Development of talents, discussion of practices and Academies

Discussion in 'The Netherlands' started by feyenoordsoccerfan, Jul 3, 2015.

  1. Today I read an article/interview in Voetbal International about development, or rather the destruction of talents by incapable educators.
    This issue from time to time pops up in other threads as a sideline.
    So I thought it would be a good thing to have a thread dedicated wholy to this all important subject. I hope you all agree.
    Keko repped this.
  2. In this article a difference in approach between Feyenoord and Ajax is mentioned. I fail to see a difference, it's more a gradual balance act towards one of the 2 pillars of development.

    How the Feyenoord Academy revolution brought Netherlands’ World Cup success

    Mark Lievisse Adriaanse
    on 14 July, 2014 at 09:00
    With 11 former and current Feyenoord players in Netherlands’ squad for the World Cup, including nine Academy graduates, the club from Rotterdam had a massive influence on the surprisingly good performance of Oranje in Brazil. But why did so many players coming through the youth ranks of the Dutch giants make it to the World Cup? Mark Lievisse Adriaanse reports on the silent revolution in the south of Rotterdam.

    It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in April when Martin van Geel, director of football at Dutch giants Feyenoord, looked to his right at general director Eric Gudde and nodded. On his face grew a smile of pride. Then, his hands started clapping and his smile got even bigger.

    In front of him, 17-year-old Gustavo Hamer had just scored a thrilling goal against Vitesse Under 17s. Taking the ball from his own half, Hamer, adopted from Brazil and who sometimes uses the football name ‘Guga’, had dribbled passed three rival players, before lobbing the ball over the opposition goalkeeper.

    Earlier that week, Hamer had signed his first professional contract at Feyenoord, together with his U17 teammate Jari Schuurman (named after Finnish Ajax striker Jari Litmanen) and U19 left back Stef Gronsveld. That afternoon, Van Geel knew he was correct to sign them, with Schuurman and Hamer taking their team by the hand to a 3-0 victory, almost securing the championship in the U17 Eredivisie title.

    Remember these names. They might just be the next big thing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    Golden Generation 1994

    Four years ago, Terence Kongolo was the tall defender in one of the most succesful academy teams Feyenoord ever has ever seen. Winning the league, the cup and eventually, with five Feyenoord players, the U17 European Championship with the national team, a new golden generation was born at Varkenoord, the academy’s ground. Together with Karim Rekik, who left for Manchester City in 2011 and recently made his debut in the national team, Kyle Ebicilio, who left for a three year spell at Arsenal and is now an important player at FC Twente, Nathan Aké, a hot talent at Chelsea, Anass Achahbar, Tonny Vilhena, Lucas Woudenberg and Jean Paul Boëtius, all first team players at Feyenoord, Kongolo had impressed for years. Most of them had played with each other since they were just seven-year-old kids, forming the youngest team at the Academy.

    Now, Kongolo finds himself in one of the most thrilling World Cups in football history. After securing a first team place after Christmas, Kongolo was finally living up to the promise that had surrounded him for years. Seeing his friends and former team mates Boëtius and Vilhena playing every week in Feyenoord’s monumental stadium De Kuip motivated him to fight even harder to get to the top, but it just wasn’t his time yet, until Joris Mathijsen, the 83 time Dutch international, picked up an injury. Kongolo was the biggest surprise in Louis van Gaal’s 23 man squad for this World Cup, and he made his first and only minutes against Chile.

    Kongolo isn’t the only Feyenoorder in this successful Dutch team. Together with Jordy Clasie, Daryl Janmaat, Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi (all Academy graduates), the Swiss-born defender takes the lead in a story of youth development, financial troubles and football renaissance at the mouth of the Meuse, in the southern part of Rotterdam.

    10-0 and the end and beginning of everything

    It was in October 2010 when Feyenoord once again found itself on the brink of bankruptcy. With a lack of money, the end seemed near for a club which was once the biggest and richest in the world. Forty years after winning the European Cup, glory seemed far away for the working class club. After an unbelievable 10-0 loss to rivals PSV, the club looked not only financially broken, but even its players seemed to lack everything a Feyenoord player needed. Strength, work ethic ad mental strength. All of the club’s problems had come together that Sunday afternoon in October 2010.

    Five players playing for Feyenoord that day are now starters in the Dutch team. Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi were never the most likely to make it at De Kuip. They were puny, weak, defenders, never starters in their teams until reaching the U17 side of legendary coach Cor Adriaanse (not be confused with former AZ and Ajax coach Co Adriaanse). Georginio Wijnaldum moved to PSV in 2011, Leroy Fer in that same summer to FC Twente, both tricky transfers, and Ron Vlaar is now playing for Aston Villa – though reports say he could joing Louis van Gaal at Manchester United.

    De Vrij, a tall, intelligent schoolboy from a small Christian village in a quiet part of the province of South Holland, was the first of the two to make it to the first team. While the players in front of him in the hierarchy for so long left the Academy, he made his debut in a cup match against amateur side Harkemase Boys in the fall of 2009, he was just 17-years-old. That season, he kept Brazilian defender Andre Bahia out of the team, establishing himself next to Ron Vlaar, now the stronger, concrete defender in the Dutch team. One year later, Martins Indi, born in Portugal but raised in a tough neighbourhood in Rotterdam, made his first minutes in the UEFA Cup matches against KAA Gent from Belgium.

    That 10-0 loss made everything clear. The club couldn’t go on like this any longer or it would mean the end of everything soon. In that sense, realising the scale of the problems, it was the beginning of a great future. With a lack of quality players, there was no alternative to looking at the other side of the street – at the academy fields. When coach Mario Been needed a striker, he took 17-year-old Luc Castaignos across the street and played him in the first team. While Feyenoord had been buying players for years, in all silence a successful academy was built, producing class players, ready to takeover De Kuip.


    After the worst season in club history, coach Been, himself once an academy graduate, was outvoted by his players – some of whom had been handed their debut by him. Been then departed the club in the summer of 2011, with Ronald Koeman brought in as his replacement. One year later, after a thrilling season built around the youthful surprises Clasie (back from a loan-spell at affiliate team Excelsior Rotterdam), De Vrij, Martins Indi and John Guidetti (on loan from Manchester City) and, well, a large contingent from Varkenoord.

    Feyenoord secured a place in the Champions League for the first time in a decade. Quite an achievement for a team with most players still in their teen years or just reaching the early twenties. It gave a boost to the players, the club and the academy.

    In the two years that followed under Koeman’s spell, Feyenoord did not break the Eredivisie hegemony of Ajax, eternally praised for its youth set-up. But with a team existing almost entirely of academy graduates, finishing runner-up twice and third once, winning back the pride of the club and its supporters might have been an even bigger achievement than winning the league.

    Youth development

    This Oranje World Cup team tells the story. With 11 of the 23 having a history at Feyenoord, most as Academy players, the Varkenoord academy forms the core of the success of Van Gaal’s men.

    But why? What is so special about this Academy?

    The Academy had always been one of the best in the Netherlands. Producing 1970 European Cup and World Cup 1974 and 1978 star Wim Jansen and almost the entire league winning team of 1984, the Academy had been important for the club for a long time. But for decades, most players were bought instead of developed through the youth ranks, and as football became globalised in the years pre- and post-Bosman ruling, money was spent on expensive foreign surprises rather than the youth.

    It all changed in the last 10 years.

    The roots to the success can be brought back to two moments in recent history of the club. In 2005, Stanley Brard was appointed as head of youth development, with the space and possibilities to reform the academy from which he once graduated himself. Two years later, Feyenoord found itself in huge debt due to perilous financial choices, including the transfers of Roy Makaay, Kevin Hofland and Tim de Cler, three old Dutch players who were bought for several million euros, with the hope they would bring Feyenoord back to the Eredivisie title, under the leadership of Giovanni van Bronckhorst, an academy graduate who returned to Feyenoord as a free agent. But the plan didn’t work as, although Feyenoord wonthe Dutch Cup, they finished sixth in the league and the debts got even bigger.

    These debts eventually brought Feyenoord to its knees. The huge investments in players never brought much benefit, leaving the club with huge wage bills for players lacking quality and transfer budget to challenge for trophies.

    Meanwhile, Brard had built his empire just across the street, at the Varkenoord system next to the stadium. In all silence, Brard had reformed the Academy, creating more teams so that 16-year-olds would only play with and against players their own age, and appointing former Feyenoord players as coaches without ambitions to leave the club for a bigger job any time soon, keeping them in his long term plan. Former first team player and manager Wim Jansen got a job as an “adviser” and he still walks around the fields every single day, helping players and coaches.

    In the summer of 2007, Raymond Verheijen, a much criticised physical coach who had worked at the Dutch national team and Manchester City before, was brought in to reform the training methods of the academy teams and players. Verheijen had done huge research on youth football and especially injuries of young footballers in the Netherlands, and came to some shocking conclusions. Young, talented footballers grew less and had a bigger risk of dangerous injuries. Reasons? Too much training, too much physical labor during matches and training sessions. Young players were placed in older teams too soon against more physical opponents, with injuries as a likely consequence.

    Thus, the Verheijen Method was born. Six training sessions a week became four, two matches became one. And from then on, newly recruited players got more time to acclimate to the intensive life and times of a football talent.

    Instead of one uniform highly intensive physical training, each player got his own schedule tailored to his body, his performances and his potential. With periodic medical tests, the performances were followed and put into big databases, creating an ideal player-follow system of every individual Academy player. Also, new video installments were placed at around the pitches, making it possible to record every game and training session from multiple spots, following all individual players. The result is players who are technically better, physically more equipped without overworking themselves, able to perform for longer then their opponents.

    Whereas the Ajax academy is more focused on individual development, it is development of the team and team work which are the pillars under the youth development at Feyenoord. “Development”, an Academy coach recently told me, “is more important than winning prizes, but it helps”.

    Fruit from the tree

    The first fruits of the Academy were plucked from the tree in 2007, when Georginio Wijnaldum made his first team debut at just 16-years-old, a club record. Later that year, Leroy Fer followed his long time friend. They were both in the Dutch team at the World Cup in Brazil. In 2009, Castaignos and De Vrij broke into the team, one season later Martins Indi did the same. Meanwhile, Clasie had a successful loan spell at Excelsior Rotterdam, Kelvin Leerdam silently became a starter, Erwin Mulder became first team goalkeeper and Miquel Nelom, who played his first caps in 2013, was sold to Excelsior, only to return in 2011.

    Later, the 1994 generation got a grip on power. These were players who had played together for years, most of them since they were only seven-years-old. With Vilhena playing his first matches just weeks after his 17th birthday, Boëtius made his debut out of nowhere as a starter against rivals Ajax (and scoring a goal) and in Achahbar and Kongolo, after eagerly awaiting their chance, yet another generation broke through.

    And here we are, just after the Dutch team secured third place in the World Cup – an unexpected performance. In the final 30 minutes of the game against Brazil, seven former Academy players were on the pitch (with Ron Vlaar and Dirk Kuyt bringing the figure of players associated to Feyenoord to nine).

    Who would have thought Martins Indi and De Vrij would be the centre backs playing against the best player in the world when Netherlands met Argentina? Not the coaches and critics who were thinking of sending them home from the Academy when they weren’t meeting expectations. And who would have thought that Feyenoord, once a club buying players instead of raising them through their own ranks, would be the Royal supplier of the national team? Robin van Persie, Jonathan de Guzman both came from Varkenoord as well.

    Long gone are the days Dutch youth football was dominated by the Ajax academy and all the world looked to Amsterdam to learn about youth development. The Varkenoord Revolution has brought not only Feyenoord back to the top, but now also the Dutch national team after the disappointment of the Euro 2012.

    All the world knows now. With foreign journalists eagerly interviewing Head of Youth Development Damiën Hertog (yes, of course he is a graduate himself) and reporting about it, not only journalistic interest is growing. International interest from foreign clubs in the academy is growing, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently stating it’s “one of the best academies in Europe”.

    Last week, Feyenoord held soccer scouting camps in the United States and in Canada, training youngsters with the Feyenoord Method and giving the biggest talents a chance at a trial week in Rotterdam. Earlier this year, academy coaches trained groups of children in Cuba, Nigeria and the Dutch Antilles. Rumor has it the club is expending its methods, name and fame to India, just like in Northern America, an emerging football market as well.

    The future

    What’s left for the future? While Brard has left the club in 2014 and was replaced by Damien Hertog, the future is assured. In the upcoming season, Sven van Beek is likely to be the replacement when De Vrij leaves the club. Just like De Vrij, Van Beek was never the most likely to make it to professional football. Unlike his team mates, he had to play a second year in the U16 team, while Generation 1994 moved on to the U17 team of Cor Adriaanse. But Van Beek fought back and eventually made his debut in 2013 in a cup match against PSV, signing his first contract some days later. Together with Kongolo he is likely to be the new centre back duo “for years to come”, according to former coach Koeman. It’s telling for the quality of the individual training how some doubtful players like De Vrij, Martins Indi and Van Beek have grown to become important players, while forming a strong team as well.

    So what can you expect for the future? Just write down the following names of Feyenoord Academy players. Most of them have already signed professional contracts, others will soon, and you’ll see them back in the top of international football in a couple of years. Calvin Verdonk, Jari Schuurman, Rick van der Meer, Marlon Slabbekoorn, Rashaan Fernandes, Bart Nieuwkoop, Nigel Robertha, Tahith Chong, Gustavo Hamer, Kamil Miazek.

    Football director Martin van Geel indeed has every reason to smile and applaud.
    BaritoPutra repped this.
  3. BaritoPutra

    BaritoPutra Member

    Jan 26, 2007
    Calvin Verdonk, Jari Schuurman, Rick van der Meer, Marlon Slabbekoorn, Rashaan Fernandes, Bart Nieuwkoop, Nigel Robertha, Tahith Chong, Gustavo Hamer, Kamil Miazek.

    So what's the word on these young bloods? I've only heard of the first two. Schuurman seems to be pretty high-rated, and with the clearance of current midfieldiers (Immers, Vilhena, Clasie, etc.) I read that he's tipped to have a breakout season.

    Van Beek and Kongolo will be pretty special duo, especially if they're given time to grow together and injury-free.
  4. To early to tell yet, but I have confidence in them.
    But what do you people think of the perceived difference in approach of Feyenoord and Ajax? In my opinion both pillars are present in both academies, but what is the most important, the Cruyff adagium, the youngest ones should have fun just being busy wih the ball and nothing else (akin to playing soccer in the street) is being embraced in both academies.
  5. AZ was awarded the Rinus Michels Award aka as The Best Academy award this year, thus stealing the crown of Feyenoord after 5 consecutive years.
    Can anyone tel me on what that was based? I lived in close vincinity but didnot hear of any extraordinary results of AZ's Academy.
  6. Orange14

    Orange14 Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 27, 2007
    Bethesda, MD
    AFC Ajax
    Nat'l Team:
    ^^Didn't the Ajax youth teams do much better than AZ and maybe even Feyenoord? This is too strange.
  7. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    Has the departure of youth academy leader Stanley Brard to the big money hurt Feyenoord do you think?
  8. I doubt it, as for me the real driving force behind the improvement of the last 5 years was Wim Jansen. Since he in the back ground directed the direction of the youth development things started to turn for the good. He's with Johan Cruyff the one with the real vision.
  9. thatkid

    thatkid Member

    Jun 21, 2010
    Nat'l Team:
    I believe AZ won because they promoted more youth players to the first team than the others.
  10. Best Youth Academy part I: Earnest Stewart

    Published on june 5th 2015, 15:00:00

    Alkmaar – AZ won in May the Rinus Michels Award for the best Youth Academy of the Netherlands. In a 6 part sequence on the main characters explain this success.

    Manager Football Affairs: Earnest Stewart:”Know what is needed”

    Is AZ the rightful winner of the “Rinus Michels Award”?

    “We won this election by the votes of all in the end responsible of all youth academies of the Netherlands. Those are the absolute experts of the trade. A logic reasoning: that we won is justified.

    Why did AZ win this prize?

    “It becomes more and more known: when you want to become a professional soccer player, you have to be at AZ. With us talents get individual attention and chances. Players all differ from each other, for instance on physical and mental traits. So you cannot treat them as one. It is all about tailor made approach. Beside youth coaches we have a large number of specialists contracted, from school education experts to top sport minders. Our talents are being coached continually and mirrored, in order to make them develop optimal. In that we are ahead.”

    “Why is it that more and more of the own youth are braking through into the first team?”

    “In the old situationwith an owner it wasnot eyecatching, but donot forget that in that time guys like Marko Vejinovic, Jeremain Lens and Ron Vlaar came in from our youth. Not the least for sure. Because of the financial head room in that period the choice was faster for a buy, instead of having patience with the youth.

    After the demise of DSB (bank as a sponsor went bust- FS) a new policy was layed out. We wanted to make AZ financially sound and in the future with a recognizable eleven keep challenging the Dutch top. Our Youth Academy had to become our aorta. Educate players, make them break through, get success with them and in the end sell them on.In that way we can make AZ continue to grow. The success of that policy is now also becoming clear to the wider audience.”

    “The award was won on the outdated Sportcomplex ‘t Lood. Than AZ just cannot fail the title next year on the brand new AFAS Trainingcomplex.”

    “Let’s not rush things. We all know that staying on top is a hard and tough thing to do. We even have to work harder to stay successful. The arrival of our new compound is a good step. Our talents later can utilize the most advanced facilities and equipment, thanks also to AFAS and our new outfit partner “Under Armour”. The new compound later has to radiate also: if you are a talented young soccer player, head for AZ. With us you genuinely are being made better.”

    “Does AZ become the club where most Dutch talents break through?”

    “That’s absolutely our ambition. The competition on the other hand is huge. At the moment all our youth teams are competing fully with the Dutch top. That for sure isnot going to change the next ten years. We know what is needed to be successful. It is important that the talents present get their chances. With coach John van den Brom we currently have a coach with the gts to bring in those youth players. You see how that worked. We secured qualification for European football, with a team in which our own talents like Wesley Hoedt, Derrick Luckassen, Ridgeciano Haps, Thom Haye and Dabney dos Santos play an important role. The next generation is also already trampling. Think for instance about the kids of AZ U19, who almost became champion and played the cup final. In the end we all go for that one target: play for the silver ware with a first team mainly consisting of self educated players.”
    Epitome990 repped this.
  11. Orange14

    Orange14 Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 27, 2007
    Bethesda, MD
    AFC Ajax
    Nat'l Team:
    ^^Really nice interview with Earnie Stewart. I'm glad to see our local sportswear company, Under Armour (it was started by a University of Maryland football player who was seeking better performance clothing that kept players cool and dry), is sponsoring this effort. Major props!!

    In this article his grandfather says something about the Youth Academies:

    "When Depay turned 12, a number of clubs scouted him. His grandfather was initially apprehensive about accepting offers that involved the youngster moving away from home. He also thought that, despite being an Ajax supporter, it was not right for Depay to move to the Amsterdam club or Feyenoord, as their academies were demanding. In the end it was agreed that Depay would join PSV Eindhoven, known for their player-centric approach to youth coaching. However, it still meant Depay had to move in with a foster family in Eindhoven."

    As far as I know, all the major academies are player-centric, but that could be a remark of the reporter showing his lack of knowledge. i think the grandfather pointed at the hard environment at Feyenoord and Ajax, as opposed to the more relaxed and gentle mentality at the PSV academy.
  13. There seems to be disagreement at Ajax among the staff FdBoer/DBergkamp/MOvermars vs WJonk at "de Toekomst". But what precisely is the conflict is unclear to me. Is it about the way the academy is run by Jonk or is it just incompatible of characters?
    What influence has Marc Overmars on what is done at the "Toekomst" and is it a bad one?
  14. Orange14

    Orange14 Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 27, 2007
    Bethesda, MD
    AFC Ajax
    Nat'l Team:
    tactics that are developed within the youth system are totally ignored by the first team. This is the source of Jonk's frustration. Academy is developing some talents who are then wasted by the ineptness of FdB's ability to implement a game plan.
  15. At the very start of the development a fresh initiative:

    The “KNVB” (= Dutch FA) starts in the province of Limburg with new rules for youth matches.

    With the matches of the youngest players (named the F’jes) the referee is eradicated and parents have to stay at a distance from the pitch of at least 20 meters.

    The parents arenot allowed to meddle with the match and are obliged to accept the decisions the kids make themselves.

    The purpose is that the little players “are given back the free game of football”, as the KNVB depicts it.

    The Dutch FA reacts in this way on the behavior of far too fanatic parents. Sometimes their meddling result in matches being halted.
  16. Orange14

    Orange14 Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 27, 2007
    Bethesda, MD
    AFC Ajax
    Nat'l Team:
    Here is a very sad commentary on English academies and the lack of opportunity for first team football. I'm sure that all the Dutch youth players won't read something like this and will continue to follow money like lemmings only to beat a full retreat several years later. Chelsea have had one youth player make it to the first team and that was John Terry back in 2000!
  17. Anything we can learn from this BBC-article:

     BBC Sport Home Page Football
    Premier League

    22 December 2015 Last updated at 10:31 GMT

    Football talent spotting: Are clubs getting it wrong with kids?
    By Alistair Magowan BBC Sport

    Scouting football players as young as five, persuading an 11-year-old to sign a contract with private school education or offering a teenager's parents a house.

    These are some of the things English clubs are doing to secure the country's best youngsters in an increasingly desperate fight to beat rivals to sign potential stars.

    "Money talks," sighs Sheffield United's chief academy scout Luke Fedorenko as he describes how he has just lost two 11-year-olds to Manchester City. "But we must be doing something right."

    Fedorenko was one of 320 coaches and scouts at a recent Football Association conference at St George's Park to discuss what one keynote speaker, Professor Ross Tucker, calls a "race to the bottom".

    There are 12,500 players in the English academy system, but only 0.5% of under-nines at top clubs are likely to make it to the first team. There are also suggestions that drop-out rate in football is similar to other sports, such as rugby union, which can lose 76% of players between the ages of 13 and 16.

    So are clubs still searching for the right formula for spotting talent? And with the number of foreign players in English football already making it harder for academy players to reach the top, is a different approach required at the bottom end to ensure talent doesn't slip through the net?

    The crystal ball approach
    Tucker says football should guard against studies in rugby union, where 76% of players can drop out between under-13 and under-16

    "Anyone who tells you they can spot a professional player at five years old is basically lying," says talent ID manager Nick Levett, an expert in the eight to 11-year-old age group and one of several FA appointments encouraging clubs to improve in this field.

    That extends to players aged 12, 13 or even later if Leicester striker Jamie Vardy is anything to go by. After being released by Sheffield Wednesday aged 16 for being too small, he was then sold by Fleetwood to the Foxes in 2012 and recently set a new Premier League record for goals scored in consecutive games.

    Vardy's story, however, underlines an important factor: he stayed in the system, at non-league sides Stocksbridge Park Steels and Fleetwood, which allowed his talent to flourish at a later stage.

    Tucker calls players like Vardy "ghosts"; those who once had potential but have been lost in the system. He says the key to improvement in identifying talent in youngsters is patience and recognising the bias which cuts players like Vardy adrift in the first place.

    Bigger might not be better
    Jaydon (left) and Joe (right) are both pictured aged 13 and were born 25 days apart

    One of the biggest disparities in football or any junior sport is the relative age effect - the advantage of being born earlier in the school year, and therefore being more physically mature.

    A seven-year-old born in September is likely to be bigger, faster and stronger than one born the following July.

    Two seasons ago, Levett studied a Surrey junior league with 8,000 players and found that division one in all age groups had the oldest players on average, while division seven had the youngest. He also found that 45% of players in top-level academies have players born between September and November.

    But among 57 England players with 50 or more caps, he found that the highest percentage of them - 46% - were born between March and May. It is a story replicated in other sports, such cricket and rugby union.

    "The big drop-out in grassroots sport between the ages of 13 and 15 is the 'quarter three' or 'quarter four' kids," he says, referring to those born between March and August. "But somewhere along the line, the late ones are coming through."

    So what's going on?

    Levett believes that while the bigger players use their pace and power to solve problems on a pitch, the younger ones have to think smarter.

    "The system has to challenge the big lads with the same sort of learning the small ones get every week," he adds.

    Kids need to be kids
    Nathaniel Chalobah played his first game at nine and played for England at 16

    One of the reasons why the 10,000-hour theory has become so popular is that it gives rise to the notion that anyone can become world class if they put the graft in.

    The theory suggests that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert.

    "Parents are now taking their kids to five different clubs each week night in the belief that if they do more football they are going to get better," says Levett. "But it doesn't always work like that."

    Levett claims Nathaniel Chalobah did not play his first game of football until he was nine, yet the Chelsea midfielder, on loan at Napoli, was playing for England Under-16s seven years later and is now a regular in the under-21 team.

    Another survey carried out by Levett on under-21 players revealed that most of them did not start taking football seriously until they were 14 or 15.

    Former Bolton captain Kevin Davies, whose son is in the Championship club's academy, recalls watching a match where he had seen under-10 players "reduced to tears" by the pressure.

    "Kids need to be kids," he says. "If they are good enough and have the right attitude, they will get there in the end."

    Any coach will tell you that practice is a good thing, but specialising in one sport can lead to boredom, psychological damage or injury.

    Is 'edge' a good thing?
    Luis Suarez, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa all hail from South America

    In praising Vardy's rise to prominence, Bolton boss Neil Lennon has said the current academy system produces "cocooned" players who perhaps do not have the edge to make it to the top.

    Former Arsenal scout Damien Comolli says the problem is a Europe-wide one, with high wages among teenagers also denting their hunger.

    "Most have a comfortable life and environment and those two things fail to produce players who need to fight every day on the field," the former director of football at Tottenham and Liverpool told BBC Sport.

    "If you look at attacking players at the top 20 or 30 teams across Europe, many are from South America. From a mental aspect, they have a greater drive."

    The Frenchman thinks players with an edge can be labelled as having "baggage" and are sometimes dismissed too early.

    He asks: "Maybe we should look for an edge? What's the risk in taking them into an academy anyway. You're not giving them a 10-year contract are you?"

    Unconscious bias
    When Comolli first saw Netherlands striker Robin van Persie at Feyenoord, he was playing in the reserves and got sent off after fighting an opponent. Yet the talent was evident and he had a desire to improve, so they eventually took him to Arsenal.

    But Levett believes many scouts are guilty of applying an unconscious bias, especially when watching players they might not automatically relate to.

    He describes how a "very professional" scout with "high morals" once saw a talented forward start arguments with an opponent and the referee, before having a fight with a team-mate.

    "There was a flash of genius when the player hit the post but the scout decided the player wasn't for him," Levett adds. "Soon afterwards, he had to explain to his club how they had missed out on Stan Collymore [former Liverpool and England striker]."

    England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate told BBC Sport: "What I'm more aware of over time is the individuality of people and how you have to treat them differently. You need to be careful of the assumptions you make."

    Tucker says that up to 96% of players can drop out of sport before elite level, but the big gains come from keeping 'ghosts' like Vardy alive

    Spotting the long-term learners
    With the FA now helping clubs improve their approach to talent identification and the likes of Southampton running the world's first biological age tournament, there are some signs that the penny is starting to drop.

    FA head of talent ID Richard Allen, formerly at Tottenham, says: "In terms of the players we have in academies, we are probably the strongest we have ever been but we can improve the way we look for 'ghosts'.

    "Players who hit the heights have different pathways. We have to recognise that, rather than thinking at 16 it's too late for our boys to develop, so let's go abroad and buy somebody."

    Levett warned that performance is not the only indicator: "There are many factors, but ultimately, we need to be patient with kids and spot the long-term learners. That's where the big gains are."

    Also related to this story
    Rebaño_Sagrado repped this.
  18. Last evening (8 july 2016) I watched the Belgian Euro2016 programm Panenka. There was a Michel Bruyninckx talking about spatial awareness development. That has to be done in group excercises, not as an individual approach. As a group you have more solutions in your head available.
    This man works in a sports school with a university.
    I couldnot look at it all, so I will try to see it in "Ooit Gemist" on the internet. But I think for those interested in insights about the brain and soccer something to look into.
    • 22:15
      Talkshow rond het EK voetbal in Frankrijk waarin wordt teruggekeken naar de voorbije dag, en vooruitgeblikt naar de volgende. Bijzondere aandacht is er uiteraard voor het reilen en zeilen van de Rode Duivels.

      Presentatie: Karl Vannieuwkerke. Gasten: Jan Mulder, Youri Mulder, Gert Vande Broek en Michel Bruyninckx.

      Ondertiteling via T888.
      Beschikbaar in OOIT GEMIST.
  19. In the USA forum I found this extensive description of how amateur football is key to our success by @nicklaino:




    There is and always has been very limited Schools football in Holland, which has traditionally meant that The Amateur Clubs have always been the main providers of youth football. For this reason many clubs are long established and well structured.

    Whilst Dutch Football has had a good reputation over the last 30 years in terms of the footballing culture, this did n’t stop the KNVB in 1997 undertaking the biggest research into football in Europe, with the aim of improving the quality of Dutch Football. The result was the publication of ‘The Dutch Master Plan of Youth Football’ (March 2001). Very broadly this identified the unmistakable link between the bottom and top of the football pyramid and has provided a number of initiatives to optimise the structure of the game in Holland at all levels.

    Fundamentally there are a number of key differences between the English and the Dutch football culture.


    The whole ‘Dutch System’ at youth level is based around ‘education and development of the individual’. It allows for a talented boy to play above his age against older boys, if the ‘Youth Committee’ at his Club think this is in his best interests. This is illustrated later.

    In Holland each Club and therefore each team has very clear ‘Rules and Agreements’ for the players, parents and coaches. These are well known by each party. It is very noticeable that the game ‘belongs’ to the children in Holland, all boys play the same length of time, the coaches keep a strict record of playing times for each boy. In England it is more usual for the stronger players to play for longer and the weaker players to spend more time on the bench. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, in England there is a bigger emphasis placed on the result of the match and there is little player development. Secondly, the English Club structure means that most clubs have only ‘one team’ per age group, because of this there are usually a number of different ability levels within one team. In the end the ‘subs’ usually drift away (from the game in many cases) and the stronger players become frustrated and little learning takes place. It is also unusual in England for ‘Pre Season meetings with the parents and players to explain the aim of the season.

    In Holland a lot of Amateur Clubs have a well defined structure laid out by way of a ‘Plan’. Each age group has more than one team, from the strongest teams to the weaker teams (see below). All these teams have players of similar age and ability levels, this enables each player to perform to his own level. Within this structure there is the method where a player who shows improvement can move to a team above. The coaches of both teams along with the ‘Youth Co-ordinator’ would discuss the situation and after involving the player and his parents would make a decision.
    Yet another major difference to many Leagues in England (2,200 in total!)is the very relaxed stance on ‘Player Registrations’. There is no ‘card checking’, proof of age etc, again the reason for this is because their football culture puts the child first, ‘why should they cheat’? for whose benefits would this be? Winning matches for matches’ sake is simply not the issue it seems to be in England. Likewise players can freely move between their own teams if it is deemed to be in the boys interest by the appropriate ‘Youth Committee’. There is no inward looking in terms of holding on to someone ‘because he will help the team win’.

    It is even possible for Clubs to request ‘special dispensations’ – these allow for older players to play in the age group below their own. Reasons for this may be that they are physically too small or are recovering from a bad injury, or have no previous football experience or there are not enough players in one age group to make up a team. Can you imagine this happening in the leagues in England? The circumstances are obviously checked by the KNVB. Again it’s all about player development.


    Children come to the clubs as young as 5. These are sometimes referred to as ‘smurfen’ and play recreationally under the watchful eye of the ‘Youth Co-ordinator’. These ‘Mini’s’ play lots of 4 v 4 on fields of 40M X 20M. The most talented can play in the earliest age group which is the ‘F – Youth’ (roughly Under 8), if it is felt right for their development.

    The first major difference to England, is that they divide their age groups to span 2 years not 1. The other difference is that they use actual years (Jan to Dec) not school years (Sept to Aug) as most leagues in England. This changed in Holland a few years ago.

    The reason for this system in Holland is to give the ‘Clubs’ the opportunity to level out the playing ability in the teams. The strongest with the strongest and the weaker ones with each other. You do not have to play with your friends but you are still playing for the same club and so support each other and have fun before and after the game. Because of this system, together with the ‘Rules and Agreements’, and the different criteria for ‘age group training’ it is easier to give more beneficial training sessions. The children know exactly what the coaches are expecting of them.


    The following ‘key points’ are important and covered below: -

    1. In Holland all Leagues and Competitions are operated by the KNVB.
    2. Amateur Club’s will compete at ‘District Level’ but the system allows for progression through to ‘National Leagues’.
    3. Each ‘Club’ will identify a ‘Selection Team(s) and Recreational Teams at each age group including the Seniors.
    4. The composition of many Leagues at the younger age groups are changed at Christmas to ensure appropriate opposition levels after Christmas.

    · The KNVB – ‘League and Competition Structure’.

    This is another MAJOR difference to that in England. The Dutch FA, ‘The KNVB’ controls all competitions both Senior and Youth. The country is divided ‘geographically’ into ‘6 Districts’, with their associated headquarters indicated below.

    1. West 1 -Amsterdam.
    2. West 2 -Rotterdam.
    3. South 1 -Eindhoven.
    4. South 2 -Venlo.
    5. East -Deventer.
    6. North -Assen.

    For all age groups including adults at ‘District Level’ there is a ‘grading system’ based on the following descending structure.

    1. Hoofdklasse - Head Class
    2. 1e Klasse - 1st Class
    3. 2e Klasse - 2nd Class
    4. 3e Klasse - 3rd Class – The smaller Districts stop at this class.
    5. 4e Klasse - 4th Class
    6. 5e Klasse - 5th Class
    7. 6e Klasse - 6th Class.- The biggest Districts go down to this class.

    Above the ‘Hoofdklasse’ is usually a ‘Top Klasse - District Division’ and above that the ‘LANDELIJK’ i.e. National Competition sponsored by Shell, many BVO’s (Professional Youth Teams) compete in these . It is therefore possible for the champions of a ‘District Hoofdklasse’ to get promoted, in this way ‘strong amateur clubs’ are able to compete with Professional teams.

    · Selection Teams

    ‘Selection Teams’ are effectively a ‘Club’s strongest team(s) that are picked on merit with a view to competing and progressing as far as possible, they train 2 times per week to a structured coaching programme. So as you can see far from this system abdicating on performance it actually provides the best possible environment for competition to flourish.

    · Recreational Teams

    ‘Recreational Teams’ are effectively ‘the other teams’. However, it is important to recognise that many players from these teams form the ‘selection teams’ in future years as the system allows for development and progression both during at the end of the season.

    There is a close working relationship between the clubs and the KNVB, when it comes to finding the appropriate level at which a team should compete, especially with the ‘Selection Teams’. It is pointless to have very strong teams and very weak teams in the same league all season. For this reason, many of the competitions, particularly at the younger age groups, usually D Pupillen Recreational teams and below, are split into an ‘Autumn League’ (‘Najaar’) and a ‘Spring League’ (‘Voorjaar’), with around 6 teams in each competition i.e. 10 matches each. The way this works is that an evaluation will take place at the end of the ‘Najaar’ competition (around Christmas) and the composition of the ‘Voorjaar’ league will change to provide more suitable opposition, based on najaar results etc.


    This is where the really significant differences to England are apparent.

    1. English Club Structure

    The average number of teams per club is only 4. Very few Clubs have adult sections in order that boys can progress with the same club through to senior football.

    The education and development at the majority of the clubs is limited and many players can and do move freely between different clubs. The make up of some teams can change significantly from season to season. Because of the small number of teams per club and more particularly the almost non existence of more than 1 team per age group per club there is a massive drop out of boys playing football if they are considered not to be good enough to play in ‘the team’. England has the highest fall out rate at the ages of 13 onwards than any other country in Europe.

    Until recently very little has been done to provide any meaningful structure to Junior Club Football. The FA recognised that something had to be done to address this situation, to tackle the problem they established ‘The National Game Division’ in July 2000. It has identified 6 key areas to address. The most ambitious of these is to develop hundreds of ‘Community Clubs’, with a minimum of 10 teams. Here you can start as a youngster and finish as a ‘veteran’. Such clubs will have a social area and a bar, where life can go on before and after the game. This approach is based on the model of ‘GRASSROOTS CLUBS IN HOLLAND’.

    2. Dutch Club Structure

    An example of the structure of a ‘Dutch Club’ is covered in the separate document – ‘The Youth Plan – v.v. OJC Rosmalen’.

    It is important to remember that the ‘club structure’ in Holland is longer established than in England. What it has meant is that there is a much smaller gap between the amateur and professional game. Each amateur club has its own complex, floodlit pitches, changing rooms, committees, juniors and seniors together, and above all ‘qualified coaches. The professional and amateur clubs work closely together, which means that when a player moves to a professional club he is ready technically, mentally and at a team level. This means the step from amateurs to professional is much smaller than in England.

    · Example Club Structure – v.v. OJC Rosmalen

    This example is based on the information already provided by using an actual club v.v. OJC Rosmalen (population 30,000) 3 km from Den Bosch (population 140,000) we can illustrate how things work in practice. The Club has the following teams:

    Seniors (Mens) 10
    A Juniors (Under 18) 3
    B Juniors (Under 16) 5
    C Juniors (Under 14) 8
    D Pupillen (Under 12) 10
    E Pupillen (Under 10) 14 (7 a side)
    F Pupillen (Under 8) 16 (7 a side)
    Mini’s 5 (4 a side playing internally)

    TOTAL 71 Teams

    There is an obvious progression pathway from the earliest age to the senior team. Indeed the majority of the present 1st Team have been at v.v. OJC Rosmalen since they were small boys. In contrast in England, it is usual after your ‘junior career’ to look for another club, which often means playing in ‘Pub Football’.

    The following breakdown follows the format has discussed above.

    1. SENIORS

    · 1st Team - National Hoofdklasse Selection Team
    · 2nd Team - District Hoofdklasse Selection Team
    · 3rd Team - District 2e Class. Selection Team

    · 4th, 5th, 6th,7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Teams
    Recreational Teams; playing in the 4e, 5e and 6e Class at District Level.

    2. ‘A’ JUNIORS – Under 18

    · A1 Juniors - National 3rd Division. Selection Team.
    · A2 Juniors - District 2nd Class. Selection Team.

    · A3 Juniors - District 3rd Class. Recreational Team.

    3. ‘B’ JUNIORS – Under 16

    · B1 Juniors - National 3rd Division. Selection Team.
    · B2 Juniors - District 2nd Class. Selection Team.

    · B3, B4, B5 Juniors All District 3rd Class. Recreational Teams

    4. ‘C’ JUNIORS – Under 14

    · C1 Juniors - District Hoofdklasse Selection Team.

    NB/ Whilst we were in Rosmalen the C1 were crowned ‘Champions’ of their League and will next year play in the National Divisions against other strong amateur teams and lower professional clubs.

    · C2 Juniors - District 1st Class Selection Team.

    · C3, C4, C5, C6, C7 Juniors All District 3rd Class.

    It is interesting to note that both C3 and C4 compete in the same league. C4 are at the top of the league whereas C3 are in mid-table. Closer investigation reveals ‘player development’ in action : - C3 are actually on average a year younger than C4 the club are effectively planning ahead to earmark some of these boys for next years ‘Selection Teams’.

    5. ‘D’ PUPILLEN – Under 12

    · D1 Pupillen - District Hoofdklasse Selection Team
    · D2 Pupillen - District 1st Class Selection Team
    · D3 pupillen - District 2nd Class Selection Team*

    *The D3 is a ‘Special Class’; all these boys are 2nd Year E Pupillen i.e. a year younger, mainly Under 10. This allows the most talented boys at that age to play 11 v 11 on a full size pitch. This division is made up of local professional teams (PSV,NAC,Willem 11 and RKC) along with strong amateur sides.

    · D4**,D5,D6,D7,D8,D9 and D10 Pupillen. Recreational Teams.

    These are all ‘Recreational Teams’ playing in the ’District 3rd Class’ competition. It is at this point that the ‘split season’ arrangement as mentioned above comes in to operation. All teams at OJC Rosmalen below D4 play the ‘najaar’ and ‘voorjaar’ arrangement of competition. This ensures that the level of competition is as appropriate as possible avoiding ‘silly scores’.

    **Interestingly, D4 has been established by OJC as a ‘Shadow Team’ for D2. This means that it is club policy for boys to transfer freely between the 2 teams through out the season. This is another example of having the flexibility to develop individuals.

    All ‘D Pupillen’ play on a ‘Full Size Pitch’ with a size 5 ball made of a lighterweight material than the adult ball.

    6. ‘E’ (Under 10) and ‘F’ (Under 8) PUPILLEN.

    v.v. OJC Rosmalen has 30 teams across this age range. Apart from the D3 Team above ( who are effectively E pupillen playing up an age), all the E Pupillen play Mini Soccer i.e. 7 v 7. However there are some interesting differences to the ‘Mini Soccer’ played in England, as discussed below.

    Generally speaking the arrangement in Holland is remarkably easier to accommodate than in England and serves to ensure an easier transition from 7 v 7 to 11 v 11.

    All E and F Pupillen play in one overall Class, but the leagues are selected on ability wherever possible. The 2 stage (najaar/voorjaar) season also ensures that really big scores are avoided and teams are matched in ability as much as possible.

    7 V 7 is played on a ‘Half Size’ pitch width ways across a ‘full sized pitch’, there is no need for any additional pitch markings. 2 matches are played side by side on one full sized pitch at the same time. Even though there is no gap between the 2 pitches this does not provide a problem. This is Holland, there are no arguments about “whose throw it is?” or “has the ball gone out of play?”. The games quite simply run themselves. It is very noticeable that the game belongs to the children not the watching adults!.

    The next big difference to England is that the goals are bigger. They measure 7’ by 16’ (6’ by 12’ in England) on observation this seemed to be a positive move and certainly no detriment to the players/goalkeeper. These are portable heavy-duty steel and stay at the side of the pitch permanently, moved into place by a couple of adults for each game.

    The ball is a size 5 made of lightweight material. On observation this seemed to be perfectly fine for the children with no obvious problems.

    Corners are taken from a spot between the corner flag and the goals, depending on the age and size of the children.

    If the Managers agree the numbers on each side can be increased to 8 v 8 to allow everyone to get maximum playing time.

    At the end of every game there is always a penalty shoot out.

    For the ‘lower’ matches the referees are usually from the home club.


    Rosmalen is 3 km from ‘Den Bosch’ (population 140,000). Their Professional club plays in the ‘Dutch 2nd Division’. The 2 clubs enjoy a close working relationship. We were given a presentation by the ‘Head of Youth Development’ at Den Bosch; the main points are covered below.


    There are 15 Amateur Clubs in the ‘Den Bosch’ area with which they have close working relationships, v.v. OJC Rosmalen is one the biggest. Because of the well-organised structure in these ‘amateur clubs’ there already exists a ‘natural selection’ process, which makes the scouts job easier.

    It is seen as crucial that the ‘Scouting process’ works as accurately as possible, a key point in this objective is the ‘Communication’ between the 2 clubs in question. Den Bosch see the longer term benefits of ensuring that they contribute to ‘lifting’ the quality on both sides.

    Den Bosch will provide regular ‘ Clinics’ with individual teams, individuals or goalkeepers for the amateur clubs. They will also give presentations on particular ‘topics’ and discussion groups. It is common for their ‘Under 17 Team’ to go into a club an help will the E and F Pupillen at ‘amateur Clubs’.

    The overall aim is to improve the quality of ‘coaching and football in general’ in the locality in order that everyone benefits.


    Den Bosch have a ’Head Scout’ and 14 other scouts. Their main goals are; -

    · Talent.
    · Building a ‘Network’ of strong relationships with the local clubs. The continuity of ‘scouts’ is seen a very important in this respect.

    UNDER 9’s (E and F Pupillen)

    The most important age group for the ‘scouts’ are the Under 9’s.

    · They must have a ‘fair chance’ of reaching the oldest youth teams and completing their education.
    · Not everyone becomes a professional, but they must all have a solid education.
    · A big responsibility is placed on ensuring that players do not drop out after only 1 or 2 years.


    4 of these are held each year. 200 boys will attend in total of which 16 boys will be taken on as next seasons under 11’s at Den Bosch. The ‘Talent Schools’ each last for a period of 6 weeks, were there is a mixture of fun games and practice matches. Diplomas are given after as well as tickets for first team matches and photographs.

    At the end of each 6 weeks there are 3 options the boy can either

    1. Drop Out
    2. Stay in the ‘Talent School’
    3. Most talented boys move to the E Practice Team to prepare for next seasons Under 11 team.


    Because Den Bosch’s system works so well there are only 5-6 players who drop out from the teams; i.e. total of 150 boys; per season.

    However, it is still possible for older boys to force their way into one of the older youth teams. They must be “better than our own”. They would be brought to the club and play in friendly matches and practice with the team of their own age group during the testing period. After this a decision would be made.


    Under 11 - 16 Boys
    Under 12 - 16 Boys
    Under 13 - 16 Boys
    Under 14 - 16 Boys
    Under 15 - 16 Boys
    Under 16 - 16 Boys
    Under 17 - 16 Boys

    Under 19 - 16 Boys

    Under 23 - Only 3 can be older than 23, this team is the 2nd Team.

    The first ‘real decisions’ are made after Under 17. At this time the player has to show he has the ability to move up to the Under 19 Team. However, the system allows for talented boys who are physically not big enough to progress, to stay behind in the lower age group team.

    6 of the present Den Bosch 1st Team have developed through this ’Youth System’.


    Each ‘youth player’ at Den Bosch has an individually tailored programme. He will train at the club between 3 to 5 times per week depending on his age, physical condition etc. Progress is measured individually, and each player is ‘rated’ by his own coach.

    There are 3 evaluations undertaken each season. One at the start, one at Christmas and the final one in April. These evaluations involve the player and his parents; the player must be able to communicate clearly his own thoughts.

    All the ‘Coaches’ meet daily at a short meeting to discuss relevant issues and planning. They then meet ‘weekly’ each Monday to discuss the weeks programme and to hand in ‘Workbooks’ to the Head Coach.

    nicklaino, Today at 12:36 AM Report
  20. There are academy players being followed by foreign national teams.
    S. Corea is following Jasper ter Heiden of Ajax and Tristan Dekker of VVV Venlo. Are they any good?
  21. A must read for insight of the Chelsea-Vitesse relation:


    The Eredivisie can be seen as a natural progression from Academy football to adult football. With the average age of most sides around 23, there is a significant emphasis placed on keeping the ball on the floor while trying to play attacking football. Juxtapose that with your average Football League team and the education Baker (or another) received at Cobham translates easier to the Dutch environment. If Cobham is school, then Vitesse is very much seen as University.

    What struck me immediately was just how young the Vitesse squad looked. I did mention the average age earlier, but it is worth reinforcing. Everyone besides Guram Kashia would struggle to get served at a bar. The club captain stands out from a physical standpoint, as well as by having a glorious beard. I would later get to enjoy his individual training work, which involved him repeatedly meeting crosses from a full-back with an unerring level of accuracy.

    Miazga struggled at times with the speed and Nathan looked perfectly fine.
  22. Orange14

    Orange14 Moderator
    Staff Member

    Apr 27, 2007
    Bethesda, MD
    AFC Ajax
    Nat'l Team:

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