mostly reduced them to shots from distance and we showed what a fantastic counter attack team we are with pace and skill going forward. The pace and transitions in this league can catch you out when you have not been playing regular and two of the new signings showed some signs of fatigue but they had worked very hard and they will get better and better. The centre back pulled his hamstring before the half and forced us into an early change and utility man Daniel Trif came on and was superb as always. This lad epitomises the attitude of our players. If I asked him to balance on the cross bar I am sure he would do it.
We made another change at half time and we of course spoke about the expectation from Hitchin who will be fired up and for sure will be getting a roasting from their manager. We started the second half at the tempo we discussed and got on the front foot but in that scenario their keeper was able to clear quickly and we found our selves isolated 1v1 and their lad chopped inside and finished. That was of course a huge blow. But we didn’t crumble and got our selves back into an even footing in the game and we felt strongly that with 15 to go we had the ability on the bench that find that killer pass into our wingers we know can out run opposition. Johnny Barnett came in and the plan very nearly came off as we also won several dangerous free kicks. Two massive chances that half with a header from Peter and he was involved with Andrew superbly down the right that had Eldon sliding in on an empty net like Gazza in the Golden Goal against Germany in Euro 96. Except Eldon did get a slight touch but it whizzed last the post.
One thing for sure again, that is another team that will be delighted to come away with 3 points and know that we will be bang in games and as our players return from injury now, suspensions over, some luck to even out, my word we are bang ready to take advantage and points will come.
Keep the faith… it’s coming. The story in now entering a new chapter and the winning will feel so much sweeter on the back of what we have been through.

Friday, 20 October 2017

12 Rules for FA Youth Football

I applaud the people that constantly search for a better way of developing players and ultimately aim to improve our national team’s results in major tournaments. So I was very interested to see this latest FA 12 Rules as a result of the youth review.
The overall objective of this review was outlined as follows.

To make football ‘calmer and safer’. I don’t think any person would argue with that being something that should be under constant ongoing review.
They want to create the ‘right environment for faster development’.  Ok, faster development could accelerate learning and maybe have a better end product. Only thing I would say is there isn’t a fast way to reach 21 years old. Ultimately, that will take 21 years.
The rules will ‘encourage player to be more skilful’.  I’m happy with that. Provided we understand and identify appropriate skill. For example, I love to see a player that can pass the ball with amazing detail in what he or she can do with its movement, like a golf or cue ball. Skill to me is much more ranging than simply 1v1 step overs and flip flaps.
They want to make matches ‘more competitive’. Great news. Always baffles me how we sanitise competition. Although government now has U turned thankfully and encourages competition in school PE for example. I’m glad about that because children are instinctively competitive. Anyone that has watched their children playing Fifa on Playstation like me can vouch for that. They want to win, then in sport we remove that edge, because the surrounding parents can’t control themselves.

So the rules…

Calmer & Safer
-          Silent Sidelines Rule:- There is nothing worse than hearing aggressive mums and dads shouting out obscene language. Even recently in my academy role a keeper made a really bad mistake. He’s U11. Several parents on the opposition hailed out cackling laughing at his demise and their teams gain. I found that shocking because do you need a rule to just make you a decent person? Having said that is there anything wrong with people shouting “unlucky”, “go on”, “well played”, “good tackle” etc.? It’s now the over sanitisation that does concerns me because then later on when you can’t control the spectator output then the players could freeze rather than learn to block it out and focus. Anyway, I guess its thanks to the like of what I witnessed a couple of weeks ago that this has to come in. I just wish we hit the problem head on, explain to them, “come on, if that was your son in goal, subjected to that, crying on the way home with embarrassment, how would you feel”? On that day there was circa 50 people there, 2 did that horrible thoughtless stupid shouting and 48 more pay the price.
-          Slide Tackle Rule:- My question here would be what medical grounds? Of course there is a risk playing football as with any others. A sliding tackle isn’t exactly encouraged and I’ve never heard a coach ask a player to do it. I think it’s an instinctive reaction to needing to reach the ball when defending and something that needs to be practiced to get right. It’s a form of tackling, maybe one that sometimes goes wrong but in over a 1,000 youth games I’ve never seen a significant injury from this. I’ve seen plenty of players left on the floor and beat and also seen a few good tackles. In adult football of course I’ve seen horror tackles. Just not sure if this is a rule for rules sake.
-          Blue Card Rule:- I’m actually a big fan of the sin bin rule. But the rule could be better in my view. I think in over 1,000 youth games I’ve only ever seen a small handful of booking’s in youth foundation phase grass roots football. I think that’s because the young people are on the whole not sinister in their actions. What I don’t like though is the imitation of the top premier league players and in particular arguing with the referee. We introduced a zero tolerance of even disagreeing with the referee in our own game Fiitball and it worked. Players leave the pitch for 2 minutes and it fixes the problem in a matter of minutes. Teachers said to us that certain players completely changed their usual persona in game situations. I think the sin bin rule for the current set of rules means it will have little affect with the little ones only to actually encourage more ‘bookings’.
-          Respect Marks Rule:- Why not? I don’t mind this and would only be an issue for those not able to control their emotions I guess.

More Skilful
-          Retreat Line Rule:-  I support this and where I have seen it I think it works well to encourage players to get on the ball. It needs more thought though and I’m shocked that it’s one of only two items to make players more skilful. For example I’ve seen this where the centre back gets it, then that player kicks it forward. So, it defeats the object. Also players get better under pressure, so at some point it should be encouraged to work on finding space and improving first touch under pressure. Plus if the keeper never kicks it then he/she is not developing. For example to practice chipping to pass to someone. That isn’t long ball to gain territory.  Thinking completely off the cuff, there could be more realistic ideas that actually help develop players to work off the ball and develop with pressure. Could you mark the pitch into 3 zones? You get two goals counted if you have a player in your team touch the ball in all three zones and score before you lose possession. In an elite environment I would certainly prefer that because I want my players to learn to deal with opposition.
-          Pass back Rule:- I agree and I have heard grass roots managers saying that it shouldn’t apply. I think it’s better to get the children into good habits as early as possible. I agree therefore that this helps the goalkeeper also. But I would take this as a given as it’s consistent with the full rules and to not have it included would not sit right with me. So, I’m not sure where the innovation is here.

Faster Development
-          No Instructions Rule:- I do agree that players do learn better thinking for themselves and coming up with answers to problems and challenges. I now have my own private academy team playing in an U11 and we set them a challenge for each player every week which is a progression of the training topic. The subs then acknowledge every time they achieve that objective and it’s tallied up at the end and openly recorded. We find that this is working and beats bellowing instructions. We may occasionally ask them to think about possible different outcomes or ask them to remember the challenge. That’s about it.
-          Equal Playing Time Rule:- 100% Agree and we have always done this. There is nothing worse than seeing players on the side-line freezing and its worth remembering that players develop at different rates so you could be denying time for a player that could end up being very strong and have further potential. Added to this, recently I was working for a pro academy playing a development centre against a grass roots team and we had 7 players on the side-line. The other team also had a similar number. I said to the coaches, there is a quarter of a pitch over there, spin the goals round and let the kids play on their own. I think we over supervise the children and sometimes over coach. There’s two goals, there is a ball, go and play. The pitch is fenced off. If someone gets hurt they will call us and we can see them in the distance anyway. What are the rules? Who is the ref? Who’s in goal? What is the formation? What decisions do they make? Well do you supervise when they play the PlayStation? No, and no one supervised them playing on the playground either. They sorted it out themselves. For me, subs should be set up in a safe, small game. Much better to play than stand around!
-          All Positions Rule:- I agree that players are ‘pigeon holed’ too quickly and it’s good to try different roles and responsibilities. Even when they get older and certain attributes lend themselves better to certain positions it can still be really useful to try different positions to challenge them. Early on players should be learning core aspects of the game with the ball in ongoing 1v1 situations all over the pitch. Later on they can learn position specific attributes that affect decisions and tactical methods.

More Competition
-          Mixed Teams Rule:- Not wishing to just throw away an idea without rational consideration, but I feel that this is just nonsense and I’ll try to explain why. Well firstly with the work I do in schools there is an obvious gulf in ability within most classrooms. An environment that puts different abilities in core subjects on separate tables or even in different rooms to ensure they share the similar level of development speed and so they can be suitably challenged in order to maximise their potential in that subject. This is clearly evident when you take a class to do PE and that includes football. There is an obvious gulf in physical and technical ability and it makes it very difficult to effectively coach where the lower ability pupils are gaining satisfaction and healthy participation levels whilst the higher ability group are suitably challenged to help them improve. For me this is a very similar situation in football and working as an advisor at different clubs I have seen this first hand when the groups are mixed together. You simply cannot achieve desired outcomes that is good for either end of the scale. Your ability level of the group dictates the level of the session and your set expectations. I think this can lead to disappointment for the players that feel like they are not involved enough and don’t achieve the expected outcome. Players refusing passes etc and them having little success in possession because they are picked off too easily. There are different levels of ability in sport just like there is in other core topics and this takes us back years. It totally undermines the ‘faster development’ objective and more importantly completely undermines the whole elite player performance plan. The EPPP is set out to ensure stronger players get to the better equipped academies and play with and against better opposition thus giving them a so called better chance of success. Surely this applies further down the food chain. Better players could just go stale and don’t have to put too much effort in or challenge themselves greatly. That also makes it harder for scouts to identify the true better talent because they will just be dominating games. Some clubs may well have separate teams of equal ability and typically you see them called reds/greens, tigers/panthers etc. But to make the mixed ability a ‘rule’ concerns me greatly and could end up benefiting neither player at either end of the spectrum.
-          Power Play Rule:- Another very concerning rule. This seems like another rule to counter a bad one in the first place. What I mean by that is if you don’t put competitive teams in similar levels in the same league and class everyone as equal than this will happen and again holds back the advanced players. No one wants teams getting beat 10 nil every week but it’s why teams have to be assessed, graded and pitched together. Some managers could also get to 3 goals and then encourage a striker not to score. Sounds ludicrous but I can see that happening all day long. Having expressed concern over this I have actually done this of my own accord. Our academy centre of excellent team went 4-0 up quickly against a grass roots team and I just took one of my players off. Because I recognised that as much as I don’t see the point of humiliating the opposition, my players are getting absolutely nothing out of it. So I wanted to try and even up the ability advantage. At least we may gain something. In another academy I also played a grass roots team and quickly set playing rules for my players for the same reason. So I’ve actually done this myself, however, making it a rule in grass roots makes it open to being abused and become unrealistic. Much better for me to pitch teams together than can compete and challenge each other. Reality of football, reality of all sport and indeed life.
-          Equal Numbers Rule:- Absolutely 100% To me is more a concern that it needs to be a ‘rule’ surely that’s decency and common sense?

Overall, I agree with some of the rules. Some I think are more common sense and with the odd bit of nonsense chucked in for good measure. Always the way though overall, the vast majority of decent people and parents pay the price for the idiotic senseless minority. We don’t really tackle the real issues head on, instead we change the rules for everyone.

I guess it keeps people in jobs as well though, so well done the FA. I understand this is also being trialed in Manchester so I guess, lets see what the feedback is. Lets give change a chance.


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Post Redditch Reaction - Our 1st EVER Game

To take to the field yesterday was a miracle and an example of what can be achieved when you have got great people pulling together. We had put together a squad over six weeks that could compete for Dunstable Town FC in Step 3 of the football pyramid and of course they needed to fit a certain profile. Young hungry players that want to move their career on and use our club as a pathway to something great. But of course that means the players are learning a lot as we go and they are not coming into training every day. So we don’t have the readymade solutions that other clubs can benefit from. Of course managers at the top clubs and all the way down to our level including our league have the ability to offer players financial packages and when Manchester United, Man City, Chelsea etc need a player in a certain position they go and get the solution. They don’t start the league with their U23’s and look to teach them under the spotlight in competition. Even at our level our competitors yesterday in a ‘pro rata’ relative similar situation are able to replace players with proven players and have the budget to support it. For example Redditch had a centre midfielder that we recalled playing against our coach Kevin Gallen and he shows the experience he has.

So on the pitch we are having to learn as we go. 2 months ago we started recruiting and now we have the squad we believed showed that hunger and desire together with attributes and ability we can work with. We are delighted with the players whilst we will have difficult days we know they will also produce great days. As we led up to our first week in this league we had a player return to Portugal and a key defender on a pre-planned trip. We lost two players who we had been sent to a professional trial in Germany. We have one injured and one that decided to return to university. Suddenly we had some concerns and we turned to some players that we had known previously. We promoted a former Luton Town player that had been excellent in our development squad and we signed two players that we had history with having worked with them at QPR bringing the ex QPR number to 3. On the Friday night we found there was a mistake in the registration and therefore our replacement we planned for was out. So we went to Redditch with another replacement to our already young and rapidly trimming squad but we did so proudly in our gleaning new training kit and aboard our mini busses that have kindly been supplied and supported thanks to excellent work from our chairman in building local community relationships.

As we arrived our physio who has been kindly supporting us free of charge while we ensure our sustainable future asked “Has anyone seen the 1st aid kit”? You see, whilst we have had to assemble all these players from scratch we have also had to learn about a lot of things that normally get taken for granted. We have now got another new volunteer kit man who has great personality and also made for a supporting driver and even chips in as a vocal fan from the stands. We had done a checklist but we tried to play down any distraction like this as on and off the pitch we keep finding what we are missing and just resolving it. However, he informed me that we couldn’t get in our club to get it anyways because it was locked up. Oh well, looks a bit tin pot but can we find a solution and Redditch United’s staff very kindly helped him. Sign of a great club. Anyway, we were already secretly a bit concerned. Our first game on this stage for these young players. We were a bit depleted. We are on a 3G pitch which feels different fans are starting to click through the turnstiles. A first for many of them and I did think maybe we would have been more comfortable in this transition on our home grass. But the baptism has to happen somewhere and in some ways, there is the theory of learning to swim is best done when launched into the deep end. So as the lads started to ask for tapes etc we just tried to play down the error and not lot let it become a distraction.

5 Minutes to two pm we are ready to hand the teams in and then came another punch. Our striker is not appearing on the registrations website. If he plays were in trouble. Of course that was a big blow. How we ended up in that situation is unknown but as bad as it feels, it’s thanks to the diligence of our secretary to not cut corners and double checking. He certainly prevented us being dunked in hot water, not for the first time. So, we need to reshuffle. I speak to the player along with his replacement and we go through some of the organisation that we had. It is what it is but again we tried to play down this issue and the lads got on with the warm up. The lad who was now out of the squad showed a great attitude where quite frankly he would have been justified in being angry.

We spoke before the game about the significance of what we are achieving against all odds. We spoke about who we are doing this for, maybe family and loved ones. We spoke about where we want to go as a club and individuals and we spoke about why we are doing it. It was a discussion to remember for the whole season and how we then cope with the ups and downs that would come and how we had become a new family.

Now, that’s the players off down the tunnel, now we have another rule, there is bench wear required that if we don’t comply the club gets a fine. The first I had heard about this was last week and the poor guys behind the scenes had the blue lights on and got there extinguishers out to yet again put out another fire. They acted on the news but the solution was not there for our first fixture and we got changed into trousers, jumpers and shirts for the bench and Kevin donned a casual jacket to cover up his kit. We did think we might be able to simply cover the logos with tape, oh yeah, we forgot the 1st aid kit. Plan C then.
I’m sure some people must have seen us come out and think wow, these guys all think they are Jose Mourinho. We got to the pitch, oh blast, another problem. Our host told us we are only allowed on the pitch without football boots. No shoes or trainers. The dugout is across the other side of the pitch and I wasn’t great at long jump in my school days prime so I really don’t fancy my chances of clearing the width of this pitch. Maybe the players could give us a piggy back? We opted to walk around the pitch and I’m sure the fans must have thought that we looked more like three guys walking to the pub rather than a dugout.

The game got under way and things didn’t look to bad. Ordinarily we can cope with conceding some pressure as we have incredible pace on counter attacks. Suddenly out of the blue, whack, a penalty. My gut feeling was it looked very harsh and on review of the video I said ………………………………… Anyway,8 minutes in and were one nil down. This is where experience is so important. We speak about it, we practice it, but reality is only experience helps in the heat of the moment. Nerves quickly set in and we did make a series of mistakes which quickly led to a second goal. 10 minutes gone 2-0 down. Disaster. What happened over the following 20 minutes is pretty much what you expect when young inexperienced players are debuting at the highest level they’ve ever played at against solid experienced paid players. It was the most uncomfortable period of our whole coming together at Dunstable and it came in our first ever competitive game together. They couldn’t cope with the disappointment and doubt and confidence soon came into play. In that period Redditch scored two excellent goals when we afforded them too much time and space. But, let’s be fair, they have some excellent players. 4-0

A tactical switch and some other changes were needed to stop this escalating into an embarrassment. I know these players are good enough so I didn’t want to let this happen to them. Half time we explained the changes and had to have some pretty tough words.
The second half they proved what they can do as they put Redditch on the back foot and we created a number of chances. A special mention perhaps for Brandy and Nimmy. They did everything we asked we also had put on Aaron on who had a couple of really good runs and crosses. When he gets running he’s terrifying. These three players are 18, 17 and 17!

We have a saying the players know…
“In football, when its going good, you find out about players, when its going wrong you find out about people” So they will all learn, they will act differently in future to mid match set backs.

Suddenly we had this team on the back foot and these young raw lads along with the efforts of the rest of the team had showed and proved they are more than capable of coping. As they threw themselves forward we took some risks that exposed us more than usually and urgent defending resulted in some corners from which they scored but overall, what was important was that we had gone out to be in a football match, take the game to our opponent and that will help with the belief and confidence. It might take a while for the lads to believe in themselves as much as we do. That might happen in a few months, it might happen in a few weeks. It might even happen Tuesday. One thing I know, is someone is going to be in for a big shock. Guaranteed.

Thanks for supporting us

Come on you blues

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

25th July 2017 Dunstable Town FC 0 Luton Town 4 - A day in the dugout

Another fantastic evening for a club re-birthed and reconstructing processes learning protocol to run football matches off the pitch whilst we replicate that on the pitch.

So it started with a haircut…I thought, I’m looking a bit ‘Gordon Strachan’ (in his heyday) or maybe Cilla Black here. Going to have to get the groundsman on it if I don’t tackle it.
So I sat in the chair, who would have thought football frustrations would come out here? “You’re the Dunstable Town manager now aren’t you”? Yes I am. “I would love to be a football coach” he said. “Well why don’t you then”? I replied. He said, “Well, I did my badges but I gave it up. I really want to do the big stuff”. I responded again, “So….why don’t you then”? He said “Well nothing came up. Really I would want to be the Luton Town manager”. At that point a lot of frowns appeared on my head along with confused eyebrows and shocked eyes. “Really, Luton Town? fair play mate, maybe I would suggest you learn your trade for a few years, keep learning. Go and coach a kid’s team and start learning”? He said, “Well I only want to coach at pro level and it’s hard to get in so I left it”. I thought to myself, wow, I coached for years in grass roots, I coached senior amateur teams and spent over a decade coaching in academies as well as working in senior pro environments. This guy wants to bypass all of that? I wanted to go from that shocked emoji to the one of the monkey with its head in its hands, but I feared it could ruin my rapidly improving appearance.  Then he continued, “well I also want to be a scout, that’s where I really see myself, scouting players”. For a split second my ears pricked up, I actually could do with some help scouting, this is a young keen guy maybe. So I asked, “oh, fair play. Do you go to a lot of games?” He replied, no, I haven’t been to a game for years”. “Oh, but you want to be Luton Town manager, when was the last time you watched them?” He said “I can’t remember, years. The last actual game I went to was at craven cottage, Fulham v Man Utd and Ryan Giggs scored with the outside of his foot volley” I did another shocked face. Now in my head I’m thinking, that’s years ago. I remember the goal. A quick check when I got home it's 10 years ago. I rarely go 10 days without seeing a live game! So, my head went a bit “You do know that the current Luton Town manager has done all the things you are refusing to do, as well as played a lot of games”? I’ve also coached for 20 years and been at several pro clubs and studied hard and now I’m at club 'beneath him'.
As I left I was thinking how that attitude was consistent with a lot of footballers. They want all the lavish lifestyle and celebrity life, but are not willing to do the hard part in between. Then they wonder why they fail. Is this there fault or simply a culture of young people gaining celebrity status on fast-tracked reality TV shows? Why go to acting school? Why bother? Why write great comedy? Why bother? Why work on great presenter skills with knowledge? Why train in professional entertainment? You don’t need to go through all that, you can bypass it. I wonder if many young people now think football is the same. Do they think there will be a reality TV show football club that takes people out of there lazy lives and thrusts them into stardom and all they need to do is act stupid, talk without any amount of respect and decency and parade around half naked and be promiscuous. Bingo, I’m a footballer or a football manager.
Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) addresses show makers

I think this was brilliantly illustrated and so well written in the series Extras by Ricky Gervais with the character Andy Millman having a realisation of his life having been on celebrity Big Brother pointing at the camera saying “f*ck you, the makers of this and you lot for watching” after describing how desperate you must be to want to be famous so much you hand in your dignity at the door. 
I think this is one of my favourite speeches of all time Extras Speech It makes me think about football and how its changed with so many quitting after they don't 'make it'. So why did you play in the first place? Was it to be famous or becasue you loved football? 

Anyway, the Football…
I must extend a huge thank you to the ground staff at Creasey Park because the pitch is looking tremendous.  Overall as we go through pre-season you can see the new bunch of lads learning about each other. We are on a very steep learning curve and I have to say a unique situation for me. But that is the challenge I relished. Perspective is something we have to keep reminding ourselves of. We are a very young team, they are impressionable. In some cases they are lacking a bit of confidence and they don’t realise how good they are. But it will come. Because we are not lacking ability.
Tyeeeq Bakinson along with Freddie Hinds now Bristol City
& Cameron McJannett now Stoke City
I had a very warm chat with Andy Awford as he shared some of the work they do from a holistic view of player development at Luton Town. It would be wrong to go into detail but I was really impressed with the approach to ensure young chaps are afforded equal opportunity. He also spoke about the importance of creating good people with life skills. Well done Andy and thanks for bringing them to Dunstable Town. Although it is a reality check to be looking young men in the eye that I coached when they were 11/12/13/. It fills me with personal pride to see them doing so well. I remember a young Arthur Read and complimenting him only for my fellow coaches to remind me that I always rate the ginger haired players. Well I don’t think anyone that was at last night’s game would disagree that I think I have been proven right as he pretty much dominated midfield with very clever movement and rotation and use of good first touch and passing range. Good to also have Tyeeq Bakinson also come to me and say hi, such a nice humble well mannered young man. I recall his parents well and I know they will love to hear that. I wish him and all them other lads huge success and nothing would fill me with more delight than to see one or two take the field in the football league, let’s hope in a gleaming new stadium and gleaming new era for our professional neighbours.

One of the challenges we face with our brand new crop of players is self-belief and confidence. We have to remind ourselves that we also were a very young team. Dare I say, not your typical Step 3 Southern league semi-professional outfit currently. Added to to that we have had 9 training sessions, in our lives as a team. In those 9 sessions we have had to fit in a recruitment program, followed by a pre-season. When most of our competitors were starting pre-season games in gleaming new kit, we were still drilling down on a new squad selection after rustling together some footballs. So, this is very much a fledgling outfit. All things considered then I feel we are in exciting times when you consider that against two excellent similar level teams we have more than held our own and have put fear into team’s defenses. These lads have got a load of work to do, but I’m so proud of them already. We had two 17 year olds on the pitch yesterday. I’m so confident in their ability, they are not filled with that confidence yet, but they should be, they were terrific. When I see Aaron Hudson whipping down the line, beating his opponent, showing great skill I couldn’t help but smile. The score didn’t bother me one bit in moments like that. Brandy Makuendi in centre midfield also, you wouldn’t believe he is just 18 as he demands the ball and shows great ability to stay on it. That’s bravery. Nimmy up front, 17, hangs on every word you tell him. I think if I asked him to make his runs from the defending corner flag he would do it. These young men are learning fast and we will watch them mature as young men as we go. In the next bracket we have a group of 19-23 year olds desperate to learn and willing to work hard to improve. That leaves some pressure on our experienced ‘old’ players, Scott Betts (24) and Skipper John Sonuga (28). These chaps have shown great calmness. Fantastic role models.

Overall Luton Town dominated this game. That statement is not an embarrassing one to make. Tactically we needed to place ourselves in better positions to be able to make contact and we know that now and will work on it. A shift in shape helped with that and for the first time it allowed us to get forward in a sustained attack. There keeper made a good save from electric Ryan Young (he will terrify teams this season), that would have been 1-1. Instead a combination of errors from us allowed them to tap in a second.
Of course we still have a lot of questions to answer as to who and where so from that point we had to remind ourselves that we are preparing for a season and therefore we have to put preparation ahead of the result as we moved personnel around and tried some different things.
So, full credit to Luton Town lads and another good work out for our lads as we get nearer to the season.

We should give a mention to the guys off the pitch. The people who volunteered to save this club and now work tirelessly to get the club prepared for genuine football matches. We still have kit to sort out, we are rustling together water bottles for the lads along with many other things which they are sorting and have sorted. But the ladies and gentlemen behind the scenes are all on the same page in that we want to create a togetherness and professional approach from here in. There is a real solution and can do approach and it has created a buzz around the pitch and place. The fans have been brilliant to the players, they understand the dynamics and there patience and support is hugely appreciated. The amount of young children in Dunstable Town and Luton Town kits enjoying a night out was also great to see.

Ive got to thank all the people that have stepped forward to help me and the club already. Like my old colleague from west London Justin Lucas-Hill. He has been provided professional medical support for us as well as helping with staff recruitment. He hasn’t asked for one penny so I feel obliged to tell people how wonderful he is and if you feel you need treatment please visit He might even be able to meet you at the club moving forward

DTFC - The Jackals - No Fear
When I look in the eyes of the people running the club I see such decent transparent people, guys discussing ways to improve things for the lads well post 10pm. I even got a nice bit of homemade cake. When I walked back to the changing rooms I left a chairman sweeping it out in his suit. That is the ego free football environment I’ve always striven to work in, all hands on deck. As I walked back to my car with the stadium lights off and loaded with equipment I reflected on what I had just seen and thought to myself…

This is going to be a long hard season, with many ups and downs. But, one thing I know for sure, I want to do everything I can to give these great lads, fans and people running the club a glorious football day they will never forget.

Tony McCool


Monday, 24 July 2017

Schools out and Back in the dugout

Well it’s been quite some time since I have been able to sit down and type some thoughts. Its been an incredible year with Fiitball all over the UK again and as I sift through the incredible feedback from the teachers and pupils I’m left shocked but proud that I was part of making so many children happy and getting them willingly running around.
As I finished this last week of schools I was asked to cover Fiitball with some younger children, YR1 and reception and it was great to add the reduced version of the game and with differentiation to achieve some really positive outcomes. My favourite comment and reminder of what expectations to set came when I asked a few how long they had been coming to school. One little boy said “7 years”. “Ok cool, and how old are you”? “Im five” he said.
2Touch football is ploughing ahead with its free subs football club. We desperately want to field 5 teams from u7 to U11 and are recruiting as we speak. But the kit is ordered, some funds are in place and we have a pitch. Much of this work has been done by Graham Cowley. He is truly one of them genuine great community guys and added to that he’s a good open minded coach and we need more of him.  If you have a child that’s wants to play, please get in touch. Also, if you have some spare cash and would like to sponsor us to help keep this free, please drop us a line

Dunstable Town FC
So we started this project in the middle of June. To put things in perspective, we had no players. We recruited quickly and circumstances meant that players would be coming here for reasons other than money. At this level that makes it very tough. But they know we would give them good coaching and try to give them the tools to make them the best they can be. We had to relabel the club. Know what we are and where we are. Were a pathway club. A club where we have a great platform to showcase what you can do. As it transpired loads of young guys turned up and we had to cut that number down quickly which of course is never nice.
By the time we showed up with a squad to play well established Marlow Town we had been together a few weeks and never played as a team. The game proved we had chosen a really good hungry bunch of young men as they took the lead quickly followed by a quick reminder that younger inexperienced lads easily switch off as they conceded at the other end in that classic window of risk.
Skysports came to play us a real show of support and we mixed it with a cardio vascular work out for players not playing to try and create some fatigue although the sky lads weren’t convinced we worked them hard enough. Actually the Skysports lads were excellent. Of course there was a difference in overall fitness but they didn’t disgrace themselves one bit and we also managed to get the lads on the pitch for only their second game ever.
Hendon were next up and as we walked in with the mixed footballs and casual clothes as we await delivery of our new training and coaches kit, Hendon looked every bit the part. They have a number of staff and clearly everything is established and in place there. But I believe in these young players. I’m confident they will be ok and can win games and step up. I was delighted with the way they went about their business against a proper good outfit in Hendon. This was a real test of what is to come and an example of why the fans need to really support these young guys because they proved they can not only defend stoutly in games but create countless chances and caused them a lot of problems. In the second half we did concede more possession and the changes perhaps showed greater strength in depth for Hendon. But the fact that we had carved out several decent chances and maybe should have had a penalty it was a really good run out again as we continue with the learning. This was Hendons 4th competitive friendly. Marlow had already had 4 friendlies. This was the second ‘competitive’ game of our lives, for a young team. All things considered then, it makes for an exciting future. We’ve got good balance, strong defenders, an excellent goal keeper, pace and power and players that can terrify defenders. 5 weeks ago we didn’t even have a football!
If your local, please come and watch us!

Tony McCool