We caught up with our Head of Youth Development and Coaching, Tony Gold, to get his views on what the new season holds for Lions Juniors as we maintain our continual quest for improvement.
Are you excited to see another year of progress in the Juniors?
Every new season brings about an excitement and feeling of enthusiasm. Our coaches will continue to work hard developing the children both technically and tactically, but they are also looking forward to children showing a greater maturity both as footballers and as individuals. We are confident in next year’s age groups as we believe there’s a good balance. Young players are unpredictable and develop at different rates but when we first set out, the technical levels across the age groups wasn’t as good as I thought they should be. Over the last few years our coaches have really fixed that, but there is still work to be done, so everything we do about working with the ball.
What changes can we expect this season?
We will implement little subtle changes here and there in order to give our managers more support and parents who sign their children up to Lions a better education and understanding of grass-roots football. Our coaching team continues to go from strength to strength, with several now working with established professional academies and who will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge. Parents can expect our emphasis to continue around mastering control of the ball especially in the U7’s to U13’s. The most important goals are that children control the ball very well, have the ability to run with the ball and to think very quickly and execute their passes methodically.
Any of our Junior teams to watch out for? Can we win another County Cup?
We have some very useful teams across all the age groups. Can we win another County Cup? Without any question! Improving technical proficiency is a clear key objective in developing the children at Lions, but the tactical nuances of the game also become more pronounced as they advance through the age groups. Development aligns with a desire to win, an important habit to cultivate in any young player hoping to represent Lions first team in later years.
What about any individuals?
There are a number of very talented individuals spread out across the age groups who all bring a different and unique flair. The biggest compliment that can be made, is the fact we had a record number of children invited to development centres across numerous different professional football clubs. Although I am not a big advocate of these development centres and professional academies, if a child at Lions gets the opportunity they should certainly embrace it. The opportunity opens them up (and more importantly the parents), to the very strong reality of just how competitive and comprehensively difficult it is for young children to make it professionally.
Seeing a number of boys who started in our Juniors in the Spartan South Midlands League with the first team, and also playing together for GB at the Maccabiah Games is surely the blueprint for the next few years?
It is certainly something that everyone at the club should be very proud of. Making the final of the Open Football at the Maccabiah is no easy feat. With arguably 85% of that squad either playing or having played for Lions speaks volumes. The Spartan League will be another challenge, it will test the lads physically and mentally, if not technically. The higher level you go on to play the more mentally and physically tougher it becomes. When we start educating the youngsters at Under 7’s you’ll see them immediately encouraged to play out from the back, more often than not they’ll lose the ball and concede a goal or two, it really doesn’t matter! By the time they get to 18, they will be comfortable receiving a ball under pressure and be relaxed and composed. James Harpin, Jack Mattey, Josh Burns, Reuben Rabstein and Alex Rose are just a few of the younger lads that have already tasted first team football and I would expect all of them to push on again this season.
On that note, are you pleased the senior side you once managed is back playing Spartan League football?
Couldn’t be happier. Andy, Steve and Darren have done an incredible job. They have got their squad mentally tuned in to what is required week in and week out. Ability takes you so far, mental strength, togetherness and hard work takes you wherever you want to go, they have all those elements in abundance. Lions are back playing a level their facilities, squad and management merit. I look forward to seeing the next batch of U18’s make the step up and push the first team on to their next campaign, which is winning promotion to the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division.
Finally, your message has always been to let your child enjoy playing the game, with no pressure
Really important for parents to understand and never lose sight of. Whilst we push the kids hard to do their best and give their all, they need to love the sport and the benefits that come with being within a team, making friends and having a fun and challenging structure to their sporting life.