Tuesday 6 October 2015

English football – a new philosophy based on our old heritage?

Football in streets of England took place before any association was formed (formalised) with 100s of people chasing inflated animal bladders around streets with brawls and scrapes for the ball with little or no rules and make shift goals (eventually).

I often here from non-football people, “it’s just running after and kicking a ball, I can’t believe people like it or pay to watch it.” That’s very much a non-commercial view and simplistic but has its merits. Too many of us thought the ball does something to us when we are young and we can never get rid of it.

We know the addictive behaviours of human beings, the mobile phone is proof. If only we could positively enhance the addiction of fun with the ball again, we may start catching up with the likes of Uruguay and Chile and Columbia in terms of pure pleasure of play (I’m not comparing national teams here). On the subject of addiction, many are that influenced by the vast money-based professional game and all the tribulations and stress that go with it and the constant media feedback systems that they replicate it in kid’s football. Many parents that used to comment on the ball being chased after are now in fact chasing a dream for their children, whether that dream is to win a Sunday league game at u7 or get into a development centre or even sign at an academy.

This brings me to academies. I know the system, or at least I thought I did. It’s changed dramatically in the last 6 years. Clubs routinely have under 6-8 development centres now. Some are taking children from age 4 after scouting them (from somewhere). There is an ever growing games programme at u7 (I once wrote about academies taking kids at u9 and them never playing or helping their old friends develop and learn from them in their community, due to not being allowed to play with them) with kids travelling 200 mile mid-week round trips so the “scouts and coaches see them in games against good opposition.” How can a 4-5 hour trip on a coach to play 40 minutes (max) of football be any good for a 7 year old? Surely this is de-valuing the importance of their school work? I hear a lot about contact hours to improve players.

Let them play at home for the 5 hours you have them on a bus not the 40 minutes you have when they get there. Young people need to experience many, many, different life subject areas but this system is stopping that. I keep saying this but mini festivals with multiple pitches, all kids playing for longer with local groups, mix of ages and so on is the only thing people need to do, but who am I to suggest it, I don’t run an academy.

Scouting of talent or scouting of potential? What we are rarely told as kids is things such as “look at how that player controls the ball in such an artistic way, etc.” maybe I’m wrong but traditions such as climbing towers in Spain or bull fighting or town centre horse races in Sienna aren’t seen as brawls but moments and events of art, genius, and above all community. However controversial some are they exist because of historical culture. What is our football culture historically? Do we actually know? If you read and digest most autobiographies and articles about players such as Matthews, Finney and I’ll throw in Best, they talk of a Victorian style form of play on cobbles and between tall kerbs. They talk, as also seen in the book Sons of United of how groups of enormously talented players for many years basically came from one community. How could this happen so frequently and now it doesn’t?

Yes we talk of foreign player influence on youth development but we have allowed this to happen! The ‘glory years’ of many a club were based on their own community. The real fan (of which many don’t go anymore) valued the talent and probably helped develop it in their area. Now? The market is swamped with scouts and coaches promising the next big contract. Some, and this sickens me
have agents as soon as they sign for an academy. There really are many people simply using the game, the game that started and remains a fun addiction has turned into a commercial, brain washing operation and who allowed it?

Why don’t we produce a Sanchez, Messi, Iniesta? I think we do but we see them stuck on the left wing tracking back in the industrial team setup being told no to be fancy.

If you think back to your first taste of football as a child it won’t be a negative thought. It might be in the house as a toddler, a shot at your dad in the park, whatever it was it will have been a fun choice. You played it because you were intrigued about the ball and what it did. That’s how basic it is.
This is a reiteration but the following comments from adults (which in turn are said by young people to their peers) are still common place. I see environment of games have become better but the shouting hasn’t and the instruction (lack of education) is constant. Matches usually follow a pattern, the nervous tension of the coach usually gets the better of them in my opinion, as if they’re being judged for some reason.

Comments/ actions often heard/ seen:

“stop trying fancy flicks and stop showing off”


“clear it, don’t mess with it, get rid of it!”

“down the line”

“big kick”

Praise for clearances, keeper kicks, forward directional thinking rather than the best option

Applause for heading back to keeper

Applauding a hard tackle but a reluctance to applaud trying skill or an attempt at something new or creative

A culture of “don’t be busy” and “we don’t like show offs” – seen through school life and into professional youth teams

I often hear “our u7,8s are ok but they don’t know how to pass yet or play in a position.” I always reply saying “good, keep it that way.” But the blank looks of confusion are never a shock anymore.

A school culture of conformity – grammar schools, schools football and discipline – debatable with professionals into cricket and rugby?

I work in primary schools. Believe me, it’s not easy. The landscape changes all the time. In a decade we have had funding from government change 3 times. There have been 4 different changes in recommendations for PE. It usually goes back to square one until another manifesto is written. None of it I can assure you have the child fully in mind. It has what is easiest and best for a mass number of people, to make it more controllable and easier to grade and stifles creativity and individuality from
the word go. I have noticed a large change in cognitive behaviours of children.

We keep blaming games consoles as a nation – this is an excuse by already lazy parents most of whom play the damn things. Going back to being addictive types – bin it, exercise, practice getting changed so your children don’t have a change of clothes at school – what does this do to any child’s self esteem? I firmly believe the assessment criteria of children borders on ridiculous – they are assessed from day one on clip boards, assessed and many often categorised into ailments, behaviours and placed in tighter supervision. Nursery teachers with clip boards, constant testing and increasing home work is all done and given not to better the child’s development but to appease inspections to conform to national frameworks of standards so a government can publish its improved results for their next campaigns.

I saw a great quote from a description of a sixth form student who under achieved when they were predicted top grades; “she lost the love of learning.” We have to be so careful and I really think this quote relates to the drop out in football.

Do we wonder why there are so many young people leaving school and college with so few employable skills that provide too much of a risk to employers.

The country always had dribblers – Matthews, Finney, Giggs, Best, Waddle, Gazza, Hudson, Worthington, Greaves, and so on. You only have to watch 101 great goals or Leeds United the glory years or the boys from brazil or highlights of the 1986 world cup etc to see the importance of street to stadium mentality. I have discussions daily with people regarding this topic. Should children be left to just play? No one has ever been left to play. Everyone has had some influence from an adult with regards play. Some children with regards to football are told what to do. It mainly involves the result of a game. With children playing matches from under 6 now, the result outweighs the practice earlier than it did previously. The notion of any tactics (however trivial or basic) at u6 compared to u11 has reduced 4/5 years of free play or playground play as it were. The dad and son park kick about now has in many cases changed to a formal junior game. The dad’s tips can now only be passed on via several others or shouted over a group. In a one on one situation compared to a 1 on 12 situations and in a game, instruction or help becomes obsolete and useless and could well mean both techniques and relationships could suffer almost. A dad may have taught the striking of a ball for example now they shout “get in your position.”

We often here media reports and feeds mentioning determination, pride, war like spirit with regards teams, games and players on a weekly basis. International tournaments often see headlines with the flags, Kitchener style campaigns and so on. I would argue the likes of Argentina have similar spirit. Latin street spirit – has it been derived from our own English streets? Terrier like players are often mentioned. The difference is a terrier like player such as Tevez in one country is perceived the same as someone like Cattermole (who is a good player – he wouldn’t be a pro otherwise) but can they be mentioned as just terrier like. The technical ability of Tevez is what makes him stand out. The terrier- like qualities are important – in this country we praise only one part of a player first – I don’t need to say which one. If our country won or helped win several world conflicts, surely we can win at football! This is exactly how people see it.

This is one of the most ridiculous thought processes when you break it down. It is also why many in England think the manager like a Churchill figure is responsible for everything and the marching and storming instruction is what it takes. Discipline comes in many forms, not just a red faced dictator.

The Pioneers…………..

Matthews – moves evolved from him – scissors, flip flap etc. His play has been taken on not by english players but by overseas stars who yes practice variations of movements based on the old players before them, they evolve them, change them, make them quicker and so on. Are young players here encouraged to do this? Or do they have free time to do this? Doubtful!

Finney and Matthews both tee total and trained on own when team mates didn’t. This is the same as the Ronaldo’s of today. The best practice the most. They remain training when others go for a shower. Do parents facilitate this now? Also doubtful. We talk of contact time in academies. Does it need contact time or just practice time?

8 of world’s top 50 dribblers of all time are from England according to a bleacher report. I would agree. Ask most children who they love watching – they won’t talk of formations and shape they talk of the exciting players. So why aren’t they allowed to try and watch, emulate and surpass them?
Football always in fear of being banned – from its existence on streets where fights and murders blamed on football matches – not dissimilar to the thinking of many head teachers now. Many schools have banned playground football. Not through the fault of playing children but because someone or something got hit or broken. Teach them then, not ban. Do you ban maths when a child fails a times-table test?

So does the future lie in the past? Get rid of the marketing, can the kids set up their own pitches at training and games? Can the refs be removed but keep the environment safe? Can the respect barriers become Education barriers or questions barriers (or even a different word to barrier).
Can everyone play? Can we play 2 small sided games across a pitch or do we need one big pitch?

Ask the kids, I bet all would prefer to play rather than 2-3 stand and watch.


Thursday 16 July 2015


It's been just over one week since I completed the most recent 100 days of challenge. This time I sought to conquer Freestyle Football. I say conquer what I actually mean is try to freestyle football. 

Unlike the 100 days of street soccer challenge I had very little by the way of freestyle football skills. In fact I only learnt how to do a kick up with my weaker foot in December. I had no intention of even attempting  freestyle football till I met John Farnworth back in April. 

I spent a few hours with John at an event being hosted by Mark Senior our managing director. A some what disappointing event in terms of numbers, this was a free event for a junior club that had gained funding. But for some reason numbers were low. Nothing Mark or John could do as they still delivered a great event. Over the event both John and I talked about skills and tried several variations of skills we knew. It was at the end that John suggested I take up freestyle football and do that as a 100 days challenge.

I politely declined, in truth I was a little scared, the last challenge had been immensely draining more in terms of video editing than the physical demands. I wasn't really ready to throw myself into such a commitment again. Needless to say though the entire journey back to my hometown I had a niggling 'what if?' in my head.

It didn't take much niggling as the next day I was hitting the court, camera in hand ready to face another 100 days of. 

This time I reduced my filming schedule and would only post a 15 second daily clip via Instagram and after every 10 days I would post a larger video on YouTube. Despite a less rigorous filming schedule I instantly knew this challenge was going to be far more difficult n terms of physical demands. 

Freestyle Football is very taxing on the body and mind. Especially in the early stages as you battle to over come the basic of skills. I found I was rather heavy of touch and uncontrolled with movements, I could only preform an around the world (ATW) from a foot stall (balancing the ball between foot and shin,) and only from my stronger foot. I rapidly changed training sessions from 30 minutes to 60 often touching 120 minutes in the later stages of the challenge. I spent most of my time training on hard surfaces. Along the challenge I picked up a few impact injuries and I fell on several occasions, one being particularly dangerous narrowly missing my garden wall. 

These falls and injuries may have put me off a year or two ago but after completing one challenge I wouldn't lose face and fail at this. In fact I was more determined to complete this challenge in the 100 days and avoid having to take time off. 

Thankfully Football Freestyle has 3 main sections of skills to learn for beginners. Uppers, Lowers and Sits. I'm not including the different styles each of these can have too. 

Uppers being skills preformed with the head, neck and chest. 

Lowers being skills preformed with the feet, knees, shins and heels. 

Sits being skills preformed with all parts of the body from a sitting or laying position. 

Okay maybe not so thankful after all, because there is an incredible amount of skills to learn in each of these sections. Though if you do pick up minor injuries, say to the ankle at least you can give the ankle rest by moving onto uppers for a couple of days. 

I focused on the basic lowers (Inside and Outside ATW, hop the world (HTW,) crossovers, half ATW and toe bounces) mainly throughout the challenge with the odd deviation of trying more complex moves such as the Touzani ATW (TATW.) My main aim was to be able to put a small routine of those skills together at the end, sadly I failed that main aim due to the complexity of developing consistency. However this failure wasn't a loss. 

I still feel over the 100 days I made incredible gains in skills development. I went from not being able to an ATW, HTW, Toe Bounce or Crossover on either foot to managing to preform all on both feet (my toe bounce isn't great with my stronger foot if honest.) I was also starting to link small combinations together and including new styles such as blocking moves and stalls into what I knew. I also managed to land the TATW. 

Needless to say I had gone from being a complete beginner to being somewhat ok at performing several freestyle skills. Freestyle Football is a sport that takes a good couple of years to develop large amounts of consistency in, but I have managed to show that with hard work and dedication you can make amazing leaps in skill development in a relatively short amount of time. 

My main thing here though is I'd like to say thank you to all those that offered help and support along the way. 

Article By 
Kieran Beech

Video 1 and 10 of the challenge are posted below. 



Tuesday 30 June 2015


After coming off a great weekend in Cumbria and being part of a fantastic event with Cockermouth JFC. I wanted to sit down and write article about Panna and Street Football. 

Over this event we discussed the changes we have seen since we took Street Football up in the UK a few years ago.

Many firstly were skeptical and many did not see the merits that were on offer, over time that has changed a little and several are now taking up Street Football elements and Panna into their coaching sessions. 
A few have come back to myself and Mark, they've told us of the elements of what they've used and in some cases this has been from what we ourselves have showcased and put out. 
My own video, Street Soccer the Art of Defending being one example. 

Others have done elements, used games and aspects of Street Football and seen the actual benefits, this has changed their own opinions. Though at first they were being a little less receptive to Street Football.

Several weeks ago I was asked to write something around Street Football and Panna. So today I have decided to do this. 

Street Football and Panna to me are much cherished games. Over my own skill development, I've had the chance to play Street Football games and Panna against young children and adults too. 
I've improved my own game and tend to prefer going for Panna's at events rather than 'goals.' I'm no expert of the game and facing more experienced Panna players I get caught out, but I'm learning to hold my own against them. The more I play the more I'll improve.

Panna and Street Football a brief history

Street Football has been around since the birth of Football, but the modern version of Street Football started around 1996 in Holland. It was pioneered by the likes of Edward Van Gils, Jermain Vanenburg and others. It's birth came from them playing Football on their local courts (often basketball courts.) 

Upon a Player humiliating an opponent with a sharp piece of skill, shouts and laughing would ring around the court. 
Players would then have to try to earn their respect back by humiliating their opponent the next time they played. 

This birthed a boom in the creative skills being developed by the players of that time, winning became less about the score as Street Football was played prior, it became more about wining with style.

Panna's (nutmegs by retaining possession,) skills beats and aerial tricks like akka's became a huge part of the style. 
Street Football in this format was played largely as 4v4 or 3v3 games. 

Panna the game itself birthed at the creation Nike Panna KO. From there the game moved to a more 1v1 style of play.

What is a Panna?

A Panna is getting your ball through an opponents legs and either yourself or a team retrieving possession of the ball, this is one of the ultimate forms of humiliation in Street Football. Panna itself comes from a pseudonym that means to destroy. Panna as described by Edward Van Gils 'It's the biggest humiliation, because it's like somebody going through your body.' 

My views on Panna and Street Football

In recent iterations of Panna it has become less about retrieving the ball after getting it through an opponents legs. Almost making it far easier to score a game winning Panna. Even though I like watching many Street Players and Panna matches, I must profess that I'm not a fan of this style of Panna. 

I much prefer the old roots of the game, as I believe it represents a more realistic factor of in game play. When coaching children I tend to just refer to a ball through the legs and no control as a Nutmeg but one controlled after as a Panna. 

I feel modern iterations of Panna are creating misconceptions with those outside of the scene.

Many notice the skills and sometimes speed of moves preformed by Street Players and many don't associate that as being an effective development tool for regular football. I disagree but understand the point they're making. Many of the Street Football skills I've learnt have been things I've also tried to adapt or change in ways that they can be applied to regular football, combining them with basic football skills myself or often asking the young players that train with me ways in which they could adapt the moves for games. 

Since taking up Street Football I have seen improvements in many aspects of the way I play. One being the way in which I defend and read what other players are going to try. 

I can recongise a large amount of movements and skills many try to preform now. This allows me to spot opportunities to go try and steal the ball from a player certainly against those that have not played much Panna. Against more experienced players though, I know I have to be wary of some moments. Good Street and Panna Players will lure you in by making you think they've lost control of a ball when in actual fact they're more in control than ever and they've just led me into a position to score a Panna. 

Panna's are game winning moves in the Street scene and this is why I feel we need to go back to making Panna more challenging, by making it key that you or a teammate (if in team battles) has to retrieve the ball. 

I don't discredit the very talented Street Players around but I feel it would garner the sport more recognition as being firstly it's own sport and as a sport that can develop younger footballers too. 

Right now it is as if two stables are forming in Panna, maybe even Street Football. There is the old guard those who stick and follow the original path and then the modern Panna player. The show man, the entertainment factor!  

Is there a place for both? There is in a way and I think one and another can co-exist, they do in away now but I think there has to be a competitive representation for both.  

There is one aspect of the Street scene that I feel is consistent and exemplary and I certainly feel the regular football community (certainly in the UK,) should take note of. 

That is the attitude of the majority of Street Players, if you show a passion for Street Football you can mostly find a community willing to help you develop. The Street Footballers I've engaged with are amongst some of the nicest people I've met or talked to (Freestyle Footballers are also of the same sense of community.)       

I though am no expert in this field. I've been playing and training in Street Football ground-moves for around 2 years now. I have had the chance to meet and play a pioneer of the Sport though and I reached out to that same person for this article. 

He is Edward 'Edje' Van Gils! 

So I'll hand over now to his views of Street Football and Panna.     

What do you think is important for an individual to develop themselves as a Street Footballer and Panna player?  

EDJE - What I think is important? Is that a player discovers their own style and creativity! Of cause we need a fundamental base knowledge of skills and at first you'll look at others within the sport but don't become a copy. Start to make your own tricks! 
Keep playing with moves and find your own moves, not just combos of other peoples moves. 
Also try to come up with real moves that can be used, a good reason for this is if you get your own style you will become surprising because people won't know your tricks. This will also help you think about how other moves work because you're playing with all the tricks to try to come up with a new one. 

Do you think many outsiders miss other aspects of the games like defending and reading of  what other players will do and just think Street Football and Panna are about skills?

EDJE - Oh definitely!!! Without defending you won't get the ball, no ball means no tricks, haha. 
But the game also needs a playmaker to distribute the balls, good defenders and strikers because at the end of the day you got to win, just like 11 a side. Though the tricks are key element of the style of play it's still a team effort and a sport in which you need to win  

Street football needs all elements of football. Only doing tricks just becomes entertainment not a sport.

How do you feel Panna itself has evolved since the original Nike Panna KO? 

EDJE - Not well to be honest, in parts I regret ever inventing this game with some of the guys in Amsterdam and Nike back in the 90's. But then again it did make street football big globally but it wasn't necessarily good for the sport. 
I want street football to also be a tool for the 11 a side game but it has bitten us in the bum and I feel street football is further away from the 11 a side game then ever unfortunately!! 

As a pioneer of the sport and meeting you myself I know you have massive respect for the Street Players around, but do you think that the changes in Panna tournaments have made it a little easier to score a Panna by players not having to retrieve possession of the ball?

EDJE - Mannn.... To me it makes no sense at all everybody can do that, that's called counting steps, you've got to walk right?? 
No possession is no art!!! 
They say its too hard to keep possession, if that's the case then find another sport because nobodies cheering when a skydiver jumps but didn't land right, if he doesn't that the dude is dead!! 
Do we cheer when a plane takes off? No the art is landing that plane! Do you get my point? 
The art of a good Panna is by retrieving the possession of the ball. 

Massive thank you to Edward Van Gils for his views on Street Football and Panna

Sunday 22 March 2015


I had just celebrated my 5th birthday, can’t remember it one bit to be honest but something happened the day after that again I had no idea about. Wayne Rooney was born. 24th October 1985. I hadn’t started playing or being interested heavily in football at this time; that was to come the year later with the 1986 world cup which I can remember everything about. Strange really. The bug started, no the obsession.

I had no formal playing of football until the age of 9. This was an indoor 5 a side league for under 9-11s. From this I was selected for the school of excellence aged 9. This consisted of skills coaching, no matches until 11. I had to play up a year, sometimes 2 at my junior club. Straight into 11v11. I was then selected for Bradford Schools and we won the treble at under 11. Not previously achieved.

During this time what was Wayne Rooney doing? The same probably. Playing on the street with kids of different ages and abilities, playing in the playground, taking a ball to school and playing out until dark or even in the house at any given opportunity.

There was no coaching. No one telling you how to pass, play a position, when to cross, when to shoot etc. We never heard of qualified coaches apart from the ones at the school of excellence. Why was I chosen for this? People clearly saw something but we were never told what it could lead to.

Wayne Rooney cites playing on the street with older kids; his older brother’s friend’s etc. players of my generation have included Steven Gerrard who also cites the street and the informal environment as being key. Others a bit closer to my experience was Alan Smith who signed for Leeds United.

1990 was a boom in English football. The world cup with Paul Gascoigne really set everyone football mad, kids were out in force with their England hero t shirts and so on. It led to kids playing football, wanting to emulate Gazza who had the lot. Similarly the impact David Beckham has had on young children, with everyone copying his hair style and wanting to be a right winger for a period. In 1990, it wasn’t just Gazza; we had Waddle, Beardsley, Lineker, Barnes et al. Where did those players learn their trade? They didn’t have schools of excellence. Lilleshall wasn’t invented as a coaching programme for elite players yet. How did Paul Gascoigne learn to be so good? How long did it take him? We had to be him.

Wayne Rooney as a 5 year old see Gazza in the world cup? Probably not; I don’t know. What I do know is the impact carried through to the next generation. England haven’t had such a player since.

I got to Under 14 level and was signed on schoolboy forms. Michael Owen signed for Liverpool. Alan Smith signed for Leeds. Many of my team mates from Bradford Schools signed for various clubs from Sheffield Wed, Oldham (who were sought after), Bradford City etc. Many of the boys were from the indoor five-a-side league from 5 years prior. So were the lads signed in the 3 or 4 years above such as Dean Richards, Des Hamilton etc. So, from a mix of street play, field play, playground play and not much coaching at all several premier league standard players were found via an indoor 5 a side league for kids in city centre Bradford with a fluffy yellow ball where you could play off the walls. There was a balcony for people to watch but no one said anything, you couldn’t hear them anyway. After every game you worked so hard the 5p ice pops were a blessing.

How come then with no formal academies did so many footballers come through? There must have been a scheme behind it. Where did it go? Why did it stop?

I don’t know if Rooney played in such league format but the small sided football clearly worked for us. The fact the ball was on the floor clearly worked for us. Goalkeepers had to roll the ball out which clearly worked.

So why oh why did we stop such environment of street/ semi organised football and start mini soccer?

On a personal note at 14 I was made captain of Bradford Schools. We went to Holland and beat several professional Dutch sides, losing narrowly to a French team in the final who I don’t know who they had playing but I’m sure many made it. We now hear of Dutch teams beating English teams comfortably. They were technically excellent. But, so were we. Sheffield Wednesday came in for me and offered me to sign. Looking back, stupidly I stayed at Bradford however an England trial came calling which I didn’t know at the time would feed into Lilleshall. I got to the last 32. Not bad but not great. Disappointed!

The Lilleshall group included some excellent players. The environment was full of coaching, testing and tactical coaching. Much the same for me at the pro club. I had gone from a wide player in a 4-3-3 to a central midfielder in a 4-4-2. I was good at keeping the ball. I understood the game. I knew not to go bombing on and sit and how to receive from the full back and dictate play. I was then played right back (left footed) because we didn’t have one and I did well but I hated it. The problem – unknowingly I was limiting myself. Released at 17 for not having enough pace, not driving forward with the ball. Change of coach half way through. Usual stuff you here.

Why the background information? The question from the above is was Wayne Rooney and the children born between 1980-1985 the last generation of street football and informal layers? Rooney made his debut for Everton in 2002. He was 17. No one produced him. Coaches may have helped him and it may have sunk in more than others but no one produced him. If you could produce Rooney you would have a whole batch of them.

Joe Cole as a 17 year old is shown on FA courses as running games single handed. What happened? How did he make the level he did? Pigeon holed by coaching out of position but even when he was stuck wide left to solve the problems of no left sided players in England good enough to play (not his fault) he did well.

So the question was to the twitter faithful.

In your opinion who is the best young player currently playing in the country? Answers consisted of Kyle Walker (spurs), Jarvis (wolves), barkley (everton) and OxladeChamberlain (Arsenal). I'll add Wilshere to the list, possibly the best of the lot.

Are any of the above as good as Wayne Rooney, Gerrard, Scholes, Cole (when younger) etc? Or more importantly, Gascoigne, Beardsley, etc.

One thing I do know is that none of the afore mentioned were from leafy areas with lots of financial backing, something that certainly helps these days with travelling to academies 3 or 4 times a week. Have academies led to the best players being missed? The single parents with talented kids, the talented kids who can’t afford the travel? The inner city boy that used to walk to the 5 a side league?

Back to my schoolboy forms aged 14. Bradford City played the likes of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheff Wed, basically the closest clubs to you. There wasn’t an academy hierarchy system. Oldham produced players but they played all the north-west clubs. Now the lower clubs only play the lower clubs. How do players improve? By playing and testing against the best players. Average vs average = average.

All the best Under 8 boys from across the country sign age under 9 at the club that takes them. They leave their peers behind. 20 boys into each club training 3 times a week plus a Sunday game. Their peers if they play are playing v the other peers left behind. The odd one may come through. Who improves? The kids left behind never play with the signed kids whether formally or informally. The signed kids must find it hard to play street environment football and they can’t attend junior club or school holiday activities or play schoolboy rep football. They’ve moved on. If academies aren’t recreating the street then what will happen? Can you really develop everything you need playing on perfect surfaces? Or is it better to play on the uneven surfaces behind Steven Gerrards house? The best players of this generation of street to stadium players have come from Liverpool, Manchester and London. Not from leafy mansions but normal abodes. Hungry young people, playing football.

Street football isn’t about freestyling. It’s not about organisation. It’s the missing part of the coaching programme. The bit that when the ball bounces of the wall at different angles, help our agility and touch. The bit where the, kid jumps over and off the wall and climbs under the car for the ball back. The bit where the old woman next door shouts at you for hitting her plants again. The heads and volleys game with people 3 years older than you. The game of cuppy where you dribble past four players because you can’t see your partner. The bit in the playground where no one has bibs on so you have to look up to see the faces of your teammates.

I blame the spectrum 48k. That’s where computer games began. Now we have the wii which is seen as a substitute for playing outside. Everything happens indoors. Everything is simulated. Nothing is tangible; you don’t have to work at it. A computer does it for you.

So where are the next street/ playground players coming from? Here’s hoping Jack Wilshere can prove me wrong. There are some fantastic kids in academies. The pathway is set for them. There needs to be freedom however. There needs to be self-decision making not over coaching. Not a commentator describing and telling kids what to do on the pitch. Let children be children and let’s see if we can win back the streets from the cars and lazy parents and schools banning football in their playground.

Please stop telling your goalkeeper to kick the ball as far as he can. Please allow defenders to have time on the ball. Let kids dribble. Do force them in one direction of how to play the game. From the 5 a side league mentioned over 60 kids went to professional clubs. Several played premier league football and many more played professionally. The rest played good level non-league and only a few never progressed that far. There was no selection.

It was play.

It’s important. Thanks to all the twitter contributors. Here’s to changing the game.

Mark Senior

Managing Director Pro Skills Coaching


Saturday 21 March 2015


THE POWER OF THE SOLE (of the foot)

Street soccer and Futsal has led to increased use of the sole of the foot in the pro game. We were all taught to control with the inside, pass with the inside etc. The problem is you can only then go one way. Using the sole you become a multi-directional player. You also bring other parts of your foot into play such as slanting your foot and using the little toe area to drag the ball.

Does the above look like a Cruyff turn? It isn’t. the concept is the same but the player is dragging the ball back past the non kicking foot with the sole and then quickly changes feet to get away.

From the position above, where can the player now go?
a.      Carry on forwards with a roll and step over
b.      Back round the non kicking foot and away from the player with next touch
c.       Back round the non kicking foot but then slanting the toes and moving the ball back towards the position its in now.
If we teach kids to  move the ball behind the non kicking foot then it opens up a problem for the defender.

a.      They're unsighted
b.      You can move in 6 different directions

If the ball is far enough back with the attacker not looking at the ball, again this becomes harder for the defender. In Futsal it is used to draw the foul. In Street Soccer it is used to draw the Panna opportunity.

Show your players a simple sole of the foot move. Demo and coach it and let them try it. Then the fun starts. Ask them to go and use that move and add another to it. Then add a third. Then give them a scenario. What is a second defender approaches following the first move etc. kids will then start creating moves and thinking.

Many thanks!
Mark Senior

Friday 20 March 2015

What Has Street Soccer Done For Me?

As I sit and ponder all I want to achieve and future projects that I intend to run, the question ‘What has Street Soccer done for me?’ constantly beats within my head. Street Soccer has had a profound impact on my life, there are only a few other things that have done so. One being another sport I feel passionate about Tae Kwon Do, the others being people that are dearly close to me. Family and friends and those that have inspired me and given me opportunities along the way in my life!

It may seem silly to many out there that this is so, but for whatever reason Street Soccer has strung a beating tune that has affected me right to the core. At first I was just inspired by the coaching method laid out to me by Darren Laver, how it already struck similar beats to the way Pro Skills Coaching involved skill development into our program. I say our program, even though Pro Skills Coaching was a birth child of Mark Senior he has offered those who work under the company name enormous freedom to explore and develop the way we coach children. This may just be my experience but after seeing his work and sessions before starting my own journey, it’s very difficult to not fully embrace the way he coaches. Soon enough you start to see the little things work with the children you have the opportunity to coach and it only reinforces those beliefs and ideas you have.

The thing that struck me the most though about the Street Soccer method of coaching that Darren proposed to myself and other coaches back on a cold autumn night in October 2012, was the freedom the method gave to those taking part. There was a certain purity to the way a session could ‘flow’ that I was eager to test, with beliefs already installed from Mark and the extra knowledge Darren provided in terms of the Socratic method of questioning, the psychological look into how a brain works and the knowledge supplied about nurturing creativity. 
I was eager to trial this with those I coached.

The first thing that struck me was the complete enjoyment factor that the children were having in sessions and how much I was already beginning to enjoy the dynamic of the session. The children already enjoyed some of the problem solving small sided games that we were using anyway, but the ‘flow’ in which they were now encased in just made them take on a new life. The only problem I really lacked is that despite around 20 basic skills I had little knowledge or experience to really develop an even more incredible atmosphere and environment as that wow factor still wasn't quite there yet, but the foundations were being set.

After working more closely with Darren at an event. I realised then that to make what I was doing even better I needed that wow factor, I needed to improve my own skill development. I started a slow process that wouldn't really take shape for a few more months, but learnt a few moves that would set me in good stead for further development; I was beginning to find YouTube an effective tool and the ball at my feet an incredibly freeing exercise. After attending the next course in Creative Skills Coaching held by Mark at the then Pro Skills head office, and led by Darren again, I would get a little justification into what a brief personal skill development period had done for me. It may sound silly but I didn't feel uncomfortable in games against players that were far better than I would have been a few months prior. 

I got to play and meet a YouTube personality that had also helped my first steps into skill development. Steve Roberts from the STR Skill School channel. When I met Steve he was on the cusp of good things, had Steve not attended this same course I was on, I’m not quite sure Steve would have gone onto the success he has recently had. Don’t get me wrong and I definitely don’t mean to speak ill of Steve’s recent success, I think he would have always achieved something and gone onto make some great videos but seeing how his channel shifted slightly is a witness to how profoundly Street Soccer can grasp a person. Steve has had opportunities to meet and film with incredible individuals since that course; several that can have only helped grow the foundations Darren was laying with us. Steve has also helped me again, in advice when I've asked regarding filming and editing video’s, Steve also nearly gave me one of the best opportunities to achieve a childhood dream but sadly due to a scheduling mix up I had to turn it down.

Now the topic may seem like it’s slightly jumping off a little but I feel like I can’t effectively write about it without at least these brief moments and histories that have happened as they all reinforced the small journey I was taking.

Over the course Darren played several clips of Street Soccer players and the moves they do, he spoke highly of players he had worked with, had seen or played against. After leaving the course I had already set a plan in action. I would try to learn a basic set of Street Soccer moves to show the children I coached and help sessions become that bit better. I also knew that I would like to film this progress to show that no matter your ability level anybody could improve with a little time and patient.

During this period I would heavily become involved in Street Soccer and start to learn about the culture that was hiding slightly under the surface of this sport and the sport freestyle football. I would also decry other forms of coaching quite vocally for a period, not out spite or even hate towards them but more out of trying to defend against those that were quite willing to question and slam the benefits of Street Soccer, without ever seeing or beginning to look at the method any closer than the name.

As I developed and worked on improving my skill set, I started to feel a little of the culture reach out to me. From time to time I would get a few messages from what I would later find out to be very good street players in their own right. Most of these messages were of support; in fact only one was slightly negative but it didn't deter me in the slightest. The hidden culture I previously discussed is this, those first messages are a testament to it.
The culture I've learnt about from Street Soccer is that almost everyone is supportive of you, almost everyone involved in Street Soccer are willing to help you should need that help.

The culture of Street Soccer and Freestyle are to develop the sport as a whole, to spread a passion for what they love to others and if they see you get a little bit of enjoyment like they do, the people of these sports are incredibly proud of that and want to nurture it further. I've seen people offer others free accommodation to come play a game with them to people they haven’t met. I've seen others go out and help their local communities, after experiencing these feelings of support and help. It’s these same elements that are now pushing me to look further in how I can help those within in my community.

Street Soccer hasn't made me wish to be a footballer again, I’m over 30 now, that dream died at 13, Street Soccer has made me want to develop and inspire people to better themselves. It has given me immense pride in what little steps of the journey I've taken, it’s helping me become a better person and I feel I need to give more back because of that, I want pass on this pride and love of this game and the culture that surrounds it to thousands of others, not the handful I currently do. 

So in regards to the question ‘What has Street Soccer done for me?’

It has given me pride and self-belief in what I do. It has given me a larger group of friends to reach out to and learn from. It has helped me become a better coach and skill developer, now I’m not stating in any way that I’m the most knowledgeable of coaches, far from it! But it has helped me build a better understanding for the reason I coach and build a much more fulfilling environment for those that take part. Most of all I believe it has helped me become a better person!

Many other people will get this feeling from other sports maybe even from regular football, but the culture isn't quite the same, certainly not here anyway! It’s very hard to describe unless you have seen a little or felt a little bit of that culture reach out to you.

For anyone interested in finding out more about Street Soccer Creative Skills Coaching sessions, or events within the area please contact me at kieron@proskillscoaching.co.uk