Town youngsters finish ahead of established European clubs in top seven-a-side tournament
A selection of the Town’s Under-9s were in great form to register a 22nd-place in a top European tournament in Germany last week.
The Hatters youngsters took on the likes of Italian giants Juventus and German Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin during the event which saw the Town finish in the top third of the 66 participating clubs in the PT Sports Cup.
The tournament saw teams from across mainland Europe assemble together to play in arguably the best outdoor 7v7 Under-10 tournament in Germany.
Staying in the town of Gutersloh, at the Holiday Inn Hotel, this was the ideal location and setting for the Hatters youngsters to prepare, rest and recover throughout the tour which started on Wednesday and finished on Sunday evening.
The tour enabled the young players to experience a number of aspects throughout the journey, including the importance of preparation, game understanding, diet and nutrition, rest and sleep as well as game performance against other top clubs and squads.
In such tournaments all players are exposed and challenged whilst demonstrating their own individuality within the team. It provides a great insight for all and enables everyone to understand the qualities required to strive to the highest levels.
With a flight from Luton to Dortmund on Wednesday afternoon, the Town soon touched down and moved across the city before catching a train towards Bielefeld. This way of transport is easy and a great learning experience as the players get to see a host of attractions on route.
Arriving in good time, the team were soon in the town of Gutersloh and checked in at base, where they would begin to rest for the evening. A team meeting explaining the guidelines and understanding of what the coaching staff were looking for throughout the tour was provided before the players began to rest in their rooms.
Thursday saw the Town take part in the first planned tournament, at a local host club, TSV Essendissen, close the town of Herford, for 2003 born players. With the Hatters squad full of 2004 and several 2005 born players, this would provide a number of good opportunities for the players, as preparation continued in planning for the main event at the weekend. The tournament was a 16-team event, with four groups of four teams.
• Group Stage
Game 1 v Grastrup-Retzen Won 1-0
Game 2 v TV Elverdissen Won 3-1
Game 3 v TuS Brake Won 2-0
This enabled us the Town to win the group and progress with all the other winners plus the best runners up which incidentally was the team in the group, so this would be a stern challenge.
• Champions League Group
Game 1 v Arminia Bielefeld Won 2-1
Game 2 v Grastrup-Retzen Won 2-0
Game 3 v SC Bielefeld Lost 0-3
The Hatters finished third in their group on goal difference with six points, with final game’s 3-0 defeat to SC Bielefeld proving quite costly. However, it was a great learning experience and the day was a tremendous learning curve for the players in many ways.
The squad received a lot of compliments from the hosts, especially the Town’s performances and conduct. The day certainly provided a challenging experience in preparation for what was to come.
After a day off on Friday, Saturday was game day. It was early start, and after breakfast the Town were soon in action with their first game at 9.15am.
The group consisted of the following teams together with the outcomes:
• Game 1 v SC Verl White Won 4-0
• Game 2 v Fundacion Marcet Barcelona Won 1-0
• Game 3 v Eintracht Frankfurt Lost 0-3
• Game 4 v Dynamon Dresden Won 1-0
• Game 5 v FC Kaunitz Schwarz Won 3-1
These good performances and results enabled the Town to finish second in the group behind Fundacion Marcet Barcelona on goal difference which was a great start and very pleasing for the coaching staff.
The top three in the group progress further to a higher level of group stage, which meant the Town found themselves in Group E of round two with the opportunity to progress to the last 16 of the comepetiton.
This group consists of the following teams:
• TSV Pattensen (3rd place of Group 3)
• Dynamo Dresden (Best 4th place team from Groups 1-5)
• Juventus (1st in Group 6)
• Hertha Berlin (2nd in Group 7)
The Town’s first game would take place on Saturday:
• TSV Pattensen Won 2-1
This ended the Hatters' fixtures on day one and, following a massive opening ceremony, which takes place after the morning schedule and before the afternoon programme, and lunch, the Town could relax after a good first day.
Sunday morning was another early start and saw the Town play their remaining group fixtures:
• Dynamo Dresden Drew 1-1
• Juventus Lost 0-1
• Hertha Berlin Drew 0-0
All three games were excellent tests and provided great viewing for all. The Dresden match ended in a score draw after the Town conceded a late penalty. The Juventus fixture was a great game settled in the last minute after the Hatters had switched off for a brief moment, which you cannot do against such teams. Hertha Berlin was an entertaining fixture where the Town needed to win, but it was not too be.
The results put the Town in third position which meant they would end the tournament playing for 20-22 place against the following in a three-team league.
• St Pauli Lost 0-2
• MSV Duisburg Lost 0-1
It was great for the Town to test themselves against such established clubs and certainly provided good learning aspects for the players.
The competition was great to witness and even within the squad places were competitive as players understood that it is not always equal playing time.
There comes a time within the development where tougher decisions are made and players understand that they too need to demonstrate certain requirements when it comes to playing certain teams. It’s the competitive edge within the development phase. It can bring out different qualities within the competitive environment.
The final position of 22nd from 66 teams is a great achievement from a group of players who were mainly born from September 2004 onwards participating in a top tournament with players born from January 2004. Therefore, a difference of potentially nine months from our eldest player! That’s not an excuse. Far from it. It just demonstrates how well the players performed.
The top 8 places in the tournament included: Winners: Hamburg, Runners-up HJK Helsinki, third: Borussia Dortmund, fourth: Fortuna Dusseldorf.
The Town did progress further than some of Europe’s finest clubs including Schalke 04 (26th place), Slavia Prague (29th), KV Mechelen (30th), Wolfsburg (31st), Brondby (32nd), Hansa Rostock (33rd) and Dynamo Dresden (34th) which demonstrates the level in attendance.
From the tournament, it was soon back on the German Train Network as the squad travelled back to Dortmund before catching the flight home in good time for arrival back at Luton Airport.
There was a number of presentations to the players highlighting a number of aspects on the tour, of which these players were presented with awards from the weekend. These included the trophy we received for third position on Thursday, an FC Barcelona Pennant, an Hertha Berlin Pennant and a programme from Juventus signed by their youth coach.
Squad: G. Dhesi, K. Scott, R. Bedingfield, K. Neill, B. Zajac, L. Mann, A. Matos, K. Aboh, C. Mallett, J. Bateson and F. Newton Staff: Ross O’Kane, Jordan McCann and Marc Tracy.
Final Position = 22nd (From 66 clubs).