Guest Post

Let the Children Play

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Guest Post by ‘Littlefork’

Here’s a piece by Tony Carr on the elephant traps when coaching young people. I witnessed just the approach he speaks about in an Under 8s match last year! Whatever you think it’s a good read and speaks volumes about what is wrong in this country. Nothing much will change whilst “big clubs” continue to coach young kiddies in a way which takes away individual problem solving etc.

Joystick Coaching? NO! (Leave joystick coaching to the control freaks)

Tony Carr

A ‘joystick coach’ is a term coined by Alex Kos to describe coaches who dictate and control their players’ movements on the pitch, as though they were playing a real life video game called ‘My Kids Team 2010!’ Why do they do it?

1/. The unpredictable and fluid nature of football makes it a difficult game to coach compared to, say, American football or hockey. This is especially true for coaches who ask young players to stay in positions that make no sense to them. Because asking players to stay in position doesn’t seem to work – players wandering ‘out of position’ really frustrates coaches who like to see neat patterns on the football field – some coaches decide they must ‘help’ their players by instructing them to stay in position and lo! – another ‘joystick coach’ is born.
2/. Coaches see other coaches control their players and win matches, and they feel compelled to do the same.
3/. Parental pressure for instant results stops some coaches taking a long-term view and makes them strive for quick wins instead.

What are the consequences?

1/. It’s not the kids’ game anymore. It belongs to the coach.
2/. Children gradually lose interest in football because they are not allowed to simply play the game to the best of their ability. Individualism and spontaneity are frowned upon and the fun soon disappears.
3/. Young football players are not encouraged to make their own decisions. While this may stop them from making mistakes when they are learning the game, it also stops them becoming really good players in later life when the ability to make quick, correct decisions marks out the the excellent players from the average.

What can you do about it?

1/. Don’t tell your players what to do. Instead, equip them with the skills they need to do the job and then let them get on with it in their own way.
2/. Encourage risk taking. Is a pass across the penalty area, for example, always a mistake? Discuss the risks with your players, don’t lay down the law.
3/. In training sessions, don’t tell your players to ‘move there’ or ‘go here’. Instead, point out that whatever they are doing could be done better and help them come up with the answers themselves.
4/. On match days stay quiet, and make sure parents/assistants don’t shout instructions. Lead by example. Good behaviour, like bad behaviour, is infectious.
Let’s unplug the joystick and let the children play!

Tony Carr, West Ham Utd FC Academy Director (for a “children in sport publication”)

Talking Point

Have We Taken a Record Breaking Gamble?

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When I was considering what to write for my first post I was torn between a number of topics. I am generally a very positive fan who sticks up for the board and Sam regularly and this is often the nature of my columns and tweets. However, as I was weighing up the ideas in my head, the situation with Andy Carroll started to develop this week and I felt this should naturally be where I start. To say I am gutted about the news that has originated regarding Andy being ruled out for a further period is a complete understatement.

Fortune is always hiding...

At my time of writing it hasn’t been confirmed how long he will be out for. I, for one, was a firm member of the “We want you to stay” brigade. My real eagerness for him to join largely stems from Big Sam’s reluctance to vary tactics and his insistence on one forward, in the mode of a big target man. For me there was no one better available, that we could get, than Andy Carroll. On his day he is a handful for any defensive line and as the season progressed he was really turning in some great displays. Those of you who follow me on twitter will know I said the deal would happen many months before it did because I knew the importance Sam placed on young Andy’s shoulders. He was determined to make him the essential transfer of our window. I really felt with another winger (Downing) on one wing and Jarvis on the other we had a recipe for goals. I supported spending most of our budget on him at the expense of other positions and depth to our squad because I knew of his importance to our system. I was also under the impression from the club that a second forward would be bought/loaned.

I write a weekly column for “IronViews”:http://www, and it was there I questioned how legitimate some of our bids for forwards were and spoke of those that I knew had been submitted. We did bid for Kalou, (he wouldn’t join because he didn’t want to play out of position due to Mr Carroll’s guaranteed selection), Ba, Bendtner, Lukaku and apparently Zapata, Bony and Arnautovic were all firmly on the radar. Of course with one of those players here, as well as Andy, it seemed that we were in for a good season. Therein lies the problem. We didn’t sign any of them and so far have pursued Cole and signed Petric to solve the desperate situation.

The gamble to put all the proverbial eggs in one basket with Andy seems to have had many knock on effects. As previously mentioned players such as Kalou were reluctant to join us due to it being clear Andy was the number one choice. Andy has indirectly been told that no matter who we sign and how he plays he is a guaranteed starter, which I personally don’t think is the right message. I also feel that our over reliance on Andy may have been a trigger for the new heel injury. To me, it seems no coincidence that he has injured the same part of his body as the previous injury, meaning that it probably hadn’t had enough time to heal. Before the injury the club had put out the email and on the website how we could all buy tickets for the Everton game and see Andy Carroll’s return. It seems there was a number of people counting on this happening perhaps quicker than it should have.

I also question how it was possible for Andy to pass a medical with us, when completing his record move, when he was currently out injured at the time. This summer we have seen Cole and the funnily named Roger Rojas be declared unfit to pass, surely the same must have applied to Andy?!? Again, I throw it out there but did we make an exception of the rule to make sure he passed his medical?

I am not going to write off Petric at all and have heard some glowing references about his ability. I have been informed that had it not been for Martin Jol’s over reliance on Berbatov (where have we heard this before!) he would have figured more and had a better record at Fulham as well. He has an impressive CV. Of course there are questions as to why he didn’t have a club sign him before we made our move and how fit is he going to be but I am hoping that he is up to the task. I do worry that he is not overly suited to being the lone forward and pray that Sam may look to alter the tactics to accommodate him but I feel that this is unlikely.

We still have one squad place left and I expect that to be filled by Carlton Cole. It got back to me in late July that Saif Rubie, who is Carlton Cole’s agent, had expressed that Carlton deeply regretted the decision not to sign the contract he was offered by us in January.

Carlton Cole and Saif Rubie

I think Carlton was badly advised and was looking for one last pay deal and was confident he would secure that move. When a move to Crystal Palace fell through it started to become clear this would not happen. As our striker choice started to become fruitless we turned our attention back to Carlton. Had both our situations not been so desperate I am sure Carlton would not have returned. I would welcome him back as I think he has served us well and suits our system. Again, I question why and how a professional footballer looking to earn himself a contract at a club ended up being not fit enough to pass a medical but when he is back and hopefully scoring some goals, this will be forgotten. I don’t wish to bring doom and gloom for my first post but I just had some questions about our transfer activity. I am hoping that Petric will score enough for us not to be so dependent on Andy being fit, if he does, he could prove to be one of our most important signings in recent years.


Supporting WHU in Oz Over Three Decades

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My decision to emigrate from England to Australia in 1981 was the hardest in my life. To leave friends and family was hard to do but I knew that my opportunities in life would be greater if I made the move. The other heartache for me was discarding the fortnightly visit to my beloved Hammers. I had been going to Upton Park for 13 years but I did not realise just how much I would miss the place three decades later. In the final two years of my life in England the Hammers had won the FA Cup final against Arsenal, made the League Cup final against Liverpool and had won promotion back to the top flight by winning the old second division. It was so hard to leave all this behind.

The first decade living in Australia was like living on a different planet football wise. Pay TV and the internet were a long way from their inception here and in fact the only chance to see English football was a half hour goal highlights show at 11.30pm on a Monday night. Australia was so far behind in the pre-communication World that even number one single tracks in the UK would only get into the charts here some 9 months later. In the first few years the only chance I had of following West Ham was the newspaper cuttings from the games that my mum would send me by post. These used to arrive about 3 weeks after the games but it was the best we could manage. Some years later the local TV station extended the football show to an hour, showing the highlights of one game and the goals from the rest of the division. However, the station was so biased to showing just one team that we renamed the show, “The Liverpool show”. Worse was to come though as the Hammers got relegated in the late eighties and again in the early nineties meaning that all TV coverage of West Ham disappeared. Back again to the wait for mum’s newspaper clippings.

From the mid eighties through to the mid nineties I had bought myself a short wave radio. At last I could tune into the BBC World Service as they gave a commentary of the second half of one game on a Saturday afternoon and also updated latest scores. That meant getting out of bed at 2am on a Sunday morning and trying to tune the radio station in, as the reception was at best fuzzy and more often very crackly! Constant retuning meant that you often got West Ham 1 Arsenal zszszszszsz. My wife was really doubting my sanity by now as I would climb back into bed at 4am, often only learning what the final score was for my nocturnal efforts.

Finally in the late nineties we had the introduction of Pay TV and EPL games were shown on a regular basis, although watching all West Ham games was still not guaranteed. Only selected games were chosen for viewing but that was to change in recent years. Providing you pay for the Pay TV subscription we can watch any game we desire in the EPL, just by pressing a select red button on the control. The 21st century also provides the internet where we can catch up with all the latest news and also blog on sites like these. The fear of relegation hangs high still each season as the drop would also mean a blackout of West Ham coverage over here again. The 32 years here have not dented my love for our club and I have managed to get back quite a few times over the past 20 years to get my Upton Park “fix”. Like the prolonged wait for Pay TV and internet, I am now waiting for the “beam me up Scotty” technology, that will mean getting to the Olympic Stadium and back before the missus gets out of bed on a Sunday morning.


New Signing: Mladen Petric Statistics

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Mladen Petric Stats

DOB: 01/01/1981
Age: 32
Position: Striker

Previous Club: Fulham
Previous Division: Premier League

Transfer Date: 10/09/2013
Reported Fee: Free Transfer

All it took was a series of underwhelming displays from our one fit senior striker, a transfer request from our makeshift backup option, a succession of failed loan bids for top quality Premier League talent, a failed medical by a supposedly sure fire fall back option, and another mid to long term injury to our record signing for West Ham to finally conclude a frustrating summer transfer window by signing former Fulham striker Mladen Petric on a one year contract.

Yes, the summer window has been a bit of a saga. Many have been left frustrated by the way the club have handled the very public pursuit of a centre forward, but let’s put that behind us. We finally have one! And a pretty good one at that.

Croatia international Petric comes with an impressive career haul of 166 goals in 441 club games, and another 13 in 45 for his country. During his five years in the German Bundesliga, Petric managed 79 goals in 172 appearances, including a number of goalscoring performances in European competition.

He may be entering the twilight of his career, but this could prove to be a very shrewd signing by Sam Allardyce and our pair of Davids.

Can Petric still cut it at the highest level? His goalscoring record has never been poor, but it has shrunk in the past few seasons, as has his assist contribution.

Head to West Ham United Stats for my full analysis of Mladen Petric – including a look at the goals he scored last season, and way to get the best out of him


Talking Point

Petric Signs but Sam Allardyce Still needs to Adapt his Style of Play!

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So, West Ham have, indeed, signed Mladen Petric on a Bosman deal. He was released by Fulham this summer after making 24 appearances for the cottagers last season (starting in 10 matches) and scoring 5 goals. He is a decent player, perhaps not with the pace he once had, but his skill and technique hopefully remain undiminished. Indeed, from what I can determine, Petric is nippy and skilful striker, with the capacity to score spectacular goals. At 32 years of age, his very best years are probably behind him, but hopefully he will come in and do a reasonable job for us. We may be unhappy with the business transacted in the summer window and, in all honesty, we would probably have preferred to have signed a number of other strikers. But he is a Hammers player now and we should give him every chance and 100% support.

You know, fate some times throws the dice up in the air and we expect ‘snake eyes’ and it turns out to be a double six. If Petric has a last hurrah at West Ham that would be excellent, although admittedly it is said more in hope than expectation. But if he can help steer us through to January, keeping clear of relegation danger and within realistic striking distance of 10th place, then the deal will have been justified. I am not expecting 15-20 goals from him this season, but if he can pitch in with 8-10 then that will be a positive contribution. While anything more would be a nice bonus.

This signing does beg another question though. Petric is not a large target man, able to lead the line in Carroll’s absence and get on the end of crosses in to the box. He seems to me to be a more mobile striker, who uses his pace and technique to get in to goal scoring positions. There is nothing to suggest that Petric possesses a pronounced aerial ability or can capitalise effectively on high balls. So, how does this signing help Allardyce to replace the injured Carroll or adopt his preferred style of play? The answer is that it does not assist him at all in that respect. Petric is another striker, akin to Vaz Te and Maiga, who is prefer the ball played on the floor and to feet. So, unless the plan is to bring in Carlton Cole or another more traditional type of centre forward, Sam Allardyce will still have to adapt the team’s playing style to get the best out of the three strikers currently at his disposal. That means adopting an approach, such as that seen in the recent friendly win over Espanyol, with more emphasis upon passing and movement.

It will be fascinating to see how Sam Allardyce actually sets up his team at Southampton. Is he likely to put out a conservative 4-5-1 and play it tight, looking to convert from corners and set pieces? Or might he draw on the experiment conducted against Espanyol and adopt a more expansion approach? Most supporters would bet on the former rather than the latter scenario. Southampton are a much improved team and have some good individual players. However, this is a fixture that we should be looking to take at least a point from and perhaps all three. We need a good result to stem the tide of pessimism that has naturally arisen in the aftermath of the club’s botched transfer window, the sudden spate of first team injuries (to Cole, Downing and Diarra) and then latterly the shock of Carroll’s new ankle injury.

I think it is true to say that there are more questions then answers at the moment. For instance, it will be interesting to see if Rat comes in to the side at left-back. Arguably, we will need to draw upon his Champions League and international experience at this difficult juncture. Will they stick with Collins-Reid or might Tomkins come in to the frame, based upon his impressive performance against Espanyol? Will Morrison start in midfield or on the bench? Will Petric start in attack and what formation will he fit in to? Will some of the U-21 prospects like Elliott Lee challenge for a place on the bench?

Personally, I hope that the solidarity of our defence and strength in midfield will see us achieve a good result. It is difficult to make a prediction with so many questions outstanding. But I am going for a 1-1 draw and a useful away point. COYI!

SJ. Chandos.

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