Waltham Lions

Waltham Lions’ Journey from 5v5 to 11v11 Football

Waltham Lions are now coming to the end of our second and final season playing the 5v5 format of Mini-Soccer. During the 2 seasons of 5v5, I’ve generally told the outfield players to play as a defender (one), midfielder (two) or striker (one), but the only real position I’ve been concerned with asking someone to stick to is the defensive role – just to have someone deeper than the other three players. But over the coming summer we’ll be introducing more specific positions.

As we begin the transition to 7-a-side football, you’ll see my philosophy of developing good all-round players with good game intelligence continue, by allowing players to play in different positions. There’s no way of knowing what position an 8-year-old will end up playing when he’s 18. And I could give you plenty of examples of Premier League footballers that play in different positions as professionals to where they played in junior/youth teams. So they need to have an understanding of different roles in the team, not just for when they’ll play in different positions themselves, but also to understand how their team-mates in positions near to them on the pitch might play.

In terms of formations and how I’ll set the Lions up to play, it’ll be with a long-term plan in mind. In the years to come, I’ll give the players the chance to learn and experiment with different formations. But the plan will be geared towards a team playing 4-3-3 once we reach 11-a-side. And I’ll be putting the plans for this in place when we start playing 7v7.
Watch the YouTube video below that I’ve uploaded to explain how the Lions will transition from 7v7 to 9v9 and then to 11v11:


When we start playing 7v7 football for the 2015/2016 season as new Under 9’s, we’ll generally (but not always) use a 2-3-1 formation. The two wing-backs and central midfielder will all break forward to attack but will get back to support the defence when we lose the ball. 7v7 - 2-3-1 The two wing-backs and central midfielder will all break forward to attack but will get back to support the defence when we lose the ball.


After two seasons of playing 7v7, we will then progress to 9v9 when we are Under 11’s. This is the age group where the offside rule comes into play and we use bigger goals than those used in 5v5/7v7. At this point we will keep the basic structure of the team and just add two midfielders.

9v9 - 2-3-2-1


Then after two seasons of 9v9, we will start playing the full 11-a-side format of football at the Under 13’s age group. When this time comes, all we will need to do is add two attacking wingers to the existing set-up.
11v11 - 4-3-3
So each transition to a different format is kept quite simple by adding two players to what we are already doing, rather than switching the whole team set-up around. It’s all designed with the long-term plan in mind, ending up with a fluid and flexible 4-3-3 formation at 11v11. But, as I said earlier, I’m trying to develop intelligent and versatile players fit for the modern yet ever-changing game, so we will learn and practice other formations too.


There are a few reasons I’ve chosen this 4-3-3 and this method of going up through the different formats as the favoured, but not only, way of playing. Firstly, it fits in with my philosophies on coaching and playing the game. Secondly, when compared to the standard British formation of 4-4-2, the 4-3-3 allows much more flexibility and gives the player in possession of the ball more passing options. In the flat 4-4-2, you’ll typically have three straight lines of players. Flat 4-4-2 This can make it difficult to keep controlled possession of the ball and play through the thirds of the pitch, as you’re often just left with options for a backwards, sideways or forward pass (but rarely all three). In the 4-3-3 as shown below, you’ll have five lines of players to be able to play through as you work the ball through the thirds of the pitch. 4-3-3 Layers This helps you move up the pitch in possession. And you can see below how many different angles it creates between team-mates all over the pitch, as opposed to the square and limited right-angle options that the predictable 4-4-2 provides. 4-3-3 Angles These extra layers in this 4-3-3 also make it more difficult for opposition players to find space “between the lines” or “in the pockets of space” as is often spoken about.
No doubt when we get to 11v11 at Under 13’s, most teams we play against will play 4-4-2 – just because it’s the traditional way to play in England and it’s what most people grew up with. However the game has moved on. In the same way I want all of my players to be creative and use their imagination, I’ll try and make sure the team as a whole reflects that in the way we set up to play. So there you go, that will be my plan.
But as ever in Coaching, you have to be adaptable, and I will remain so. And just before closing, here’s a slideshow of some other formations we’ll go with at some point at 11-a-side:

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Thanks for reading.
Tommy Bryan (Coach)

My New Role, Lions Sponsorship, My Coaching Journey and St George’s Park

I’ve got a few things to write about after the last few weeks, so here goes.


Waltham Lions Sponsorship


We had come to an agreement with local business “Mumbai Blues” recently whereby they would put some money in towards the cost of the new kit we need for the team. In the couple of months since, I’ve had endless difficulties with communication and getting to where we need to be. I offered the business a way out about 4 weeks ago when I checked with them again whether this was definitely something that they wanted to do, and I was assured it was “200%” something they wanted to do. Since then I still had the same problems of them not sending over the logo needed for the printers, or any method of payment. All my messages where ignored and whenever I called to speak on the phone I was assured it would be sent over in the next half an hour (or something similar).

It got to the point where we needed closure to this one way or the other so we decided we would give them an extra week before we would look elsewhere for sponsorship. Unsurprisingly, we never heard a thing. I’m disappointed in Mumbai Blues and feel like we wasted a lot of time there. And it could’ve really let a group of 7 year olds down had it not been for the generosity of another firm.

The positive end to this story is that we have a new sponsor for the Waltham Lions.

Grimsby Resin Floors (GRF) Ltd, industrial flooring specialists, very quickly offered to sponsor us for the full cost of the new kit after I advertised a plea for a willing business on social networking site Twitter.

I am extremely grateful to Chris Parker of GRF for stepping in to help us. And he had this to say in an email confirming his interest:

“I coached young sides for several years and after reading your blogs, we share certain ideals. I hope you continue to stress the importance of development & improvement above results, a sense of fair play and enjoyment. Although a long time ago I am a Waltham lad too, having been brought up in the village.”

Chris has also asked me to inform him of future fixture venues as he would like to come and watch a few games when possible. I’m delighted that Chris and GRF have agreed to help us with sponsorship and I’m very grateful. I also think it says a lot about Chris that he has not only stepped in at short notice to help us, but also that he’s showing a real interest in us and would like to see the Lions play.




Thanks to Chris and GRF from myself, Waltham FC, the Waltham Lions players and their parents.


Coaching Journey Continues with another Coaching Course


In June, I completed the FA Youth Award Module 1 coaching course. This was a brilliant 4-day course that I would recommend any coach to enrol on. It focused specifically on coaching young players, with considerations of different age groups, physical development and ability. It gave great messages around managing mistakes, allowing decision-making practice, giving freedom and responsibility, increasing self-esteem and managing motivation, amongst other things. Regular readers of my blogs and the parents of my players will hopefully notice that I’m already on the right track in these respects. However, I am always learning and looking to improve, and I found the practical involvement in exercises to emphasise different learning styles very useful and informative. And I took some great points and messages from the course, as well as a bunch of new games provided in the courses reading material.

I am still ready to take an assessment for the FA Level Two Award in Coaching Football course, and I await a re-arranged date for a Lincolnshire FA assessment after the previous weekend was postponed due to lack of numbers.


Visit to St George’s Park


On the 5th of July I visited St George’s Park with Waltham Red Stars Coach James Brown. I was looking forward to this for a long time and wasn’t disappointed. I was there for a coaches conference hosted by Lincolnshire FA at the new home of English Football development at Burton, Staffordshire. The Continued Professional Development (CPD) event consisted of a tour of St. George’s Park, lunch, and a 2 hour training session delivered by FA Regional Tutor Julie Chipchase on one of the pitches at the facility – the Michael Owen Pitch to be precise. The session topic was ‘Finishing’ and it was fascinating to take part in and observe the session and games put on and how they were delivered.
The whole facility is excellent. It was great to hear the level of care and detailed attention that goes into improving, adjusting and maintaining the pitches there. It was strange to be told that the indoor 3G pitch is watered and the make-up and constant minor adjustments to the Wembley replica pitch (the facilities main show pitch) is unbelievable. It was also quite staggering to hear that only 110 of the 330 acres owned at the site are actually being used at the moment, so there’s plenty of room for developments. I look forward to visiting the place again, either for a coaching course, CPD event or maybe one day with the Waltham Lions.

Here is a slideshow of pictures I took during my visit:


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Louth Old Boys Tournament/Festival Abandoned

Waltham Lions were at the 2014 Louth Old Boys 5-a-side Tournament (uncompetitive festival at our u7 age group) last weekend. Unfortunately it was called off after a couple of matches due to the torrential rain and the u7s pitches becoming waterlogged. On the positive side, we scored some good goals in those 2 games and were playing really well. Both-footed Oliver Hendry scored from what looked like an impossible angle and then later with a left-footed strike. Rhys Racey and Lucas Jex also scored for the Lions, with Ethan Lowe showing some surprisingly great handling bearing in mind how wet and slippery the conditions were. Benjamin Harrison got some good tackles in and Leyton Bolton (when he wasn’t AWOL for the start of the second game) showed his usual intelligent touches.


Here’s a small slideshow of pictures of me and some of the boys from the day, enjoying the day despite the horrible conditions:

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My New Role at Waltham Football Club


Finally, I can proudly tell you that I have taken on more involvement/responsibility at the Football Club in the last couple of months.

Firstly, I was asked if I wanted to join the Club Committee. I was proud to be asked, happily accepted the invitation and have enjoyed being part of the discussions in the last two committee meetings.

Secondly, I was told by the committee that they wanted to support my continuing coaching education and would like me to have a role at the club which could feed through a lot of the messages, knowledge and information back into the club, with the other coaches and in turn, the players at the club, benefitting from this. With this in mind, I have begun a role at the club as Football Development Officer.

This will be explained in more detail at the Club’s AGM later this summer. But I will be developing a football development plan for the club, working towards ensuring all teams within the club are consistent with the same club philosophy, help to develop coach education and ensure that the club maintain a player-centred coaching approach. As I said though, more to come on this later. But I’m very excited about this role and hope to be able to make a difference.

The first thing I am looking to do is have each player at the Club go through a Player Feedback Questionnaire. After permission is granted from parents to do this, the Players will give their opinion on different things around a few key areas – Training, Matches, the Coach as well as football in general. I have already drawn up the forms so as soon as I have printed off a huge batch of them I will look to start this process.

Something else I have already been putting together is a template for a Player Development Review. This would be something for me to monitor and record each players’ development in aspects of all four corners of the FA’s Long-Term Player Development Model (Technical, Physical, Psychological and Social). It’d be something I would do at the end of every season, and possibly mid-season as well.


Thanks for reading.


Lions Show No Signs of Rustiness in Summer Friendly

Waltham Lions played their first game together for two months on Saturday, in a friendly match in Immingham. And to be completely honest I was blown away by how they not only did not look rusty or slow to get back into the groove, but the boys actually played the best I have seen us play to date.

I must have said, and written, quite a few times now over the last year, that the previous game had been the best performance from our boys so far. I’d hate for this to start to be a statement that begins to lose its meaning or have less impact despite saying it several times. I am always positive with comments and feedback to players, individually and as a team. But it is always 100% honesty too. And when I say I’ve not seen us play this well before, I always mean it and genuinely think it. The fact that I’ve said it quite a few times now only highlights the progress the boys are making and the clear improvements they’re showing.

During last season, the Lions were sometimes slow-starters in games and only got going in the 3rd and 4th quarters. There was no danger of that in this match though, we were great from start to finish.

Oliver Hendry scored a brilliant hat-trick, including another goal with his left foot. Oliver was a constant threat to the opposition and they must have been relieved whenever he came off the pitch for his turn to rest. When he gets a sight of goal and sees a route to get there with the ball, I don’t think a double-decker bus would get in his way. Two of his goals came after picking the ball up and dribbling towards goal before finishing well in the box. The other came with his left foot to smash in a loose ball in the area. Again, it’s very pleasing to see Oliver have a go with his left foot without hesitation, just choosing to use the best foot to use in any given situation, rather than forcing it onto either side. It wasn’t his only shot with his left peg either. He hit one earlier that only just went wide of the target. And after chatting to him after the game, I know he understands why it’s important to be able to use both feet.

Benjamin Harrison also had a good game. Benjamin got on the ball a lot and carried it forward well. He continues to instinctively perform the drag-back turn well when under pressure from the opposition, showing good awareness of when to use this turn and how he can use the different parts of his foot to manoeuver the ball. Benjamin also got an assist for one of the goals, taking a corner and passing it short to the unmarked Lucas Jex on the corner of the box before Lucas shot into the top corner.

Ethan Lowe played 20 minutes as the defender and was a big reason why we were on top of the game for long periods. Ethan must have only let Immingham attackers past him 2 or 3 times, and on those occasions he got back to steal the ball away from them – as if they had the nerve to go past him in the first place, eh. Whenever the opposition attacked, Ethan timed his tackles well and stepped in whenever there was a slightly heavier touch from the attacker. I seem to think he had some involvement in one of Oliver’s goals, but Ethan was definitely the creator of Ben Crolla’s late goal. Ethan drove forward on the right and laid the ball inside to his cousin and team-mate when the time was right.

That final goal was a great team goal really. The opposition kicked the ball into our half of the pitch but Oliver Hendry beat their attacker to the ball. Oliver used his head and passed down the line to Ethan. Ethan had space in front of him but Ben Crolla was by his side. With a defender 10-15 yards ahead of them, it resembled the 2v1 practice game we often do before matches. In the same way the practice is a great exercise of a player’s decision-making, this was a good example of Ethan’s decision-making on the ball. First he carried the ball forward when there was space to attack. Then as the defender came to close him down, he slid the ball through to Ben Crolla who ran onto the ball and went into challenge the goalkeeper as he came out to try and clear it. And the ball ended up in the back of the net.

As well as that goal, Ben Crolla had another action-filled performance. After having a bit of an ankle injury that weighed him down a little bit during a couple of tournaments in May, Ben was fully fit and firing on all cylinders here. As well as getting around the pitch with great energy as usual, Ben also showed us some skills of his own. At one point, Ben turned his man in the middle of the pitch and then turned back again the other way with a nice back-heel turn. As the defender at one stage, he was as solid as Ethan in not letting anyone past him with the ball. And he also controlled where we attacked very well, passing to whoever was in a good position after receiving the ball short from the goalkeeper.

Lucas Jex played with his usual swagger and scored a token Jexy-bomb, as described earlier. Quick thinking between Lucas and Benjamin Harrison worked a short corner to the corner of the goalkeeper’s area. Lucas got his head up and had one thing on his mind – dispatch the Jexy-Bomb. Off it went, from his right foot to the top corner of the net. He then followed this up with the Daniel Sturridge celebration (seen here as done by the Liverpool and England striker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAdL1M0QtLY). Lucas had earlier gone close with what would have been another wonder goal. After receiving the ball in our “right-back” area of the pitch, he beat 3 players on his way down the right flank, ghosting past them as if they weren’t there. He ended up near the goalkeeper’s area and hit a shot that the Immingham goalkeeper managed to save. Lucas got into space, usually on one of the flanks, and ensured we could patiently play our way up the field from goal kicks.

Leyton Bolton played using his brain as usual. He was reading the game and intercepting the ball plenty of times. And when he had the ball he used it well. Looking up to see players in space and playing good passes. In one great passage of play late in the game, Leyton got back to defend and tackled Immingham’s strongest player, turned to start us off on an attack and despite being pulled back (fouled) by the opposition player he still managed to play a great ball forward to Lucas.

Lucas Gill had a good game and again showed good understanding of the game. He was reading the game well and only going to close the ball down when no-one else was. Then, when I asked him to play as a striker late-on, he offered a good option for a pass every time we attacked. He didn’t always get the ball passed to him but I’m happy to see him understanding how to make himself available for a pass. On the ball, he carried the ball forward well and contributed well to us playing the ball out from the back throughout the match.

Rhys Racey had an absolutely solid game, playing mostly as the goalkeeper today, at his own request. He was quick to come off his line when he needed to – rushing out to meet and tackle oncoming attackers on the occasions that anyone got through one-on-one with him. His shot stopping was good and he was safe in that he pushed the ball away from goal when he couldn’t hold onto it. His decision-making and passing from goal-kicks was fantastic as well – playing it simple to the defender, who we know will always have 2 or 3 options from the way we set up.

All in all it was a great morning. As always it was a joy to watch the boys play. But the quality on show was brilliant. Technical ability-wise, I don’t think we saw anyone last season play as good football against us as we put together in long periods here. And as usual, part of the satisfaction comes from knowing that the boys are playing on their own and everything they do on the pitch is their own choice.

Every decision the children make is a learning opportunity, and I’m proud that we (me as the coach and all the parents watching) don’t take any of these learning opportunities away from the boys by telling them what to do. Of course, we give encouragement and praise, but we don’t tell them when to pass, when to shoot, who to pass to, or when to run with the ball. I personally believe we are probably already seeing the benefits of leaving them to play and learn for themselves.

I have to say thanks and well done to the parents for helping me create this playing environment, because it would be easy to want to shout such specific instructions all the time. That way would probably give more immediate results and maybe would’ve got us more wins last season. But my priority is the long-term development of these young players, not treating games as a match on FIFA 14 on the PlayStation controlling their every move so we can win. When it comes to development of players’ psychological ability, our boys will be well-ahead of children in other teams who aren’t being allowed to make their own decisions and problem-solve on the pitch.

I’ll finish just by saying how excited I am to see the team start playing every Sunday again so we can stand back and admire their fantastic football.

Up the Lions.

Combined Millers/Lions Team Impress at 5-a-side Festival

Waltham FC sent an under 7s team made up of a mixture of Waltham Lions and Waltham Millers players for the 2014 Bottesford Town Tournament. At the u7 age group, it is still uncompetitive so the boys got to play 8-minute matches against all the other nine teams at our age group to take part.

Throughout the day, the Waltham team played some great football against some very good teams from well-established clubs from North Lincolnshire and from closer to home too.

The short matches and the very small goals meant there was a distinct lack of goals in all of the u7 matches on the day, but it is important that this doesn’t mask the fact that we played some lovely football. The goals were, at most, half the width and half the height of the goals we are used to using. Most of the games ended goalless but this didn’t get our boys down though. Rule number one at Waltham FC is that the players have fun, and they had a great time – during the games and playing about in the sunshine in-between games.

From a coaches point of view, I didn’t see any other team play any football as good as what I saw from our boys at times over the day. We faced some good individuals who had great dribbling ability and one team caused us problems by having their goalkeeper punt the ball from his goal area to ours every time he had the ball in his hands. We worked our openings well by playing some lovely passing moves across the pitch and by playing the ball our short from the goalkeeper whether it was a goal kick of rolling it out from the goalies hands. I felt that in every match we played, apart from one, we were the better team and played the game in the opposition half more than our own. I think the one game in which we were on the back foot for the most part was against Appleby Frodingham, who have a small skilful lad who is great on the ball, and a great big defender twice the size of most of our players.

We had loads of chances throughout the day but only managed to put one of them away. It was a great goal though. Thomas Healey broke forward with the ball and with Rhys Racey by his side, they had a 2v1 advantage with only one defender between them and the goal. Thomas showed great decision-making in not only choosing to pass to Rhys as he was in a better position, but also in the timing of his pass. He cleverly waited until the defender came right up to him before slotting the ball to Rhys alongside him. That took the defender out of the game and Rhys was one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He took it forward at an angle and then shot into the far corner of the net for a perfectly controlled finish.

The moment Rhys Racey struck to find the back of the net

The moment Rhys Racey struck to find the back of the net


Rhys played every position possible over the course of the day, including goalkeeper, and did well in each. As defender he covered well and wasn’t afraid to try a skill to turn out of trouble. And as a striker he showed the acceleration to burst forward and make a goalscoring chance for himself as he has done all year for Waltham Lions.

Thomas Healey not only set up the goal for Rhys, but was an absolute menace for opposition defences all day long. He created several more chances for team-mates by setting them up when he saw they were in good positions ahead of him. He attacked with real purpose and his strong, direct running was exciting to watch.

Thomas Healey gets ready to receive the ball from a throw-in

Thomas Healey gets ready to receive the ball from a throw-in

Ben Crolla gave some all-action displays like we’ve seen from him all season in the blue of the Waltham Lions. However Ben was slowed down later in the day with a niggling injury we think he initially suffered at the Keelby 5-a-side Tournament a couple of weeks ago. It was later found after a trip to the hospital that Ben has sprained his ankle and damaged the ligament. So we wish Ben well and hope he recovers in the next couple of weeks as he rests from playing football. Ben bravely carried on throughout the day before we could see something wasn’t right, so credit to Ben’s attitude in wanting to play. And as the picture below shows, he continues to improve his use of different parts of his feet.

Ben Crolla turns with the outside of his foot

Ben Crolla turns with the outside of his foot


Ethan Lowe was the goalkeeper for the day and played all but 2 of the games in goal. Ethan showed some great goalkeeping technique over the day in pushing shots away from danger, holding onto them when he could, and bravely diving on the ball when it was loose in his area. He also kept his concentration in the games where the ball was at the other end of the pitch for long periods, meaning when the opposition did attack against us, he was ready. Ethan can be proud of his record of only conceding 2 goals in the 7 matches he played in goal.

Ethan showing 100% concentration

Ethan showing 100% concentration

Ethan was often helped by Alfie Jackson, who played quite a few of the games as the defender. He played further forward too and is exciting to watch when he picks the ball up deep in our half and drives forward at pace with the ball. In defence, he was always alert to any danger, read the game better than you’d expect from a 7-year old, and showed great composure to take his time on the ball when he won it.

Alfie assessing where any threat might be coming from

Alfie assessing where any threat might be coming from

Declan Goodfellow also played in a variety of positions and showed spatial awareness as good as anyone we saw on the u7s pitches. Dec doesn’t follow the ball and recognises when to hang back in the space and wait. His obvious talent on the ball was shown with some of the close control he showed whilst dribbling. He also played a brilliant first time pass as the ball came to him under pressure, which put one of his team-mates through on goal but we were unable to find the net again.

Dec plays the ball forward as Waltham attack

Dec plays the ball forward as Waltham attack

Lucas Jex showed great determination in his runs forward with the ball as well as his usual confidence and composure in possession. Even when in defence, Lucas is calm and relaxed on the ball, often waiting for the player closing him down to make his move before he decides what to do. Lucas showed a good range of skills and hit some good shots after a few dazzling runs but unfortunately found either the side netting or opposition goalkeepers in good form.

Lucas confidently teases the opposition number 3 to close him down

Lucas confidently teases the opposition number 3 to close him down



All in all, the Waltham FC boys can be proud of their performances against some very good teams. Had the games gone on for a little bit longer or the goals been of our normal size, we’re confident we would’ve got the goals and some scores to reflect our level of performance. And that is especially impressive given that this was the first time that these 7 boys had played together as one team. Some of the football had me just standing back and applauding it was so good to watch. And we did it with the boys making their own decisions on the pitch, not being “PlayStation” controlled through the game by a coach telling them when to pass, shoot, run, kick, breathe and sneeze as many other teams coaches sadly do.

The boys with their medals

The boys with their medals at the end of a fun day out in the sun

Thanks to Jamie Crolla for taking some great photographs too.

And we look forward to taking two teams again to the Louth Town and North Somercotes 5-a-side festivals in July.


Goals Galore at Waltham FC



The season of 2013-2014 has been a great season for Waltham Football Club.




The Club expanded further with two new under 7’s teams entering the league, as well as a new under 11’s team.

This gave the Club a total of 8 teams in the Gradely Sports Junior Football League. The highest yet since the club was formed in 2010 by Jimmy and Lynette Farrell.

Combined, Waltham’s 8 teams scored over 480 goals across the season, so here we will look at who helped us get to that incredible figure.

Below you’ll see a table of all the players at the Club to get into double-figures. But first, let’s have a quick review of some of the youngsters who had their shooting boots on this season.

Playing for Waltham Warriors u8’s, Charlie Clements has had an unbelievable season. Lightning-quick Charlie has scored 51 goals from just 23 games, giving him a ratio of more than 2 goals per game.

Waltham Gunners u10’s player Ben Wells has also had a fantastic year for goals. The skilful Ben has tied defenders in knots on his way to banging in 44 goals for the Gunners.

Thomas Healey has made a great start to junior football. Playing for Waltham Millers u7’s in their first season playing matches, Thomas has hit the back of the net 27 times with his rocket launcher boots (not forgetting his bullet header too).

Thomas’ team-mate for the Millers, Samuel Hayles, has also enjoyed a great debut season. Samuel has linked with team-mates well and his sweet left foot has helped him get to 22 goals from as many games.

The other new u7’s side, Waltham Lions, were helped by Oliver Hendry scoring 21 goals to introduce himself to the Gradely League. Two of Oliver’s goals late in the season came from his left foot, as he works hard to become a two-footed player.

Harry “Hat-trick” Brown made it to 20 goals for Waltham Red Stars u9’s. This carried on Harry’s lethal form in front of goal from previous years that earned him the nickname “Hat-trick”.

Rhys Wrigley (Waltham Gunners u10’s) and William Blow (Waltham Warriors u8’s) both reached 18 goals for the season. With Rhys helping the Gunners in a fantastic second half of the season with several important goals and William linking Warriors’ attacking play very well, both can be proud of their seasons.

Lucas Jex hit 16 goals in 17 games for Waltham Lions u7’s. That included some belting strikes from the confident youngster, which would have been replayed time and time again on Match of the Day if scored in the Premier League.

The second of five players on 16 goals is Jacob Aberra. Playing for Waltham Athletic u9’s, Jacob’s skill and silky footwork was a feature of Athletic’s play and he got his 16 goals from just 19 games.

Joining Lucas and Jacob on 16 goals is Rhys Racey. Rhys excelled playing in different positions during the season, but showed he is clinical when running through one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Waltham Gunners u10’s player Billy Nicholson also finished on 16 goals. Billy was a key part of the Gunners dominance in the second half of the season, and his driving runs forward helped him get a great return of goals.

Also on 16 goals for the season was Harrison Stephen of Waltham Warriors u8’s. Harrison’s creative ability and unselfish play helps create chances for his team-mates at Warriors, but he also helped himself to 16 goals too.

With 15 goals for the season, is Waltham Athletic u9’s player Alfie Handley. Future Grimsby Town player Alfie combined his jinking runs with the ball and lethal finishing ability to get his 15 goals from just 19 games.

Lucas Healey had an impressive season for Waltham Red Stars u9’s. Lucas managed to score 13 goals for Red Stars during a season in which he often played a deeper role in the team.

Also on 13 goals with Lucas is Daniel Gibbs of Waltham Gunners u10’s. The confident Daniel progressed as the season went on (as his team did) and he showed this by bagging a hat-trick in his penultimate game of the season.

Three players also managed to put the ball in the onion bag 12 times this season. Declan Goodfellow showed great skills and a couple of free-kicks in reaching his dozen for Waltham Millers u7’s. Joseph Finney was another Waltham Gunners u10’s player growing in stature as the season went on. And Ben Crolla of Waltham Lions u7’s hit 12 goals including a great free-kick and some good individual runs.

Drew Brumby and James Johnson both hit 7 goals for Waltham Rovers u10’s. James got the winning goal in the 1-0 over Grimsby Borough Juniors in April. And both Drew and James scored when Rovers came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 on the last day of the season.

Charlie Temple top scored for Waltham Wolves u11’s, who enjoyed their first season in the Gradely League. Charlie is a great finisher when supplied with chances and he got 5 goals in his debut season. Tyler Jex was another player to help himself to a few goals for Wolves. The older of the Jex brothers got 3 goals for the Wolves to cap a good first season playing league football.


Here is the table of all the players at Waltham FC to score 10 or more goals in Gradely Sports Junior Football League games during the 2013-2014 season:


Waltham FC Top Scorers 2013 2014

Congratulations to all the players at Waltham FC for a great season of football. And although this article has been about celebrating the goalscorers at the club, remember it is a team game, and the players scoring the goals wouldn’t be able to score those goals if it wasn’t for the help of their team-mates. The goalkeepers and defenders are just as important as the forwards scoring the goals, as they are the ones keeping the opposition from scoring.

Thanks to all the players for some great entertainment. And thanks to Jimmy and Lynette for the hard work they do behind the scenes to ensure we all have this great community club to be a part of.

Up the Lions/Millers/Warriors/Athletic/Red Stars/Gunners/Rovers/Wolves!!!!!






Lions Finish Season In Style Before Post-Match Drama

The Waltham Lions u7s served up another feast of football in their last game of the 2013-2014 season on Sunday.

Facing Grimsby Borough Juniors at Mount Pleasant, the Lions welcomed back Ethan Lowe and Leyton Bolton who had missed last week’s game.

The game got underway and was immediately being played at an exciting pace. The Lions started the first quarter with Ethan Lowe in goal and Rhys Racey sweeping behind the other 3 outfield players. Ethan carried on where he left off before his life-threatening hand injury (see the previous game’s write-up) in terms of his goalkeeping. He showed great goalkeeping technique to parry shots away and claim loose balls into his grasp and hold onto them. He made good decisions taking goal kicks too, playing short to Rhys most of the time so we could build attacks from the back. I was very happy with how the boys used all the space on the pitch, especially from goal kicks. Ethan often played short to Rhys, who turned to see Ben Crolla stood near one touchline and Lucas Jex doing likewise on the other side. And this allowed us to build plenty of great attacks in the first quarter.

Rhys Racey was often left 1v1 or 1v2 against attackers but was always alert to where the danger was and made sure he recovered well when the ball was past him.

GOAL!!! Lucas Jex opened the scoring when his tricky corner was fumbled in by the goalkeeper.

Lucas Gill nearly added to the score when he broke forward and dribbled past a player in the penalty area, only to end up being a little wide of the goal and was crowded out when he turned back. Leyton Bolton played some good passes as he again showed he has an awareness of what’s around him before the ball comes to him. Oliver Hendry and later Benjamin Harrison were also a threat playing the furthest forward role in the team, driving forward with the ball and looking to get into good positions when the Lions attacked. Whereas in a lot of games recently we had only got going later in the game, today the Lions looked in the mood straight away.

In the second quarter Leyton Bolton took a turn in goal and Ethan Lowe lined up to anchor the rest of the team by playing in defence.

Developing Dribbling

Lucas Gill carried on from the first quarter in dribbling past players for fun. This was without doubt the game when Lucas has beaten the most players in 1v1 dribbles to date. He’s certainly grown in confidence in the last couple of months when he’s been running with the ball a lot more and has been comfortable twisting and turning to cleverly shield the ball. This lead to him beating players with the kind of success rate normally seen by the Jex’s and Crolla’s of this world. Lucas looks like he’s becoming accustomed to people trying to tackle him and bumping into him, as several of his dribbles came when opposition players came steaming in to try and nick the ball from him. This got him into several dangerous positions in the first two quarters alone, but he was thwarted at the end of the runs each time by the goalkeeper or more defenders smothering him.

Calm and Composed

Ethan Lowe’s calmness in defence impressed me too. At one point in this second quarter Ethan had the ball deep in our own half and in a central area. He was closed down and faced with an opponent right in front of him. But instead of panicking and getting rid of the ball, he held onto it and tried to dribble the ball to his left to try and enable him to take the ball forward. As he did this he was risking being tackled, as you do with any dribble, but he tried to do it the right way and used his head to take the ball wide rather than trying to go straight forward into the attacker. The fact that he had the confidence and composure to try and work the ball out of defence like that fills me with confidence for the future. If our players panic in those situations and end up just booting the ball away, then I’ll worry that we won’t have players comfortable with the ball and that will surrender possession whenever we are closed down.

This is why coaches and parents should be fined, banned and maybe even jailed, for shouting either “Get rid of it” or “boot it up” etc. I wouldn’t have cared one bit if Ethan had lost the ball and Borough had scored from it. I would’ve wanted him try the same thing again and, if necessary, just learn from a mistake by running at a different angle or trying or trick or a feint. But that’s irrelevant because Ethan managed the situation very well. As he ran left with the ball, the opposition player tracked him well. So Ethan stopped the ball and looked up again. By now, he saw that he could get the ball to Lucas Jex. So he passed to Lucas and the Lions attacked again. This isn’t to say that I want the defender to dribble out from defence all the time. It’s about them making the best decision at that time. At first Ethan had no available pass to make, and didn’t have that option until Lucas became available. So in my eyes he made good decisions and did the right thing.

Using Both Feet

GOAL!!! We also had another goal that was worth £5 in this game. And I couldn’t be happier to be £5 poorer. Exactly 4 weeks after winning the first £5 for the first Lions goal scored from a left footed strike, Oliver Hendry has done it again. Since I initially made the offer of £5 to the first left footed goal, I’ve been massively impressed by the attitude by many towards practising with both feet. We’ve always tried to encourage this in training anyway and I make it clear to the boys that I’m genuinely impressed when they use their left foot. When we do games that involve shooting or passing, several of them practice with both feet. Arguably the keenest player to try and become both footed (as he now tells me he is), has been Oliver Hendry. And the way he smashed the ball in with his left peg in this game made it seem like if he carries on working with both feet, he’s capable of becoming completely both footed. The advantages of that won’t even be clear to these boys just yet at their age, but even so, they have all responded brilliantly to accepting it as a way of developing.

Late in the half, with Ben Crolla, Rhys Racey and Oliver attacking the Borough goal, the ball was loose in their penalty area. Ben and Rhys saw shots blocked by defenders and the ball fell nicely to Oliver at a bit of an angle to the goal. It was just on his left, and he had no hesitation in smashing it with his left foot. In fact I had to rub my eyes and check who it was because it looked like a young Mezut Ozil the way he slammed it in with his left foot. It has to be said that in a crowded penalty area, Oliver would have lost the chance to shoot if he would have needed to manoeuvre the ball back onto his right foot to shoot, as a defender would have got to him by then. His confidence in his left foot, brought about by practising using it, was such that he could hit it first time and make sure his name was on the scoresheet for a 7th successive match.

Putting Learning into Practice

One of the things that is always pleasing as the coach, is seeing the boys do things in the games that we have worked on in training or before games. It shows they’re learning and also confident enough to try things when there is more of a competitive opposition.

I couldn’t help but notice today that Ben Crolla was the biggest example of putting some learning into practice. I’ve commented before how Ben loves to dribble the ball and often ends up in areas wide on the left at the end of a long run. At this point he often finds himself at too tight an angle to shoot, or in a position where he has to run around the ball a bit to get a run-up at the ball to shoot facing the right way. What we’ve done a lot of in training lately is focus on using different parts of the foot to move the ball. Even before the game today, we did a little exercise encouraging the players to use the outside of their foot to cut in-field and shoot. Today, Ben Crolla showed great variation in how he approached 1v1 situations. He showed he can still take it with his instep around the defender to his left. But he also, probably for the first time, showed plenty of times when he used the outside of the same foot to go the other way. Not only does this keep the opposition guessing what he’s going to do, it sets him up for a quick shot on his right foot if he goes that way with the outside of his foot.

With Leyton Bolton making some fantastic saves in goal and Ethan ensuring not a lot go past him, the Lions were looking good. Leyton’s distribution was also excellent. Sometimes choosing to bypass the defender if he saw Lucas Jex or Rhys Racey in a lot of space further forward near the halfway line near the touchline. Again, a great awareness of space and an ability to make quick decisions very well.

Building from the Back

In the third quarter, Rhys Racey went in goal and made a couple of great saves from point blank range to keep Borough at bay.

Leyton Bolton lined up ahead of him as the defender for this quarter and showed how this role is important as the first line of attack, with most attacks starting from Leyton either winning the ball in a tackle, or receiving the ball from Rhys from a goal kick. Leyton was then able to dictate and decide how the Lions would attack. With the boys generally making great use of space on the pitch by spreading out, especially from goal kicks, Leyton was free to choose whether we would attack to the left, right or down the middle. I’m always confident Leyton will make good decisions in these instances as he seems to have a good football brain for a 7 year old.

Benjamin Harrison’s enthusiasm to win the ball for the team was also a feature. Benjamin worked tirelessly chasing back when we lost the ball and even if he didn’t win the ball, he always did enough to delay the attack or force them away from goal. Often when Benjamin won the ball for us, he would turn with the ball very quickly to get us facing the opposition goal. And he showed how much he always wants to be involved in the game by always wanting the ball and trying to make himself available for a pass.

GOAL!!! Ethan Lowe, returning after missing 2 games with injury, scored his second goal of the season in the third quarter. Showing unbelievable determination, he powered through a crowd of bodies to get to a loose ball before the Borough defender and goalkeeper that were also trying to get there. Ethan got there first, sliding in to get good contact on the ball to send it goalwards and it rolled into the net with the goalkeeper stranded.

GOAL!!! And as the third quarter went into the final seconds, the Lions scored a great counter attack that had the spectators wandering it they were watching a game at the Nou Camp or at Mount Pleasant. Borough had a good period of sustained pressure on the Lions goal and had 4 or 5 corners in succession. On the last corner, Leyton played the ball forward to Oliver Hendry who beat the last defender on the half way line and ran the rest of the pitch to get in a position to shoot from and made no mistake – scoring his second of the game.

In the final quarter, Lucas Gill had a similar break away to Oliver’s second goal. Breaking forward from the halfway line on the counter-attack, Lucas dribbled around the last defender with ease as the defender committed himself to a challenge, and had a clear run at goal despite other Borough players chasing back. As Lucas got close to the goal, the Borough goalkeeper came rushing out of goal to clear the ball very well. But the fact that Lucas has got himself into lots of scoring positions in the last few weeks (whereas he probably didn’t really get these chances early in the season) fills me with confidence that he will score goals next season.

GOAL!!! Oliver Hendry added another goal in the final quarter to complete his hat-trick and take his total for the season to 21 goals. This gives Oliver an amazing run of scoring 11 goals in his last 7 games. His great technique in striking through the ball to get power in his shots is something we’ll be looking to replicate in some of the other boys who may need a bit of work on this, when we do some second sessions starting next month. It was another period of good pressure on the Borough goal that led to Oliver having another chance inside the penalty area. And his technique shone through again here, hitting a shot instinctively that the goalkeeper couldn’t react quick enough to and it was in the back of the net.

GOAL!!! Lucas Jex then added another for the Lions with his second of the game and 16th of the season. This was a long distance free kick near the half way line after he was fouled in one of a number of times that the skilful and confident Lucas was fouled. Only he will know if he was shooting or just trying to put it in the box, but he hit it with enough power to go all the way in as Oliver and the Borough goalkeeper couldn’t get on the end of it after it bounced in the area.

Borough had some spells of pressure towards the end but Rhys Racey was up to the task in goal, saving just about everything that came at him. And we were rescued from a goal-mouth scramble when Lucas Gill cleared the ball out for a corner from the middle of the goal just a couple of yards out when Rhys was stranded on one of the posts.

Grimsby Borough Juniors scored a few goals of their own but it was such a great bonus for the Lions to have a win to end the season with, to match the great performance they put in today.

Man of the Match

The Man of the Match award today was won by the boy who calls himself “Sexy Jexy” – Lucas Jex. He took no end of kicks today from the opposition (not maliciously obviously) as he often does. But as I’ve told him before (and Ben Crolla who is also often assaulted on a regular basis) he should take it as a compliment that other teams can’t get the ball off him fairly. The fact that other players commit so many fouls against him shows that he is so hard to stop. Lucas again showed the confidence he has in his own ability to beat a player, often waiting for someone to close him down before then going to take them on and skip past them. He also played some good passes today to players in good positions, but his dribbling caught the eye. And also for me, so did his willingness to hang back in space rather than crowd around areas where the ball and other players already were. As a team we’ve been learning that over the course of the season – that if the ball breaks away from a crowded area where people have followed the ball, it often breaks to someone in a lot of space. And Lucas has shown he’s learnt this as much as anyone in the positions that he takes up.



A few things happened after the match that not everyone will be aware of. Firstly, Lucas Gill (who waited patiently for me to finish putting everything away in the pavilion) and I did some good business swapping some of our Panini World Cup stickers.

Panini Stickers


Then came the news that will send shockwaves through the village of Waltham.

I later discovered from one of our reporters, Emma Crolla, that her son Ben along with Rhys Racey had made a shocking discovery during the game around the beck that runs around the Mount Pleasant fields.

When Emma interviewed Ben after the game he had this to say: “Me and Rhys saw a crocodile in the beck.”

When asked if he was serious, Ben’s defiant response was: “Yes, I even heard it growl.”

I am told Ben went on to pull a face to suggest the way in which the crocodile looked at him, but this is unfortunately not publishable.

As Kerry Racey later interviewed her son Rhys to continue the investigation, Rhys also confirmed Ben’s version of events.

When Kerry questioned why Rhys had not told anyone or reported it to a figure of authority, Rhys’ response was: “We did. We told Ethan.”

I returned to Mount Pleasant later in the day to look for any evidence of this and you would not believe what I saw when I reviewed the beck’s underwater CCTV camera………….


The Crocodile

People of Waltham beware.


On a serious note, Sunday was a fantastic performance from the Waltham Lions and they all deserve a pat on the back for how well they played. It was a great game to watch, a great performance and a fantastic bonus to end the season with a win. They can all be proud of a great first season in junior football in which the development and progression has been there for all to see. And we’ve enjoyed watching their progress almost as much as the boys have enjoyed playing.


Up the Lions!!!


Lions Recover with Goals and Smiles after Tough Start


Waltham Lions struggled through a difficult early period of their match this week; to end up being a shining example of what junior football should be all about.


The Lions welcomed back Lucas Jex after injury and then being away after an international call-up for the UK Skiing team. Ethan Lowe was missing again as he recovers from a hand injury sustained whilst wrestling a wild tiger in Bradley Woods. And Leyton Bolton was unavailable, working away for the government in a top secret location. So Oliver Hendry (despite running in the London Marathon earlier in the day) and Jay Crichton (taking a break from searching for his lost Lions shirt) were called into action.


In a match against Clee Town JFC, the Lions found it tough-going in the first 10-minute quarter. Finding it difficult to get out of our half at times, the Lions couldn’t quite dribble their way out of trouble against some good tacklers in the Clee team. Despite being under pressure, the Lions did still mount attacks of their own in this quarter. Lucas Gill got into good positions near the opposition goal and used the ball well. And Ben Crolla was the main attacking outlet, breaking forward well on a few occasions and causing problems for the opposition. The Lions conceded 5 goals in the 10 minutes, with most of those, I think, coming from one big and strong player in the Clee team who had an absolute hammer of a left foot.


Conceding a flurry of goals in the first quarter didn’t bother the boys in the Lions team though. They were still enjoying themselves and getting plenty of touches of the ball to ensure the game was a valuable development exercise. Not only that, but we were a much better team in the following 3 quarters. Improving in each quarter, we scored but were narrowly outscored in the 2nd, conceded the only goal of the 3rd, and outscored our opponents in the final quarter when confidence was still rising. In addition to the improvement in the Lions performance as the game wore on, the boys showed a great attitude towards playing and enjoying themselves, summed up in the last 10 minutes and post-game with them laughing and smiling, enjoying playing football together in the way grassroots football is intended.


The Lions’ first goal came after Oliver Hendry chased the rebound to his initial shot. He retrieved the ball wide of the penalty area and only a few yards from the goal-line. Yet even from this tight angle he opted to shoot, before any defenders could catch up with him. As the ball lay dead, Oliver took a short run-up and hit a thunderous shot with great technique, low and hard, that went through the goalkeeper’s legs before he could react. This was the 6th consecutive match Oliver has scored in, so he will no doubt be gutted there is no game on Easter Sunday to keep his run going.


The Lions also had some better thought-out attacks in this 2nd quarter. With Rhys Racey starting many of them by winning the ball in defence, Oliver Hendry, Lucas Jex and Jay Crichton attacked in support of each other, rather than in the way of each other. With one carrying the ball forward, the others seemed to run towards space or in a position nearer the opposition goal, rather than being attracted to the ball. As much as being attracted to the ball and running towards is probably a sign of eagerness to get involved, it often reduces the options for the player with the ball, crowding out a possible route for a dribble or blocking a possible pass to another team-mate in space. Although most seemingly now understand this, we will try to work on it in the final game in 2 weeks, and in the summer, to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn-sheet and we can help each other just that little bit more as a team.


That said, it is no longer a consistent thing in our games as may have been the case at the start of the season. After the game when I asked the boys to tell me what some positive things from the game were, Rhys Racey responded with “We spread out really well”. And in general he was right. At one point in the 2nd quarter, two players were so determined not to get in each other’s way that a promising attack was delayed slightly. Oliver Hendry and Jay Crichton both ran forward after a Rhys Racey tackle had ran loose into the opposition half. With the ball in between them, Oliver and Jay both initially made a move towards the ball but then both recognised that and pulled away to leave it for the other player. This may have been seen as a bit of a mix-up but I can take it as a positive that instead of getting in each other’s way or taking the ball from a team-mate, a sense of team-work and unselfishness kicked in as they each left the ball for the other player, so they could run forward into space.


The 3rd quarter was a very closely contested 10 minutes. But despite both goalkeepers being called into action plenty of times, the only goal of the quarter was one for Clee. Oliver Hendry made some fabulous saves in goal, mostly with his feet, and rushed out well to confront oncoming attackers and clear the ball from off their toes. Ben Crolla assisted Oliver in keeping the score down by having a solid 10 minutes as the defender. Ben is used to being in the thick of the action in the middle, but has shown a few times recently he can also adapt to meeting oncoming attackers when playing in a deeper position.


Lucas Jex was having plenty of dribble attempts in this quarter, resulting in him taking a few bumps and kicks. And Jay Crichton got his foot into some good tackles and looked up before passing the ball at good times during the quarter. Lucas Gill, playing as a striker for much of this match, was dangerous whenever he had the ball in the opposition penalty area. A few times he was composed and turned left and right with the ball, and he had a few shots saved by the Clee Town goalkeeper.


In the 4th and final quarter, Jay Crichton went in goal and made a few good saves pushing the ball out for a corner or saving with his feet. And the boys outfield began to ramp up the skill level as they showed they were enjoying possession a bit more than in the difficult first quarter.


Benjamin Harrison showed us a great drag-back to turn a Clee player in our defensive area, which is encouraging that he would do that in that part of the pitch where most adults wouldn’t. Rhys Racey performed a lovely back-heel turn right near the touchline to deceive a Clee player and leave him for dust as he charged towards goal. And Lucas Jex went on some rampaging runs down the left and had enough arrogance to shout “bye” to players as he went past them.


As said above, the Lions showed the complete turn-around in the game by outscoring the opposition in the final quarter. Rhys Racey grabbed his 16th goal of the season by smashing a shot low and hard through a crowd of defenders and past the goalkeeper. And then Oliver Hendry added his second of the game, and 18th of the season, after latching onto a Lucas Jex pass. Oliver took the ball forward and hit another shot with seriously good technique – getting over the ball and striking through it with power, but also sending the ball to the far corner of the goal, as the goalie was stood slightly towards the other side of the goal. Lucas Gill again went close in this quarter, hitting a shot that hit the goalkeeper without him knowing much about it and coming back out for a defender to clear.


Man of the Match this week went to Jay Crichton for a good all-round performance. He showed an unselfish attitude towards the team on more than one occasion, for the instance with Oliver as described earlier, as well as volunteering to go in goal for 10 minutes at the end. Jay played some good passes to team-mates, showing he had clearly looked up before making the pass. And he also nearly scored himself in the second quarter but the goalkeeper made a good save to deny him.


It was great to see the boys showing yet again, despite a difficult opening to the match, that they:

  • Enjoyed the game
  • Played fair and with a great sporting attitude
  • Were respectful of the referee and the opponents, and
  • All had good plenty of involvement in the game for it to be useful as the learning environment that it is.


The increased intelligence and understanding in the way the team attack is looking promising. And the way we continued to play it short out from goal-kicks, despite at times struggling to get out of our half in those first 10 minutes, is something for the boys to be proud of.


Just a quick, polite reminder though to ask everyone watching the games to try not to shout instructions to the boys when they’ve got the ball. It could be confusing if it contradicts things I’ve said to them, and it won’t help their development, problem-solving and decision-making if they’re just following orders when they’ve got the ball. I’m not criticising our great group of spectators because we’ve generally created a great environment at games over the season. But in the two blogs below I go into more detail as to why this is so important:


Developing Creative Talent vs being a PlayStation Controller” (from 02/03/2014)


My Coaching Philosophy And The Environment I’m Trying To Create” (from 10/09/2013)


Up the Lions!!!


Persevering With Long Term Skill Development Over Short Term Success


Waltham Lions again showed some good individual skill today, in a game where the goalkeepers of both sides were often the stars of the show.

The Lions played with the usual freedom that allows the boys to learn by playing – making choices and mistakes on their own. I mention this most weeks in these write-ups, but I see it as a hugely important thing that these boys aren’t being shouted at from the side to “pass it”, “shoot”, “pass to xxxx” or “run with it” when they’ve got the ball. It will benefit the boys in years to come in ways that will only become clear in a few years time. And judging from our games this season, our players already have far more experience of decision-making on the pitch than most.

We could choose to shout and tell them what to do. It would probably work in the short term, and maybe bring more wins. But it wouldn’t achieve much in the long term. It wouldn’t help their development half as much as the way we’re doing things now. And I’m surprised at the number of teams we’ve come up against this season whose coaches are playing the kids’ game for them, rather than letting them play it themselves (see my piece on ‘Being a PlayStation Controller’ from a few weeks back).

Today the Lions played well. Not as good of an all-round performance as last week, but we came up against a team today who, it seemed to me, were set up to win the game rather than use it as a development opportunity. It wasn’t a pretty sight seeing their goalkeeper have the ball in his hands, them putting 3 players deep in our half and in our penalty area, and the goalie (who had a strong kick) then boot it right up the pitch to them.

I appreciate that in senior football there is more than one way to win a football match. Tactics will come into play and different patterns of play can be worked on and practised. But I can’t help but feel that an under 7s team purposefully playing this way (I can only assume under instruction to do so) is seeing them miss out on a weekly opportunity to develop technical ability and learn how to play through the pitch and work the ball into shooting positions.

That approach is not for me, and I hope our parents are on board with my prioritising of enjoyment and development over the “immediate success” of winning a match. To be honest, apart from the games against Discoveries GB and Clee Town Pattesons in 2013 (before the red/blue groups were re-arranged), no-one has comfortably beaten us anyway and we’ve generally always played well and been well in the games we’ve lost.

With Lucas Jex away on international duty, Ethan Lowe nursing a broken finger suffered in his great goalkeeper training session on Saturday and Jay Crichton at a family rave, the Lions were down to 6 players for this game.

Leyton Bolton started in goal, and along with the Discoveries Colts ‘keeper, was one of the best players on the pitch for that 1st quarter. Making several great saves with his feet and some great athletic dives to save with his hands, Leyton limited the opposition to scoring just once in the first 10 minutes.

At the other end, Oliver Hendry was unlucky not to score as he went through on goal, but his attempt on his left foot went just wide. The opposition goalkeeper also thwarted attempts from Oliver, Rhys Racey and Ben Crolla.

There was a lovely move in this quarter when Ben Crolla broke down the right, ghosted past a defender and as another one came towards him, he crossed the ball into the middle. The cross landed straight at the feet of Oliver Hendry who struck a shot with good technique, planting his standing foot next to the ball, getting his knee over the ball and hitting the target, although the ‘keeper was there again to push it out. It didn’t result in a goal but that was the best move of the match in the first half – Ben doing what he does best winning the ball and bursting forward with pace, putting a great cross in, and Oliver lurking in space away from the crowd and hitting a good shot matched in quality by the save.

Lucas Gill showed his confident trickery on the ball again, weaving left, then right, then back again to turn a defender inside out. On one occasion he eventually got crowded out and tackled after a few quick changes of direction. When I later asked Lucas to try and look up after doing a skill to see what he can do next, he told me that he did, and he didn’t see anyone who he could pass to. For me that was a fantastic sign. Not that he looked up. Not that he was looking for who he could pass to. The huge positive I took from that was that because there was no-one available to pass to, he was happy to hold onto the ball himself. If he takes that approach, I couldn’t care less if he loses the ball sometimes. I won’t be coaching that calm and relaxed nature on the ball out of him. Some kids start with that way of playing but have it coached out of them by adults wanting them to “get the ball forward” or not wanting them to take risks. Another occasion in the 1st quarter saw Lucas shielding the ball with his body brilliantly. We’ve done some work on this before, when I ask the boys to protect their ball by using their body as a shield if I approach them in a free-dribbling area. Lucas often always grasps this concept well, so it wasn’t surprising to see him being the one to show us the best example of this during a match against competitive opposition. As Lucas chased a loose ball and got their first, an opposition player came towards him from one side. Lucas had the ball under control and turned away to one side, leaving this player behind him, unable to even try and tackle him. Then when this same opposition player chased aftet Lucas and went to run around him to try and get to the ball, Lucas must have seen him coming by looking over his shoulder, as he then turned away in the other direction, keeping the other player behind him and with no chance of being able to take the ball from him.

In the 2nd quarter, we were denied by some more very good goalkeeping from the Colts ‘keeper. The best attempt coming from a powerful Rhys Racey shot that the goalkeeper unbelievably managed to tip up onto the crossbar before it went up and out for a corner. I’m still not sure how that didn’t go in.

We saw the best bit of individual skill in the whole match during this 2nd quarter. And I couldn’t be happier that it was a skill I only introduced to them 7 days ago. I mentioned it in my write-up last week and included some links to youtube clips of it (see last week’s write-up here). It was of course the Ronaldo Chop. Cristiano Ronaldo does this all the time as a way to change direction in the blink of an eye. Before the game today I tried to break it down into a few steps to help them grasp it. And in the 1v1 practices of it in the warm-up, Leyton Bolton looked like he had mastered it. I said to him I wanted to see him do it in the match if a chance to do it comes up. And did it? He was running with the ball down the right. A defender ran towards him and he chopped it behind his left foot, to his left, taking the ball infield and wrong-footing the defender who was running in the other direction. Awesome!

Oliver Hendry took a turn in goal in goal for this 2nd quarter and probably surprised himself with some really good goalkeeping. He came out of his goal to kick the ball away from oncoming attackers a couple of times, and his passes out from his area were excellent, always clearly picking out a player who was in a bit of space.

In the 3rd quarter the Lions got back into the game with a goal that Benjamin Harrison and Lucas Gill had a hand in making. Benjamin Harrison won a good tackle on the half way line and the ball fell into Lucas Gill’s path. Lucas recognised space in front of him and was positive in moving forward into the space with the ball. As a defender came towards him he took a touch inside away from the player. And as a second defender came towards him he saw Oliver Hendry in space (again) and saw a clear line where he could get the ball to him. He poked it through before being confronted with a tackle and Oliver continued his scoring streak (this the 5th game in a row he’s found the net) by ruthlessly smashing it in the bottom corner after taking a good first touch to get the ball out in front of him.

Rhys Racey had to be alert in goal as Leyton was often left outnumbered on his own in defence. But he made good saves when called upon. And Leyton also read the game really well to intercept some of the passes that the Colts players played forward or across the pitch.

In the 4th quarter the Lions got another goal. Oliver Hendry slotting away his 16th goal of the season after another Benjamin Harrison tackle in the middle of the pitch allowed Oliver to get on the ball and drive forward into space towards goal and get a shot off.

Ben Crolla did his best to carry on his own scoring run, having a good run down the left before shooting just wide. And his usual energetic bursts forward with the ball were as forceful in the last few minutes as they were in the first few minutes. Ben asked me if he could play as the defender for the 2nd quarter, which he did. That’s pleasing too as he’ll learn and understand the game from different points of view. This will help develop his overall game understanding, so it was good to see him keen to learn in this way.

Despite Rhys Racey making some good saves as he stayed in goal for another quarter, him and Lucas Gill were left on their own defending at times. This helped the opposition score 3 goals in this quarter to give the scoreline a bit of a slanted look to it. The game was a lot closer than the 3-goal margin might suggest, and with 2 players often in front of our goal, Lucas was up against it trying to stop one of them from shooting. One of their late goals went in off a player’s thigh, and another was a tap-in after Rhys had made a great save to parry out the first shot, only for the ball to land at the feet of one of the Colts attackers.

Man of the Match

Man of the Match today went to Leyton Bolton; not just for his Ronaldo Chop skill in the 2nd quarter, but a good comtribution to the game to compliment that. He almost got on the scoresheet himself when Ben Crolla laid the ball across to him, but Leyton cut across the ball a little as it came across from the side and his shot span just wide. He had some other confident runs with the ball too, holding onto the ball when he thought that was the best option, and passing to a team-mate when he could see someone in space. Seeing people in space is a strength of Leyton’s. He has a good awareness of what’s around him on the pitch as he consistently looks up to assess his options quickly. It’s difficult to make a good decision on what to do if you haven’t looked up to judge what the best option is, and Leyton always gives himself the best chance of making a good decision by looking up/around first.

All in all, we had some good skill again which I was delighted with and played really well in patches. The performance didn’t quite hit the heights of last weeks consistency over the 40 minutes, but I think it was a strange/new experience playing against a team drilled in where to position themselves to score a goal, and especially from the goalkeeper kicks. So despite not winning I continue to be pleased with the way we try and play, which will pay dividends in years to come (especially by the time we move up to 7-a-side games, when the opposition won’t be able to get the ball past all our boys with powerful play/strong kicks as easily.

Up the Lions!!!!!

Lions Impress in Skilful Mother’s Day Display


Waltham Lions u7’s today gave their best performance of the season in my opinion. I may have said that before, but all that shows is that the boys are getting better and better. Playing on a great pitch at Ross Sports Ground against a very sporting and well-managed Clee Community Mariners team, the Lions had a great time showing individual skill and great teamwork.


First of all, let me just say, I’ve no idea how to fit everything I could write about here into something of a reasonable length that people will actually be bothered to read. I can always find something to write about every player every week. Everyone always does positive things, whether it is with the ball or without. But today, EVERYONE played so well that I could have given justifiable reasons for giving the Man of the Match trophy to any one of them. The only baffling thing about the game is that we didn’t win the game. I thought we played some fantastic football in the game. And I don’t mean just for a group of 7 year olds, I mean just fantastic football. I came away from the ground feeling as proud as if we had won though, because I thought we played the better football and all 7 players were fully involved in a great team performance.
I’d decided before the game that I wanted the boys to show off some skills today. Before the game we did some practice of a few skills – some basic ones and some more difficult ones too. You’d be surprised with what kids are capable of doing. We went through the outside hook (Lucas Gill’s favourite), the backheel turn (an Oliver Hendry trick) and what I call the lollypops (also known as scissors/step-overs). I then introduced the “Ronaldo Chop” (see what it is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH_6Oc3kGP8 and watch it being done in live action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSRRSxGMBNE). I was surprised by how many grasped this, or something very close to it, in such a short space of time. I’ll do it again another time but in more detailed steps so they can learn it.


I had a very quick chat with them and said I wanted them to be confident during the game to try any skills or tricks that we’ve learned, or even to make their own up and try them. I re-iterated that it won’t matter if it doesn’t work or we lose the ball, we’ll just get it back. But I don’t want them to be scared of trying things, or have a fear of making mistakes at this young age. I want them to be as creative as possible, and that won’t come by being scared of doing something wrong or trying something new.




Nothing could’ve shown this creative, fearless attitude more than seeing Rhys Racey pulling off some skills as the last defender in the first 10 minutes. In this 1st quarter, Rhys was playing as the defender. He had the ball near the edge of our penalty area in a central area. An opposition player came towards him but instead of panicking and or even passing straight away, Rhys threw in a couple of lollypops then dribbled the ball to one side, before passing to Oliver. I admired the confidence Rhys had in doing this in what an older age group might call a dangerous area of the pitch. Not in this team though – they can do whatever skills they want to on any bit of the pitch they want to. As always, it should be THEIR decision. Rhys later told me he didn’t know why everyone on the side laughed when he did his step-overs here. I told him it was just because it was such a good thing that he did. But hopefully in future to make sure no-one feels embarrassed or confused like that, let’s have a cheer when someone does a skill or trick. It was great, and I don’t think I was confident enough at 7 years old to try that in front of my own goal.


Ethan Lowe played the first 10 minutes in goal and was excellent, as he usually is when he puts on those gloves. As well as the great saves he continuously makes to deny the opposition goals, he’s now adding the ability to rush out of his goal to his game. He’s starting to choose when to come out to meet an oncoming attacker well, and is getting quite comfortable now at becoming a ‘sweeper-keeper’ (coming out of his goal to sweep up anything that’s kicked beyond our defence). Ethan made some great saves and some very brave saves too.


Rhys Racey went in goal for the 2nd quarter and carried on from Ethan. Rhys made some great saves and also used his speed well to rush out to the ball when it was needed. His passing out to players from goal kicks was also excellent, always choosing a player in a good position to pass to.


In those first 2 quarters both teams had chances to score. Clee Community Mariners unfortunately had scored one goal in each quarter, but that gave a scoreline that didn’t reflect how the game had gone. The Lions played some great football to create some of our chances. One move in particular would have been our goal of the season for me, if we had scored from it. Ethan Lowe won the ball in defence, looked up and played a good pass to Leyton Bolton. Leyton turned, looked up and saw Oliver Hendry in space beyond the opposition defender and played the ball through to him perfectly. Oliver was through on goal and shot went just wide of the goal. But that short passage of play was a great, imaginative piece of team play, which we are starting to see more of from their decision-making in the last few weeks. Please note, not once do I shout “pass” at them when they’ve got the ball. They’re making their own decisions, and maybe learned from the game last month when we didn’t choose to pass at all and really struggled. That move was honestly as good, if not better, than any passing move that Grimsby Town or Man United have put together this season, and it deserved a goal. All I could do was stand back, admire and applaud.


Bend Blast it like Beckham


As the Lions continued to play some great football in the 3rd and 4th quarters, they eventually got back into the game with the goals they deserved. The first Lions goal to start the comeback, came in the 3rd quarter from a great free kick by Ben ‘Beckham’ Crolla. A free kick from quite far out was given to the Lions and Ben put the ball down with only one thing in his mind – he was going to shoot. And he hit a great, powerful shot that the goalkeeper couldn’t stop from hitting the back of the net.


Boosted by this goal, the Lions continued to play football that was very pleasing on the eye. An equaliser came in the 4th quarter. Rhys Racey took a throw-in near the corner flag in the opposition half, and Oliver Hendry somehow wriggled his way through 2 or 3 defenders to find himself in front of goal. He managed to get a shot away despite being under great pressure and although it may have took a slight touch off a defender on its way into the back of the net, it was Oliver’s goal. However, I’d like to put an end to the outrageous rumours that it was a left foot shot from Oliver that scored it (just a reminder that I’ve rolled over the £5 prize for the next player to score a goal with their left foot, after Oliver won the first £5). This one was definitely his right foot, but 10/10 for the effort Matt.


The Lions then roared forward (lions…….roar……..THAT IS COMEDY!!!) in search of another goal but were nearly caught out at the other end. Leyton Bolton, in goal for the 4th quarter, had to be at his agile best to claw away a shot that was heading for the top corner of his goal. This was right at the end of the game and without this save, the result would have been different for sure as there wouldn’t have been time to come back again.


Ethan Lowe was an absolute rock in defence in the 2nd quarter. He tackled any opposition players that were silly enough to go near him. And at one point, I heard one of the opposition coaches say “he’s a great tackler” after yet another of Ethan’s interventions. Ethan made good decisions when tackling in terms of whether it needed a strong tackle to clear the ball, or whether he could just steal the ball from the attacker and keep control of it himself. When he did this, he looked up well and started plenty of our attacks this way, including the great move described earlier. He moved to play further forward later on and was really positive with his play after scoring his first Lions goal last week.


Leyton Bolton did really well today too. He’s always likely to shine in games where the boys decide to pass the ball a bit more, because that’s Leyton’s style anyway, and he isn’t one to get dragged into chasing the ball over the pitch. Today he played 2 or 3 great passes forward through to Oliver and played some good, quick passes across the pitch to Ben Crolla. There was a good variety to his play though, as he still found time to beat a couple of defenders down the right wing before winning a corner. When we have a goal kick he pulls really wide where there is lots of space and he knows he’ll have time when he gets the ball, before he’s closed down. And we can’t forget the save right at the end to deny what looked like a certain goal for Clee Community Mariners.


Benjamin Harrison became a transformed character in today’s game. You could see the confidence he had growing each time he beat a player. And each time he dribbled past a player, he seemed to get on the ball twice as quickly again to dribble past another player. Supporting the idea that the more involved someone is in the game, the more practice they get and the more confident they become. Benjamin was another example of that today. He got on the ball several times in the middle of the pitch and shifted the ball to the side of the defender to take it past him as he was closed down. As I said, the more he did this, the more confident he looked doing it the next time. I also saw Benjamin confidently back-heel the ball to a team-mate and also do one or two nice drag-back turns.


Ben Crolla was also excellent yet again. His tracking back to help out in defence by tackling opposition strikers has been invaluable all season and he was at it again today. His running with the ball was also excellent. In fact for a spell in the 3rd quarter Ben was unstoppable. He was on one great run down the right hand side after winning the ball himself. As he sprinted down the wing he knocked it past a player close to the touchline and would’ve been 1v1 with the last defender, but was hacked down (not maliciously obviously) and halted in his tracks. Watching that run on the side-lines, that was the only thing that was going to stop him to be quite honest. He got up and carried on though, and it wasn’t long before he unleashed his free-kick high into the net. That was Ben’s 12th goal in 20 games, and the third consecutive match he’s scored in.


Oliver Hendry scored for the 4th game in a row (his 14th goal in 12 games) and took up some great positions in forward areas that made him a threat throughout the match. As I’ve said before, Oliver doesn’t get sucked into already crowded areas and chasing the ball. He senses when to hang back or maintain the space he is in. He had another effort at goal today with his left foot (this boy is trying to bankrupt me, one day before payday as well). In all seriousness I’m delighted with how much Oliver is trusting both of his feet, and just striking the ball with whichever foot the ball is best set up to hit it with. He’s been showing a great appetite to learn and is always asking questions in training and before games. When I moved Oliver to a slightly deeper position later on, he was more involved in the build-up of our attacks too, and drove us forward with the ball several times in search of more goals. He also knows he can’t always run with the ball himself, and he often chooses to play a simple pass to a team-mate before running off into space again himself.


Rhys Racey not only showed the confidence in defence and bravery in goal that I’ve already mentioned. He nearly got a goal himself, running down the right before hitting a shot from a very tight angle that only just missed the post. And after playing in goal for 20 minutes during which he only conceded 1 goal, he came back out of goal in the 4th quarter to help us get back into the game, attacking well with Ben Crolla and Oliver Hendry.


Man of the Match


Lucas Gill was like a new player today. The confidence this boy had on the pitch was outstanding and we’d like to see more of the same. Lucas joined Waltham FC later than most of the Lions/Millers players, but in the last few months he’s consistently made great strides. He’s been constantly becoming more and more relaxed with the ball, and comfortable taking his time when in possession. Today, however, he took it to a new level. He showed us twists, turns, quick changes of direction and generally making other players feel dizzy. He seemed to be really enjoying himself as his self-belief grew each time he got the ball. At one stage, an opposition player was trying to come and tackle him, and I felt like I was watching a tennis match at Wimbledon as I kept having to turn my head one way, then the other, then back again, as Lucas used both feet to manoeuvre the ball away from the defenders back and forth. Also impressive was that it usually had an end product too. When they’re older, the boys will learn that any trick or dribble needs to be followed by an end product, whether it is a pass or a shot. Today, every time Lucas dribbled, he finished it off by looking up to see what he could do next. This was usually followed by a good pass to a team-mate. He fully deserved of the Man of the Match trophy today, well done Lucas.


In summary it was an excellent match; against a team I’d be happy to arrange friendlies with during the summer. Speaking with their coach beforehand it seems they’re a well-run club set up with the same principles and ideas that Waltham FC is built on. I thought the Lions were actually outstanding today and I don’t think anyone could’ve argued if we had been comfortable winners. If it was a boxing match going to points at the end, we would’ve been the winners. But that’s not the important thing at all. The performance that got us to think that is. I believe that a lot of goals we concede come as a result of a long kick up the pitch or a bit of luck in the ball falling to their player in a good position. But today, we created so many chances with fantastic, creative play. And I’ve never seen so much individual skill from our boys in one game. If we can play that way at u7 level, imagine what we could be like in a few years. I’m excited by today’s performance and hope there’s much more skill to come in the near future, as individuals and as a team. And this isn’t the first time the boys have come back from a losing position either, so well done again for keeping spirits high, enjoying yourselves and not giving up.


Up the Lions!!!

P.S. Ethan said to me as I was getting in my car afterwards “Make sure you do a write-up Tom”, so I don’t think I’m going to get out of writing them anymore.


A Penalty Save, a First Lions Goal, and the £5 Left-Footed Strike

Waltham Lions bravely battled on through a downpour of rain and hailstones in their match today. And there were some great success stories to come from the game that will hopefully make the boys glad that we didn’t follow 2 nearby under 7’s games at the same venue in abandoning the game.

Firstly, Ethan Lowe scored his first goal for the Lions in the opening 10 minutes. He’d made a good start to the game, and made sure his shot was going in by hitting it with power through the goalkeeper’s legs.

Before that, Ben Crolla had put the Lions 1-0 up with an early goal. Taking over possession after a great break forward from Ethan Lowe, Ben carried the ball into the area and fired the ball into the bottom corner to put him on 11 goals from his 19 games.

Another great moment in the game came in the 2nd quarter when Ethan Lowe, now in goal, brilliantly saved a penalty after a Clee Town BJB Lift Trucks player was tripped in the box. Ethan dived to his left, saved the shot and held onto it meaning it didn’t come back to an opposition player to have another shot.

The other highlight of the match came later in the game. A month ago in a blog/report I wrote here, I wanted to encourage all of the boys to practice using both feet and feel confident enough to try and shoot using their left foot. I offered the incentive of a £5 prize for the first player to score a goal with their left foot. Today, exactly 4 weeks after that was written, that £5 prize was won.

Oliver Hendry has been keen to use his left foot a lot in the last few weeks. With 2 of our last 3 training sessions having a main focus of shooting, he’s opted to take plenty of shots with his left foot rather than his right – without me prompting him to. So it’s come as no surprise to me that Oliver is the winner of my crisp five pound note.

That said, I was delighted to see Oliver score with his left foot today. Not just delighted, but really genuinely impressed too. For an under 7s player to be so comfortable to be able to shoot with his ‘unfavourable’ foot is fantastic. And it was no tap-in either. Oliver picked up the ball just inside the opposition half and drive forward into the space ahead of him, in the inside left channel. As he approached the goalkeeper’s area he was still to the left of the goal so it was set up well to shoot with his left foot. But he then made the decision to do exactly that, all by himself. He hit a left footed shot with great technique, striking through the ball with his laces as his standing foot was planted alongside the ball. He drilled the shot low and hard into the bottom right hand corner, as it beat the goalkeeper’s full stretch dive for Oliver’s 13th goal of the season.

Despite conceding a quick flurry of goals in the last 10 minutes when the weather started to affect a few more of the Lions players, there were still further positives for the Lions to take from the game.

Lucas Gill was probably todays top passer, in that he must have made more successful passes to his team mates than anyone else. I shouted plenty of praise Lucas’ way as he made plenty of good passes at good times. What I emphasised to all the boys today before the kick off, was to not be rushed into kicking the ball, look up to see what’s around them and then decide what is the best thing to do. Lucas showed this as much as anyone, often looking up and taking his time before passing to a team mate when an opposition player ran towards him. And when he did pass, he chose well, passing to a player in space. This just highlights what is evident most weeks – Lucas pays great attention really seems to learn from what we do or what I say. The way he shows this by his actions on the pitch makes me confident about his potential development – remember Lucas has only been with us less than a year.

Leyton Bolton showed some of the close control we know he has to go on a few good runs with the ball today. The way he keeps the ball so close to his feet as he dribbles means he can change direction very quickly when he needs to. He went on a run down near the right touchline that carried him half the length of the pitch before he won a corner. Another run in a similar area of the pitch saw him chop and change direction 2 or 3 times as the defender turned and turned, probably losing track of which way Leyton was going.

Benjamin Harrison had a good 10 minutes in goal where I think he only conceded 1 or 2 goals. And when he came outfield he got stuck into some good tackles but found it difficult in the poor weather.

Rhys Racey was part of the good start the Lions made, covering the defensive area of the pitch well and recovering well to prevent Clee Town players attacking our goal by tackling well. As he did last week, he broke forward into space well when there was an opportunity to do so after winning the ball. Rhys then found it tough-going in the weather but then seemed to be refreshed when he came back on for the last 5 minutes, attacking well with Oliver Hendry and almost getting a goal.

Ben Crolla buzzed about the pitch winning tackles and nearly added to his goal with a second, only to lose the chance to shoot as he pondered which foot to shoot with. I’m not bothered one bit by this and it’ll actually be a good learning point for Ben. He apologised for not scoring here later (which he has absolutely no need to, obviously), saying he was thinking which foot to use to shoot. My thinking is that if he was thinking about this later on, he remembers it and it will be in his mind the next time he has to make a similar decision – which should help make his decision the next time.

Oliver Hendry, as well as scoring his brilliant left-footed goal, was one of our main threats when attacking. He wasn’t at all bothered by the weather and even agreed with me that it was “lovely weather”. His runs towards goal were strong and confident. And in between those were some good passes that showed patience, and recognition that someone else was in a better position to have the ball than he was. I’m proud of how well Oliver has taken to using both feet and he now tells me he is “both footed”.

Ethan Lowe, in addition to his goal and penalty save, was performing heroics in goal in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters. On any normal day, some of the saves he made would have been classed as brilliant saves. Today, with the ground and the ball being wet and slippery, the way Ethan continued to save countless shots peppered at his goal was amazing. What was yet more unbelievable was that more often than not, he held onto the ball and kept it within his grasp, rather than needing to parry it out or push it wide. Ethan was also alert enough to come off his goal line to tackle some attackers that were running towards goal. I still maintain that I’ve not seen a better goalkeeper at under 7 level this season than Ethan, and I was chuffed for him to score his first goal today too. Fully deserving of the Man of the Match award today.

Since it only took a month for someone to score a left-footed goal, I’m going to keep it going for the next one too. So the next Lions player to score using their left foot will also win £5 from me. In my eyes it is vital that the boys practice with both feet. It is much easier to read what a player is going to do, and therefore easier to defend against a player who can only use one foot. And so many senior players miss out on chances to score because they won’t or can’t shoot with either foot. By getting our boys to practice and become more and more comfortable using both feet, they’ll give themselves more options and be more flexible in what they can do. See Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley for examples of great, young, creative English players who can use both feet. I don’t care if one of them has a left footed shot from right in front of goal and misses doing it either. Now is the time for developing and learning from mistakes/choices.

I also avoid using the terms “weak foot” and “wrong foot”. Using the term weak foot could psychologically impact on the boys seeing one foot as ‘weaker’ than the other. This could affect their belief in using it or ability to improve it. I don’t like the term ‘wrong foot’ because there is no set ‘wrong foot’. The correct foot to use is the one that the situation dictates is the most suitable at that time. And again, using that term with the kids could have negative psychological effects.

Keep up the good work Lions.
And let’s hope for slightly better weather next week.