Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Train like Spain and our kids can reign

Valencia coach Carlos de Lera keeps an eye on Chad Cochrane (left) from the Boys' Model and Bobbie Burns of St Malacy's College

A leading Spanish football coach has called on British and Irish youngsters to change their mindset if they want to revive their country’s fortunes at international level.

The advice of Valencia coach Carlos de Lera should be heeded as Northern Ireland have slumped to 103 in the Fifa world rankings and the Republic of Ireland have been slammed after losing their three matches at Euro 2012.

Reigning world and European champions Spain have set the standard in the worldwide game, their production line is in fine working order and their coaching structures ensure that young players who aspire to be top footballers can fulfil their potential.

De Lera and his comrades from Spanish giants Valencia are in Northern Ireland this week sharing their player development expertise with coaches and youngsters.

The La Liga big guns have nurtured the skills of players such as David Villa of Barcelona and Manchester City's David Silva so it’s vital that this knowledge is tapped into.

The Valencia Foundation is committed to setting up academies around the world and Northern Ireland is the latest stop on a coaching tour which receives crucial backing by Saffron Sports and toll solutions provider eFlow. The training camps, aimed at eight to 15-year-olds provide skills training and coaching workshops to over 350 boys and girls over a week-long period and are taking place at the Michael Hughes Youth Academy in Carrick and Martin O'Neill’s old team, Rosario Football Club.

There is also a cross-community ethos in the set-up, with pupils from the Boys’ Model School and St. Malachy's College coming together to benefit from expert coaching.

De Lera, Director of Sports Operations at Valencia, is often disillusioned when he travels the globe and sees young players not make the most of their talents but he isn’t here to criticise — he’s here to help.

There is no financial reward for him — and he’s not interested in bringing young talent to Spain.

Carlos wants to help young players along the path to a successful career.

“In Spain you can watch the national team and it’s the model of the Spanish player,” said Carlos who has the Uefa Pro Licence and has been working in Valencia for eight years.

“The football is very good because the coaches have to study a lot and we have a clear methodology. Sometimes when we move to other countries the behaviour of the kids and the methodology of the practice is far from perfect.

“In some countries the behaviour of the players and their intensity during the practice is not good enough. My philosophy is you have to train like you play. If you concentrate on what you are doing in practice you will carry that into the game.

“If you don’t have that attitude, forget about it. You play like you train. In Spain we have a saying — ‘You tell me how you train and I’ll tell you how you play.’”

Carlos also gave a unique insight into Valencia’s training methodology, structures and ethos in a ‘Train the Trainer Evening’ in The Four Winds. “We aren’t out to take the best footballers away from other countries — we want to help other clubs and countries and of course to learn something about other cultures,” he added. “Around 450 kids are involved in our 7-a-side academy and we also have an 11-a-side one.

“It is important for us to promote the club in other countries and it’s only when we visit other countries that we realise the feeling and affection people have for football in Spain. All our teams play the same way from the academy to the under-18 side.

“We want technical players but its important we have players who are able to resolve situations during a game. We need intelligent players and that’s why we build tasks during the practice sessions where the player has to think. In Spain the kids play seven a side games until they are 12. We want the player working with the ball and to enjoy the session. Sometimes you can have a good player but their decision making is poor — they take the wrong option. You must make the right option in football every second.”

Saffron Sports Event Manager, Stephen Keenan said: “We’re delighted to have Valencia CF involved in this exciting high-knowledge coaching event in Belfast as part of our sports education series. Also thanks to the support from eFlow, 300 players aged 8-16 will be trained by leading professional coaching staff as part of our ethos of education through participation.”

Greg Thompson, Corporate and Fleet Manager, eFlow, the main sponsor and supporter of the event, said: “There is immense talent among children in these local schools and clubs and the Valencia FC soccer academy will give them the chance to play soccer and to shine in front of some of the best coaches in Europe.

“Many Belfast based motorists are eFlow customers and we are keen to give something back and to support the local community in a tangible way.”

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