TFN’s Hugo Greenhalgh previews Middlesbrough ahead of their FA Cup clash against Arsenal and explains why there is much to admire about the North East club…
Last season, Middlesbrough made the rather brave managerial appointment of Aitor Karanka. While a refreshing change from the same old names on the British managerial merry-go-round, Karanka had never managed a league game before he arrived on Teesside. His credentials were based on his time coaching the Spain U-16s and three years spent as Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid. His Real appointment was even something of a surprise for Karanka, who had never worked with Mourinho before. The recommendation had come from former Bernabeu teammates, Luis Figo and Clarence Seedorf – high praise indeed.
One year on and Karanka is doing an excellent job at Boro. His first season was one of stabilisation and ensuring the club didn’t slip further down the table. They were in the bottom half when he joined but he guided them to a 12th place finish. This season has been a different story, however, and Karanka is beginning to put his own stamp on the club. Middlesbrough are top of the Championship following their defeat of Blackpool on Tuesday night and are now 10 games unbeaten. Continue reading
In Part 3 of TFN’s State of the Game Series, James Dutton and Hugo Greenhalgh look at the ASPIRE Academy – a model that combines top class coaching with valuable life skills…
Last month, James Ducker published an in-depth study on young footballers in The Times. The series, entitled ‘From superstars to scrapheap’, examined the emotional damage that can be caused to young players who are released, especially those who fail to earn a scholarship or professional contract. A rather bleak study conducted by the charity XPRO revealed that “96% of scholars signed by clubs in England and Wales at 16 will not play again from the age of 18 and of those who do earn professional contracts, only 2% will still be professionals past 21”. Furthermore, over half of 15-18 year olds who were released suffered from depression or anxiety, and were turning to alcohol or substance abuse.
While these figures may not be altogether surprising given the unpredictability of most careers in football, it is worrying that a support network doesn’t exist for these young men. One day they are the club’s latest prospects, the next they could be released and unemployed. The players know full well that football is a life choice that requires more hard work than most, but if and when that plan falls through, they are left with very few qualifications and sacrificed full time education in order to give it a shot.
One institution who are trying to combat this is South London’s ASPIRE Academy. The Academy, founded by Dulwich Hamlet manager Gavin Rose, began in 2002 and its mission statement is to provide a football and educational programme for 16 – 18 year old males, to pursue their dream of playing professional football whilst also furthering their education. Dulwich play in the Ryman Premier Division, the seventh tier of English football, but the academy setup is the envy of many professional clubs. Continue reading
Joe Devine returns to discuss five things that may or may not have happened in the Premier League this weekend…
1. Nigel Pearson Looked After Himself
Unconfirmed reports on Saturday afternoon that Nigel Pearson was – at times – unattended over the weekend. As panic swept the nation, thousands flocked towards Leicester in what is now being described as the ‘Pearson Pilgrimage’. A spokesperson for National Rail described the event as a crisis after several trains were cancelled due to overcrowding. Witnesses described the crowds as “hoards of sensible adults” all terrified for the safety of the Leicester City boss. A new theory emerging this morning suggests that Pearson’s supposed firing was a board-organised rouse to deter worried adults from the doors of the training grounds. Nigel Pearson is scheduled to appear at a news conference on Monday at 2pm and the early word is that he will be hand-holding with another adult. The nation can relax at last. Continue reading
Photo: Daily Post
In the second part of a new TFN series, James Dutton talks to a coach and a footballer about the state of coaching and the infrastructure of British football..
“I get stray cats recommended to come to me, anywhere from the age of 16 to 19. My side has an average age of 20, which is unheard of in semi-professional football. That’s the problem.”
Sean Rogers is a different breed of football coach. The Mold Alexandra manager has performed miracles on a shoestring budget, winning promotion to the Cymru Alliance – the second tier of Welsh football – after winning the Welsh National League in 2013-14 with a squad whose average age was 20.
His young side is now more than holding its own, sitting 11th in a 16 team league. Remarkable given his assertion in a recent interview with the Daily Post that “based on our budget we should finish bottom three based on expenditure”. Even more remarkable when you take into account that there is “an 88% likelihood that you will finish one place within where you are on the league’s budget list.”
Mold Alexandra play attacking, attractive football under their progressive young Liverpudlian coach, which makes their success even more astonishing when you consider the factors against them. Continue reading
In the first part of a new series, Hugo Greenhalgh reveals why the Andy Kellett move is a damning indictment of player development in English football…
Anecdotally, it’s a brilliant story. Local boy gets shock move to European giants. It is little wonder Andy Kellett thought Manchester United’s move for him was a ‘wind up’. Theories did the rounds that Jim White had misread ‘Sheffield’ as ‘Manchester’ on Sky Sports News. The whole matter seems totally implausible, yet beneath the surface Kellett’s loan actually serves as a damning indictment of youth football in this country.
The January window saw seven young United players head out on loan to clubs in the Football League. This is where the emphasis now lies with youth policy for the big clubs; the U-21 Premier League offers little in the way of a challenge as the players are simply competing within their age group. Conversely, the Football League allows them a test outside their comfort zone, both mentally and physically. They get the chance to work with more experienced players than their contemporaries in the youth team and compete against tougher, stronger opponents. Continue reading