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


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Totally FREE Grass Roots Football Club

We want to do something revolutionary. In every industry the price only ever goes up. But for young children who want to play football I want the price to come down to zero.

For next season we will launch a new football club on the Luton & Dunstable border's as a test. Can we do it? Can we deliver a 'higher end' brand of football. An almost professional approach with first class standards. Qualified coaches coaching with a one club ethos that is looking to develop players in a challenging, safe, fun environment where creativity and smiling is embraced not stifled. We will do this and the boldest thing is we will deliver this with no cost to parents.

New 3G pitch locked Saturday Mornings
Why would we want to do this? Is it important? Well in my view it is and i think I have enough experience to justify this. Ive coached Fiitball and Football now in over 100 schools and over 10,000 children all over England and in a wide range of communities. I have had the great pleasure of working in schools where there are children with all sorts of difficulties and challenges and there is a statement I have heard many times. On occasion you get the sense that a boy or girl is showing real talent with technique, understanding, enthusiasm and desire for sport and so I ask the question. "Do you play Football outside of school"? Many say they are with a club, that's great! Some say they are with an professional academy and I always follow that up with "How many times a week do you train"? Most say "once" on a rare occasion they say "three or four". I always say well done to both but in my own mind I'm simply gauging if they are in a next level development centre or actually an academy signed player. But there is a crucial answer that if I had heard once would be too many, but I've heard it several times. "I don't play for a team, we cant afford it". I know its hard for grass roots teams. They have to pay for kit, facilities, ref's, league fees, fines, FA admin, training, equipment etc. Nothing is free, so they try their best to gain sponsorship and the rest we all know as subs comes from the parents. To think that football has become a pay2play culture is simply outrageous and something we must address. The FA said it wanted more than 500 pitches by 2020 like that will cure grass roots football. I commend them for investment and who doesn't want better pitches? But some children simply cannot afford to play on them and some pitches remain locked in off peak times and empty with no concessions. Surely that means we might miss out on talent?

Lets look at Academy football and the investment required from parents.

If you have a child playing in 2nd tier level football, like a development centre. Then of course you will have transport cost but on top of that, some development centres actually charge for this. I know of fees ranging from £400 to £900 per year for the privilege of having your child in the 'system'. Now I've got no issue with any organisation providing a good service and someone paying for that service. That's reality. If I wanted my children to learn guitar, I would have to pay. If the product is good and my child enjoys it and their is clear signs of progression than I have no issue with paying the fee. My only point is, this certainly again prices out certain members of our society who simply would not be able to afford that fee. They cant afford to be recognised as talented and then invited to be developed.
But lets say that somehow they have leapfrogged grass roots and the host of development centres and they have been signed by an academy. Great news. Or is it? We all know the staggering statistics that are heavily stacked against the player making it all the way through to the first team so what would be the cost to the parents? Lets attempt some numbers.
Players are expected to train 3-4 times per week and then attend a game which could be at home or a long distance away. If the player is in foundation phase U9-U11 they could live an hour away from the training ground. Older children a bit further. Most people could do around 40 miles in an hour. On average fuel consumption figures I think £10 for a round trip is 'conservative'. Not taking into account a long away game drive, so that's circa £50 per week. So its reasonable and fair on that basis to assume that the financial commitment from the parents is around £200-£300 per month. That's without any loss of earnings for leaving work early and also assuming the parent has a car. I knew children that were travelling miles on public transport and in taxis. So actually, the celebration of signing full academy forms could be quickly dampened by the possibility that you may need to find over £2,000 per year to support that progress.

With this in mind I easily conclude that this wonderful game is pricing young talent out of football. Football talent cannot discriminate on any basis. We already know that the level of performance in international tournaments is not acceptable or even enjoyable. If you exclude talent based on money will we improve that in the long term? A game that has constantly thrown up world class players that have previously lived a life of poverty playing football in streets for free. Now I'm not suggesting that talented children cannot come from wealthy parents and can only exist from high rise council flats. Not for one second am I suggesting that. But what I am saying is that we are not putting them two children on the same pitch to give them equal opportunities. If we truly want the best players in world cups then we need to give everyone a chance to display there talents and widen the talent pool.

The Premier League Cash Cow

I don't believe in criticising footballers for what they earn. They have worked hard to get to where they are, well most have anyway. If somebody is willing to pay that, then fair play. I heard a lot of criticism after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been claimed in the press to be earning £367,000 a week plus a staggering £140k + goal bonus. But its difficult to criticise something we contribute to. I have got Skysports and BT Sport so I'm feeding this animal. Is it obscene? Yes of course? Do I think children's nurses and doctors wages in comparison is a disgrace. Yes! People do so many great life saving jobs for a fraction and I heard radio talk shows of people describing that, but I wanted to ask. "Have you got SkySports"? You see people worldwide are not tuning in to watch those fantastic public servants, they are paying and tuning into watch the Premier League and its superstars are now far removed from the reality we all live in. But I don't begrudge them. If someone offered me £20million a year to do something I loved, football, I wouldn't turn it down on morality and principle. I don't think any of you would either.

I'm also not one to say that these pay owe anyone. Its there money, if they give to charities and vulnerable, sick and desperate people, that's there choice. Some do, I'm sure most do and which is commendable because they don't have to and rightly so. It may also be worth considering that they also contribute to the public purse in a month what many of us would take a decades to contribute. So perhaps the cynics need a wider consideration when feeling a bit resentful.

What I will say though with passion is this. These guys are in England earning this money and the gulf between them and the grass roots game is widening with every new millionaire they make. These players will no doubt take there fortune back home eventually as circa two thirds are foreign players in the top clubs and I ask, what have they contributed to our game at the bottom? Yes we tuned into watch them and thanks for the entertainment. But you made that fortune in England and we should be taking action to insist they do because football is not a charity of choice. Its the game and the country that provided you with this huge earning spell so, I think its reasonable for a levy to be imposed to help get these young players in the window and back onto pitches at no cost. We could never make that happen though? Why not, if its in contracts from tomorrow lets say. There are few footballers contracts over five years in term so in five years I suggest they would all have the levy imposed. Now let me give you some examples and numbers.

Going on last years published figures 2016/2017
£1.38Bn Was spent on transfer fees
£174m was spent on agents fees
£1.933Bn was spent on players wages.

That's a staggering £3.487Bn spent by clubs

If the FA imposed a 1% Bottom up Grass Roots ring fenced fund and the tax office allowed this pre deductions that would create £34.8Million
Grass roots teams typically cost circa £3000 per year to run. So this fund would create a staggering £11,623 totally FREE football teams and these numbers are on the Premier League alone.

If you said to every player, the next contract you sign has got the new FA rule imposed. Of your 52 week salary, one week has to be given back to the game at grass roots. If you was a foreign player, you might begrudge this. But tough. Reality is, the club/agent will probably negotiate the extra to cover it anyway. If this was done five years ago all contract's would now include it and based on 2016-2017 £1.933Bn was spent on players wages in the premier league alone. My grass roots levy would raise £37million. That could fund over 12,000 grass roots football teams for FREE. Meaning more players can play without restrictions. Equal opportunity = more players = more realistic competition = better players in the system = better players coming through?

In the Meantime...

Between the Premier League, The FA and government its hard to know if anyone has enough minerals to tackle this and go for such a simple but challenging system of change so we have taken our own innovative steps. Our football club will be every bit professional and we will look to progress players. No parents will be the manager or coach. It will be our own people working on a syllabus and ethos we have created based on our experience of what works in terms of successful professional achievement but also what works in terms of creating an enjoyable environment for happy football memories. We have some innovative new ideas of ways we will fund this. It will require buy in from the pro clubs and we are also in talks with some key partners who want to help us achieve the impossible and provide Free extra curricular football including organised weekly competitive games.

Unfortunately mortgage companies are not great at listening to great stories of people trying to be community changers so of course the funds need to come from some-where. So if you think you can help, please get in touch and we will share the plan we have to make this happen. But one overriding position will not change. Parents will not be asked for subs.
Get on board at and if your looking for a new team or have a child from any background who you think would like the opportunity to join please get in touch.

Already we have had a parent tell us that for reasons of course we wont share, her some has not been able to play in a team for three years. She was so happy to see our advert. He has began training with us and guess what. He was excellent! That's why we are doing this!