Keith Brown (ex Blackburn Rovers) and Michael Renwick (ex Hibernian) took the boys through a session in extremely difficult conditions, the pitches were very soft, wet and muddy something we don’t get to see in WA. The boys adapted well and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Whilst at Hearts we got to meet John Murray, Academy Director, who showed us around introducing the Sports Science staff who were busy collating data for the First Team and also giving us a demonstration in the software they use to put together match reports for all the teams at Hearts including the First Team. The tool had animations for the set plays for and against, and also charted every component of the game including touches on the ball, minutes on the pitch, etc. A great level of detail went into everything they did.
After our evening meal we had the pleasure of sharing the career of a good friend of Barry’s, Lee Bullen who is currently the assistant manager at Falkirk Football Club, who currently play in the Scottish First Division. Lee has had a wonderful career, starting in Scotland before heading off to Hong Kong, Australia, Greece, and England before playing his last game for Falkirk last year at the age of 39, he still hasn’t officially retired but having played every position on the field, including goalkeeper whilst at Sheffield Wednesday, he is perfectly happy being a coach. When he played in Hong Kong he was a team mate of Sunderland Coach Carlton Fairweather and played against England in the lead up to Euro 96 when the England team contained players like Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and Tony Adams.
The overriding thought for the night was that Lee suffered rejection 3 times before finally getting the opportunity he desired, a lesson to all that you cannot fail if you keep trying and never give up.
Day 14 took us to the home of Scottish Football, Hampden Park. The players were given an extensive tour of the stadium and the Scottish Football Museum which is housed inside the stadium. The memorabilia and history surrounding the ground gave the players a better idea of how proud a footballing nation Scotland is and still aspires to be.
Whilst the players completed their tour, the PFT coaches met with Scottish FA Head of Coaches Education Donald Park. Donald showed is love of the game which he has been involved in as both player and coach for several decades, he was Barry’s first senior coach and also Mark’s landlord when he played at Hibernian. It was great to catch up with him and share old stories but also to speak about what we are doing here in WA and how it compares to what the SFA are doing in their programs.
After Hampden we all headed off to Murray Park, home of Glasgow Rangers Training facility for our match against them. Murray Park was one of the first purpose built football facilities and surely the benchmark for what an academy should look like, from the pristine playing surfaces of the training pitches to the gym and auditorium where the first team meet it was a truly world class facility. We were given a tour by former St Johnstone goalkeeper Alan Main who is now working for Rangers as their Academy Goalkeeping Coach as well as helping Academy Director Jim Stewart with the First Team Keepers.
The games went ahead one after the other and as was the case with Liverpool we came up against the highest standard of opponent. Again we applied ourselves very well and keeping the ball well under pressure, Rangers had individuals with undoubted talent and looked very hungry for success. The biggest lesson to take away from the match was that we were technically as proficient as our opponent but they showed their class and poise through sheer determination and willingness to be first. This comes from being in a challenging environment and with the game still growing here in WA we can only hope that the competition will grow stronger which will breed this trait into all our young talent.
Day 15 took the squad back to Glasgow, this time to the East end and to one of Celtic’s training centres at St Mungo’s High School where Celtic run an in-school program for talented players.
This session was to be the last on the tour. After 15 days of travel, and constant football (playing the previous evening) you would have thought that fatigued would have hit hard, but the players still showed fantastic energy and enthusiasm, giving their all in the session and still coming off the pitch thirsty to gain more knowledge.
The tour wasn’t officially over, as we woke on Day 16 the players were unaware that our four and a half hour bus journey back to Manchester was not just so we could catch the early morning flight but also to take in the Manchester City v Aston Villa EPL match which took place at the Etihad Stadium, where earlier in the tour the players trained.
The match was again full of entertainment and excitement with City again showing they will surely be a force to be reckoned with this year and for many more years to come. The same three players stood out with Balotelli, Milner and Silva outstanding as they demolished a Villa side who until that game had been unbeaten all season. We had seen a total of 15 goals in the EPL over the three games we took in with most of the players now sporting brand new Manchester City tops with David Silva emblazoned on the back!!
The journey we had been on was exceptional, the players had been exposed to the workplaces of some of the biggest clubs in the world, scoring goals against teams like Liverpool, Newcastle and Rangers is something that cannot be taken away from them, and the experience of playing against some of the best players in England and Scotland will challenge the players to become the best they can be.
Pro Football Training would like to thank all of the players and parents who attended the tour and we hope it was a trip you well remember forever. Well done on all of your hard work in fund raising for the tour and for your constant support of our programs.
- Seb van der Vliet for been a fantastic and highly professional Tour Operator, we look forward to many more tours with you!
- Thanks to Kelme for the superb training apparel and travel wear, we are delighted to be associated with such a fantastic WA Company.
- With special thanks to Otsana Capital for sponsoring the players kit and travel wear.
- Jarrad White, tour physio, thanks for all of your expertise and tremendous work ethic.
We would like to thank the following coaches and clubs who made our trip so very special.
- Nicky Spooner – Bolton Wanderers
- Paul Harris & Duncan Ferguson – Everton FC
- Gavin Makel – Manchester City FC
- Mick Priest and his Academy Staff – Oldham Athletic FC
- Ian Dipper, Carlton Fairweather, Elliot Dickman, Kevin Ball & Ged McNamee – Sunderland FC
- Neil Winskill, Ben Dawson, Peter Beardsley and all of the staff at Newcastle United Academy, Foundation and St James Park – Newcastle United
- Frank McParland, Steve Cooper, Mike Sheron, Tom King and all of the staff at The Academy – Liverpool FC (Special Thanks to Robbie Fowler for the initial contact)
- Keith Brown, Mike Renwick & John Murray – Heart of Midlothian FC
- Craig Mulholland, Jim McNee, Steven Crawford, Alan Kernaghan & Alan Main – Glasgow Rangers FC
A tour in 2012, we can only hope so and planning has already started, watch this space for an announcement very soon.
In the meantime continue to embrace the best game in the world.
Be The Best You Can Be
Barry & Mark